Monday, November 30, 2015

Let the Children Come to Me

      I heard a joke the other day about 2 children complaining about their parents. It goes something like this, 1 child said parents teach you how to walk, then they teach you how to talk, and the other child said, yeah and as soon as you learn they tell you to sit down and shut up.......

      That joke got me thinking about how the disciples treated the children in the Book of Mark chptr. 10:13-16. Mark tells us that parents were bringing their children to Jesus for blessings, but for some reason the disciples were trying keep the children away from Jesus. I am not sure why they would try to keep the children away from Jesus, because it was a custom for Jewish rabbis to bless the children. In that blessing was a hope filled with health, joy, and peace. For whatever reason the disciples had for trying to keep the children from Jesus, Mark tells us that Jesus thought differently.

      Over the centuries, right up to today, it seems that some Christians take on that same attitude as the disciples. They don't think children belong in worship, they don't look at children as important members of God's Kingdom. But, I think it would be wise of us to listen to children. They hear things that we no longer hear, and have priorities that we lost somewhere. I heard a story of a teacher who would listen to the children in his class, and tip his cap to them everyday, because he said, they are the future in our midst. One of those children in his class was a boy named Martin Luther.

      The custom in many churches is to send the children away from the sanctuary. A lot of children think that church is a place where the adults tell you to be quiet as they send you away. I wonder what Jesus would do. Perhaps He would go out there with them. The truth is that we don't listen to children, we assume that they need to listen to us. The last time we were out for dinner I heard a father at another table tell his little son, " I don't care what you want, you need to listen to me." Children spend a lot of time sitting while adult voices talk at them, and then we are to busy or tired to listen to them. We ignore them in restaurants and serve the adults first. We hang pictures high up on the walls like everyone is tall. We ask children what they want to be when they grow up as though they are nothing as they are now.

      Jesus said "Let the little children come to me." Worship is richer and livelier with them there. There is no need to make it seem less complex for the sake of children, the church seems to stress the importance of understanding, but all understanding is not intellectual, all learning is not verbal. Children worshipping with adults who worship with deep and solemn respect before the presence of God learn lessons that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

      Jesus said the Kingdom of God must be received "like a child."It is true that in 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul said that he gave up his childish ways when he grew up. But, childishness is not what Jesus is referring to. Childish is people thinking the world is centered around them, that if they cry long enough  that they will get what they want. But, when Jesus asks us to be childlike, He is talking about that open, trusting responsive part of us which laughs and cries, and is willing to risk.

      Listen to the children, not just the ones who are young in years. There is a child inside all of us, no matter how old we are, that needs to be listened to. Who knows, when we adults start listening more to the child inside of us, we may learn to be more joyful, less weighed down with worries. Maybe more able to enjoy the wonder, and beauty of life. The child in us can show us the gift that life is, and to share that gift with others. The child in us can reveal the grace of God all around us.

      As adults we can have a huge influence on children and take our roles as mentors seriously. We can make the church the most welcoming place we can for children. what children learn about church in their younger years will stay with them for the rest of their lives. So, like Jesus maybe we can be as inclusive of children as He was, valuing them as precious members of God's Kingdom, because they model for us the awesome Grace of God.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Those People"

      This is probably going to piss some people off, and they will probably get mad at me and ignore me and walk away when they see me. But, I think it needs to be said. I have heard too many times people who attend my church refer to the homeless and poor who attend our community supper as "Those People". As in we don't want "those people" in our church. "Those people" are dirty and smelly and that doesn't look very inviting to new people coming into the church. Even though Jesus clearly tells us throughout the New Testament that that is one of the most important commandments in the bible.  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." If you are not sure who your neighbor is, the parable about the good samaritan is a good place to start (Luke 10:25-37).

       If you have heard my first sermon or read my blog, you would know that I was for most of my life one of "Those People". I was shunned by the church my whole life, told that I was no good, and I would never amount to anything. After being told that so many times you begin to believe it and just give up. Instead we should be sharing God's love, letting them know that God does love them, that someone in this messed up world cares for them as a brother or sister in Christ. Knowing that someone cares, knowing that God loves them, that they are children of God can do miracles. I know first hand, because if it wasn't for a certain pastor, on a Christmas eve 8 years ago, I would not be a Christian today, I would not be writing this blog, or even trying to share God's love to as many people as I can. I wouldn't be a Stephens Minister, or a mentor at my daughter's school, or mentoring homeless and fatherless children. This all happened because that one pastor told me that Jesus loves me, that He was born in that manger and died on that cross for me. If you would have told someone I know, family or friend, that one day God would put me up in front of people and use me to share His promise of love, they would have laughed in your face. 

      I know first hand what it's like to have to ask for help. I know first hand what it's like to have to stand in line at some food bank. I know how demeaning it is to not be able to care for yourself. I know what it's like to go to school with last years fashions. I know what it's like when "Christian" people stand up and tell you that "We don't want you here", because your not worthy. Well guess what. Neither are they. But God gives it to everyone freely, no matter who you are. That is the message we as Christians need to be sharing. So, when you are talking about "those people," I take that as you are talking directly to me. And, If you don't want them in "your" church that means you don't want me in "your" church. But, I know Whose church it really is. Praise be to God.....