Children – Our Mission and Our Model

20th Sunday after Pentecost

Children: Our Mission and Our Model

Text: Mark 10:13-16

Intro 

I’m sure most have a picture in their minds of this story.  It’s one of those feel good, warm your heart kinds of stories.  You picture Jesus, perhaps sitting on a big rock.  You envision young kids maybe around the age of kindergarten to third or fourth grade.  They’re gleefully running up to Jesus, nearly piling on him like they would a fun uncle who came to visit.  In your mind you see Jesus with a great big smile warmly welcoming these kids.
That’s the picture most have in their minds.  That’s what we see in paintings and portraits.  That’s even the scene that my father’s church has in a 40 foot tall stained glass window that was built over 100 years ago.  But that’s not exactly what happened.
We’re told in the story that people were bringing little children to Jesus.  While you and I have an idea for what constitutes a little child, in the Greek culture they used that word specifically for children ages zero to four.  When it says they were bringing little children, it means really little children.  Perhaps there were others kids, but these were mostly babies, toddlers, and preschoolers being brought to Jesus.
That reminds us of the other part the story, the part that you don’t see in the pictures and paintings.  The disciples did not like this.  So much so that they felt they, the humble disciples, needed to rebuke Jesus about this.  Though that scene isn’t in paintings, surely you can picture it.  These tykes and toddlers are being brought to Jesus.  This one is screaming his head off, that one is spitting up all over.  This little guy has his finger halfway up his nose, that little girl keeps asking, “Why?  Why?  Why?”
The disciples start rolling their eyes.  They’re huffing and puffing, nearly pulling their hair out even.  They’re thinking, “Come on!  Really?  We are way too busy for this!  This is far too annoying for us!”  Enough was enough.  They rebuked Jesus.  “What are you doing, Jesus?  Get these rug rats out of here!”
Here’s the other part that’s not usually in the paintings and pictures.  Jesus was indignant.  He was steaming hot with a righteous anger.  How foolish his shallow, proud disciples were!  That’s when Jesus spoke the words that we know and love:  “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.”

I. 

Some of you know that there was a time not too long ago when we had struggles with attitudes like the disciples here.  I think it is very obvious to a lot of people that this is a very young congregation.  The average age of the congregation is somewhere in the 30s.  More than 40% of our congregation is children.  A few years ago some couldn’t take this.  Every little noise or cry or fidget or thrown Cheerio was made to seem like a problem of epic proportions.  Three years ago my daughter stubbed her toe on a chair in church and started crying.  One person got so upset she left in the middle of the sermon and never came back again.  Three people left the church because of those annoying children.  Some will remember that for a while, all we ever talked about here was either what to do with children or the people who were grumpy about them.
While thankfully those days are long behind us, I would image you have had similar thoughts now and then:  Why can’t that kid keep quiet?  Did they have to sit in the front row?  Do they know there is a nursery?  Come on!
But this doesn’t happen just happen inside of church walls.  Children will sometimes burst out at the strangest of places.  You’re walking the aisles of Walmart when suddenly the most out of tune and abrasive singing bursts out:  In Christ alone, my hope is found.  I heard this week of a child in the doctor’s waiting room playfully saying, “We worship God at church.  And we worship Jesus at home.  And we worship God everywhere.”  Or maybe you’ve been around someone who says, “Oh my God,” and a child immediately gasps and points and says, “Ooh, he said a bad word!”
And to our greatest shame, what do we adults often do?  “Shh!  Stop it!  Not here.  Not now.  Quiet!  Don’t be rude!”  How terribly shameful.
Think back to the story.  Who was it that Jesus was indignant with?  The annoying little brats that were loud and boisterous and hyperactively joyful in their faith?  No.  Jesus was indignant with the disciples who tried to stop them.
So now the question is, “Why?  Why was Jesus filled with righteous anger over this?”  First of all, because children are a model for adults.  Listen to what Jesus says:  “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  Here was Jesus’ point:  How about you disciples try having faith like these little children for once!
We often need the same rebuke.  Children joyfully burst into song while we adults wouldn’t dare be so bold and “in your face” with our faith.  Children believe without a shadow of a doubt, “Jesus loves me this I know.”  Why?  Duh!  “For the Bible tells me so.”  Meanwhile we adults consider the greatness of our guilt and the size of our sin and wonder if Jesus might still love someone like me.  Loved ones pass away in death and we adults are devastated.  Yet when four year old Kase died two years ago, children said with bewilderment, “Why are you so sad, mommy and daddy?  Kase is in heave!”
Children have confidence.  They have surety.  They have hope.  They have comfort.  They have joy.  We adults have doubts.  We have fears.  We have anxiety. We have turmoil.
Rather than shooing little children away, we ought look to them as a model of faith and trust.  How wonderful is the faith they have and express!  How wonderful if we could receive the kingdom of God like they do!
We certainly have every reason to have such confidence.  Jesus does love.  This I can know because the Bible does tell me so.  Jesus loves me and that’s a fact.  Just as Jesus stretched out his arms in compassion to welcome little children he also stretched out his arms on a cross to welcome me.  As he bled and died he gave his life to forgive all my doubts and worries and anxieties.  Then he even rose from the dead to give me every bit of child-like confidence that he has won the victory over death and devil.  Like a little child I can joyfully sing, Jesus loves me he who died, heaven’s gates to open wide.  He will wash away my sin, let this little child come in!
Look to little children, even the tiniest of tykes like the ones brought to Jesus on that day.  Look to children as your model for faith and godly living in God’s kingdom.

