Dr. Anne M. Cameron
April 22, 2012
Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church
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.
The scene here is simple. There's the disciples, the little children, and Jesus.
The conflict is simple, too. The disciples want to keep the little ones away from Jesus. They don't want Jesus to be bothered. They, perhaps, feel Jesus has more important things to do than to mess with children.
In Jesus' time, though children were undoubtedly loved within their families, they had no legal rights. Children were property. There was no protection for children who were mistreated. The community paid little to no attention.
This is what the disciples knew. So, naturally, they try to keep children away from Jesus. They think they are doing the right thing. The disciples are pretty insistent, too. We are told they spoke sternly, or rebuked, these little ones. "Scram! Go away!"
Jesus is on the other side of this conflict. Jesus was indignant with his disciples. Indignant is a pretty strong word! Jesus says "Stop what you're doing! It's wrong! Let them come over to me! I want to hold them!"
And then Jesus says something that we probably need to think long and hard about. "Let the little children come to me. Do not stop them. For it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs."
The way Eugene Peterson phrases it in the Message really hits home. "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom."
Children at the center of kingdom life. What does this mean?
When the Bible talks about the kingdom of God, especially in the gospels, usually the Bible is not talking about someday in the bye and bye. The Bible is talking about here and now.
In the gospels, the Kingdom of God is associated with:
Jesus Spirit Healing & Wholeness
Gift Growth Good news
The Poor The Outcast The Nobodys Children!!!
Children are at the very center of kingdom life! Children are open, loving, dependent. They are helpless, needy, powerless. They give themselves 100%, no holding back. They live by faith.
In some way, nearly everyone here has been touched by a child, changed by a child. For the most part, we do pretty well by the children we are personally involved with.
But there is a larger picture, too, that goes beyond our own personal experiences with children. It is the picture of children in our corporate life. How do we treat children as a society? (Then we viewed a YouTube clip, Texas Kids Count---)
More than 6 million kids live in Texas
Too many live in poverty
Too many are at risk of going hungry
Have no health insurance
Too many are born too soon.
Even 1 is too many.
We are all in this together.
Texas is what we make it
It's time to ask ourselves
What do we want Texas to be
We can make it a place that's better
(for our Kids)
Because Texas Kids Count
25% of children in Dallas live in homes in which the income is below the poverty line ($19,000 for a family of three).
20% of Texas' children do not have medical insurance.
These problems are huge and multi-faceted. They require big plans and multiple approaches. It is easy to be overwhelmed, throw up our hands, and do nothing, but that's probably not what Jesus would have us to do.
You may not know it, but our church provides 21 elementary school children with a wholesome after school program and tutoring. Ten of these twenty-one children pay no tuition. Their parents work full time, but are still too poor to afford quality after school care. These children are part of Project GIFT. These children would otherwise be home alone, struggling to get homework done without supervision, or, worse, getting into trouble.
You may not know it, but the Personnel and the CDC Committees have been struggling mightily with the need to raise wages for our own teachers and to find ways to provide basic medical support for them and their families. These are current policy decisions which touch the lives of people who work in our building every day.
You may not know it, but thousands of dollars are given by the church and by individuals in the church to help children and families in desperate situations. This is Jesus, wrapping his arms around children.
You may not know it, but we help support two children's homes which provide care, housing, and guidance for families in trouble.
You may not know it, but your pastors have sponsored an overture to call for an end to the corporal punishment of children, which will go to the PC-USA General Assembly for consideration this summer.
You may not know it, but we are a part of a group supporting nutrition needs for children in Guatemala.
The problems are huge. We cannot do everything. What we can do is respond to those whom we meet, to the situations we are aware of, within our own circle of influence.
The problems are huge. Thank God we have a huge God who can inspire us---who can multiply our efforts and give us all hope that all children can be welcomed.
Let's make sure we are doing everything in our power for all children to be cared for. Our policies and our laws, our church programs and our home priorities, all send messages about how we respond to Jesus' example of welcoming children.
Children are key to God's kingdom. Children matter. All God's children, not just our own. For the love of God, for the hope of God's kingdom, let's make all kids count.