Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let them come

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Mark 10:13-16

I often talk to church gatherings about welcoming people and growing their congregation. Most people don't realize that when someone comes to a church for the first time, they are coming to find welcome and a family of faith. However they are dressed, whatever their age, whether alone or with others, they come, at the heart, as a small child. They need to know the basics - that they are welcome, that you will not judge them, and that you will feed them and help them find the bathroom. Many people often laugh when I say that. Many people have never returned to a church because no one welcomed them just as they are or because they could not find a bathroom for their aged mother or a nursery for their child. We often hinder the very people we say we want among us.

Jesus was having very intense theological and practical discussions and was being tested. We all know how that feels. He ended up his time with the theologians by sitting on the ground and opening his arms wide to the children, blessing them and instructing us to do likewise. There is no other way for me to hear this Gospel then God speaking loudly to me as to what is really most important - welcome, embrace and blessing. Those are the tasks before us. We can get the theology wrong, the rules mixed up and maybe even use something other than the normal hymnal, but what really, really matters is how we love immediately, constantly and completely. Our ministries, lay and ordained, hinge on those three tasks alone.

Today I ask God to help me be about, welcome, embrace and blessing. May my every action be an act of immediate, sustained and complete love for others, no matter how different or testy they are. May my heart always be open, may my words always be welcome and may all of the children find a home among us in a family that truly makes them welcome, feeds them, and provides the comforts and education they ache for.

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