People were bringing children to Jesus in order that he might touch them, and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me; do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”And Jesus took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13 – 16 NRSV)
The past two weeks we have spoken about witnessing to God’s beauty in nature and in Holy Scripture. This week I want to focus on witnessing to God’s beauty in the gift of children.
To be sure, not everyone has a child. Some people find it difficult to conceive. As a pastor, my heart aches with you if that is the situation where you and your significant other find yourself.
Others choose not to have children. Others choose not to marry at all. Others feel called into a vocation in which having a child is not an option.
You do not need to have a child personally to see the beauty of God in them. In fact, by virtue of our baptism into God’s great family, we become children of God. Even so, I will speak from a place of personal experience because that is my life experience.
This week the local school districts begin the academic year. This year, this passage about Jesus taking the little children up into his arms hits differently for me. If you know anything about my theology, I do my best to see the face of Christ in every person.
My oldest daughter Anastasia begins preschool this week. This past Saturday, my wife Lisa and Ana went shopping in Sioux Falls for new shoes, a backpack and other school supplies. The joy on Ana’s face when she came back to the hotel to show me all of the stuff that mom just bought was priceless.
On Saturday, I was presiding at a wedding in Canton, and Anastasia insisted on wearing her backpack to the wedding because she wanted to show it to everyone.
There’s something about the excitement and curiosity of the world that children have that is so infectious. I personally cannot wait to see what new topic Anastasia is taught about in school that she has to tell me all about later that evening.
I’m not so naïve to think that it will last. Eventually, that excitement wears off in children, and they start to tell their parents that they didn’t learn anything at school today.
That curiosity and youthfulness in children has to be what Jesus is getting at. If we, as adult Christians, cannot trust the promises of the kingdom of God like the way children trust their parents or show curiosity towards the world, how can we be ready to enter heaven?
My prayer for you this day is that God may open your heart to a youth-like state that is ready to receive promises of the kingdom of God, which are eternal life.
Let us offer a prayer for the new academic year…
Holy and living God, in your tender compassion and mercy, you welcomed the little children upon your lap and blessed them as your own. Now, in this age, may we strive to show that same compassion and mercy to children. May you open our minds to the new and wonderful things that are taught to our children. May you guide the minds of educators, paraprofessionals, administrative staff and janitorial staff as they help shape, mold and endeavor to create an atmosphere for learning. May you open the hearts of parents and guardians to trust that our children may learn about the world in a safe environment. Finally, may you open our hearts and minds to trust in the promises of the kingdom of God.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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