We had quite a day in worship this past Sunday. We celebrated Children’s Sabbath and were blessed as our children (with a terrific assist from our youth praise band) led the service.
Celia Robertson had an amazing “Big Kid’s Message,” we had a great skit about being the light of the world, wonderful videos featuring children, and the music was awesome. There was a time that “proverbial wisdom” suggested that children should be “seen and not heard.” Nonsense. Our children have a voice and a perspective on life we all need to hear.
Jesus knew this when he emphasized the point that “no one enters the Kingdom of God unless they enter it as a little child.” And to add emphasis he added, “Beware of placing stumbling blocks in their path—it would be better for you to put a large rock around your neck and get tossed into the deep blue sea than to cause any of these small ones to stumble.”
Notice that Jesus didn’t say there wouldn’t be any stumbling blocks. Just that we should take care not to be the ones putting them out there because God knows there are plenty of them already. A parent with an addiction is an all-too-frequent stumbling block. Or maybe the stumbling block like a fancy house in a fancy neighborhood that won’t heal a broken marriage. Every day we may encounter hundreds of sudden calamities or mundane injustices that can make us fall flat on our faces, knock the breath out of us, cause us to skin our knees. We as God’s children certainly live a lot of our lives that way.
Despite it all, God calls us to live a life of filled with reckless love for each other. The Kingdom doesn’t need perfect poster children, but children with hearts held together with bandaids and duct tape, sure that if they keep hoping, the secret door to the magic kingdom will open or their pet ants will sprout wings and fly to the moon. Sure that if they keep hoping they will arrive at a tomb and find the stone rolled away. That they will hear the voice of Jesus calling them by name.
Entering the Kingdom as a child does not mean attaining some false sense of cuteness or innocence. It means living life so sure of God’s love for us that we can sing loudly and get into silly quarrels in the backseat until God threatens to turn this car around right now.
Our children exemplified God’s grace among us. They were spectacular. And so were all those adults who helped make it happen—who opened the doors through which our children could walk. THAT would be the OPPOSITE of a stumbling block. So to Joanna and all the adult helpers, you have our deepest gratitude.
Next week we will begin our annual stewardship campaign to underwrite the operating budget for 2016. As you consider the level of your support for the life of our congregation, please keep one eye on the children and youth of our church. They need the very best from us. They need our financial support. Could it be that NOT giving generously might be considered a stumbling block?
Something to think about.
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.