Friday, February 13, 2009
For the last month I've felt very overwhelmed with new ideas and information from my January Term class in theology and two seminars on spirituality. I was not so much questioning my faith, but questioning why I believe what I believe and if it's tied to scripture, experience or christian doctrine in the PC(USA). Throughout the month I've met many wonderful people in the community, joining in activities at North Avenue Pres downtown and a Christian Yoga Class at the Methodist Church. They let me talk through some of these wonderings and shared their stories with me. I don't have all of the answers I want yet, but I have a whole semester in front of me and two more years after that and then even more time throughout my life to dive deeper into the mysteries of faith. In the mean time, I'm loving my classes, digging into scripture, and listening...
Yesterday we gave our first mini-sermon in my class on Preaching and Worship. We were supposed to pick a scripture that said something to us about God. Well, could it be any more vague? The whole Bible is about God! What amazing sermons I heard yesterday from my friends, sharing the gospel in new ways and new voices in only 5 minutes! I thought I would share my sermon with you here. I think you might find it interesting no matter whether or not you're a Christian. It mostly addresses how we treat other people and how Jesus was teaching us to act towards others and in community. Plus, it's a little funny. My class laughed, I was so proud. You know me, always trying to poke a little fun:) We were only giving complements yesterday, so nothing was said about what I should change, so I feel perfectly fine sharing it with you in just the same way I shared it with them--unashamed and open to what the Spirit would say through me. I didn't go into my study with an agenda, but it seems God pulled me in for one--funny how the Spirit moves.
Welcome in the Kingdom
As we come to today’s lesson, Mark tells us that Jesus had just come to a place in the region of Judea, and crowds of people had come to Him, fervently waiting to hear His teachings. The Gospel of Mark 10:13-16 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 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. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
In today’s world, we might say that Jesus was just fulfilling the duties of His campaign, shaking hands, giving speeches, and kissing babies. But Jesus does more here than just bless the children. Like any good teacher, he uses the situation for teaching His students a lesson, honing in on something he’s been trying to say about humbleness and servant hood, something he will keep saying until he takes the place of the ultimate servant of all, on the cross.
The disciples expect the children to be a burden; for goodness sakes, Jesus was tired and there were much more worthy people who wanted to learn from Jesus. But Jesus says, oh, quite the contrary. These are the ones that are the most worthy, They don’t come questioning how they can be greater, how they can live more faithful lives; The children come with empty hands and a strong faith in the power of Jesus. They come just wanting to be in His presence, believing that His touch, his blessing, can make a difference in their future. And Jesus doesn’t just bless them, but He declares that all must come like them, like a child, to enter the kingdom of God.
The disciples just didn’t get it. It wasn’t too long ago that they were arguing amongst themselves about who was better, and Jesus told them Mark 9:35 "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." 36 (Even at that moment) Jesus took a little child in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me." Still after they heard this, they were shew-ing the children away, keeping them from seeing Jesus. But Jesus, he is tired of his disciples insistence on knowing who is good enough. Mark says that Jesus was indignant, a word we don’t use very much, defined as annoyed at the unfairness of something, irritated with an injustice.
Amidst all of this Jesus is teaching them about a strange God that would entrust a kingdom to children. Children can’t inherit a kingdom, they have no conception of responsibility, No experience, No knowledge, no understanding of what has happened or what will happen. Like we talked about in intersections yesterday, children are really just taking it all in, observing the world around them, trying to work things out, not making judgments, and just seeing. And yet, this is what God requires of us, to come, see and receive.
In today’s church we tend to be just like those disciples, we just don’t get it. We try to say who can come to Jesus, who is welcome in our churches, who is worthy of preaching, but Jesus says let them come to me. This is a message we need so desperately to here in the church, especially as more and more people loose their jobs and their savings, feeling hopeless and unworthy. When you come as a child, your education, your experience, none of it qualifies you for work in the kingdom. Only God can qualify you, only God can bless you. Your identity cannot be found in your job or you ministry or your family but rather in god as a child belonging in the kingdom.
As leaders of the church, Jesus calls us to be indignant, to be irritated that people are being denied their rights to the kingdom of God. We must welcome the child, welcome the homeless, welcome those who look different and act different, and allow ourselves to be welcomed, despite our shortcomings, despite our sins. Welcome in the children of the kingdom, Jesus is calling. Amen.