Have you ever thought it through: why God ordained that there be children? Why did God design the human race so that it multiplies by having babies that take years and work to become adults? Why not instead something like he did at the beginning: split off a piece of you that will quickly form into another you, fully grown, fully capable, ready to drive, ready for work, ready for life? That surely would be a lot easier – no dad-worries at homecoming dances, no dirty diapers, no nights awake teething, no intractable teenage rebellion…
Already I can see some of you quizzically disagreeing – because you love children. You’re saying, “Who doesn’t love babies – pastor, what’s wrong with you?” You like how they change and grow; the gap-toothed smile they develop with those new little chompers. You love the sounds they make – even here with noise in a contemplative space, most often we say, “They’re a sign of life.” You love their inquisitive minds and the questions they ask; how they come running, wondering, shouting, smiling reminding you how the dandelions puff away or when they make their first cross-town drive. You love the way they simply need you, how they simply trust you…
It’s kind of scary, that – isn’t it? The trust a child has in you, in a parent? There’s an awesome and frightening responsibility there… where you’re always wondering a little bit whether you got it right or whether you will. Whether you’ve provided or not… With kids there’s always a “will they turn out?” feeling.
It’s scary in our gospel this morning too: the only place in Mark that Jesus is described as roused to anger, truly displeased with his disciples. Why? Because they were pushing away the little children. They were rebuking the moms who’d come to set their children on the Savior’s knee; to have him gently pinch those little cheeks and smile; to bless them with his loving touch. They were bringing the children to Jesus – who would show them something of a heavenly Father whose love would never ever fail them, whose parenting is perfect, who they could trust to take care of them, a Father who is good and gracious and giving…and the disciples were preventing it.
As you listen to Jesus speak, this morning, you’ll hear his love and care for little children. You’ll note his displeasure and his redirection if we ever consider these little ones unimportant or in our way. And you’ll hear an answer to our question: why did God ordain that there be children? Because in their needy, growing, trusting way, children stand for something. They stand for you and anyone else – whom Jesus calls to recognize your need in sin. You whom Jesus calls to see your inability to win God’s love. You whom Jesus calls to belong in his glorious kingdom by simply trusting that your sins are forgiven in his payment at the cross, that eternal life is yours in his empty grave, that daily blessing he will provide because he’s proven his power to and his care to do so, and that he has every single thing you will ever need.
This morning Jesus says that to “such as these” – those just like little children – trusting, needing, growing – belong all of God’s gifts; of this kind of people is his family made. It isn’t by our amazing words. And it’s not by your mighty gifts. It isn’t on the basis of what we build or what we have that we are God’s family. Hear Jesus calling us to be and to remember that we and many others by Spirit-worked faith are children of the Heavenly Father – gifted with his saving love, to grow in his care and his kingdom, and with many opportunities for the little children, and us and others like little children, to come to him too.
Text read at end of sermon.