The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 47
People were bringing little children to him 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 them, ‘Let the little 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 he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16When my son was little we had some interesting, challenging church adventures. In one church, I had been invited to come hear the new pastor who was brought to welcome families into the church. We went while my son was a toddler. The people handing out the bulletins told me that he could be left across the green with the other little ones. I wasn't ready to leave my child in another building with people I don't know. So we stayed in church and when it was just before the sermon, the old man behind us tapped me on the shoulder and told me to leave since I wasn't paying attention anyway. Then there was another church where they too took the kids out during worship, but my son didn't want to go because he liked to listen to the sermon. Seriously would wiggle and squirm throughout the liturgy and then when sermon time came he would stop and listen. Then there were the looks we got if I let my son take communion before eight grade. Especially the time when he took the bread and said - um um this is so good. People were outraged at the disrespect for the solemnity of communion. If you had asked my son he could of told you what the bread and juice were, but he took them with joy rather than prayerful quiet.
So why are our churches so full of gray haired people. I can't imagine that I am the only one who experienced the church being unwelcoming to children who squirm and wiggle, who approach the sacraments with joy and wonder, who approach learning and quiet differently than adults. How many parents and children have had no one speak to you or been met with disapproving looks?
Jesus says, "Let the little 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." So how do we make our houses of worship places that welcome the child whether they stay in worship or go to Sunday School? How do we share this knowledge that if you want children to have faith, to believe the Good News, people need to receive it as children? If children are left to choose faith on their own when they are adults, they will rarely choose. So how do we share our faith, our love of Jesus with children whose parents have only been to church for a wedding or funeral or Easter and Christmas?
We have to discern why we believe church and faith are important for us and for the world we live in. We then have to work to be a place that actively creates a space and worship experience that blesses children. We need churches that welcomes the noise and restlessness, that takes the children into our arms and shares with them the stories of the one who loves and welcomes them. We need to become communities that don't just teach people to be kind but grow disciples who work to build God's Kingdom by healing the sick, feeding, the hungry, welcoming the outcast, and resisting evil. We then become the living embodiment of the one we follow, sharing God's love with a lost and hurting world.
Breath deeply letting the worries of your day flow away from you on your out breath. Picture in your head the children in your church and family. Feel Jesus' power and protection surrounding you. Be in stillness with Jesus. When you are ready turn your attention to each of these children. Pray that God's blessing will be upon them. Let the Spirit guide your prayer for these beloved children. Amen.
All Are Welcome by Marty Haugen