[Jesus] said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not stop them. It is to just such as these that the kindom of God belongs. The truth is, whoever doesn’t welcome the kindom of God as a little child won’t enter it.” ~ Mark 10:14-15 (The Inclusive Bible)
As I thought about preaching this message, I realized that there is much greater depth to this than the concept that we all need to become like wide-eyed, innocent children again. Jesus was talking about inclusion, and I’m certain it didn’t make everyone happy. So, I decided to preach in character. Well, actually, in two characters – the disciple, James, and a woman named Miriam who brought her child to see Jesus.
I don’t usually do this, but below is the manuscript I wrote for the sermon… please understand that I preach without one, so it came off somewhat different, but you’ll get the point.
THE DISCIPLE JAMES
Honestly, there are days when I don’t know what to do with the things that Jesus teaches.
I try to listen really closely, I try to grasp what he is teaching us. And, truly, he makes it all sound so wonderful… but then I think about living it out and it gets… complicated, at best.
Take just the other day, for example. We were in Judea and there were crowds of people coming to see Jesus and wanting to hear what he was teaching. This is all well and good, but then women started to bring their children up to be blessed by him. This is unheard of in our tradition.
The other disciples and I have been trying to keep the women and children toward the back so that we can keep them separate. It’s not right in our custom for men and women to mix. And besides that, women don’t need to know about the scriptures, or learning, or debating points of the law. That’s for men to worry about. Someone has to stay home to take care of the home and the children. That is the woman’s role. But Jesus is letting them come here.
It was one thing when he just didn’t discourage them, but now he is encouraging them. It is simply disruptive. The men feel that they have to back away so as not to touch the women and commit an unholy act and become unclean. And bringing the children just adds to the chaos. Just what we need are a bunch of kids running around while we’re trying to learn something. Wait until they are of age when they can sit quietly and listen… then they can come.
Anyway, my brother and I tried to stop the women from disrespecting our time of learning by bringing their children to Jesus. He has much better things to do than touch a bunch of dirty, unruly children. And I pretty much told the women as much.
So, here I was trying to spare Jesus the problem and what does he do, but he gets indignant with me! He makes me look like a fool by telling us not to stop them and to let the children come to him. Then Jesus has the gall to go one step further and tell us that the Kingdom of God belongs to the children! And that unless we welcome the kingdom of God like a child, we won’t enter it.
Why does he have to be this way? Why can’t he see that some people are better in the eyes of God? Men were given the authority over women for a reason. The blind and the lame, the widows and the poor don’t have the capacity to study scripture and learn. And children are just noisy, dirty little things that constantly need something.
But Jesus welcomes them all. He eats with them all. He doesn’t seem to care about the Jewish laws for who he can sit with and eat with. He just does what he wants to do. He turns everything upside-down and says that it is right-side up. And he wants us to do the same.
The others seem convinced… it’s like they’ve been blinded by the brightness of Jesus’ vision. But it’s a ridiculous vision. It can’t ever happen. Not in this world, so why even try?
John and I see the power that Jesus has and know that his power could be used to change the world, to put an end to the oppression of our fellow Jews. We see how Jesus could be esteemed and how he could be the Messiah that we’ve all been waiting for. But all Jesus seems to worry about is making sure everyone has enough to eat.
James and I have talked about this… we plan to ask Jesus a very serious question. Clearly we’re the ones who see his greatness most clearly and should be the ones close to him to help guide him. So, we’re going to ask if, we can sit at his right and left hand. Then all will be right with the world.
My name is Miriam. I have just come from seeing Jesus! He blessed my baby! Those disciples of his didn’t want him to, and they gave me such nasty looks, but I didn’t care. Surely this will mean something wonderful for him beyond this hovel that we live in now. I want more for him… so much more. I want a future for him filled with peace and love.
I have drifted on the edges of the crowds and listened to Jesus talk. There is something captivating about him. The way he speaks as if he “knows”. The way he looks at all the people and is willing to teach everyone – men and women, rich and poor, healthy and disabled. In his eyes you can see he cares… not about gaining the throne, but about bringing us the love of God, and helping us to be good to one another, to help one another regardless of who we are.
Jesus tells us to love ourselves, to love God, and to love our neighbors. And then he shows us that he means it. Everyone is equal in Jesus’ eyes … I have never experienced that with anyone else.
The town is all a flutter about how he eats with anyone and everyone from tax collectors to sinners to women of the night, to lepers. Jesus includes everyone. And today he allowed us to bring the children to him! In our culture children are to be seen and not heard… if even seen. They are almost the invisible ones to the men. Men don’t want to be bothered with them until the boys are of an age to start to learn the scriptures and then to help them work, and it is time to marry off the girls.
Jesus’ ways are not going over well with some of the people in the synagogue. I hear the rumors. I know they would like to get rid of him. It makes me so angry that here is one who finally sees me and all women as persons of value and worth in the eyes of God, and they want to banish him from this area.
Sometimes he speaks in ways that others don’t understand. Today while he was blessing the children, despite the disparaging looks of his disciples, he told everyone that the Kingdom of God belongs to “such as these.” And that whoever doesn’t welcome the Kingdom of God as a little child won’t enter it.”
Well, everyone was in an uproar, whispering and arguing about what this meant. But it seems simple to me. Jesus tells us that God is love and that we are all blessed in God’s eyes. When he talks about the Kingdom of God, he means the presence of the Divine that we experience when we share peace, and love and compassion, when we welcome the stranger, and heal the sick and embrace the lonely. This kingdom is not just for the men who study scripture. It is not even just for those who keep all the laws. It is for the lowly, the poor, the outcast, those who aren’t even considered persons in their own right.
I think what he said was Jesus’ way of pushing them to understand. God’s way is not about status and privilege or gender. God’s way is about inclusion and love and radical equality. One enters the kingdom when they have understood that they are no better than anyone else.
It’s a beautiful vision for those of us who know what it is like to be a non-person. For those who wish to be in charge, to be the authority at home or at work or in the synagogue, this is a difficult teaching to swallow. But once all people really come to understand Jesus’ vision, all will be right with the world.
Love & Light,