Monday, August 27, 2012

Bringing Children

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. (Mark 10:13-16)

There are at least three aspects to this gospel passage.  The first is the commonly understood “emotional” aspect, which we have learned from children's Bible stories: “Jesus loves the little children.”  Sing it with me: “All the children of the world, etc.”  Our God is a loving God, who picks up the children and puts them on his knee, like  grandfather or like Santa Claus, and he tickles them and he cuddles them.

This is a true aspect, but it is a shallow one.  Of course he loves the children, and he even goes so far as to say that THEIRS is the kingdom of God.  They are more precious and innocent than adults who have become more and more corrupted by the culture over the years.

There is a deeper aspect than this, found in the loaded line, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  This is the logical aspect of the passage.  Here is something we actually have to get our minds around.  It's NOT heartwarming.  How do I receive the kingdom of God as a child?  This is for the adults who have been corrupted by the culture.  We have to learn how to discard out know-it-all-ness.  We are mature, learned individuals.  We've been working on bettering ourselves for decades.  Now Jesus is asking us to throw that all aside and approach his kingdom with a blank slate, an impressionable mind.  We have to approach with a pure faith, practical innocence, something we definitely DO NOT HAVE.  We need to be empty vessels, like children, and allow God's spirit to fill us.  This is what we usually walk away with from this passage on any given Sunday.

Finally, there's the Baptismal aspect, which we want to go into now.  It comes to us in the overlooked first verse of this passage: “People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them.”  This isn't merely emotional.  We're not just baptizing Silas today into Christ.  He's not just inheriting the kingdom of God today.  This isn't merely logical.  When we reaffirm the baptismal covenant together, we're not just remembering fondly our own baptisms.  Silas isn't going to remember this.  We're not just coming to the kingdom as a Child, rebaptizing ourselves, giving ourselves a believer's baptism, because we didn't remember our own, or it's hazy because it is so far past.

We are bringing this little infant to Jesus that he might touch him.  This isn't about Silas.  This isn't about us.  This is about Jesus.  Were these people bringing their children to Jesus, so they could receive the benefits of his blessing?  A bit, but not all.  Were they doing this because they were reaffirming their own faith and learning to come to Jesus as little children?  A bit, but not all.  They were bringing children to Jesus, because he is the Son of God.

When we stand and say the covenant for Silas, it's not just that we have to because Silas can't.  And were not just saying it for ourselves as a refresher.  We are promising Jesus that because Jesus is the most important object in the universe we are going to continually bring Silas to him.  The parents, the Godparents, and this whole congregation here present, are promising to continually bring Silas to Christ.  We are going to present Silas here today.  We are going to represent him tomorrow.  We are going to model Christian behavior for him.  We are going to go through scripture with him.  We are going to pray for him every day.  We are going to raise him in the faith.

When Silas is old enough to recite the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer, we are going to be right here listening to him, because all this time we were helping him learn those.  We will have been feeding him spiritually.  The the Bishop will come and hear those same things from his lips, and the bishop will lay hands on Silas and ask God to continue to strengthen and bless the young man in grace.

We learn a lot of things from this gospel passage: we learn that Jesus loves those who cannot confess their faith yet.  We learn that we have to become like those simple people before we can enter the kingdom of God.  Most of all, we learn that we have a great responsibility to continually bring this child to Jesus, in every way we can, and as he grows up, God's grace in our lives ensures that we become external ministers for Silas, as God's Holy Spirit ministers to him at the same time from the inside.