'My child loves to learn!'

Chips off the ol’ block

Chips off the ol’ block

Chips off the ol’ block

Monday, February 27th, 2012

One sunny day in Palestine Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Suddenly they were intruded upon by some mothers who wanted their children to meet Jesus. “Children?” the disciples probably said to them. “We don’t have time for children! There are sick folks to heal, lessons to teach, doctrine to be learned, temples to cleanse. Don’t bother Jesus with children.” As the disappointed mothers were about to turn away, scripture states:“When Jesus saw what happened, he was indignant, and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall never enter it!’ Then he took them in his arms and blessed them.”

Jesus was a busy guy, with a lot of things on his plate and on his mind. Of all the things he said and did, one thing about Jesus stands out for me the most, and that is that Jesus took time to laugh and play with children.

Now, I like to think that I’m a pretty busy person. Many today are busy people. After all, we have our responsibilities you know. I have my responsibilities at the school and at home.  I have my desktop computer and my laptop and my cell phone and my tablet. I’m not the only one who likes to play with these gadgets. Do you know why I think that is? I think it is mostly because all this technology, all this being wired, all this being connected, makes us feel busy, and appear to others to be busy, and that makes us feel important. That’s really what all this gadgetry is about, don’t you think? That’s why we walk about in the mall talking incessantly on our cell phones or texting on our blackberries. It says “Look at me. I’m important. There’s important people out there who need me 24-7.” Maybe that’s a little overdone. Then again, maybe not.

So I’m busy, you’re busy, she’s busy, he’s busy. What about Jesus?

Well if anyone was busy, Jesus was busy. When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, close to losing his life, on the way to the cross with a whole world to save, he was busy! But even then, Jesus had time for children. Jesus had a heart for children.

Jesus didn’t call the children back that day when the disciples shooed them away, pick them up on his lap, tickle their chin, give them high fives and bless them just because they were cute and it made him popular with the constituency! He welcomed them because he saw them for what they were, and what they are – the heart of faith, the very essence of joy and wonder and simplicity and truth, all the things that most of us adults are not, because somewhere along the way, with the growing up thing, with the car payment and the mortgage thing, with Twitter and Facebook and the competition to appear to be more important than the next guy, somewhere along the way we lose the child within. And in the process, we lose ourselves, and we grow not closer, but further away from the kingdom of God.

Jesus knew this! And what he did that day in holding up a child for all to see, he was declaring in no uncertain terms “Hey misguided disciples, hey self-righteous religious leaders, hey stuffed shirt adults, hey social climbers, hey self-important busy big people! You’ve got it all wrong!  Look here! This child, every child, is where it’s at. This is what it’s all about. This is what you need to see, and need to be. This is aliveness. This is joy. This is honesty. This is simplicity. This is faith. You self-important adults take my words and my teachings and all you want to do is complicate things! Well, in Seinfeld terms, “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” Have a humble heart and keep it simple.”

Jesus had a heart for children because he had a heart for the Father. When he taught his disciples to pray, he didn’t use a formal, stiff, churchy title for God. He didn’t start his prayer with “Dear Sir” or “To whom it may concern.” He started his prayer in a childlike way, with “Abba Father.” Roughly translated, “Dear Daddy.”

Jesus had a heart for children, because he had a heart for the Father.

Not long ago I came across the following poem. I have not been able to ascertain authorship, but the author obviously understood that in order to be like Jesus, we must somehow become like children, again.

There’s something quite nice about children.

Every family should have one or two

They’re such a fine race

When they’re kept in their place:

Say, at the playground, the park or the zoo.

In his place, a child’s quite delightful,

Full of fun, a most interesting buddy.

But his yearning for action

Can cause a distraction

When he has invaded your space in the study.

The office is no place for children.

They foul up our work with their fun.

So we make it a rule

That they must go to school

So their elders can get something done.

Some children came searching for Jesus.

His friends were distressed and inclined

To think: “Oh, how terrible

To have a fresh parable

Consequently slip from His mind!”

So they tried to get rid of the children

Surely no major disgrace,

Protecting their Master,

From certain disaster.

By keeping the children in place.

“Let the children come in!” shouted Jesus,

Then said something frightfully odd:

“They are bearers of grace,

And their ultimate place

Is right smack in the Kingdom of God.”

Well, the place of a child is the Kingdom.

That’s what Jesus carefully taught.

So, the last time you did

Play ball with your kid,

You were closer to God than you thought.

Karl Barth, probably the greatest theological mind of the twentieth century, lectured many years ago at the University of Chicago. Following his lecture a question-and-answer time with the audience was scheduled. A certain student asked a question, obviously expecting to receive a deep and cerebral answer. “Dr. Barth,” he queried, “what is the greatest truth of the Christian faith?” Pondering only a moment, the profound theologian answered: “The greatest truth of the Christian faith is this: “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

More than anyone else, children understand intuitively that at the heart of Christian faith is Jesus. It’s really that simple.

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