Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 9th, 2018

Text:  Mark 10:13-16 The Message (MSG)

13-16 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.

[Read “Jesus Blesses the Little Children” in the Spark Story Bible.]

“God loves you and you and you,” Jesus said. “He wants you to love other people too.”

It couldn’t be more clear and more simple. God loves us. Because God loves us, we should love others, too.

Many years ago, I saw a cartoon which showed a man and his wife out in their back yard trying to put together a swing set. The man is on his knees, teeth clenched, sweat pouring off of him; parts large and small are strewn all over. It’s obvious that he’s not making any headway.

His wife is standing behind him, holding the instructions with a look of surprise. And the caption has her saying, “Oh, I’m sorry dear! The instructions say ‘so easy only a child can put it together’!”

Kind of apropos today, I think. “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Kids very often understand things instantly that we have to think about, analyze, and verify. They don’t have the lifetime’s worth of filters and biases that we have. Sometimes this is not a good thing, so that’s why we’re there to protect them, guide them, and teach them. But at other times, they teach us. It’s like that cartoon – the dad thinks there’s got to be something wrong with the instructions, he tries to figure it out for himself, drawing on his experience – and he gets nowhere.

Jesus tells the adults in the crowd that day to put aside their preconceived notions of who and what God is, and just soak up what he’s saying just like their children are doing. Take off the blinders and the filters, and just be. Just bask for a moment in God’s love; just take on board – truly take on board – that God really does love you with a depth and a passion you can’t truly understand.

This passage really tells us a lot about Jesus. He must have been the kind of person who really cared for children. It tells us that children must have cared for him, too. He couldn’t have been a stern, gloomy, joyless person who barely cracked a smile. He must have been, as J.R.R. Tolkien writes of his character Elrond, “as kind as summer.” It’s easy for us to believe that Jesus must have smiled easily and laughed joyfully. The writer George Macdonald once stated that he didn’t believe in people’s Christianity if children were never to be found playing outside their doors.[1] Jesus not only drew adults to himself; he also drew the children.

In fact, I think Jesus had a very special place in his heart for children. Children have not yet learned that pride and false sense of independence that separates us from each other and from God. Children are completely trusting. To them, their Mommies and Daddies are all-knowing, and so they will believe whatever we tell them. Children do not expect others to be bad. They’ll make friends with a perfect stranger. Children have not yet learned to suspect the world, and they automatically believe the best about other people. Children have not yet learned to bear grudges, harbor suspicions of others, and nourish hard feelings. When they are treated unjustly, they forget. They forget so totally that they don’t even need to forgive.

“Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

So, today let’s learn from our children. Let’s set aside all of the mental machinery that complicates our lives, and allow ourselves for just a moment, to accept God’s kingdom simply, like a child.

In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.




[1] Macdonald, George, quoted in Barclay, William, The Gospel of Mark, The New Daily Study Bible, © The William Barclay Estate, 2001, Louisville, Kentucky, Westminster John Knox Press