10/8/2000, P17, Year B

“Kingdom of Children”
Mark 10: 13-16

 am hereby officially resigning as a adult. I have decided I would like to accept the responsibilities of an 6-year old again. I want to go to McDonald's and think that it's a four-star restaurant. I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud puddle and make ripples with rocks. I want to think M&Ms are better than money because you can eat them. I want to lie under a big oak tree and run a lemonade stand with my friends on a hot summer day. I want to return to a time when life was simple; when all you knew were colors, multiplication tables, and nursery rhymes, but that didn't bother you, because you didn't know what you didn't know and you didn't care.

I want to believe in the power of hugs, smiles, a kind word, truth, justice, peace, dreams, the imagination, and simple faith. So, here's my checkbook and my car keys, my credit cards and my 401K statements. I am officially resigning from adulthood. And if you want to discuss this further, you'll have to catch me first, because, TAG! You're It!" The above edited statement is anonymous in that I received it on an internet preachers' forum where it had been redacted and forwarded from possibly a dozen sources; so, with the license of childlike faith, I am including it here. It captures something of Jesus' response to his confused disciples who had attempted to prevent parents from bringing their children to Jesus.

Still today we are a bit confused by this incident in the life of Christ. We wonder why these men, who had already been following Jesus for several years, listening to his sermons and fireside conversations, could stand in the way of him showing interest in children and their parents. Jesus was often criticized for spending time with the wrong people: women, children tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes. His disciples thought that the emerging Kingdom would be built upon the intellectual faith of the devout and by convincing the politicians to write the Messiah into their party platforms. Maybe sometimes we think that way too. We forget that those first in the Kingdom are those who were willing to be last. The simple truth is that, "., anyone who doesn't have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God." (v.15, NLT).

Although Jesus does not define what he means by childlike faith here, in Matthew 10 he elaborates on the kind of people who will be included. When he was sending the disciples out "two by two" to evangelize the neighboring Jewish cities he said, "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matt. 10:16, NRSV). Today, we are called to reach a worldly world of wolves, just as were the Pharisees of Jesus' day. We must learn to find a balance between wisdom and vulnerability, to be shrewd, sensible, and prudent, but not gullible pawns.

Marilyn and I visited new parents in a maternity ward just last Friday night. The room was full of Ph.Ds. Notable in the crowd was a retired Physics and Astronomy Professor, Dr. Ed Burke, a man of science and a man of faith. Years ago he explained to me how the witnesses to Jesus' resurrection had remembered the exact day of Easter, which is why it is celebrated on a different day on our current calendar each year. I had forgotten so he re-explained it: "Its the Sunday, of or after, the first full moon after the vernal equinox." Dr. Burke is so full of knowledge about seemingly every subject, yet he is humble and innocent in his approach to life. He was, of course, especially gleeful in the presence of his first grandchild, Samuel Burke Torbert, the long expected next generation of college professors and Sunday School teachers.

In the teachings of Jesus the conflict is not between faith and reason, but between faith and attitude toward life. We do not deny the cold hard facts, we just define them through the experience of faith in Christ. Our faith wavers not so much when logical arguments come against it as when painful experiences give our world a desolate look. However, it is in the crawling successfully through the trenches of adversity that gives us maturity to stand a little taller the next time we are encircled by danger. The unreasonableness of faith is not usually our problem; but, instead issues like, jealousy, lust, boredom, gossip and indifference are killers of the childlike desire to believe what lies hidden. The thing that kills our intuitive predisposition to believe is more related to sin than to anything else. And the remedy for sin is forgiveness.

Although we cannot not sin, the Good News is that God will forgive us when we ask Him. His forgiveness is different from ours. We forgive but continue to remember; God forgives and forgets. He removes our sin to the far side of the universe and plunges it into the deepest part of the sea-- it is gone. Finding forgiveness is like the feeling we have whenever we are dressed for the day and heading out the door whistling. Forgiveness is like the feeling we have when we have lost ten pounds. Forgiveness is like the freshness of the air after a hard rain; the storm is over and we have a new beginning to life. Children understand forgiveness. Little lives full of "Boo-boos" have to have it. And we must approach forgiveness as does a child, with simple faith, trusting in a Higher Power than ourselves. But it is hard for a grown man to cry and sometimes even women can become hard hearted. Maybe it would help us to mentally recall all the persons who have been our heroes during our lives: The teachers, coaches, and friends that we have admired the most.

For me, all of my heroes have been keenly intelligent people who have been drawn into innocent childlike faith. I want to be one who has received faith just like that and is in this Kingdom of Children.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

10/8/2000, P17, Year B