II. 

Consider this for a second though: What if this event never happened?    What if the parents didn’t care enough to bring their children to Jesus?  What if the disciples got their way and sent the children off?  What if these little children didn’t come to Jesus?  What if all the adults in their lives, parents, disciples, or otherwise, were too lazy or apathetic to care about their spiritual well-being?  Then they wouldn’t have brought them to Jesus to touch.  Then they wouldn’t have experienced what the last verse tells us:  “And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”
We certainly ought to learn a lesson about the faith of little children.  But don’t miss the other amazing miracle of that point—the very fact that little children can have faith.  Remember, these were mostly zero to four year olds.  These weren’t theologians.  They couldn’t recite the ten commandments.  They didn’t know all the stories of the Old Testament about Abraham and Moses and David yet.  Some of them perhaps couldn’t even talk.  Yet Jesus tells us the most profound thing—these children possessed the kingdom of God.  In other words, these children were believers too.
You see faith isn’t about your active work, as if your choice, your work, your effort wins you eternal life.  Faith is about what you receive, what you get, from God.  Faith receives God’s promises.  And God can plant the seed of faith and give his promises to anyone of any age at any time.  That’s why Jesus welcomed these little children and called them believers in God’s kingdom.  That’s why we baptize children and infants.  Did Kathryn Andrews or Aydan Sheridan know what was going on today?  Could they recite to you Bible proof passages for the doctrine of baptism?  No way.  But are they too young to have God plant the seed of faith?  Are they too young to be clothed with Christ?  Are they too young to receive the gift of salvation that God freely gives?  Absolutely not.
Jesus’ words remind us today that children are not only a model for faith, but children are also our mission.  It is our job and duty to bring children to Jesus so that they can be part of his kingdom.  It is our job and duty to train children in the way they should go.   Not just parents.  All of us.  In fact, you even promised to do so earlier.  After the baptisms this morning I asked you if you would be willing to “assist in whatever manner possible so that Kathryn and Aydan may remain children of God until death.”  I would guess every last one of you responded, “Yes, as God gives me strength.”  You promised before the Lord God that you would do everything in your power to help raise up and train the next generation of God’s people.
I wonder how many times each of us has said such a thing, but only said it and never followed through.  Have you ever had the attitude of, “Not my kid, not my problem,” or “I don’t have kids (or have kids anymore) so I want nothing to do with it.”  Have you ever thought, “Why do they make such a big deal about the school here all the time!”  Or again even thought, “Why do we have to have so many rug rats running around?  CTK is a zoo sometimes!”
Once more, how terribly shameful when we do not see the mission before us.  Jesus wants us to work together on this.  Jesus us wants us together to bring children to him.  Jesus wants us together to train children in the way they should go.  Even the tiniest of tots can be believers in God’s kingdom and so it is our mission together to bring them to Jesus.
What will help us to do this is remembering what Jesus has done for us.  We once were children who were born lost in our sin.  We once were outside of the kingdom of God, doomed to the death that sin deserves.  But Jesus in his mercy once welcomed us.  Whether it was as an infant at baptism or as a young child in Sunday school or later in life as adult—at some point the seed of faith was planted in our hearts.  We were washed with the forgiveness of Christ.  We were brought into the family and kingdom of God.
The joy of what God has done in our lives is what will lead us to do the same for others.  We want others to be in God’s kingdom, too.  We want others to grow in God’s grace, too.  And this mission includes even the tiniest of children.
So you made a vow earlier.  You promised today, as many of you have done before, that you would assist in any way possible to help raise two children spiritually.  Do it.  Pray for young children that they grow to know the ways of the Lord and not the wicked ways of this world.  Encourage young children to be in church.  If they can’t sit still in church, don’t complain about it.  Help their parents teach them how.  If they’re stealing all your Sunday snacks, smile and give thanks that they are here and usually happy to be here too.
There’s more.  We heard a lot today about families and husbands and wives.  Encourage those who are parents.  Support husbands and wives to love each other and their children and to have Christ-centered homes.  Do everything you can to support God’s design for marriage and family—so that homes can be centered on the Savior and his Word.
There’s more.  Pray for and support our school building projects.  We like to think around here that we offer a pretty good education.  But even more important, we are giving Christian education.  Whether you have children or not, whether your children attend here or not, rejoice in the mission and blessings of our school.  Did you know that this year there have already been multiple students who asked their parents if they could be baptized because they learned about what it means in school?  Did you know that right now there are 21—21!—adults taking our Bible Information Class to learn more about our church and every single one has some connection to our school.  It says in our school handbook that the purpose of our school is to be an outreach arm of the ministry of our church.  That’s working!  Children and adults are coming to our church in droves.

Conclusion

Personally, I think this is one of the neatest Sundays we’ve had in a while.  It just so happens that the lesson for this day was the beloved, “Let the little children come to me.”  And it just so happens that we had two baptisms today.  It just so happens that it was planned long ago that this would be teen Sunday.  Our teens are teaching Sunday school and children’s church, they’re running the AV booth, they’re singing and playing in worship.  And it just so happens that once again this Sunday our service is crawling with kiddos.
Friends, God is good.  The next generation of God’s people is coming to faith and growing in faith—and you’re a part of it!  Learn from these little children and their bold faith.  They are your model.  But make it also your mission to be a part of this outreach.  What a joy that whether young or old, adult or child, we can all joyfully join as a family to say and sing, “Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so!”

AMEN

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Posted on October 11, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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