Let the little children come to me

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Let the little children come to me

Heb 1.1-4; 2.5-12 & Mark.10.2-16, Sermon 18, Question Mark?

Last week I needed to speak about money and angels!

This week, not so hard, money earlier - and children now.

 

3 points

  • Little children in Jesus’ day
  • Uncomfortable social situations
  • Come to God as we are

 

Have you ever been at a party or gathering when you have made a social gaffe? Said “hello, I haven’t met you before” – and find the person has been in the community for over 25 year – or this is the host who has been here for 10 years –  or in my case, new to Whitewater, at Arnold Bennett’s 60th anniversary of ministry party in Hartley Wintney, I greeted an extremely tall gentleman with enthusiasm and positive words about his ministry and all that I had heard about him – to discover that in fact the real Arnold was standing behind him?

 

Firstly - The disciples make a gaffe here in this story

But it is not a social gaffe. Children were not considered important in 1st Century Palestine – quite different from our culture – they were not significant.So when parents come to Jesus with their families – seeking his blessing – the disciples cordon off their Rabbi, to give him space, and keep out the undesirables.

 

Jesus sees what his disciples are doing and is angry. He is angry! They have made a big mistake. The children are not insignificant in the eyes of Jesus and he will welcome them, hug them, and pray God’s blessing on them.

 

What is it about the children that he commends I wonder?

  • Their humility – not seeking publicity
  • Their obedience – not false independence
  • Their trust – in accepting authority, and in confidence in other people
  • Their short memory- forgetting incidents when they have not been treated fairly

All these aspects of childhood can be spoiled of course – they are not always true - and I am sure we each remember not being perfect children ourselves - and not having perfect children.

 

I remember a social gaffe as a CHILD, when invited with my parents to their friends for Sunday lunch, a delightful posh lunch party, & I confess that I and other children roamed around the estate while the adults were talking, what could we do?

We found some paint pots, and decided to paint a shed that we found in the garden of the host and hostess – we decided to paint the garden shed white – but didn’t quite finish it. We had to show the host and hostess shed, a bit white…My parents were mortified. My parents are still friends with these friends… Phew

Children are not perfect, but they illustrate some of the characteristics of a person who will follow and trust and obey a leader – and Jesus wants us all to be like that in the Kingdom of God – to follow, and trust and obey the King of Kings – God himself

 

1st point is that children were not significant in Jesus’ day, but he loved them, welcomed them, and wants us to model child-like characteristics as children of the King of kings

 

Secondly

In our culture there are people who we might discount as insignificant, and be tempted to sideline, or put down, even if not in public, we might do this in our own minds. We all need to wrestle with this one – because it is really uncomfortable to face our own prejudices…

and shows up in our priorities of time – and who we sit next to at parties – who we invite to our parties – who we write to – who we pray for…Hmm

 

Who has low status in our society?

Refugees – fleeing trouble in another part of the world – and demanding time and attention and money; a person with a long-term illness? Someone who votes differently from ourselves? Who might we avoid at a cocktail party? I have had the fun since switching from science as a career to being a vicar, of watching human behaviour and the total incredulity of a group of barristers, that I would desert a scientific career to be a priest …and then not knowing what to say to me… On the other hand, sometimes when we go out for a meal we have had speedy pizza service in restaurants if I am wearing a dog collar.

 

Is it people who are dependent and demanding – perhaps like small children – that we are tempted to avoid or put down…? And others who have social class and status – who can do things for us – that we try to impress…?

I am asking myself – what would Jesus say?

Let the little ones come to me…

 

Jesus loves small children – low status, would challenge us with our priorities and ask us to love people as he does. Who will he send to each of us to listen to this week?

 

Final point

This may be an unexpected one. How does each of us treat our own selves? I wonder whether sometimes each of us treats our own selves with disrespect and low status, as ‘not worthy’, at least some of the time. We may be tempted to live in a spiritual or moral negative state. We might have an internal script that says: “God cannot use me – I am not worthy - God doesn’t really know me – these things have happened in my life, which I am not proud of - I made these promises and have failed to keep them - I have let myself down - I have let God down - I have let others down” Perhaps we have an unhealthy disrespect for ourselves? Perhaps the reason we are tempted to ‘butter up’ the socially high status people is that we have a low sense of our own worth? Perhaps?  (or maybe they give wonderful parties!) 

 

Being serious, I am not saying that sorrow for broken promises, hurts caused, failures made is wrong – we should be sorry. We shall say the Lord’s Prayer later that Jesus taught all disciples to say: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”

But I am speaking of an inappropriate wallowing. So here comes in our Hebrews reading; Ch 1: 3-4.“The Son, that is Jesus, is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being … After the Son had provided purification for sins

He sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven”

In other words - Jesus has completed the task – he has paid the price for our brokenness and poor character, and poor choices, and has now sat down at the right hand of God the Father – and he prays for us

 

He is crowned with glory and honour

He is bringing many sons to glory – that is us

He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters – chapter 2 verses 11 and 12

 

So – we say sorry – we return to God – we look for his enabling and we begin again – with confidence in his power for us, and prayers for us.

 

What will we do with this on Monday morning?

 

Who will Jesus send our way – to welcome as he did, someone that others might see as insignificant?

 

Which situations might we think hard about? – wrestle with – to seek God’s wisdom to care, perhaps for the tragedy of the refugee situation – so much need for leadership and compassion across the whole world?

 

Where are each of us on our journey? I hope that we can hold our heads high – not because of what we have done - but because of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Here are some words I have given to our son, in a special book about living confidently because of God’s work for us. From Paul’s letter to the Romans, Ch 8 verse 1

 

“Therefore …there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Amen. Hallelujah.

Marion de Quidt, Mattingley Church. 4th Oct 2015

 

Resources:

New International Study Bible

William Barclay: The New Daily Study Bible (2001) The Gospel of Mark