October 7, 2018

Pentecost 20   October 7, 2018  Psalm 8, Isaiah 8:16-18, Hebrews 1:1-4,2:5-13, Mark 10:13-16          As a little child

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“Let the children come to me,” Jesus says. “For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…. (and…) Unless you receive the kingdom of God as a little child receives, you’ll never get in.”

And as Hebrews tells us – Jesus, Son of God, is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters – since we share the same Father in heaven… And as Hebrews also reminds us – Christ is the very image of God – and through our relationship with Christ and God the Father we too carry the image of God… So we know intuitively, at least kind of sort of… what Jesus is talking about here… Which is probably why… even at a very early age… I was able to figure out…

Peter Pan got it right. It’s a good thing to never grow up. As a little child I knew… I certainly did not want to grow up. It wasn’t hard to figure out – kids have all the advantage over grown ups, with all their worries and hurries… Why go there?

And by the time I hit adolescence I was all the more convinced adults were doing life all wrong. I wanted nothing to do with grown up lifestyles. Adults “know” too much. Reason too reasonably… Or think they’re being so very reasonable… even when we’re obviously sometimes not…. not that my adolescent self wasn’t all the while starting down that same grown up road…

As, I suppose, with most children, by the end of adolescence and into my early twenties, all my best-laid-plans to stay forever young went off the track… And I began to think it was time to be an adult and grow up. Hey, I even thought I was a grown up, already… I wish I could say this was just a phase I was going through… I wish I could say I’ve always managed to keep my inner child alive, alert, attentive to the ways of God and God’s kingdom. I wish… but that’s not the way it’s actually been…

Still, thanks God, there are times when I do feel like I’m not far from the kingdom – like when I’m fishing, singing or just feeling good in God’s good creation…

Or – when I’m here in church worshiping and singing to God with you…

Or – when I’m passing pumpkins, along with 105 other people – unloading our annual truckload of pumpkins, making a sea of bright orange with nice contrasting tints of green and white… Doing for others, in the company of others doing the same… Young and old, laughing, smiling, sharing stories… strangers and friends… Crossing over that invisible border… into the kingdom of God… No one to stop us at the border… Because we’re doing it all as little children… The way Jesus said to do…

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Psalm 8, our psalm this morning, reminds us – out of the mouths of babes and infants God has established a defense against God’s foes – a sure defense that causes God’s enemies to hush and keep quiet… The voices of children can, when we pause to listen for God’s Spirit, cause us to hush from bickering, fighting, whatever we need to cease from – and hear!… the voices of children – Children crying for their parents… Children crying for food…. Children crying to be held and comforted…

O, let us pause… longer and more frequently… to hear the voices of all God’s  children…Children, God’s ambassadors at large…

For Isaiah the prophet testifies that God has given him children to serve with him as God’s signs and symbols in Israel…

And Hebrews quotes these same words from Isaiah – and puts them now on the lips of Jesus, who says, as Isaiah says, “here am I, and the children whom God has given me.”

But… even Jesus’ own disciples, once again, aren’t getting it. They’re busy again, acting like grown ups again – forgetting everything Jesus has said… A few weeks ago, remember, they were arguing about which of them was the greatest… Then Jesus took a little child on his lap and told them – whoever receives a child in my name receives me. And whoever receives me receives my Father who sent me…

In one ear, out the other, though apparently…As we see disciples trying to shoo children and families away so Jesus can work on “more important business…”

And sadly… I can identify, again, with those poor clueless disciples… As I too have often become way too much a grown up. Some of this just comes with the turf, I suppose, of working for a living, having a family, trying to be mature in faith. Trying to be (yes) even be able to reason as an adult in grown up matters… And of course it is right and good to be serious about what is serious… as in bible study and theology… and even keeping up with current events, etc…

But… most seriously of all – Jesus is still totally serious in what he says today about being as a little child… And I still know he’s right every morning…

When our daughter Rohi comes downstairs and greets me with a hug, and starts singing hymns loudly. Then plunking out Just a Closer Walk with Thee on the piano… Teaching an imaginary classroom full of children… And as she hears me reading aloud our gospel reading one morning this week, she immediately launches into singing “Let the children come to me – Let the children come to me – Let the children come to me – for that’s what heaven is made of…” (A song by Linnea Good whom we heard at School of Congregational Development a few years ago… we have on CD…. )

And watching and listening to our daughter I’m so often reminded… Oh yes – this is what Jesus means – this is how to live life, and live it large…  Receiving the Kingdom of God, as a little child receives it… Is all about appreciating life as a gift from God…

Last Friday our family put in our first shift at the Pumpkin Patch… Young children kept appearing, with their moms and grandmothers… Little kids, about one to six years old… All of them enjoying being out and about among the pumpkins…

One little child about a year old particularly caught my eye – looking like she’d just begun walking – standing there, clutching a tiny little pumpkin – as if it was the key to the kingdom – smiling a huge smile… A living portrait of how indeed to receive the kingdom…

Later that evening, looking over many, many pictures taken by Steve Hewett (Rebecca’s husband) – again, more than a hundred of us, together, unloading pumpkin after pumpkin last Sunday – and here again – child after little child – all looking so happy to be able to help out… Lifting pumpkins, little and large, some looking way too big for little children to handle, but always someone bigger there to help… And all God’s children all so happy to be able to help…

Reminding us all why we’re here on earth… together…  for a little while, now… and forever, in God’s time…

Thanks be to God.

Amen.