This sermon is a combination of two themes – the reality of experience for countless children in our country and in our world…and the absolute commitment of the Church to the welfare, the spiritual growth and the unique worth of children – and what that commitment might require of us if we are to be serious about it.

 

“ Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”

+

 

 

CHILD-CENTRED CHRISTIANITY.

 

SO, APPARENTLY,

ACCORDING TO THE MOST RECENT

UNITED NATIONS REPORT

BRITAIN IS THE WORST PLACE IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD

TO BE A CHILD.

INCREDIBLE

SHAMEFUL

SHOCKING…

IN TERMS OF POVERTY,

MORAL GUIDANCE,

FAMILY NURTURE

FEAR OF VIOLENCE,

OPPORTUNITY

BRITAIN

IS THE WORST COUNTRY IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD

IN WHICH

TO BE A CHILD..

 

 

“ WHAT DO YOU MEAN “ WE CAN’T SEE HIM”?”

What do you mean – you won’t let us see him?

Did he say that?

Did he say he wouldn’t see us?

Did he say it?

No, I didn’t think so.

Does he even know we’re here?

Well, tell him.

Tell him!

We’re here

And our children are here

And we want to see him.

Tell him! “

 

Hell hath no fury like a mother whose children’s interests are being baulked and blocked by officialdom or bureaucracy.

++

You can understand the disciples’ viewpoint.

It had been a long day

He was tired.

It was just some kids

Who probably hadn’t a clue who he really was anyway

It wasn’t as if it was anyone important.

 

And anyway it was kind of fun being the gatekeepers

With the real power.

“Sorry mate you can’t park there.”

The power surge

Of the squash club receptionist…

Are you members?

Do you have your card?

Or the bouncer on the night club door..

“Sorry mate – no jeans.”

Same idea…

Same power complex…

“Sorry – ladies, the great man’s too busy.”

Who cares?

It was only some kids.

++

But he wasn’t too busy.

On the contrary

He was angry at the patronising tone

The we’re in charge arrogance

“Let the children come to me.”

In his book

They were precious, special, wonderful.

In his view,

They were signposts to heaven.

++

I was standing in the school corridor

Chatting with the headmaster

And a class of little Primary Ones snaked past us

Fresh innocent faces..

Holding hands…wonderful

Heart -warming.

We seemed to share the same

Thought

“What goes wrong…

Where does it all go wrong…

Where does that innocence and trust go

And when do eyes and souls

Become clouded with suspicion and self interest?”

 

And what happens to the child in us?

The inner child who used to be capable of

Wide-eyed wonder

And brave trust….

 

Children who were once pioneers and adventurers

Now concerned with safety- caution, suspicion:

 

There used to be a restlessness –

 now there is complacency.

 

Time was we were hungry for ideas

-       now we are resistant to change, afraid of innovation.

-        

-       Then it was asking all the questions – thousands of questions..

-       Now it’s knowing all the answers.

-        

-       Where did it go.. how did it happen

-       Where are the children we were ?

-       Where are we?

 

-       Once it was child-like trust

      now its suspicion and a pride that won’t bend.

       

-       It used to be love, open arms, generous eager hugs

-       Now its fear of being hurt and a pride that won’t submit!

-        

-       Time was there was energy and spontaneity,

-       Now there is boredom and listlessness

-        

-       Then our imagination ran free – now the vision is jaded and jaundiced.

-       What has happened

-       How did it get like this?

-       How did we get like this?

 

Once there was an kind of intuitive feel for spiritual things, an openness to something beyond ourselves -

Now there are structures, and rigidity and the formalities of religion.

We used to travel light – with little accumulated baggage

Now we are weighed down with things, intellectual pretensions, material commitments that tie and bind us…

Time was there was no agenda

Now there is a whole raft of agendas…

Then there was awe and wonder – now there is routine and taking it all for granted…the wow factor crushed by busyness and preoccupation and self image needs.

 

Maturity-  if such it is – clearly has its price..

We lose a lot when we silence our inner child…

So that maybe indeed, there are things to learn from and appreciate in the children –

Things to mourn when the cares of maturity – respectability,

The pressures of keeping up appearances

Rob us of the child like graces.

++

Not, ironically, that the children have it that good

In our world

In our times…

The child as victim is the vicious litany of the last century

As it was the one before…

The vulnerable crushed under the wheels of history

And never more so than in the lifetime of people here today.

++

A visit to the Yad Veshem memorial to the Holocaust

Is an unforgettable experience

And to spend even a brief moment in the memorial for the children who died..

The one and a half million Jewish children who died

Stays with you for the rest of your life..

Mirrors reflect a million and a half pin points of light

And the names of the dead children

Are repeated over and over again…

Helpless victims…

+=

The dreadful photograph

Of Kim Phuc -the Vietnamese

Child

Scalded by Napalm

Running for her life

From a burning village…

Ironically a classic war photograph

Seen by generations

Revealing the vulnerability of the children

While men play their war games…

 

Why is it that the pictures of

The fly covered children

Sticks of bone

Grubbing in the dry earth

Are the ones that rebuke us so fiercely

Babies sucking in vain on the empty slack breasts

Of their hungry mothers…

 

There plenty more vivid images…from the 20th and 21st centuries..

They’ve been pretty rubbish centuries

For the children

From..

The orphanages of Rumania

The dying rooms of China

The dead toddlers of Palestine caught in the cross fire

The abused children of the Nazaereth homes in Glasgow…

The slave- carpet maker children of India…

 

But, hey,  who cares?

They’re only kids!

 

Jesus says:

“ I care”

Jesus says:

“Put the children at the centre

Because they matter.

In their vulnerability,

in their fragile dependent existence

It’s all the more urgent that they find the nurture they need

The protection and affirmation

That will allow them to blossom… to live.

++

Not because of the possibilities

They represent

The potential for the future.

And therefore we should somehow make allowances for them

As some kind of long term investment…

They matter now

For who they are now.

Therefore as a community and especially as a church

We need to make allowances, adjustments

Provide the investment…

They deserve our love and attention and support

Now.

++

Indeed, unless we re-discover the gifts and worth

And understand the sacredness of children

We won’t be able to  understand how God work!

How he sees things..

How he sees us!!

 

The children are not the future hope of the church

But the present blessing…

Today’s delight….

And they are signposts to how it all works…

“ Unless you become like a child you won’t receive the kingdom

because you can’t!

 

Until we learn from them

The simple dynamic of

Learning to rest in God

With the sense of dependence and utter trust

That the child has

Gladly receiving as free gift

The love that pours out on us…

Trusting him to meet our needs…

++

Until we learn to lean on his love

Putting pride and intellectualism and self- sufficiency

to one side

And placing our hope our confidence in his love

finding our deep peace in his love…

 

And out of that security

Celebrating with all the delight and spontaneity

That children find themselves capable of without shame or reserve…

 

If we see God as the frowning law-giver out to catch us

And who must be feared and appeased…

Then our worship will be that of the anxious cringing sycophant…

 

But if we are simply resting in the joyful gifts

Of the goodness and grace of a tender Father’s care

Then there will be joy and wonder and serenity

In what we do

And laughter and naturalness

In how we do it…

We will feel no need to win

Our Father’s love

Because we know we have it.

No need to persuade him to love us

Simply to rest in the absolute truth and beauty

That he does love us.

++

The psalmist David understands this when he writes:

“ Lord, I have given up my pride

and turned away from my arrogance.

I am not concerned with great matters

Or with subjects too difficult for me.

Instead I am content and at peace

As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms

So my heart is quiet within me.

Trust in the Lord now and forever.

+++