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"Jesus loves the little children!"

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Call to Worship (Psalm 130)

Wait for the Lord, like those who hope in God’s mercy. God’s steadfast love endures forever. Watch for God, like those who eagerly await the morning. We watch for God, whose power redeems us. Hear God’s hopeful word, like those who long for pardon. Sing praise to God and rejoice in God’s love.

Opening Prayer (Mark 5)

Loving God, we are yours. We come as we are, with our cares and concerns. We long to touch you and find healing in your embrace. Strengthen our faith and heal our brokenness, that we may worship you with joy. Amen.

Invitation to the Offering (2 Corinthians 8)

Paul challenged the church at Corinth to recognize their abundance, that they might share with those in need. God calls us to give out of our bounty, that all might have enough to live on without fear. With eager hearts, let us joyfully give out of our abundance.

Prayer (2 Samuel, 2 Corinthians 8, Mark 5)

Loving God, let your word speak to our hearts. Come and heal our brokenness and restore us to life. Comfort our grieving hearts. Teach us to share from our abundance. By your word, transform us into your holy people. Amen.
Luke 18:15-17NIV The Little Children and Jesus 15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But 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. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Introduction:We can deduce from scripture that God expects our little ones to grow up in congregations that do not show favoritism to adults by protecting adults at the expense of a child’s long-term mental health and safety. Providing children with the same access to the protection given to adults is what Jesus demands in our lesson. Grown-ups are not more special than children, and Jesus takes his message of impartiality to a new level. Not only are grown-ups not particularly special compared to anyone else, but if we want to enter Jesus’ Kingdom we must become as the little ones (pure at heart) we so easily sell out. If at this point you are wondering if this is a hard way to describe our behavior, consider these questions. Aren’t we really selling children out by pushing the issue of abuse away when it comes up? Aren’t we really selling children out by not adopting policies that protect them? As we prepare to preach in our contemporary context, we should ask ourselves the following question: what were the children feeling when Jesus’ disciples pushed them away? Sold out by the disciples maybe? Selling a child out may not be something we intentionally do. The truth is that we are generally overwhelmed and lack resources to handle these situations. We are caring parents, grandparents, pastors and ministers. On the whole, we have great and pure motivations with respect to our little lambs. Children’s Sunday is the day that we remind ourselves that Jesus always wants us to give special attention to children. Jesus reminds us in our lesson that creating a welcoming and safe environment for little ones is what he demands today. It is time to take a break from adult activities and create a safer environment for our children.
The impulse of the first century parents described in our lesson is not unlike the impulse of parents today. Parents want their children near Jesus. Parents want their children to be touched by the things of God’s kingdom on earth. They want their children healed by the man from Galilee, and the only way they know how to do this is to bring their children into the safety of Jesus’ loving embrace. What parent in the first century would have ever suspected that the need of a child would be treated as an inconvenience by Jesus’ disciples?
Our lesson, Luke 18:15-17, is nestled between two passages that address presumptuousness and arrogance in people who hold positions of spiritual authority. In the preceding pericope, Luke 18: 9-14, Jesus warns listeners not to think that they are more righteous than others simply because they can be obedient. In the end, the sinner tax-collector is justified and the self-righteous Pharisee who tithes and fasts could not be justified. He was mistaken to presume that he was greater in God’s sight than he was in actuality. The lesson is clear, a correct lifestyle does not guarantee us that God will attribute righteousness to us. In the pericope that follows our lesson, Luke 18:18-30, a rich ruler is troubled to learn that following the Ten Commandments perfectly has not earned him eternal life. To be perfect, he must give all that he has to those who are poor. The rich ruler acts righteously, but like the Pharisee, it is not attributed to him as righteousness. The passages that frame our lesson are parables that serve to strengthen the chastisement actually given to Jesus’ disciples who saw parents bringing children to Jesus and “sternly ordered them not to do it.” The Lucan author is leading us to draw a similar conclusion here as in the preceding and following passages: being a disciple of Christ is not the way righteousness is measured, and living righteously is not how one obtains eternal life. Our ability to treat the welfare of those left out as equally important as our welfare is the measure of righteousness. If the righteous Pharisee is not justified (Luke 18:14), and if the obedient rich ruler is not guaranteed eternal life (18:22), who then is admitted to the Kingdom? Each pericope in this lesson on God’s impartial judgment provides an answer. The people we typically mistreat and exclude will inherit eternal life:—sinners (Luke 18:9-14); children (Luke 18:15-17), and poor people (Luke 18:18-30). Jesus’ care for little children is in the middle, of these lessons. This is our hermeneutic clue that the cause of children is central to Jesus’ teaching. Those least able to defend themselves, Jesus has come to defend and give his life for (Luke 18:31-34). Between sinners, children and poor people, children are least able to defend themselves from the presumptuousness and arrogance of spiritually self-righteous people. A child’s total dependence on a just and merciful God is a characteristic that Jesus considers worthy of emulation and respect. If an adult does not emulate godly child-like qualities, then that adult “will never enter” the kingdom (Luke 18:17). We can celebrate that a child-like faith that shows no partiality will lead us into God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus welcomes the child, he prefers children, whether youthful children or aged children, it is the heart of a child that he wants to cultivate within us. Consider a child unfettered by the baggage of abusive adults and a neglectful community. What qualities might such a little child have that we need to emulate? Isn’t she/he quick to forget an offense that occurred on the playground on a previous day? Doesn’t she/he seek, seek and seek until she/he finds what is sought? Doesn’t he/she love those who spank him/her? Isn’t he/she ashamed when he/she discovers that he/she is wrong? Doesn’t he/she try to do better the next time? Doesn’t he play with anyone who wants to play? Doesn’t she share her princess dress with her friends? Doesn’t he pick the lonely new kid in town to be on his team? As adults on the receiving end of adult privilege, Jesus is demanding a lot by expecting us to emulate children. Yet, how much more are our little ones inclined to emulate us if we can recapture the child-like spirituality of our youth that adult crustiness has eroded or buried?
Celebration In conclusion, With God all things are possible (Luke 18:26). We must conclude with hope that it is also possible to turn what could be a hypocritical moment on Sunday (if we continue to neglect children) into a Kingdom moment by transforming our houses of worship into sanctuaries of safety for our children. We can celebrate that from this day forward, no child in need of protection and safety in God’s Kingdom on earth, will find adults who look out only for each other and “sternly warn” parents not to bring their children with their concerns. We can celebrate that in the wake of many church scandals we have the capacity to develop church policies that require adults who work with children to be screened. Just as Jesus protected children, so will we on each and every Sunday and every Sunday in between. After all, the kingdom belongs to people like them (Luke 18:17). Jesus loves the little children!
We Give Thanks
Our Father in Heaven, we give thanks for the pleasure of gathering together for this occasion. We give thanks for this food prepared by loving hands. We give thanks for life, the freedom to enjoy it all, and all other blessings. As we partake of this food, we pray for health and strength to carry on and try to live as You would have us. This we ask in the name of Christ, Our Heavenly Father. - Harry Jewell

Benediction (Mark 5)

Christ’s touch has healed you. God’s love has restored you. The Spirit goes with you.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Go in peace to share the joy of God’s love.Amen.
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