Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homily for Pentecost 19

Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.

The importance of children in Jesus mission and teaching is clear and once again, we find children in the presence of Jesus.

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me
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 hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 

Let the little children come to me; Do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs

In these three examples, Jesus is stressing the importance of children in the life of the kingdom.

We aren’t to be stumbling blocks for them.
We are to welcome them. By welcoming children, we welcome Christ himself.

It is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.

Such as these. People like these. Brothers and sisters whose hearts are like that of a child.

Jesus isn’t saying that the Kingdom of God belongs to children.

It doesn’t. It belongs to all who believe, and of course that will include children, but not children exclusively.

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

And here we reach the reason why children are important for Jesus.

Yes, they are important in themselves,
as people,
as a fellow brother or sister in Christ,
they are of equal standing with anyone else.

The church belongs as much to children as it does to priests or wardens or organists or any of us.

The church works at its truest when it understands this.
The church is at its best when it is what it needs to be for
an infant,
a  9 year old,
a teenager,
a young mum,
a father of two,
a grandfather of 8,
or a great grandmother of 32.

The church belongs to all these, equally.
No one’s needs are more important than the other.
They are different needs, but of equal significance.

But Jesus uses the idea of children in a deeper way.

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

It’s a bit like this: above my desk I have pictures of Archangel Michael, and another set of the four archangels. They are wonderful paintings, with great detail and style. The expressions an all the faces are real and the they are moody.

However, underneath, there is a picture Ivy drew of the angel of the resurrection from Matthew’s gospel. It is a child’s drawing. It isn’t realistic or as stylised as the others. But it is beautiful. The angel has a bow in her hair, is holding flowers and has large lipstick covered lips. She is smiling, looking right at me from atop the stone she has rolled away. Now as a dad, of course I am going to love this picture, but there is more to it.

As a child, Ivy has managed to express her faith and love in a way that is pure and uncomplicated. It is as a child she has received this story, and as a child she believes it. As a child she has drawn it. It is innocent. It is from her heart. It is pure.

We are to be as a child in how we believe.

And how does a child believe?
How does a child receive the Kingdom of God?

Most children do not have theology degrees.
Most children have not been going to church for 50 years.
Most children do not argue about where the altar should be placed, or what flowers there are, or what colour vestments are worn.
Most children are not going to give you an indepth reasoning of how miracles occur.

All these things are obviously superfluous.
That is not to say they are not important, interesting and essential in some way.
It is just that they are not deal makers or breakers in when receiving the kingdom of God.

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

This is another way of saying Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

A child approaches Christ with openness. A child accepts Christ as he is, not as they want him to be.

It is from here, it is from the heart, not the intellect that a child receives the kingdom of God.
It is from a place that is unsullied by worldly nonsense and useless information that a child is with Christ.
It is from here.

But we are to be careful. Jesus tells us to receive the kingdom as a child does. We are not become children. As St Paul tells us:

when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

Our belief is to be pure, like that of a child.
But we are not to become childish.
Our faith is not to become childish.
We are to keep the essence of our faith in that pure childlike state, where we are with Christ in a way that is honest and clear.

It is the essence of our faith, and I believe it is the essence of ourselves that we are to keep pure, and in doing so we will be able to receive the Kingdom of God as a child.

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