Scripture Passage: Mark 10:13-16
From the 10th chapter of Mark’s Gospel, these words. 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. I need to read that one again. 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.
Friends, this is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
I was an associate pastor at the Aurora United Methodist Church in New Orleans, it was on the West Bank. The Aurora Church was right next door to Hart Elementary School Street, separated the church from the school. And I had windows in my office that I could open, and I could hear what was outside, but I couldn’t see it because somebody had put baffles up so the world couldn’t look in on our office and see us there doing church things. And I developed a habit that when that first cold front came through New Orleans, after all those months, I would fling the office windows open and just sit in my office and listen. Because in the morning and then again in the afternoon, Hart Elementary School, the kids were out on the playground at recess. There is no sound as joyous as children out on the playground for recess. It’s full of laughter and giggles and just wonderful, God pleasing and God honoring noises. It will lift you up out of any pit you have fallen into. Just to listen to joyous children.
The Psalmist said make a joyful noise before the Lord. I wonder what would happen in the Methodist Church if we decided to be people of the joyous noise. We were going to take the words of Jesus and become as children again. Wouldn’t that be cool? No. It wouldn’t because what if we told our children about coming into church? What are the two universal church rules we have for our children? Rule number one: don’t run. I have not figured that out yet. I haven’t seen a lot of children sprinting through the church. But be careful, boys and girls, you might knock Brother Doug down. And it would take me a long time to get back up, because when I tie my shoe, I look around to see if there’s something else I can do while I’m down there.
But what’s the second thing we tell our children in church? Don’t make any noise, you might wake up one of the frozen chosen. Be quiet. No. Do you know how many churches would pay money to have children come to their church and make noise in the church? A lot of them, because it’s just a bunch of old people with white hair and hearing aids sitting there humming. They need a little chaos. They need a little noise, they need a little energy, they need some childlike faith. Childlike. And we can’t be childlike. It’s not scholarly. It’s not dignified. It’s what they got on Jesus about? The disciples of trying to shoo the kids away because children aren’t important. Get rid of kids.
They claim that Jesus was a drunkard and a glutton. Why? Because he was always eating and having a good time. Jesus said. Unless you have childlike faith. Childlike. You will never enter the Kingdom of God. Real fast, childlike faith is joyous. Childlike faith is loving. And childlike faith is curious. You know about that curiosity, don’t you, because you’re planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas already, and you know those cousins that are showing up and you’ve already decided to put your family heirlooms where the curious children can’t get it. Because what are kids always doing? They’re into something, why are they always into something? They’re trying to discover. Figure out what it is. Figure out what it does. What does it feel like? What does it what does it taste like?
What if we approached our faith in Jesus with joy, love, and curiosity; what is it God would do in and through us if we were filled with the fruit of the Spirit? If the Holy Spirit just invaded us all the time and we lived a childlike faith and made those joyful noises unto the Lord. How would our church be? I know. Sorry, we wish to be scholarly. We wish to be erudite and quiet. Because we know that’s what God wants.
Karl Barth. A great theologian of the mid part of the 20th century. Was that the end of his life and he was lecturing on theology at the University of Chicago, their divinity school. Karl Barth wrote Church Dogmatics. A multivolume work on church theology. He wrote the definitive commentary on the book of Romans. What Karl Barth did is he started out as a liberal theologian in Europe. And convicted by the Holy Spirit and the truth of scripture, Karl Barth developed, created, became the theologian for what you and I call the modern evangelical movement. He became a God fearing, God believing theologian, preacher and scholar. And his works of theology are deep and rich and. Just nuanced.
