2021-10-03 19th Sunday After Pentecost
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The welcoming spirit of Jesus. It cannot be overestimated. We hear in the Gospel reading for today how our Lord welcomed the little children and we don’t think anything of it. Our whole world revolves around kids and their schooling and sports and activities. But back in our Lord’s day this wasn’t the case. Kids were meant to be seen and not heard in Ancient Rome. They were viewed as insignificant members of society, lower than low with no status at all. They were viewed as weak and fragile in the days of high infant mortality rates. It was only as they grew older that their status in life grew in importance.
St. Mark tells us that a number of people from the crowd were bringing children to Jesus that He might bless them. Probably it would be the moms bringing their tots to this famous Rabbi for a blessing that might strengthen them and their future lives. But as this is happening, the Lord’s Disciples seek to put an end to it. They rebuke the moms and tots for coming to the Lord! But why would they do this? Did they believe what the Roman culture taught about these tots? They were lowly and somewhat despised, just written off as a nuisance!? Maybe. Or perhaps it had been a long day for Jesus with lots of preaching and teaching. Maybe they thought their master was worn out and needed a rest. They were acting like body guards or bouncers at the club to protect Him from interruption. These little people may have been viewed as trivial and unworthy of our Lord’s time and attention by the Disciples.
However this scene in Mark’s Gospel came to be, when our Lord sees it, He is rather disturbed by it. It causes Him great distress to see God’s precious children being treated so poorly and unwelcome - especially by people who should know better, His own Disciples! They had seen Him heal the blind and the sick and cast out demons and feed the multitudes. He touched the untouchables, the lepers and all the people who society deemed a basket of deplorables. These are the people that Jesus comes for. He shows mercy. He extends invitations to the highways and byways. He welcomes everyone in His love. So when the Disciples try to block the least of society from seeing the Savior, our Lord gets a little ticked off.
Contrary to what society says about these children, our Lord says plainly: “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (10:14). God’s Kingdom belongs to them. Those people who society says don’t matter. To them the Kingdom belongs. Who were the Disciples to stand in the way by dishonouring them and refusing them and others like them?? It was indeed a stunning rebuke from Jesus. He publicly laid the smack down on His Disciples in front of the moms and tots! He championed the least of these in the face of the people who thought they knew better and had status in the eyes of the world.
Newsflash folks! Jesus doesn’t care about your worldly status. At all. Look what He does. “He took them in his arms and blessed them” (10:16). One by one until they were all blessed and loved by the Messiah. This is the welcoming spirit of Jesus. This is the love and grace and mercy He shows to the least of all. He provides blessing to those whom the Father had given the Kingdom. What does He mean by this? With our “precious moments” view of little kids we might tend to think its all nice, warm, luvvy-duvy sentiment. But it’s more than that. It’s because of their lowly status in the eyes of the world and how readily they received our Messiah.
They had no earthly importance to lean on. They had nothing to suggest they should be blessed. This is in stark contrast to the Pharisees who loved to parade around and show the world how right they were and how much smarter they were than everybody else. Look at all of our fancy accumulated merits! These children have empty hands and open hearts. They receive the Kingdom of God as the free gift that it is with no way of earning it. They come to Jesus trusting in His love and receiving blessing because God is love. This is how the Kingdom of God must be received by everyone, with child-like faith. “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (10:15). Trusting in Pharisaical pride and self-righteousness and worldly status is enough to exclude anyone from the Kingdom of God!
The welcoming spirit of Jesus. He makes children the model because of their simple trust and faith. When a baby cries, it does so fully expecting someone to pick it up and look after any needs it might have. This is trust. This is faith. This is why the Christian church has never ever had any problem with baptizing infants. They can trust. They can believe. They can receive God’s Kingdom and they do so by water and the word. No merit. No decisions. No list of accomplishments. To these belong the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us plainly “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (MT 28:19). And the results of this Great Commission are reflected later in the book of Revelation: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (7:9).
This is our goal. Our heavenly journey and outcome is what really matters in this earthly life. Our prime directive as God’s people is to share this message of eternal hope that stems from the welcoming spirit of Jesus and child-like faith. This welcoming spirit that Jesus shows the children, He also shows to us. Therefore, we must show it to all people too. Even if we don’t agree with them or their decisions. Especially if we don’t think the same way as other people do. We do not have permission to gossip about our brothers and sisters in Christ and run them down because we don’t agree with them on earthly matters and opinions. When you do this it destroys the welcoming spirit of Christ. Instead, hear the words of Jesus: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (JN 13:35).
If you have love for one another. This is a big if. And it has become the very test of our faith during this exceedingly divided time in our world. The government and the media continue to sow division between people, stoking the fires of hostility from this tribe of ideas vs that tribe of ideas. And it truly has descended into tribalism. My tribe good. Your tribe bad. My tribe wears 12 masks. Your tribe wears none. The world is increasingly filled with outright hatred for those who have made different assessments and decisions than we have about the pandemic. We have to be on our guard as God’s people that we don’t bring that hatred here to God’s house or wallow in it outside of God’s house. Hatred shown or spoken to our brothers and sisters in Christ who think differently we do? We can’t have it.
But my tribe is right! you protest! Their tribe is wrong! There is only one tribe we should be concerned with. The tribe of Judah. For this is the tribe of our salvation. The tribe from which the Lamb and the Lion descends. The Lord Jesus Christ Who welcomes all unto Himself and invites us to humble ourselves and come to the knowledge of Salvation. This is what really matters. This is the message we should be promoting and proclaiming. This is what brings us eternal healing and well being.
Friends, if you don’t get the COVID19 vaccine, you’re going to die. If you do get the vaccine, you’re going to die. It doesn’t matter how right you believe you are on this issue. The universal “vaccine” we should be consuming ourselves with is the Cross. For this is what truly makes us whole and healthy for eternity. This is what rescues us from sin, death and the devil. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Jesus is what unites us together as God’s people, one tribe, the church. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (JN 13:35). So your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to love and welcome each other as Christ our Lord has loved and welcomed you. Amen.