Little children belong to Jesus. They are members of the church now and citizens of the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus didn’t leave a list of rules children had to keep or texts which needed to be memorised. Participation didn’t depend upon what they understood or whether they were baptised. It depended on their welcome. He said that whoever welcomes a child in his name welcomes him and his heavenly Father who sent him.
We are privileged in coming into contact with many children and are usually welcoming.. However, for many reasons parents struggle to bring their children up within the church and after baptism we often don’t see them again until their weddings.
We have little space at the back and front of church for children to play. Children can be noisy. Mums struggle with babes in arms. Whilst older children take part in the ministry of the church it is difficult to find space where younger ones can learn together in an age appropriate way. We do not have a children’s worker and there are many safeguarding and training hoops that volunteers have to go through before they can be left with children. Our PCC is struggling with what is needed.
I had hoped to start a service for toddlers and their families with simple liturgy sung to nursery rhyme tunes, a cross between Messy Church and “Diddy Disciples.” We had three volunteers from the congregation who were going to help when the pandemic hit! One of the volunteers died, another had extra foster children and the other became more disabled. The project became unviable. Then the old betting shop on Frankley became available. We are reaching out to others in our area but not specifically to children.
The conversation in our passage took place between Jesus and a small group of disciples just after his transfiguration when he had been seen by his closest friends in all his heavenly glory talking to Moses and Elijah about suffering to come.
Jesus was reminding them for the second time that he would be killed and rise again when they reached Jerusalem.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are central to what we believe. When we are baptised we identify with both the new life that Jesus brings, and his death and suffering. Because our children are too young to understand this, parents and godparents make promises on their behalf hoping that one day they will choose Christ for themselves and follow him.
We repent of our sins and renounce evil leading to the death of our old lives and the new resurrection life which Jesus gives in its place, a life made possible because Jesus died for us.
Where Jesus rules it is not adults, priests, teachers, politicians and parents who are important, but those who know they need Jesus and come to him as a child comes to his parents. Our status, and size are unimportant. We come ready for what Jesus wants to do in our lives, not with our own agendas, plans.
Jesus took a child in his arms to teach his disciples what they must be like. Jesus has a special love for children. To receive Jesus into our hearts, he said we must be like a little child. He doesn’t mean we are to be childish and he definitely doesn’t want us to be like the twelve disciples who had been arguing as to who was the greatest.
They were thinking about glory and victory. They couldn’t comprehend that Jesus, the Son of Man would suffer and die as we all will, They had just seen him revealed as the Son of God and had a glimpse of heaven.
We need to be humble on the inside so that we can come to Jesus in faith and invite him to take us into his arms and hold us in his love, just as he did for the child in the reading.
We lack time. We are busy, cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping, going to work, driving our children around to the places they want to go. Jesus always has time and love for us, his children, when we come to him in faith; time to listen and time when we can hear his words. When we spend time with our children we show how valuable they are.
Time spent in worship, prayer, and coming to church is not wasted. It is time to love God and be loved by him.
We should we receive Jesus like a little child.
Little Children are not hypocrites. They are always fully themselves and don’t pretend to be someone they are not. They cry, laugh and, dance in an uninhibited, spontaneous way not knowing social conventions. We need to come as we are, letting God know how we feel.
We come dependent, vulnerable needing to rely totally on Jesus.
We come asking questions. The disciples were too afraid to ask Jesus questions about what he meant when he said he would be killed. Jesus invites us to ask him for what we need, to come in prayer, asking our questions. Small children are forever asking questions and inquisitive. They explore, sometimes in a noisy, playful, foolish way. There is much more to learn and explore which is why we put on courses and give Bibles to those who come for baptism.
Children live in the present moment. They are now people. The time to come to Jesus and receive his love is right now
Children are trusting. They jump from a height into their parent’s arms. Jesus wants us to take a leap of faith into his arms of love, not to sit on the fence but to trust him.
Children love presents. They can’t wait to get the wrapping paper off at Christmas and on birthdays and we love to give. They receive gifts which cannot be earned.
There are many gifts we receive when we come to Jesus, love, forgiveness, the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, They are costly gifts. Jesus paid the price for them on the cross. They cannot be earned.
Children learn quickly and copy others. We become followers of Jesus by copying him
Children have huge potential and promise. Whatever age we are, a baby or in our nineties, as Christians we have a future hope full of potential and promise.
Jesus says that as we welcome little children as one of us, we receive him and his heavenly Father. Little children are as able to receive the love of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit as we are. We haven’t got to grow up to become a Christian.
Church goers sometimes complain because children don’t behave like them. They are too noisy or upset the service at the wrong time. They may not know how to make them welcome.