When we think of childhood, what are some of the things that come to mind? For me, I think of running through the swamp, fishing, swimming, bike riding, baseball, playing with my cousins and friends, sleepovers, laughter, joy, and love. Childhood is often marked by fond memories. When I was a little girl, I remember racing my brothers up the road to my Great Uncle Art’s house where we would be given cookies by my Aunt Tootsie while Uncle Art topped off our bike tires, then I would pet the smelliest cat I have ever come across and then my brothers and I would end our visit by seeing Great Grandma in her in-law apartment where there would be bowls of ribbon candy out and she would tell stories of a time long ago.
As children we were watched over by the whole community; we were allowed to stop at any house and we were openly cared for and loved. We never felt out of place, or burdensome. Sometimes we got into trouble but by the next day everything returned to normal. Children were highly valued in my family. We were seen to be very important and intricate parts of the family.
As such, my parents took great pains to teach us everything we might need to know for life. My father taught me how to fish, plant gardens, patience, and to recognize the beauty of God in the life all around me in nature. My mother taught me to bake, cook, sing, and how to forgive, love, and care for the needs of others. In my church, my minister, though very uncomfortable around children, felt that it was crucial that children were invited to be a part of all the spiritual functions of the church. We were taught how to ask questions, to interact with the scriptures, to care for others in the world, and that the church was just as much mine as it was the adults in the pews. Like my home, the adults and elderly people invited us into everything. They would give us gifts and hugs, and they never cringed at the noises we made in worship.
How we care for one another; how we open ourselves to children is part of the mission of the church because just was we learn from the scriptures, the sermons, and feeling moved by the music, children are a reminder of the joy and love with which God calls us to live our lives. Today’s scriptures are often used in the service of baptism, which we experienced last week, yet they are not very often focused on in worship.
I always wondered why the disciples were so miffed about the people bringing the children to Jesus and asking him to lay hands upon. Weren’t children valued? From what I have learned, in Israel children were highly valued in family life. Children traditionally would ask their parents for special prayers and blessings. Children would also ask this of their teachers, or Rabbis, as they got older. This is exactly what was being done when the children were being brought before Jesus. But Jesus at this point was on his way to Jerusalem towards the cross and his time was drawing short and the work he needed to do was great. The disciples were not against children they just misplaced what the most important work of Jesus was. They thought he was too busy.
Jesus corrected that for them by saying “Let them bring the children to me”. In so doing, for the rest of Christianity and the followers of Christ for generations to come, children no matter how young were so important to the life of the church that they could receive all the benefits from participation in worship. Jesus had elevated children several times in our scriptures going on to say that unless we approach God as a child then we will never truly enter into the kingdom of God. In Luke, the author expands this teaching by adding, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it”. Children come to God in their emotions, in their vulnerability without the hardness that life sometimes inflicts upon adults. Let us take heed of Christ’s words when he said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs”. Because children have an innocence about them, a trusting way, and an ability to love without judgment, they have an understanding of God and a relationship with the holy that is unique and wonderful. C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable”.
Children are vulnerable and their spiritual strength is that vulnerability. They do not have the barriers and walls that prevent them from loving others, caring for each other, and from believing in the goodness and wonderfulness of our God. So go into the week and reveal to God your vulnerability, your struggles, your emotions, because God’s most wonderful work happens when we are truly open to him. Invite God in and let him work in your lives. And feel the goodness of God alive in your days and in your works. Come before your maker as a child, and feel the healing work of God, learn of his love and share that with others by the way you live your life.
 Luke 18: 17, RSV.
 Matthew 19: 14, RSV.
 C.S. Lewis, 20th century theologian.
(Based on Matthew 19: 13-15)