Church of England Diocese of Exeter Witheridge with Creacombe and Romansleigh

An homily for the 18th Sunday after Trinity

3 Oct 2021, 12:15 p.m.

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Mark 10: 2-16 Hebrews 1:1–4; 2:5–12

Ooo, I do like it when things change over time. I have just come back from two weeks in Derbyshire where one of the highlights was a visit to ‘Tram Village’. It took me back to my early years when I could just remember trams running along the roads. Noisy and not that comfortable. The modern-day bus is a great improvement.

Other things change over time and language is no exception. Remember it used to be thought how awful could mean both full of awe, majestic and reverential as well as terrible and appalling. Actually, checking it is very difficult to pin down how the word derived and was used. What is easier is the word ‘suffer’. Some use the phrase “suffer little children to come unto me” to show how Jesus encouraged children. This is from the older translations of the Bible. More modern versions use, “Let the little children come to me”.

There is a great contrast here. Prior to this encounter Jesus had been faced with the Pharisees and their animosity toward him. To have little children come to him was a complete change from the previous bitterness he had been experiencing. It must have been quite refreshing. All of this as he was making his way to the Cross in Jerusalem. This is the meaning of the word, ‘suffer’, to allow something or tolerate an action.

However, the disciples were as a guard around Jesus. They did not want to see their Master bothered by simple and unimportant matters, as they understood them. They were like a bodyguard keeping well-wishers away. But Jesus drew the crowds. There were so many who just wished to touch him or receive his contact. Allow little children to come to me. Jesus welcomed their contact, their presence. Their understanding, their faith, was and is, so simple. It is not clouded by the worries and ways of the world.

Jesus would also have known of the practice of bringing little children to a Rabbi to receive a special blessing. Bringing children to faith is so important. They are the Church of today, and also of tomorrow. Churches should do all in their power to make their worship meaningful for all. I am always mindful of the fact that it is no use expecting a child of just one year, for example, to behave as an adult. Any contribution they might make in God’s house is before God, and God made us for himself.

The simplicity of faith of little children together with their thirst for knowledge makes their early introduction to Jesus so important. As Jesus himself said, “it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs”. Jesus wanted the children to come to him. So much so that he took them up in his arms and blessed them.

Collect for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Almighty and everlasting God,

increase in us your gift of faith

that, forsaking what lies behind

and reaching out to that which is before,

we may run the way of your commandments

and win the crown of everlasting joy;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.