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, ďLet 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.Ē 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 morningís sermon, because the events of this week have been extraordinary. There has been so much grief in our world. Thereís 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. Iíd like to dedicate todayís sermon time to the Amish folks, to the families, to all those other families anywhere who are suffering, who are grieving this day. Iíd like this sermon to be our collective prayer for them, for their healing and for their blessing. And letís see if there are things that we can learn from the events of this week.

 

Now, my dear friends, Iím going to ask your indulgence. Bear with me, wonít you? Iím going to ask you to do something that Iíve asked you to do from time to time, because I think itís a healing thing and a good thing. So, just for a moment, will the congregation please stand? Please stand with someone you didnít come to church with today and share what itís 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 youíre speaking with.

 

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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. Iíd 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, ďI know youíre 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.Ē The scripture for me signifies the embrace of God of these innocents, the embrace of God where forgiveness is so hard. I donít know about you, but one of my primary feelings is just outrage. Iíve got to get beyond my outrage. 

 

Letís 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 Ďangry.í Jesus doesnít 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, ďNo, no, no, no, no. let the children come unto me. I love them.Ē

 

You know what? The way God wants things is understood by children. Itís simplicity; itís innocence. He said, ďWhen you become like them, you enter the kingdom. You understand how God wants things.Ē 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 itís 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. Heíll sustain you. Though the waters come to flood us over, Jesus will sustain us. Letís 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 ďRetribution, Retribution in the Middle East,Ē the worst thing in the world happens to the Amish, and theyíre talking about forgiveness. I watched the grandfather of two of the girls being interviewed on TV. The humble Amish people donít want to be photographed, but this man agreed to be photographed from the side. The reporter said, ďI thought I heard you use the word Ďforgiveí, that you forgave this personĒ that Iíll call the tortured soul.

 

The grandfather said, ďYes, I have.Ē

 

The reporter said, ďHow could you? How could you forgive?Ē

 

And he said, ďOnly with Godís help.Ē The grandfather is right. And thatís what I need to know. How about you? Only with Godís help can he forgive. And forgiveness is so important. Itís the only thing thatís going to let them and let us get on with our lives. Forgiveness doesnít mean that itís okay. Forgiveness doesnít mean that everythingís fine. Forgiveness means, in the words of a dear friend, Ďlet it go to God.í 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 peopleís faith. It seems thereís a fund that was established to help them with their medical expenses. The spokesman for the Amish people said, ďWeíll accept the fund. Weíll let the fund be, as long as it pays for the extraordinary hospital expenses that we canít 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.Ē 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 donít know if I could have that kind of forgivenessÖexcept with the help of God. But they do, and theyíre demonstrating it to the world. Itís a beautiful thing. Itís the light of Christ shining. So letís give thanks for them and letís 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 didnít hear this week. There is news that you didnít 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 thatís 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 childrenís hospitals and emergency rooms. Millions upon millions of parents worked faithfully this week to bless and protect children and keep them safe. And thatís a fact. Letís 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. Letís remember that hundreds upon thousands of devoted followers of Jesus Christ, called church school teachers, are bringing the little children to Jesus today. Letís 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