So, he’s at the end of this lecture at the University of Chicago, and one of the students ask him, Dr Bath and all your years of teaching, preaching and writing. Just tell me that one profound theological statement that you would leave us with, that one statement that is sustained you through life, that that one insight that has drawn you so close to God. And Karl Barth said very well. I learned it on my mother’s knee as a young boy, and he turned to this gargantuan chalkboard behind him and took a piece of chalk and wrote. This phrase. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
You write a 12-volume work on theology and that’s your profound statement. Absolutely. Because that is the essence of a childlike faith. That’s where it starts and that’s where it ends. Jesus loves me this I know. Friends, if you’re living out of that foundation, if you’re living in that spirit, you will live with the childlike faith and don’t pull back from it. Don’t be afraid of it. Yes, you might not look dignified. Yes, you may sound crazy. Yes, you may be caught making a joyful noise into the Lord. But you will find that God has planned for you and wants you to be blessed with this is what what Paul said to Timothy.
You need to trust in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment, everything. Wait a minute. Everything for our enjoyment. You mean God wants us to enjoy living? Yes. God wants us to enjoy our faith. Yes. God wants us to enjoy being a Jesus follower. Yes. Everything for our enjoyment. Don’t, don’t, don’t pull back. Don’t pull back. Lean into the truth that we’re called to have a child like faith. If you go now to the First Methodist Church of Beautiful Arcadia, Louisiana, and you go into their traditional sanctuary, you’ll see a sort of rounded you see a communion rail. The top of it is rounded. And it was a communion rail built by one of the Methodist preachers who served there. He was George York. George York was about six feet, 100 inches tall. He’s about this tall. He was about this big around. And what would make it interesting for you is George York believed that no sermon should last longer than ten minutes. I’m not going to make it.
George York also liked to do woodwork. And he he built the communion rail. And it’s really cool because the top’s just a rounded, beautiful piece of wood. But the secret is it’s on a hinge. And you fold it back and you’ve got two pieces of wood and you have in the communion rail, little holders that hold the communion glasses, bigger places you can put nice little sterling silver trays. And in Arcadia, they used to use. Do you remember the communion crackers? They were small little crackers that you bit into them and in need of dental care after you’ve been into them. Yes.
OK, you’ve been through that. So, what would happen is the communion cups would all be loaded. The little trays would all be filled up, and the preacher would invite a table full at a time to the altar to have communion. And the ritual was that you explain the communion ritual and you invited them to grab a hold of the body of Christ. They wouldn’t eat it until the preacher said, the body of Christ broken for you, take and eat in remembrance that Christ died for you and everybody at that rail would all put the cracker in their mouth and crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch. It was like listening to a bunch of people trying to quietly eat Fritos. It just it was loud, and it was a holy moment. So, everybody’s doing the same time. And then you would say. You give them the secret, look, and they would grab the cup and they would hold it, and you say the blood of Christ shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Drink this in remembrance that Christ died for you.
Drink the cup. Put it all back in. You do a table dismissal. They’d leave in the next day, come back and they’d leave in the next table, come down. So that’s how we do communion at First Methodist Church in Arcadia. One Sunday, we were doing communion and the Cole family was right in front of me. They were I did all this from the pulpit. So, they got in front of the pulpit and it was Chris and Suzanne, Tyler and Megan. They’re all kneeling there. And this is one of Tyler’s first times to do communion because he’s only about four or five years old at this time. And man, he’s down there on his knees and he’s looking around. He’s finally down getting to do it. And, you know, I give him a signal and Tyler reaches in for the bread, he gets the bread and he’s holding it and looking at it and kind of frowning at it. Body of Christ given for you.
Take and remember Christ died for you. Tyler popped that thing in his mouth. Crunch, crunch crunch. And he’s smiling because he’s finally going to take communion. Before I said anything, Tyler had grabbed the cup, so he’s got the cup.
Here he is, ready for the words. He is going to drink it down. And I said, the blood of Christ. Shed for you. And Tyler started looking at that cup and he got this horrible look on his face, and he went mm mm and he put it back in there. Step back completely from the cup. He didn’t understand it. We later explained it to him and helped him with it. Living a childlike faith sometimes causes adults to step back from that. Don’t step back from it. Have a loving, joyous, curious, playful
Faith in Jesus Christ. It will change your life. And the life of those you love. After all. It’s to a meal our Lord has invited us. He said, this is my body. Broken for you. This is my blood. Shed for you and for many.
For the forgiveness of sins.