Things a Child Can Teach Us / Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, September 23, 2018
Pastor Donald Beaumont

Mark 9:30-37

Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.

Some of you may remember when Roman Catholic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was one of television’s brightest stars. For those of you who weren’t born when Sheen was giving his televised talks, you might be amazed that he won an Emmy Award twice for Most Outstanding Television Personality, and was featured on the cover of Time magazine. He also received thousands of letters from his viewers.

One mother wrote that her son was bothering her while she was working in the kitchen. She said to him: Go into the parlor, turn on the television, listen to Bishop Sheen. He’s smart. You will learn something. The boy did as he was told. At the moment Sheen appeared on television, he was writing the word “sex” on the blackboard. Obviously that was the theme of his broadcast that day. The boy ran back to his mother and said: Bishop Sheen isn’t so smart. He doesn’t know how to spell six.

Children will keep you on your toes, won’t they?

A woman wrote to Reader’s Digest recently to tell about an incident involving one of her five children. She said they had just finished tucking the kids into bed when three-year-old Billy began to wail. Turns out, he had accidentally swallowed a penny and was sure he was going to die. Desperate to calm him, dad, palmed a penny that he had in his pocket and pretended to pull it from Billy’s ear. Billy was delighted. In a flash, he snatched it from his father’s hand, swallowed it, and demanded, Do it again!

Yes, they keep us on our toes. But, the truth is, if you pay attention to them, there is much you can learn from children.

One of Albert Einstein’s neighbors, the mother of a ten-year-old girl, noticed that the child often visited Einstein’s house. The woman wondered at this, and the child explained: I had trouble with my homework in arithmetic. I heard that a mathematician, who is also a very good man lived next door to us, so I asked him to help me. He was very willing and explained everything very well. He said I should return whenever I find a problem too difficult.

Alarmed at the child’s boldness, the girl’s mother went to Einstein to apologize. Einstein said, you don’t have to excuse yourself. I have learned more from the conversations with the child than she has from me. Jesus would’ve understood what Dr. Einstein was saying.

Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Galilee. They returned to Capernaum. When they got settled in from their journey Jesus asked His disciples, what were you arguing about on the road?

The disciples were embarrassed and didn’t say anything. Why? Because they’d been arguing about which of them was the greatest. Jesus sat down and called His disciples to gather around Him. Then He said, anyone who wants to be first, must be the very last, and the servant of all. And then to drive His point home Jesus gave the disciples an object lesson. He took a child and placed it among them. Taking the child into His arms He said, whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.

I am so thankful that this passage is in the New Testament. It reminds us that Jesus had a high regard for children. It’s interesting because children weren’t seen as having much value in ancient Israel. They were considered one of the lowest elements in society. Children, along with women, old men, and slaves, were viewed as burdens on society who had little value to the wider life of the community. In Greece and Rome, it was an accepted practice to abandon unwanted children along the road to die. Jesus’ attitude toward children couldn’t have been more different. He warned His followers not to reject children or to cause them to stumble.

This passage isn’t the only place in Scripture where we find Jesus elevating children. He enjoyed the presence of children. You remember when the disciples were keeping the children away from Jesus. And Jesus said, as translated in the King James English Version, “Suffer the little children to come to me.” (Mt. 19:14) Some of us smile at that particular archaic translation: suffer the little children. We can remember “suffering” through Sunday school and worship as children ourselves. The modern translation, Let the children to come unto me, is far more accurate.

Jesus even elevated children higher than this when He said, truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17) It reminds us how precious the children of our church are, and the children of our community, and all the children of the world.

Today’s lesson reminds us that children are great teachers. An anonymous author has made a list of some things you don’t know until you have kids. For example, without kids you wouldn’t know:

Who John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt is.

You wouldn’t know how to change a diaper in the dark, in a parked car, on a standing child, or all of the above simultaneously . . .

You wouldn’t know which lines of “The Cat in the Hat” and “If I Ran the Circus” can be skipped over without a child noticing.

Or the locations of public restrooms all across town.

Or, how little sleep a human body truly needs to function.

You wouldn’t know almost every Disney lyric ever written.

Or why they call them Happy Meals.

Or the blessedness of naps.

And finally, without children you wouldn’t know how much you can love one human being.

There are many more things we can learn from our children. Like, we wouldn’t know what unrestrained joy is. Watch children playing and you will usually hear the wonderful sound of laughter. According to experts, children laugh on average four hundred times per day, whereas adults laugh only seventeen times per day. As we grow older, we lose the excited happiness of childhood. If it gets to you that your children are too excited at times, remind yourself to thank God for that excitement. It’s a sign that they’re happy and healthy. Every time you hear a child laugh, give thanks to God. And don’t allow your responsibilities to rob you of the gift of laughter. I know, for us adult’s life can be stressful.

A mother driving home with her four small children, the family dog, and several bags of groceries. Her face is a combination of tension, frustration, anger, and near hysteria, and the steering wheel is vibrating under her ever-tightening grip.

Behind her all four small children are talking at the same time. The conversation behind her goes something like: tell Billy to stop waving at the car behind us. Daddy’s good hat is back here and Dolly’s standing on it. Which bags are the lollipops in?” Blow your horn and make that police car get out of the way, Mom. Janie just dropped the ketchup bottle on top of the prune juice, and the bag’s leaking. Drive faster, we’re missing a good program on TV. Stop bouncing the car, I can’t read the message on the cereal box. It’s cold back here, sitting on the frozen food. Who put the fingerprints on the back window? Why’d you turn the radio off? Jimmy’s opening the cookie bag. And finally, this one revealing comment: You don’t smile very much when you drive, do you Mommy?   

We all understand. Life is stressful. We need children or grandchildren to remind us what unrestrained joy is all about.

Children also teach us about unrestrained love. Most of us have encountered that love at some time in our lives and it brought us indescribable joy.

Children know how to express love in the most beautiful ways. And their love moves beyond the boundary’s we adults put on our love. For example, they don’t reserve their love for people who are like them. Sometimes children understand the heart of Jesus better than adults. Maybe that’s the point Jesus was trying to get across. Children teach us about unrestrained joy, unrestrained love, and most of all, about unrestrained faith.

But faith is the natural state of a child. Listen to your children. God gave them to you so that you may guide them as they grow and mature. But God also gave them to you so that they may teach you about what’s truly important in life like unrestrained joy, love and faith.

What would we do without children? As we minister to them, we grow. They keep us in touch with what really matters. When we think that life is a matter of accumulation, domination and accommodation, the sound of a baby’s cry can bring us back to earth. A child’s laughter can brighten our entire world. A child’s love can give us something to live for, and a child’s faith can help keep a parent on the right track. Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, says Christ. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.

Amen.

Bethel Lutheran Church

32410 Willowick Drive
Willowick, OH 44095

P: (440) 943-5000

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