WHOEVER WELCOMES ME
Why do we spend the time we do on children?
Why do we do it?
Because we always have?
Because we are obligated to do it?
Or do we have a deeper motivation, one that is rooted in the teaching and example of Christ.
The Church That Blessed Children (revisited):
Winslow Church of Christ
Once over a third of its 80 or so members were youth and children.
Almost all the adults were used to teaching classes.
The VBS of that little church was highly regarded.
It was at one of those VBSs that I was the only teen in the teen class. I was 13. I had two teachers that night. They didnt ignore me, in fact it became a very special time and I was taught one-to-one. (This was foundational in my conversion.)
- Why am I telling you this?
- Arent we doing okay at West-Ark?
- Sure. Weve got lots of great ideas. We have so many qualified people. We have such incredible resources. I thank God for this ... I dont even think we need to do anything differently other than we need to do more of the same. I dont want to talk about WHAT we do, but ...
- But WHY do we do what we do, and HOW do we do what we do?
- May I suggest that we consider Jesus teaching from Mark 9 as we understand our reason for ministry to children ...
- What does this teaching say to us? I believe it says this:
- Lets never squabble about whos the greatest and commit to serving the least.
- This whole issue arose from an internal argument among the Twelve among the top leaders.
- When Jesus pulls a child near him and blesses him this is not a gentle reminder. This contradicted their whole view of reality. Children were not held in great esteem in the first century.
- Children were (and are): vulnerable, weak, cannot repay kindness and service like adults.
- Thanks to Christianity children are probably shown more concern than ever before, but sometimes that concern is patronizing and conditional.
- Children are often the innocent bystanders of our wars.
- The suffering and abuse of children makes the news, but I fear it is becoming commonplace
- Children are the victims in society and in wars around the world ...
- and this can even be true in church! (Wouldnt it be a shame to lose children because they are turned away by petty bickering!)
- Jesus said it would be better if we had a big stone slung around our neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause our little ones to sin.
- In our grand debates about whos the strong and the weak brother do we ever stop to consider that our children, being new Christians or not yet Christians, are the weak? And yet we too often expect them to be the strong and put up with our foolishness. We ought to be bearing their foolishness in love and patience, not the other way around. Thats what being an adult is about.
- Lets not squabble like children and start serving children and lets not stop there. We can serve one another. We can serve strangers.
- Lets welcome children as we would welcome Christ.
- This alone justifies all the attention and love we give to children.
- We may be faced with so many things that seem more important and urgent and we ought to be careful that we do not neglect the children.
- Jesus re-directed his disciples: If we asked Jesus is all this work for children worth it? How would he respond? I think his answer is clear ...
- Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.
- We can be too fearful of those we fellowship with. To be a welcoming, hospitable people is at the heart of the gospel. But when we make assumptions about others we miss out on what God is doing to not only redeem individuals but also community.
- Lets make it a priority and calling to be a church and people that bless children.
- In a world where children are often cursed, we need this so badly.
- But how do we do this? Can we do this?
- I am not surprised that we might find it awkward and unfamiliar, but that doesnt mean it is unbiblical, in fact it is very biblical. (See Numbers 6 Moses blessing).
- As Christians, we are called to minister to one another and bless one another
- I am fortunate to have experienced blessings. That night at VBS when two teachers demonstrated genuine concern but also spoke the truth to me was a blessing. They prayed with me and for me.
- I have enjoyed having my children blessed and I want to share this with you.
- We give showers and parties and gifts to children, and praise God for that.
- But we dare not do that to the neglect of the spiritual blessings!
- And remember that children need not be sick or newborn for you to bless them. There are ample opportunities (The Back-to School service, tutoring, the Youth Ministry, FLOCK and Gateway, childrens worship).
- Because the world and Satan will curse them without reservation, lets bless the children without reservation.
- But also because its the kingdom way. And as we learn to welcome and bless children we will learn to welcome and bless others.
- Whoever welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 August 2005
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