The Greatness of a Child

“The Greatness of a Child”
A Message on Matthew 18:1-7
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
April 18, 2021, Methodist Readiness School Sunday
By Doug Wintermute

Matthew 18:1-7 (NRSV)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

6 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!

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Okay, y’all gather around and put your listening ears on cause today we’re going to explore something that happened in the Bible with Jesus! Since this is Methodist Readiness School Sunday we are going to focus on children and something Jesus says about children.

Okay, so the disciples have been following Jesus around and learning all kinds of things from him.

But then they ask him a kinda weird question: “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?” They want to know which one of them is the most important, which one Jesus and God like the best.

I think it’s a weird question to ask Jesus, but that’s what they did. Instead of just answering the question, Jesus does something different.

He calls a kid to come stand near him, and he puts the kid in the middle of all the disciples. Then he tells them that unless they change and become like that little kid, they aren’t going to heaven. Yep.

Then he tells them whoever is humble like a little kid is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. So they have to change their attitudes, become humble, and then they go to heaven.

But Jesus still wasn’t through. He says that whoever welcomes a kid in his name welcomes Jesus himself! Wow!

Jesus was teaching the disciples a lesson!

The disciples were getting the big head. Some of them were thinking they were better than the other disciples. They were competing against each other. They wanted to be at the top of Jesus’s list of the best disciples.

There’s something within each of us as humans that wants recognition and to be the best at something.

When I was a kid I wanted to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. I had bought a paperback copy of the book through those programs at school that send home a little catalog and then you check the books you want to buy and turn in your money at the school. I was fascinated reading it and wanted to be in it.

The only trouble was that I wasn’t good at anything. So I thought I would come up with something really weird and obscure, something so strange that other people hadn’t thought about it and therefore there wouldn’t be much competition. And that would increase my chances of getting my name in the book!

So this is what I came up with. I would stack up a bunch of quarters on my elbow like this (demonstrate), and then catch them in my hand (demonstrate).

I didn’t know it at the time but it’s called coin snatching. I know that now because I looked it up. And I found out that the record for this event is held by a guy named Dean Gould from England who balanced — and caught– 328 coins. He also holds the record for the most caught without dropping any at 100. I think the most I ever got was 20 something.

There is something within our brains that wants us to be the best at something, to prove we are better than others. Some want this for fame, others for money, some for both.

But that’s not the way of Jesus. Jesus wants us to be humble, like a child.

That’s just one of the things they teach at our Methodist Readiness School. The MRS started 50 years ago. That’s 50 years of planting seeds, like humbleness, into the hearts, souls, and minds of children. We even have grandkids of some of the members of the first class now attending the school.

I get the honor and privilege to lead chapel with the MRS kids on Wednesdays at 10:30. I have to tell you it’s one of the highlights of my week! Seriously. There was even a time when the kids thought my name was “Chapel Day.” The teachers would tell them on Wednesday, “Come on kids, it’s chapel day.” I would be walking across the parking lot when they were on the playground, and they would run to the fence and call out, “Chapel Day! Chapel Day!”

One of the reasons I like leading chapel for them is that they are authentic. They don’t pretend to be something they are not. There’s one boy that just doesn’t like chapel. He cries every Wednesday, no matter what. He is being authentic.

If I start playing music you can see the rhythm coming out in them. They’ll start hopping or dancing (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference) and clapping and praising God. They don’t worry about what someone else says. They are filled with joy, and that joy is contagious.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were all that way as Christians? Wouldn’t it be great if all the “grown up” Christians lived with the greatness of a child? If we were humble, yet full of curiosity, questions, and awe? If we didn’t judge people by the color of their skin or how much money they had or where they lived, but instead on how they act and how they treat others?

That’s my challenge to you today as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Methodist Readiness School. Do as Jesus asks and become like a child. Be humble. Be curious. Be willing to believe things that you can’t see. Be willing to trust your heavenly father as a child trusts his/her earthly father and mother.

That’s much better than coin snatching, I can assure you.

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

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