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Do Not Stop Them

Mark 10:13-16 and On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Sunday October 3rd, 2021

Welcome to worship! Today is the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost World Communion Sunday in much of Christianity, a day to remember our connectedness with the Body of Christ around the planet.

I invite you to let yourself arrive, whatever that means for you, to take some breaths and to tune in to whatever word God has for you on this day. I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer. Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Would we do anything differently if we knew that children were meant to be some of our most important teachers? Would we live or love or enact laws differently if we took their words sometimes as seriously as if the very voice of God was speaking through them? What if, as children we are gifted with a view of the world that is particular and precious, essential for all of creation? In A Tale Dark & Grimm, Adam Gidwitz writes, “There is a wisdom in children, a kind of knowing, a kind of believing, that we, as adults, do not have.” He says, “There is a time when a kingdom needs its children.”

There are moments, when even the royals of the crowd, even those in positions of power and privilege, those in the position of parenthood and education and transformation, there is a time when a kin-dom needs its children. And I believe that time, may be now. As you heard Kahlil Gibran say of our children, “For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” And yet we are called to hold their dreams with them, even if they are not ours. And what if one of the places we should look to right now for light and hope and a way forward is our kids?

I am thinking of the Sunrise Movement, born out of a commitment of college students for their universities to divest from fossil fuels. The Sunrise Movement is a US grassroots youth movement that has helped set the national climate agenda for rapid change on climate action. Sunrise co-founder and now executive director Varshini Prakash led the effort at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, strategizing a way forward with protests and sit-ins and more. Fellow Sunrise founders Sara Blazevic and Stephen O’Hanlon (now the group’s managing director and spokespeople) helped lead the divestment movement at Swarthmore College, while organizing director Dyanna Jaye did the same at the University of Virginia.

I am also thinking of the kids near places like Coral Springs, Florida who have managed to move the dial quicker than the adults, with what some have labeled as an effort to plot a revolution. As Cameron Kasky a Junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who started the #NeverAgain movement to stop gun violence said, “The adults know that we’re cleaning up their mess,” And then senior Emma González added, “It’s like they’re saying, ‘I’m sorry I made this mess,’” “while continuing to spill soda on the floor.” Kasky, González, David Hogg and others joined together and inspired a new level of engagement and policy changes, marches and more around preventing gun violence.

“There is a time when a kin-dom needs its children.” And I think we should always pay attention to our kids, but I think right now if we listen and learn from, follow and be faithful to the demands and dreams of our children, I think this just might be our way forward in hope. And I think part of how we move forward in faith, part of how we move closer to the world God imagines for us, is to listen to and to pay attention to what the dreams and demands of our kids are.

At the end of longer instructions about relationships, Jesus gives a teaching on children. This has always fascinated me especially since our tradition does not have a record of Jesus having had any kids of his own. But maybe he did? As other parents know, one of the potentially most annoying kinds of comments are from those who have not had the experience, but seem to see themselves as experts anyway.

So the other part of this that intrigues me is that the scripture says that Jesus was indignant- that he was publicly and openly and outwardly angry. It doesn’t say that he nicely intervened and watched just for a moment when his friends and followers would be in a good mood and not be upset, no the text says that Jesus didn’t like what he saw and he stopped and interrupted it right then and there. From other reference points, we could guess that people were bringing their children to him for healing, maybe teaching, maybe community, but Jesus' closest followers didn’t get it and they tried to stop the kids from coming to him. We don’t know why they were doing that, but whatever they were doing made Jesus mad and not just disappointed, but indignant. It was as if he knew there is a wisdom in children, a kind of knowing, a kind of believing, that can get lost with time.

So when Jesus saw the way for the kids being blocked, when he saw that the adults were trying to stop them from reaching the goodness they, themselves had known, when he saw that they were putting their own needs in front of the of the kids, when he saw that the adults didn’t get that part of his whole point was to protect the house of tomorrow for the ones who come after, to live and love in a way that keeps drawing the circle wider, Jesus was angry and he interrupted their behavior.

He says, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them.” Or in some translations Jesus says, “Do not hinder them.” To hinder is to create difficulties, to hinder is to try to hide the voices, to restrain or contain or confine. And sometimes we adults do this because we are scared, because we aren’t sure how to accompany what is unfolding before us or because we want the world to be like it was when we were kids or like the path we ourselves have already traveled.

But Jesus says don’t stop them from coming into the world as they are, let them seek too. He says something like don’t try to quell them, but be curious, come closer, listen and learn. And after Jesus said, “Do not stop them.” He said something like, you know what, sometimes the way to heaven is actually through them, the path to justice comes from joining them, journeying with them, finding joy along with them, alongside them when they point out what we miss. It’s if Jesus says, in fact, the very realm of Glory, the kin-dom of God belongs to them, which to me means something like whoever does not try to see the world like our kids, whoever does not try hear the calls of our kids, whoever does not follow the movement of our youth, whoever does not listen to the voices of our younger ones among us, those of us in that group might not ever hear or live our way into other truths.

I wonder what this scripture has to say to us as a church? Do we live and operate as if our children and youth are some of our most important teachers? Do we as a church hear their words sometimes as seriously as if the very voice of God is speaking through them? Our kids have been through a really hard time and I wonder if part of our individual and collective healing will come from listening more thoughtfully to what it is that they need. Later this month our Caring Ministry Committee is collaborating with our Progressive Christian Education Commission on a movie night simply because the group wanted to hear what it was that was most needed and what was heard was: caring and connection, community and help with childcare. So here we are.

As we enter into a different phase in the pandemic and live with some of what is and start to shape what is next, I wonder if trying to see the world like our kids, if hearing their calls, following their movement, listening to their voices, might be our way to what is next? To more fully live into what we say each week that no matter who you are, you are welcome here? What does that mean for us? Maybe it’s something like receiving our kids as if the very realm of God is at stake, as if our care of them and connection with them and caretaking of their dreams is one of the most important tasks at hand? And what if letting them not just come to us, but come out to us fully as they are, in all of the ways that means, which will help us have more fun and live more fully into our faith?

So let the children come and let us not try to quell, let us be curious, and come closer, let us listen and learn. So all you kids, wherever you are, we are saying we want you to teach us. We want you to preach to us and show us who you are and show us where you feel moved to go…and let us follow. “There is a time when a kin-dom needs its children.” And that time is now. Let the children come, do not stop them! May this be so. Amen.

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