Never Let Go of the Jesus You Know:
God Bless the Children
October 8, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Mark 2: 13-16
Jesus Blesses Little Children
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! It is good that we are here together. It is good that we are a family in Christ. This morning, I would like to do something rather different than I usually do on a Sunday morning’s sermon, because the events of this week have been extraordinary. There has been so much grief in our world. There’s been so much pain. There has been so much heartache. And so, as a church family, I invite us to pull together and be with one another in a unique way. I’d like to dedicate today’s sermon time to the Amish folks, to the families, to all those other families anywhere who are suffering, who are grieving this day. I’d like this sermon to be our collective prayer for them, for their healing and for their blessing. And let’s see if there are things that we can learn from the events of this week.
Now, my dear friends, I’m going to ask your indulgence. Bear with me, won’t you? I’m going to ask you to do something that I’ve asked you to do from time to time, because I think it’s a healing thing and a good thing. So, just for a moment, will the congregation please stand? Please stand with someone you didn’t come to church with today and share what it’s been like for you this week when you heard about the tragedy in Pennsylvania. Where were you? What is the word in your heart that describes your feelings? Is it outrage? Is it grief? Is it sadness? Is it mystery? Share with one another. And get to know the person you’re speaking with.
This morning I would like us to pray to God for these brave people. I know there are a number of tragedies that happened world-wide. I was particularly struck by the one in Pennsylvania. I’d like us to think about this in three ways. First, on this day, dear friends, let us give thanks for Jesus. Were you struck by the lectionary reading from the Gospel this morning? Of all the weeks for that to be the prescribed reading for the day! I took it as a blessing from God. It was as if God were saying, “I know you’re walking through this tragedy, world. But Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Be they yellow, black, or white, they are pleasing in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” The scripture for me signifies the embrace of God of these innocents, the embrace of God where forgiveness is so hard. I don’t know about you, but one of my primary feelings is just outrage. I’ve got to get beyond my outrage.
Let’s give thanks for Jesus, Jesus who loved children so much. Did you notice in the Gospel that it said that He was indignant? Other translations read ‘angry.’ Jesus doesn’t often get angry, but He got angry about this. His own disciples tried to do the good thing and keep His schedule uncluttered. Jesus said, “No, no, no, no, no. let the children come unto me. I love them.”
You know what? The way God wants things is understood by children. It’s simplicity; it’s innocence. He said, “When you become like them, you enter the kingdom. You understand how God wants things.” He blessed them. He blesses you and me, too, and the child within us. Jesus loves all the little children. We give thanks for Him. Never let go of the Jesus you know, my friend, because it is faith in Him that sustains us all through the hard times like these. And it’s faith in Him that sustains the Amish people in their trials and difficulties.
I was talking to a friend this week who said she was watching a television show that featured teens that had attempted suicide and had lived through the attempt. They all had one thing in common; they were going around and talking to other children, talking them out of doing the rash thing. And the thing they had in common? They all found faith. They all found faith in God. Never let go of the Jesus you know, no matter what. He’ll sustain you. Though the waters come to flood us over, Jesus will sustain us. Let’s give thanks for Him.
Second, I want to give thanks for the Amish people and for the example of their faith. It is amazing, in a world where the headlines read “Retribution, Retribution in the Middle East,” the worst thing in the world happens to the Amish, and they’re talking about forgiveness. I watched the grandfather of two of the girls being interviewed on TV. The humble Amish people don’t want to be photographed, but this man agreed to be photographed from the side. The reporter said, “I thought I heard you use the word ‘forgive’, that you forgave this person” that I’ll call the tortured soul.
The grandfather said, “Yes, I have.”
The reporter said, “How could you? How could you forgive?”
And he said, “Only with God’s help.” The grandfather is right. And that’s what I need to know. How about you? Only with God’s help can he forgive. And forgiveness is so important. It’s the only thing that’s going to let them and let us get on with our lives. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that it’s okay. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that everything’s fine. Forgiveness means, in the words of a dear friend, ‘let it go to God.’ Let it go to the mercy of God. Let it go to the mercy of One whose mercy is far greater than mine. How about yours? Forgiveness is the key.
I was also amazed by the Amish people’s faith. It seems there’s a fund that was established to help them with their medical expenses. The spokesman for the Amish people said, “We’ll accept the fund. We’ll let the fund be, as long as it pays for the extraordinary hospital expenses that we can’t afford. But you know what? Whatever is left over after that will all go to the care and education of the children of the tortured soul.” Wow. Amazing. How wonderful! How beautiful! What an example of Christian love! Here were followers of Jesus Christ, people like you, saying this is what we think Jesus would do. What an example to the whole world!
The tragedy is just too great! I don’t know if I could have that kind of forgiveness…except with the help of God. But they do, and they’re demonstrating it to the world. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s the light of Christ shining. So let’s give thanks for them and let’s bless them.
And finally, dear friends, I was not quite sure, as I constructed this sermon, about how I would close it today. But the answer came from one of you. The answer came from a youth in our congregation. He sent me an email card this week. He took it upon himself to speak for the congregation in expressing appreciation for the ministry, for a pastor on the job. I thanked him very much; I appreciate it very much. And I also thanked him for giving me the clue to what we must remember as we go forth.
There is news that you didn’t hear this week. There is news that you didn’t watch on CNN. But I assure you, it is absolutely true. And the news is this: that over a hundred thousand schools were open in the United States this week, and they were safe; that more than three million teachers taught faithfully and protectively and blessed our children this week. And that’s a fact. The news is that more than a hundred thousand administrators worked faithfully, and janitors worked faithfully, and bus drivers worked faithfully. Hundreds upon thousands of doctors worked faithfully in children’s hospitals and emergency rooms. Millions upon millions of parents worked faithfully this week to bless and protect children and keep them safe. And that’s a fact. Let’s give thanks for all of them this week. They are blessing the children.
And by the way, if you have a chance to say a word of appreciation to any of them, please do. Let’s remember that hundreds upon thousands of devoted followers of Jesus Christ, called church school teachers, are bringing the little children to Jesus today. Let’s be thankful for them. For the light of Christ shines through all of these people.
And so, dear friend, as you go forth into the week, my prayer for you is that your heart would be blessed and touched and healed, that we would give thanks for Jesus, the One who loves little children best, and that you would know that you are a healer, too. Draw the children in your life extra close this week. Draw your loved ones extra close. And rejoice and be glad that, though life is fragile, we have them, and we can help them, and we can bless them. Know that God is blessing you, because He loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski