A Child Shall Lead Them
May 22 2005
Scriptures: Psalms 8 (Psalms Now); Mark 10:13-22
Whenever we translate poetry and song from it’s original language, we risk losing something in the translation. Not so much the meaning of the words, but sometimes the very poetry of the words themselves elude us in translation. I can only imagine the beauty of this Psalm as it must have been spoken and sung in Hebrew.
Even in English, doesn’t Psalms 8 create a wonderful image in your minds? Don’t the words themselves stir up feelings of awe and wonder about the God who has created this world with such imagination?
I’m there with David, or whoever composed this hymn, Are you?
Imagine his deep, melodious voice, accompanied by a harp, echoing across the moonless hills, under the canopy of this star filled night. Imagine being wrapped up in a warm blanket, with the cool night breeze brushing against our faces. Gazing up, we see a bright shooting star... What it is made of? Where it is going? How deep is the depth of space? How far is nearest star?
As the song goes on, and the sheep baa softly behind us, our thoughts turn to the even deeper mystery of the creation of children. Where do they come from, oops, maybe we already suspect starlit nights have something to do with that.
But there is the deep mystery of children... how each child is very different, and brings something special to the family. Each one of us is a child of God and we bring something special to the family! Then there is the mystery of how God has called each one of us to carry on God’s creative activity in some form or another.
Just as the poet has written the words, and the musician has sung this song...
It was Psalms 8 with it’s reference to “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.” (Bulwark= A solid wall like structure, and yes I had to double check it in the dictionary myself) that lead me to question “how can a child lead us?”.
Now the seemingly logical place to go would be back to the Christmas story and the narratives about the birth of Jesus,
or perhaps to the story of Baby Moses being placed in the river
and raised by Pharoah, only to lead the Hebrew people out of captivity. All the stories about important children who grew up to be leaders.
But I never had a class in logic. I was lead to Mark Chapter 10:13- 22. Hear now these words... (Read Mark 10: 13-22)
Now those of you who know me well, know that I am not real good with “chapter and verse” stuff. I have heard the Bible stories since I was 5, I’ve read the Bible cover to cover more than twice, but remembering chapter and verse and what stories follow each other in which gospel is not my strong suit.
So when I was praying about this message on my morning walk,
and the two stories I just read came to me, together, I was sort of surprised to look them up and actually find them together!
So here are my brief observations. Once his ministry really got going, Jesus was a busy kind of guy. Everybody wanted a piece of Jesus. And his people, the disciples, probably wanted to make sure that Jesus was seeing the right people . So the disciples spoke sternly to those parents who were trying to get Jesus to touch, or to bless their children. Blessing children on their first birthday was apparently a custom for Rabbi’s.
Jesus, was of course, indignant when the disciples kept the children back. Now when Jesus said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall never enter it.” he was not talking about chronological age. I believe he was talking about receiving the kingdom with a “child like” attitude.
What does “A child like attitude” look like? Open arms and open hands? Jesus opened his arms to the children and they responded to him, in kind. The children received what Jesus had to offer, a blessing, and his time. The children offered their trust.
I can imagine the children sitting with Jesus doing a playful open hand dance, “Peek a Boo” comes to mind..., following and leading and interacting with grace and beauty as children do. I imagine they took the time to do the dance of life together!
According to William Barclay, other important childlike attitudes are humility, obedience and a short memory. As we get older I guess most of us have that last quality!
The second story, is traditionally called the rich young ruler.
And often we look at the main point as being that the man
was not willing to give up what he had, in order to follow Jesus.
Think back to our children’s story and remember how the hand dance looked when the fist was held tight. Just like an exuberant child, wrapped up in emotions, this young man came running up and threw himself at Jesus feet to ask his question. The man showed up all excited, for the dance, but he wasn’t ready to open his hands and dance. The man had his hands, closed up tight around his possessions.
Let’s look at the rest of this interaction through the lense of the important “childlike attitudes.” This man had “kept all the commandments” according to his own testimony, which was undisputed, but which also was not exactly a humble accounting.
So there was not much humility here!
On the other hand, this man had been obedient to all the laws.
Obedience is on the list, as a good thing. Bonus points here. No mention about short, or long memory.
The scripture says, “when Jesus looked at him he loved him, and he said to him you still lack one thing, go sell all you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come! Follow me!”
What was that one thing the man lacked? Why was it that the man could not follow Jesus? I am thinking this thing the man lacked was trust. The man had accumulated a lot of possessions.
Presumably he had trusted himself to take care of business
and build a material nest egg to take care of his future.
Think about it, What would you do if Jesus asked you to give up all you have? First things going through the ole mind are, but where will I live, how will I eat and dress, who will take care of me when I am old? Not an easy thing to give up the expectations of security and wealth. Not something that many people in our world have the luxury of considering.
Going back to the young man, he had been so busy following the rules “perfectly”, and trying to do no harm, that he really did not have any idea of how to trust & enjoy the dance of life. His fists were holding on so tight to what he knew, and what he owned, that he was afraid to let go of what he had, in order to reach out for what he might have.
Are we like this man? Are we holding on tightly to something that it prevents us from reaching out for something new, or something we really need? Do we really trust God to provide for our every need? What mysterious ways will the spirit work if we trust?
The spirit of God works through mystery, wonder, hope and children... I recounted for you before the story of Ryan’s Well;
Where a 6 year old Canadian boy raised money doing extra chores, to dig a water well in Africa, and he started a foundation that has now raised over one million dollars towards his dream of clean drinking water for all the children of Africa. His family did not tell him it was impossible, they supported his dreaming.
Seventeen-year-old Melinda, a drug and alcohol user, opened her fists to let go of her addictions by reaching out and joining Project Venture at the encouragement of her probation officer. The project focuses on team building, problem solving, communication, and cooperation through activities like back packing, mountain biking and camping. She is now 21 and a leader in the project.
Closer to home, Rev. Steve Reimer had a vision for reaching out to the children of this community and was supported by this congregation in creating the Samaritan Neighborhood Center. Thanks to you all, and your support of this dream, four more SNC youth are college and trade school bound this year. They will soon let go of the known, open their hands and reach out for the future.
A child shall lead them? Perhaps, more accurately “A Child of God Shall Lead Them” Why? Because a child of God trusts that the impossible, is not impossible.
All things are possible with God. A child of God trusts that God has called each one of us to carry on God’s creative activity in some form or another. Just as the poet offered his psalms and songs of praise. A child of God is willing to try, even if it means not fully succeeding.
A child of God is willing to open his hands to do the dance with life, and to reach out for what life has to offer, knowing that Jesus is right there with us. Like the Psalmist, open your heart and mind to the wonder of God and God’s creation! Let go of that which burdens you, and open your hands to a new creative dance with God and life.