Mark 10:13-16 – Baptism
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said 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. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
It is impossible for us to conceive of how shocking Jesus’ words were to the disciples in today’s reading. When we see small children like sweet Otto we get all sentimental and soft-hearted. We wish we could hold him and whisper loving words to him, telling him how handsome he is and how smart, assure him that we know he’s going to grow into being a doctor or lawyer or the president of the United States.
When people in ancient times saw children, they saw little people with absolutely no power, people who couldn’t DO anything. It was the same with women: powerless, without voice, not worth the adult males’ time.
Jesus, on the other hand, was inviting the children into his midst against the disciples’ better judgement. The disciples were bugged not only because of Jesus’ teaching words, “Let the little children come to me because this is who the Kingdom of God belongs to.” The disciples’ heads were still spinning when Jesus made the impossible statement: if you don’t receive the kingdom of God as a child you won’t enter it. This concept was unimaginable to them and, really, to all people at that time.
Further, Jesus was asking the impossible of them–and us, incidentally. We adults simply cannot make ourselves into children. So, therefore, that must mean it is impossible for us to enter the Kingdom. Well, it is impossible for us—but not for God. God can get us in there.
And, so–then, we may be able to begin to understand that if we let go of our hunger for power, we may have a bit of a grasp on Jesus’ teachings about the last being first in the Kingdom of God. We may get a grasp on the truth that without the hand of God, none of this can be ours.
…God’s Kingdom is not structured like our world. The way things are done in the Jesus House is very different from how we function in our world in which the richest and most powerful are always the winners. Jesus is upending our whole culture of winners and losers. For Christians, for Gospel People, we can’t get ourselves into the Kingdom of God. It is not up to us to make that happen. God is always reaching out to us.
THIS is the Gospel. The Gospel is not a rubber stamp for how human beings were and are used to doing business. We think the ones with the most money, power and possessions are the ones who are first. In Jesus’ words, they are last. We think the ones who run the world through their high positions and status are first. No. In the Gospel world they are last. We think that children are just potential contributors. In the Gospel world they are Jesus’ example of who is first and who is not.
In our culture we just love the stuffins out of our babies and children, but we will probably need to use another illustration to really understand what Jesus was getting at. Jesus could have grabbed a homeless person who’s been living under a bridge, unwashed, maybe dealing with a mental illness; he might have brought that difficult person to himself and said, “Let them all come to me, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.” This is God reaching God’s hand out to us and making it clear that God loves the little ones, the needy ones, the helpless ones, the hurting ones, the handicapped ones –God loves them best.
…This all brings me to talk about baptism. We are so blessed today to be the baptizing congregation for this dear child because we need to be reminded that we don’t do baptism. We don’t decide who is within God’s love and care and blessing. This is completely God’s work.
As you will hear in the liturgy surrounding baptism, being initiated into Christ’s holy church at baptism is something we celebrate. It is God’s gift to us, offered without price.
Our work, our part of it is accepting our powerlessness to manipulate God and God’s love and then, accepting that God can love us anyway. Further, our work, especially when we celebrate the baptism of a child, is to commit to supporting and nurturing this child in God’s love and mirroring God’s love for him.
So, the parents and grandparents of Otto will take the ancient baptismal vows on his behalf. If you wish, you all out in Zoom land can renew your own baptismal vows as we do that. The last vow has to do with how we conduct ourselves in the world and toward these little ones who are depending on us to show them the love of God. Make sure you pay extra attention to that. For that is important for the parents and grandparents of Otto, but also critical in the life of a church. Take care of the little ones! For it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs!