And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10.13-16)
Tornados ripped through Raleigh this past Saturday causing a great deal of damage and destruction, some of it just a block away from where we live. Power was knocked out in many places in the city and is slowly being restored. We had no electricity Sunday at church, but held the worship service anyway. Our worship team played and sang “unplugged” (does anyone remember when this was a big deal on MTV?), all the kids stayed in the service, and our youth pastor Dan gave his best tent meeting sermon. It was old school.
Some of us noted afterward how wonderful it had been having the kids in service with us. This never happens at our church. At the church we used to attend in Tennessee it was a regular occurrence: the first Sunday of the month was Family Sunday, all the kids stayed in service and all the workers got a Sunday off. It was more than a practical system, though, it was an expression of a deep commitment our church had to valuing children and incorporating them into the community of faith. I have visited other churches that even have a kid’s sermon before the main sermon, with the children gathering around the pastor and hearing a short lesson (one that some adults usually benefit from), before going off to their classes.
As I thought about all this yesterday the passage above came to mind. I think there are a few things worth meditating on here, but for this week I just want to focus on one: literally letting the children come and have a place with us before the Lord.
As is so often the case, in this passage we have Jesus juxtaposed with the disciples. They are forbidding the children to come, stopping them from bothering Jesus who is doing more important work. Jesus gets pretty upset when he notices what they are doing and makes a point of welcoming the children, spending time with them, and praying blessings over them.
This is worth reflecting on because I find that all too often we share the tendencies of the disciples. It’s easy to dismiss them as dense, clueless, or whatever, but in reality they represent us in the story. The followers of Jesus who don’t always follow all that well.
Hear the words of Jesus as you pray this week: “Let the children come to Me.” The temptation is to spiritualize what ‘children’ names here, but the meaning here is primarily literal (as Luke emphasizes in his telling by using the word for ‘infants,’ see Luke 18). Stay with the literal meaning as you meditate on “Do not hinder them.” The disciples were separating, segregating, and trying to control access to Jesus.
You might ask the Lord this week whether you (whether personally or in the community you are part of) are as welcoming of children as Jesus was, as the Spirit would lead you to be. Be open to the Spirit leading you into becoming more open to children and/or removing ways in which you might be hindering (or abetting others in hindering) the children from coming to the Lord.