Jesus’ blessing of the children – a radical act.
Welcome and notices
Grace and peace be with you.
Welcome to a video from St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton. I’m Paul Stephens, the ordained minister in placement.
Today we will be hearing two short passages of scripture which involve children, Jesus and Jesus’ followers. And frankly they are quite challenging!
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Light Christ candle
Let us come aside for a few moments in quiet prayer. I will shortly lead a prayer adapted from material from Uniting in Worship 2 and the writings of Bruce Prewer …
Try to put aside anything that might distract you.
Take a moment or two to take stock of how things are for you … maybe a need for encouragement, a need for some words of hope or for strength to face difficult matters … a need for assurance or forgiveness …
Then hold onto the good news that the living God who has come amongst us in Jesus, is close …
God, source and home of all things,
in the beginning you sang creation into being
and formed this rich red land;
you are worthy of all praise.
Lord Jesus, brother and healer,
Word of God and one-with-us,
your love for the world took you to the cross;
you make us whole.
Spirit of God, within and among us,
midwife of a world transformed,
and bringer of new life;
you inspire us to live in hope.
God of grace:
Spirit, Son, Father,
whose love never ends,
whose mercy is beyond telling,
whose faithfulness continues to surprise;
May we place you and your way at the centre of our lives …
May we never take your love for us and all things for granted …
May we be honest with ourselves and with you about our flawed nature and our need for forgiveness …
Have mercy upon us, according to your grace in Christ Jesus: uncover our self-deceits, forgive our sins and deal with the heavy burden of guilt.
Restore us to your way, re invigorate our faith and hope.
Stretch our love so that we may be able to forgive others just as you forgive us.
Through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen!
Introduction and readings
Both texts you are about to hear involve Jesus trying to shake up the mindset of his followers.
In the first short passage you will hear how those followers were arguing about their ranking … who had the highest status in the group. Who was Jesus’ best friend?
The second passage begins with the followers of Jesus basically treating children as a nuisance; and trying to shoo them away. They think that Jesus has better things to do than spend time with children.
From The International Children’s Bible
Who Is the Greatest?
33 Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum and went into a house there. Then Jesus said to them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But the followers did not answer, because their argument on the road was about which one of them was the greatest.
35 Jesus sat down and called the 12 apostles to him. He said, “If anyone wants to be the most important, then he must be last of all and servant of all.”
36 Then Jesus took a small child and had him stand among them. He took the child in his arms and said, 37 “If anyone accepts children like these in my name, then he is also accepting me. And if he accepts me, then he is also accepting the One who sent me.”
Jesus Accepts Children
13 Some people brought their small children to Jesus so he could touch them. But his followers told the people to stop bringing their children to him. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was displeased. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them. The kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these little children. 15 I tell you the truth. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it.” 16 Then Jesus took the children in his arms. He put his hands on them and blessed them.
Sermon: “Jesus’ blessing of children … a radical act.”
Jesus’ words and actions described in these two short passages would have been quite mind-blowing for those who were present.
And if we can dust away some of our own preconceived ideas about what is going on here, we too might find that Jesus has something a bit challenging to say to us.
In Jesus’ day, children were, of course, considered very precious by their families,but beyond their family children had no social or legal status at all. If a child was Jewish, they also had no place in the life of the local synagogue. It was not until a boy was aged 13 that he could be involved in synagogue after he had had his bar mitzvah. In a sense then a child was a non-entity. Like women, lepers, tax collectors and so many others, children were amongst the least and the lowly.
It was like children were to be neither seen nor heard.
In the first passage that we heard Jesus disciples are arguing about who in their small group was the greatest.
I am not sure how they tried to measure this. As I said earlier, maybe they tried to work out who amongst them Jesus considered his best friend.
In 2021, in terms of measuring who is the greatest, I guess we could talk in terms of the number of followers someone has on a social media site, the amount of money someone has amassed, the fact that someone is called a celebrity …
In the groups or organisations or businesses you are associated with or have been associated with, how does or did the pecking order work?
Jesus undercuts all this by bringing children into the picture … and remember what we have just said about the place of children in Israel in those days.
He tells his follows that God’s way involves not fighting for status but serving others … not shooing children away but bringing them into the centre of things … it involves welcoming the least and the lowly.
And in the second passage Jesus commends the approach of children to matters of faith …
We are to receive the good news that Jesus offers with that kind of wide openness and joy that little children can display …
Jesus knew that children can teach us so much.
So, let me conclude with three take away messages from these two passages about Jesus and children.
The first message is that Jesus challenges all worldly ideas about who is the greatest.
The second message is Jesus’ slightly uncomfortable challenge to us and all concerning who we welcome and who we might be inclined to shoo away.
And the third is the good news, that receiving the blessing of Jesus … knowing you are loved and valued by God … is not complicated … it is not about all the stuff you have or have not done … it is about receiving God’s way with the wide-eyed joy and openness that little children display.
preaching good tidings to the people,
proclaiming release to captives,
setting at liberty those who are bound:
we adore you.
friend of the outcast and the poor,
feeder of the hungry,
healer of the sick:
we adore you.
denouncing the oppressor,
exposing the hypocrite,
overcoming evil with good:
we adore you.
pattern of gentleness,
teacher of holiness,
prophet of the kingdom of heaven:
we adore you.
dying to save us from our sin,
rising to give us eternal life,
ascending to prepare our heavenly home:
we adore you. Amen.
Prayers of intercession
Through Jesus, you invite us to bring to you all our concerns and the matters that lie heavy on our hearts …
We remember all those … and especially children … who today have no safe place to call home … who today experience fear, poverty and all sorts of trials …
We remember all those … especially children … who are feeling despairing … who struggle to find hope in the world …
We remember all those … and especially children … who we know who are ill, who are impacted by COVID, who are grieving, who are close to death …
In the quiet of our hearts, we name before you are own needs … our own struggles … our own worries …
We pray for the church and all those who seek to reflect the way of your kingdom of faith, hope and love … all those who seek to walk the way of Jesus and bring good news to the poor and liberty to the oppressed …
We offer these and all our prayers in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray and say:
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Being sent to share in God’s Mission
Word of mission
Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the faint-hearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
honour all people;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Unless otherwise stated prayers are either by the author or based on resources from Uniting in Worship 2 © Uniting Church Press, Sydney, 2005. And images are from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.
 Brendan Byrne, A costly freedom: a theological reading of Mark’s Gospel, Strathfield: St Pauls Publications, 2008, pp.151-153, 160-161,
 M. Eugene Boring, Mark: a commentary, Louisville: Westminster John Know Press, 2006, pp. 280-281, 289-290