Christian Characteristics: “Childlike Faith”

Christian Characteristics: “Childlike Faith”
A Message on Mark 10:13-16

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Jan. 28, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

Mark 10:13-16 (NRSV)


13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.


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Today we are continuing our sermon series on “Christian Characteristics” by looking at one that is near and dear to my heart: “Childlike Faith.”


One of the characteristics children have that I think is great–and which I think we as adults should emulate–is that of seeing others through unbiased eyes. They don’t classify others according to their skin color or income level or what language they speak or which part of town they live in.


One of our kids, I think it was Emily but it could have been Sarah, would come home from elementary school talking about what her and her friends had done and just normal kid things. She had one friend that she really was really close to. She would tell us about what they had done at recess, what they talked about, etc.


Several months went by and then we were at some event where Emily and her best friend were both at and she introduced her to me and Pam. The young girl was African American. At first I was kind of surprised that Emily had never mentioned that, and then as I thought about it more I was kind of proud that she hadn’t. I realized that Emily never mentioned it because through her eyes as a child it didn’t matter to her. It wasn’t important. She saw her friend through eyes that weren’t prejudiced or racist. She saw her friend as Jesus sees all his children.


That is just one factor that I fascinates me about children. These tiny human beings with souls are created in ways we don’t really understand. Yes, science teaches us about the biology of reproduction and how babies are made, but at what point does consciousness come into play? When does a baby have a soul?


And as they grow they are fascinated by almost everything. They ask questions, most notably, “Why?”


It took me a while to learn with our kids. Sarah was the first and also the one who asked it the most. She would ask me something like, “Daddy, why is the sky blue?” And I would tell her it was because of the molecular structure of the air in the atmosphere and as the light from the sun enters the atmosphere the light from the blue end of the spectrum is scattered more and thus the sky appears to be blue.


“But why?” would be the response.


Well, that’s just the way it is, I would say.


“But why?”


Finally, in exasperation, I would say, “Because that’s the way God wants it!”


It took me a while but I finally learned that I could greatly shorten the list of “why” questions by skipping straight to my final answer.


“Daddy, why does it rain?”


“Because that’s the way God wants it.”


Children learn without limits. They don’t perceive things such as creativity as having limits.


There is the story of the kindergarten teacher who gave the students an assignment to draw whatever they wanted. The teacher is walking around the room and sees this one girl just drawing away. The teacher asks, “What are you drawing?”


“God,” the little girl says without even looking up.


“Oh, honey. No one knows what God looks like,” the teacher said.


Without looking up or missing a beat, the little girl says, “They will in a minute.”


I think as adult Christians part of our challenge is that we have been drilled out of asking “why” questions about our faith. We have put the fascination parts of our brains on “do not disturb” and have place restrictive limits on our God-given creativity and talents.


Wednesday night I sat in with the Junior UMY for their lesson. The subject was fatherly characteristics of God but the young people asked so many questions we got into some deep discussions on the Trinity as well as how God transcends the space time continuum. (“There never was a time when God was not.”) They were curious and fascinated by faith issues and asked plenty of “why” questions. (And no I don’t think I answered any with “Because that’s the way God wants it.”)


I think as adults we need to regain the fascination that we had as children, especially when it comes to our faith journey.


In the scripture we read today from the Gospel of Mark we find that people were bringing their children to Jesus. The disciples, being the serious-minded adults that they were, thought this was horrible and started chiding the parents.


We don’t know exactly what the disciples were saying to the parents but I figure it was something like, “Get those kids away from here! The Master has too many important things to do and doesn’t have time to mess with those kids!”


I think it was the ancient equivalent of “Get off my yard!” “Get away from the Savior!”


And what does Jesus do? The scripture says he was “indignant.” That implies anger! The King James Version of the Bible says he was “much displeased.”


And then he does something which would have been shocking in the day: he not only tells disciples to back off and not interfere with the kids coming to him, but “for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”


I think it’s hard for us to perceive the shock value that this statement would have had at the time. In the first century children were to be kept out of sight and out of mind for the most part.


We had a similar view of children in our society not that long ago. How many of you  remember going to a family reunion or church covered dish event years ago and the tradition was for the men to go first, the women to go second, and then, finally, the children went last. Now at nearly every function I go to it is the children who eat first, and then the men and women mingle and go at the same time.


As adult Christians we still have many in our churches who still believe that when it comes to children they should be last. We want them to come to church be act and behave as adults.


A pastor friend of mine posted something on Facebook that he had read from the book, Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship by Robbie Fox Castleman.


“In many of our modern, sophisticated congregations, children are often viewed as distractions. We tolerate children only to the extent they promise to become ‘adults’ like us. Adult members sometimes complain that they cannot pay attention to the sermon, they cannot listen to the beautiful music, when fidgety children are beside them in the pews.’Send them away,’ many adults say…


“These professors at Duke University conclude their point by noting, Interestingly, Jesus put a child in the center of his disciples, ‘in the midst of them,’ in order to help them pay attention…. The child was a last-ditch effort by God to help the disciples pay attention to the odd nature of God’s kingdom. Few acts of Jesus are more radical, countercultural, than his blessing of children.”


What if in our spiritual lives instead of trying to make children be out of sight and out of mind we instead learned to be more like them? What if children became role models for adults?


Our Methodist Readiness School kids performed for us today at the beginning of our service. Weren’t they awesome! You may not know but these young folks have chapel every Wednesday at 10:30 here in the sanctuary. Our children’s director, Meredith MeDonald, does a short devotional (which are awesome, by the way) I have the honor and privilege (and I really mean that) of playing guitar and leading them in singing.


Wednesday morning are one of the highlights of my week. To see these 75 little heads bobbing up and down and singing about God and Jesus fills my heart with joy! And I get to thinking, “What if every member of this church was as excited about Jesus as these young kids are?”


Spiritually we can learn a lot from children.


I want to show you a short video of a little girl who is fascinated by, of all things, rain. As you watch it, I want us to think of our faith lives. What if we were as fascinated and enthusiastic about being disciples of Jesus Christ as this little girl is about rain? What if we lifted our arms up in praise and embraced the memory of the water of our baptisms flowing over us, cleansing us from our sins and initiating us into a new way of life?


(Show video.)


I want to follow up that video with a scripture that is similar to the one we read today from the Gospel of Mark. This comes from the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. As I read it I want you I want to show you another video, this one of some kids playing. As you watch the video and listen to the scripture reflect on the childlike qualities of your faith.


(Show video, no sound.)


At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:1-5)


My challenge to you this week is to develop your childlike faith. Seek to be a disciple of Jesus with all the awe and wonder and fascination of a child. Live each day and hour and minute fully, embracing all the joy of the little things. Play well with others, share and take turns, see people as Jesus sees them not by the prejudicial ways our society wants us to see them.


Because that’s the way God wants it.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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