Benjamin: I want to welcome everyone this morning and as you can see this is the Sunday before VBS. I appreciate Brent taking the time to include the children and we do of course want to encourage all of you to be involved in VBS, but I really need to speak to you about some urgent matters. VBS is important, but there is still important business to discuss ... so, would you please take your Bible and turn to Luke 18 which is the text we need to discuss? Now then, [ad lib] ...

[Census Taker interrupts as he is walking towards the podium. He is looking out into the audience taking a head count, counting aloud, making notes on his tablet ...]

Census Taker: [ad lib] 563 ... 564 ... 565 ... wait, already got him ... [census taker should be on the podium next to me paying no attention to me]

Benjamin: Excuse me? Can I help you?

Census Taker: No, I’m fine, carry on ... [keeps counting aloud]

Benjamin: What do you mean carry on? I’ve got some important business to discuss here and you are sort of a distraction.

Census Taker: Very sorry, but I have some important business, too. (counts some more)

Benjamin: What might that be?

Census Taker: Well, haven’t you heard that Caesar Augustus has decreed a census of the entire Roman world?

Benjamin: Really? Even here?

Census Taker: The entire Roman world.

Benjamin: Uh-huh, sounds like you have a lot of work to do.

Census Taker: You’re not kidding. And this census requires everyone to travel to their hometown to register and so there’s people moving everywhere. I even had to set up a temporary booth in the local marketplace. Now if you’ll excuse I have important work to do. No time to talk! Remember to register – Caesar Augustus appreciates your cooperation! (faces the crowd) [Leaves the podium counting ...]

Benjamin: [Watches Census Taker leave] I apologize about the interruption. It’s a shame to interrupt the serious business we have at hand for some census taking nonsense. He thinks he has serious business? We have serious business so let’s get to it. Now then if I can have your attention, I want you to turn in your Bibles to Luke 18 ...

Carpenter: [Walking toward podium waving, carrying his travel bag] Excuse me! Sir! Excuse me!

Benjamin: Yes, what do you want?

Carpenter: Well, I was wondering if you could direct me to the local marketplace? I’m on my way there to register for Caesar’s census.

Benjamin: Well, if you could catch up to that census-taker he’d show you how to get there, but anyway, the marketplace you are looking for is right over there (points). So where have you come from?

Carpenter: Oh, I’ve come up from Nazareth in Galilee. I was supposed to meet my friend Joseph here. He’s another carpenter from back home and he’s supposed to be in town for a while so I thought I would set up shop here.

Benjamin: Wait, this isn’t the same Joseph that’s engaged to Mary is it?

Carpenter: Yeah! You know him?

Benjamin: Oh yeah, I’ve heard about him. Seems like I read something about him somewhere. . . . So, did you brought your tools and some of your craft with you? I kind of like woodworking, do you think I can take a look at some of your work?

Carpenter: Oh, I’d love to show you, but I really need to get to the marketplace and see if I can find Joseph. His wife is expecting a child you know. And I’m not sure if they’ll find a place to stay. But if you’ll come by the marketplace this week I can show you what we make.

Benjamin: Uh-huh, okay. Well, I’ll see you there.

[Carpenter says good bye and leaves]

VBS logo Benjamin: Well then. Enough of that, let’s get back to business. Now then, turn in your Bibles to Luke 18 ... [Read Luke 18] 15People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

The theme of VBS this year is “Making Room for the Savior.” Do you see how the Savior made room for children in the kingdom? So just what is the serious business of the kingdom?

The movie Finding Neverland tells the story of playwright J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. In one scene he is watching the first rehearsal of Peter Pan with his producer Charles Frohman who is rather nervous about the financial success of the play. Frohman seems disappointed and anxious with the play and when Barrie asks him about it Frohman replies, “Picture it James. It’s opening night and there will be doctors, lawyers, and businessmen in attendance with their wives – all dressed to the nines. They will come with expectation of seeing theatre – what we call theatre. Instead what we are giving them is fairies, pirates, crocodiles, and mermaids. I don’t even know what this is.”

Opening night comes and the aristocrats of London file into the opulent theatre in their expensive finery to see theatre and to be seen at the theatre. Barrie has asked Frohman to reserve 25 seats for special guests who arrive at the last moment. Twenty-five orphans are ushered into the theatre house and take their seats scattered around the theatre sitting amongst the London elite who sometimes scoff and sneer at the children who certainly seem out of place with this society gala. The first showing of Peter Pan begins with a man in a dog suit barking at the audience. What would be incomprehensible to the noble patrons of the theatre is an immediate hit with the children who laugh at the simple humor and thrill over the flying boy and his sword fights with pirates. In time, the stuffy adults are captivated and carried along by the amusement and wonder of the children. At the end of the play the nobles who marched in with their noses in the air are walking out holding hands with the children and laughing out loud.

Could there be any better illustration for what Jesus meant when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Did you notice what the disciples of Jesus were doing with the children brought to Jesus? They were rebuking the people who brought the children to Jesus. Rebuking – ever been rebuked? Ever rebuked? It means to reprimand or to criticize sharply.

I am sure that the disciples simply thought that Jesus was too busy to spend time on these children. After all he had to focus his attention on being the Messiah. And the business of the kingdom is important. It is serious business. Of course none of the adult disciples have a clue what the kingdom is really about.

Do we? In our “church work” are we too busy for the real “kingdom business?” The reason we spend all of this time with VBS and the children’s ministries is not simply because children are important, but because we need the children. Like that aristocratic audience in London, we need the wonder and imagination of children to lead us into the kingdom. We are caught up in their amazement which draws us into the story . . .Costumes, plays, marketplace. We enter into the old, old story so that the children can enter into it. But who’s leading who into the story? Who’s leading who into the kingdom?

The teaching of Christ: “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
The words of Christ: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 18 June 2006

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin