To the Church in Exile,
The peace of Christ be with you. Our lectionary reading for today is from the United States Constitution……. Gotcha! (I couldn’t resist on this of all days!) Our lectionary reading is Mark 10:13-16:
13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to 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. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
I remember this Jesus story from 2nd grade Sunday School with the flannel board figures. I was so impressed with Jesus’ welcome of people like me. The idea that the singular qualification for entering God’s Reign, God’s Movement, was to become like a little child escaped me. What was it about a little child that made them equipped to enter the kingdom? Was it their childishness? Was it their lack of knowledge? Was it a child’s innocence?
I don’t think that’s what Jesus’ point is at all. Luke’s telling of this story (Ch. 18) pinpoints the key when he quotes Jesus saying you must receive the Kingdom of God as an “infant.” Now we see the point. What exactly does an infant do to enter the Kingdom? Nothing. Infants only do one thing really, they receive. And if I want to enter God’s Realm, I must first and foremost receive it.
When I was on sabbatical this summer, I had a cup of coffee with one of my friends here in town. I was sharing with him that one difficulty of my sabbath is that I was struggling without a regular weekly rhythm. He said, “Well, maybe God is trying to show you something.” I didn’t appreciate it. I like rhythms. They help me get things done. I ignored my friend.
And now, sequestered-in-place, I am wondering if I missed an opportunity to learn something. Because, I have to tell you, as a daily and weekly list guy, this season is killing me. I feel like I’m hardly getting anything done. I echo Jeff’s sentiments in Sunday’s message with the realization that I’m not in control.
But I’m not thick headed; I’m starting to receive. Instead of lamenting the memo that didn’t get sent, the phone call that wasn’t made to the hospital, or the Bible research that didn’t happen for next week’s sermon, I finish the day recalling what I have received.
What have you received in the last day, week? You cannot “do” your way into the kingdom. I like Eugene Peterson’s comment in one of his books, “What we don’t do for God is often far more critical than what in fact we do!” The Reign of God is not hostile to effort and sweat for sure; it’s just not the way you enter it. You can’t crawl your way into Jesus’ arms; you must let him “take you up” into his arms, lay his hands on you, and bless you.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Peace in Christ,
Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11