Taking Care of the Weak and Vulnerable
Our Call from Christ
Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on October 7, 2012, the 19th Sunday after Pentecost. The text for the sermon is Mark 10:14-15, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
In today’s gospel account, we are presented with a picture of Jesus and children. It’s a picture that shows obvious warm feelings of love and acceptance by both Jesus and the children . It’s a gracious and good picture.
I hope we don’t miss the real story behind this picture of Jesus and the children. I pray that we will identify the true grace and goodness that is being portrayed.
In Jesus’ time, inequality and prejudice were practiced with abandon. If you were an adult male and of the right religion, right nationality and the right color, you had all the rights and privileges. If you were female, your rights were far less than if you were a man, and all your rights were tied to your relationship to a man, whether you were a daughter or a wife. Children were valued less than adults. Boys were regarded as more valuable than girls. Our gospel account reminds us that in Jesus’ day, a man could dismiss his wife and children on a whim and had no lawful or religious responsibility for them after dismissing them through divorce. The law did not provide this right to women. Women and children in that society often became among the most vulnerable and weak in society.
It is no small thing when Jesus embraces the children and says for all to hear, “Let the children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)
What is Jesus really saying here and what is the meaning for us today? Is it just about children? Some Bible commentators tell us that Jesus, by asking for the children to be brought to him, is identifying with those who are among the most vulnerable and helpless in society. Over and over in scripture we are told that God expects that we will help the poor and outcast among us. We’re reminded in scripture that we are not to take credit for what we have earned, but give all the credit it the Lord. We’re further told in scripture that we are to be just and merciful and kind to those in need, living as God expects us to live. Deuteronomy 8:17 puts it this way: You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who give you the ability to produce wealth…”
Amos 2:6 puts it this way: “They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. The trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.”
Micah 6:8 puts it this way: “He has showed you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Last Sunday evening at the Revival, our preacher, Pastor Dudley, used the story of the beggar at the temple, recorded in Acts, as his sermon text. Pastor Dudley said most people self-identify with someone in the story, usually Peter or John or someone going into the temple that day, but hardly anyone identifies with the beggar. Who wants to be someone like that, so far beneath how we picture ourselves. Here’s a truth: we are all beggars here, every one of us.
With respect to God, we are the ones who are vulnerable and weak. We are totally dependent on God’s grace for our very lives, everything we have, and our eternal salvation.
It is with this understanding of vulnerability and weakness, that we get a glimpse of what grace is all about. God’s grace is for not just for us, for all the weak and vulnerable of this world. With this understanding of grace, we cannot and must not seek places of status and privilege, but rather become like children.
I wanted to end this sermon with an illustration that demonstrates what Jesus might have seen in children that is wonderful and exemplary for God’s kingdom. Here is a story that Brett Blair entitles “Your Different”:
A seminary student told the story about a course he had to take with all the other beginning seminarians called Supervised Ministry. It was non-credit, but still required. He was assigned community work at a Head Start center near downtown. Ever Monday he would go down there and volunteer his time. All of the children, as well as the adults were black. After he had been there for some weeks, a child was sitting in his lap one day, when suddenly she looked at his hand and she said, “You’re different.” She didn’t say, “You’re white.” The young student said of that little girl, “I am not sure that she quite understood how I was different. The interesting thing was that she was just then noticing the difference.” Children are so innocent and beautiful in that respect, and I think that Jesus must have had that in mind when he said: unless you become as a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
This day, I invite you again be a child in God’s kingdom, to notice differences but say “who cares” and then act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God. I think this is Jesus’ desire for us and his Church.
Thanks be to God. Amen!