September 6, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 18:15-17.
People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”
I get this sense here that people had begun to regard Jesus as a talisman or good-luck charm as if his mere touch would ensure good health and good fortune for their babies. So, I can understand why the disciples intervened to stop people from thrusting their infants at Jesus.
Jesus, however, wants to use these children who are playing in the area around him and probably oblivious to what he’s saying as examples. Young children generally are trusting and they depend upon their parents and other adults for nurturing and sustenance. When they feel safe and loved they are joyful, full of wonder and free of anxiety about tomorrow. They take delight in playing with one another and exploring the world around them with open, curious minds. They don’t take note of status or difference. This is how Jesus tells me to be in order to live in the kingdom. What an enticing image and invitation — to be childlike secure in the certainty of God’s love and care.
In yesterday’s mail there was a one-page flyer from EastLake Church that has two Sunday services now at Theatre Lawrence. Typically I throw these advertisements away, but something compelled me to look at the message. I bring this up because it gets at the heart of today’s gospel. Pastor Matt writes, “We started EastLake as a safe place for regular people to explore God together with an accepting community where you can belong before you believe. It doesn’t matter what your lifestyle looks like. It doesn’t matter what you’d score on a Bible test. We don’t care who you vote for. Doubts, questions and messy lives are welcome and expected. When we can admit we’re all in process, a church should feel more like a family, not a religious school lecture. If you’ve never been to church before, or it’s been a while, or you’re just looking for a change and don’t know where to start, I hope to see you soon!”
If I didn’t love St. John so much, I’d check this out. It’s like Jesus gathering children about him and he wants us all to be like children. He doesn’t care how much we’ve screwed up or how confused or doubting or uneducated we are. He just wants us to get to know him and grow to love him and his other children, all part of his family. Pastor Matt gets the gospel; he understands how to evangelize. I wish that St. John would co-opt his message and invite everyone to enter the kingdom as little children.