January 16, 2018- Jesus Loves His Children- Luke 18:15-17, 1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 11:29-30

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People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:15-17

Innocence and trust are not valuable commodities in today’s culture. Being vulnerable is dangerous- because in this world, unguarded vulnerability will be rewarded with exploitation and broken trust.

Almost daily we hear of children being neglected and abused by the very people they should be able to trust.  Children themselves can be very cruel to other children, causing their bullied peers to close off and shut down. The world can be an unsafe place for a trusting soul or a tender, innocent one. We learn- far too early- to go on defense so we can avoid being hurt.

As children become adults we become jaded and cynical. We get rougher around the edges and thicker skinned in response to all the disappointments and stresses and heartaches we necessarily endure.

Some days we wake up and discover that the color and the wonder is gone from our lives. We don’t get excited about it being time for cartoons, or ecstatic that the weather is right to go out and run through the sprinkler. We get to the point where we are more worried about how crazy we would appear to the neighbors should we decide to run through the sprinkler. We stop seeing the beauty in the fire of the sunset, and we don’t stop to marvel at the majesty of a rainbow.  We’re more worried about the next mortgage payment or that the car is due for an oil change.  In the busyness of life we miss the real meaning of life- we miss celebrations, joy, wonder and delight.

Jesus wants us to respond in wonder and delight to His kingdom. He wants us to be open to wonder, and vulnerable to grace.  He wants us to be excited about flowers blooming and to revel in the smell of puppy breath.  He wants us to sing as though no one is listening, and dance like no one is watching.

Most importantly He calls us to love as though our hearts have never been broken.

Children haven’t learned to put conditions upon love- conditions like, “if you love me back,” or “if you stay thin,” or “if you don’t get sick.” Children love without motive or guile.  That’s the way Jesus wants us to love Him and to love one another- that all-encompassing, innocent child-like love that is a “just because” love.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Surrendering our cynicism is a choice- it is one of those burdens we carry to which Jesus responds, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 (NIV)

We are supposed to be responsible people. We can’t ignore the mortgage or vehicle maintenance or all those mundane tasks.  It is necessary to do things that aren’t always rewarding or fun or joyful.

However, we also can’t get to a place where our worry and busyness steal our joy.  We have to make the choice for joy.  We have to be open and vulnerable to the call of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus invites us to love, to dance, to sing and to open our hearts and minds and ears and eyes.

Are we willing to join Him?

December 28, 2017 – The Holy Innocents, Rachel Still Weeps- Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:5

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When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: (see Jeremiah 31:15)

 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:16-18 (NRSV)

 

Recently we talked about how Jesus came to earth not to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

Those who are in power wish to remain in power. Powerful people will go to great lengths to maintain and grow their influence.  Herod saw Jesus as an earthly threat to his throne.  Herod dealt with the challenge to his power by attempting to eliminate it.  Jesus was spared Herod’s knife only because His parents were warned to take him to Egypt for a time to avoid Herod’s assassins.

Sadly, while Jesus was spared, scores of innocent children were massacred in the name of one man’s insecurity. Unfortunately the slaughter of innocents continues today. Children die untimely deaths every day- some from illness or accident, some from neglect and abuse. Some are simply sacrificed because they offend their parents’ sense of economy or timing, or they carry a genetic flaw. This world is not a safe place for children.

The correlation between slaughter and power is as old as time. The old kingdoms and the old paradigms don’t go away without a fight, even when the change of regime is good and ultimately necessary.  The problem with the fight over power is that the sacrifice and the suffering are most often borne by the most fragile and vulnerable.

It is a sad reality that children still die in the name of convenience, from lack of material resources, as collateral damage in war, and at the brutal hands of abusers.

There are some who would say if God is a gracious and good God, why does He permit this to continue on? Why did He allow it then, and why does it still go on now?

There is no easy or acceptable answer to the question of human evil. Jesus came into this world of suffering and evil as a vulnerable child and entered into the human experience with us, but evil is still with us.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5 (NRSV)

Perhaps our calling as Jesus followers is to let His light shine in and through us- even when we are surrounded by darkness, death and evil that we can’t understand or conquer alone.

Jesus came into our world precisely because we so desperately need the light that darkness cannot overcome. Evil and suffering exist but that is not the end of the story.  There will come a day when no mother will weep for her children.