Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In our Gospel passage for this week, Luke 18:9-17, we find the famous little passage, just three verses, speaking of Jesus blessing little children. Verse 15 really just says that the people are bringing infants “so he could touch them.” The laying on of hands in the Bible is normally seen as the way someone would impart a blessing. The term used for children here is the one typical for infants, not older children. These are people who could not bring themselves.
Jesus’ response to his disciples is that the kingdom of heaven consists of people just like children. By saying this he points out very clearly that we are not able to bring ourselves to God. God has come to his people, just as he continues to come, through Word and Sacrament. We are remarkably passive in the matter. We are washed by the Word and by the waters of baptism. This is not something we do ourselves. It is God’s blessing poured out upon us. We are fed in communion and through the ongoing proclamation of God’s Word. Again, while we do take some responsibility to read and to hear the Word, it is God’s activity, feeding us. We are the sheep of God’s pasture. We receive. We don’t give.
Often in the Church children are treated as second class people. We give them special children’s sermons which are often inferior in quality and sometimes presented by people who don’t have the skills working with Scripture that we expect of “the real pastor.” We take them away from the preaching of God’s Word and present them instead with things to glue together. In recent years I have increasingly seen children go through entire church services playing with an electronic device instead of being taught to watch, listen, and receive from God. Within baptistic congregations we doubt their faith and test them, often including an age test, before allowing them the washing of baptism. Within congregations that practice infant baptism we prevent them from coming for communion until they have reached a certain age and passed some substantial tests of knowledge, rather than seeing if they are trusting in Jesus and welcoming them into the communion of saints. This is a sad state of affairs.
Jesus tells us to welcome the little children. He calls them to himself. May we have the wisdom and grace to do the same.
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