Meadowbrook Congregational Church
Rev. Art Ritter
October 7, 2018
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after he grows up.” Albert Einstein said, “The ordinary person could learn all the physics we will ever need to know if we could understand the mind of a three year old.” Walt Disney said, “That’s the trouble with the world, too many people grow up.” And child psychologist Jean Piaget wrote, “If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.”
I found an article at Huffington Post Life this week written by Tara Stiles entitled, “10 Ways To Be a Kid Again.” The article spoke of how as adults we live too seriously, too set in our ways, too attached to our stuff, and too worried about how we are seen by others in the world. Stiles argues that kids can be our best teachers. They haven’t developed bad habits, defenses, and fears and we build up our whole lives. She then listed ten ways to bring refreshment and fun back into our lives.
1. Make a silly face at a stranger. Everyone loves silly faces.
2. Eat ice cream for dinner. Let go of responsibilities for one night.
3. Go to bed early. Give yourself a ridiculously early bedtime one night a week.
4. Hang out with your friends. Have planned play dates.
5. Color or draw something. Coloring brings back good memories.
6. Try to say the alphabet backwards.
7. Have a race. When walking with a friend, start a spontaneous race to the next corner.
8. Skip down the hallway at work.
9. Wear what you want. Come up with an interesting outfit one day a week.
10. Try a handstand and don’t worry about falling over.
In the 10th chapter of the gospel of Mark, people brought little children to Jesus in order that he might bless them. Jesus’ disciples were not pleased, believing that time spent with children was a waste of Jesus’ time. He then said to them, “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
Throughout the centuries, this teaching of Jesus has been used to explain that followers of Christ should have “faith like a child.” Generally this childlike faith is described as a simple conviction or a confidence that is ever trusting and without question or doubt. Perhaps if we use this explanation for childlike faith however we are not giving children enough credit.
Jesus did say that we should have faith like a child. Perhaps he wasn’t being sentimental, like some of the famous people I quoted earlier. Perhaps he was being quite realistic. Faith like a child is alive and strong. It is idealistic and innocent rather than cynical and negative. For children, faith is not hard work to prove yourself or an ability to look confident. Children don’t worry about faith, it just happens. Faith is an understanding that there are things you cannot do on your own and that there are powers upon which you can be reliant. For children, faith is something lived with hands wide open ready to help rather than with fists clenched ready to judge and condemn. For children, faith is something unburdened by preconceptions and prejudices, a simple trust at face value.
In Sojourners magazine, Evan Dolive tells about children figuring out things easily that most adults have trouble comprehending. Somehow his three year old daughter understands the notion of the Gospel at its basic level. One day when grocery shopping, she pointed at something quickly and said, “Daddy, I want one of those.” Evan turned expecting to see a candy display or toy with her favorite cartoon character on it. Instead she was pointing at a display of brown grocery bags that were filled with canned goods for the local homeless shelter. His daughter said, “I want to get one of those bags for the people who can’t buy things at the store.” It turned out that earlier in the week Evan’s wife had explained the meaning behind such bags to their daughter. And no matter how she learned about them, she wanted to catch their power and use it. She was acting on a faith that most adults don’t use. She didn’t ask how the people needed the food or how they got themselves into the situation of need. And neither did Jesus. She didn’t say too many people receive handouts and neither did Jesus. She didn’t care about who got the bags of food and neither did Jesus.
Theologian Frederick Buechner writes that people who are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are “people who like children, are so relatively unburdened by preconceptions that if somebody says there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they are perfectly willing to go take a look for themselves. Children are not necessarily better than other people. Like the child in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ they are just apt to be better at telling the difference between a phony and the real thing.”
We are taught by Jesus to have faith like a child. We are to seek faith that is more than words on a page. We ought to find a faith that is livelier than an old story told to us long ago. We are to be emboldened to hear the good news and to then step out and be the hands and feet and heart of Christ. A childlike faith is the recognition that we are reliant upon a God who loves and cares for each of us very much. It is the call to be the force for that God, confident that what we do and say will create the kind of world that God desires.