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Sermon for October 4, 2015

Mark 10:13-16 (Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 22/LWML Sunday—Series B)

“Let the Children Come”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

October 4, 2015

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text for our time together this morning is the Gospel lesson recorded in Mark 10

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

            Today we observing Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Sunday.  The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) is the official women’s auxiliary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. For almost 75 years, the LWML has focused on affirming each woman’s relationship with Christ, encouraging and equipping women to live out their Christian lives in active mission ministries and to support global missions.  “The mission of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League is to assist each woman of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in affirming her relationship with the Triune God so that she is enabled to use her gifts in ministry to the people of the world.”  The LWML is committed to helping every woman find personal opportunities in her daily life and in her congregation to be nurtured in faith in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to discover her unique gifts and value in God’s family.  Women of all ages, stages, ethnicities, and experiences are challenged and equipped to make a meaningful difference in the lives of hurting, helpless, and unbelieving people at home and throughout the world.[1]

          If you are a member of the Women’s Guild, a member of the LWML, would you please stand?  We want to give the Lord thanks for you and for your service to Christ’s Kingdom. (Applaud)  Thank you.  You may be seated.  These saints and thousands more across our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are inspirations and examples to all Christians of how we can be more passionate and intentional about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and actions.  That is the mission of Christ’s Church.  That is the mission, not just of the LWML, but of every believer in Jesus.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  In our Lord’s Great Commission in Matthew 28 we hear, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

          The Lord Jesus desires that everyone be gifted the forgiveness of sins and the everlasting life which His perfect life, death, and resurrection secured for all people.  But people cannot receive what is not given to them. 

          Fathers and mothers were bringing very young children to Jesus so that He might touch them, giving them His blessing.  But Jesus’ disciples turned them away!  Were infants and young ones so unimportant in the minds of the disciples that they had to be turned aside from Jesus’ hand of blessing?  Yet the reign and rule of God belongs to children, and to those who are like them, those who are of no apparent importance, simply because God wishes to give the Kingdom to them. 

The rule and reign of God that has drawn near to all in Jesus Christ is received as a gift.  Faith that trusts in Jesus as Lord and Savior is received as a gift.  His forgiveness and everlasting life is received as a gift.  Children in their humbleness and simplicity understand “gift” far better than adults.  Children simply and naturally receive from the love and generosity of their parents and grandparents.  Adults think in terms of earning, meriting, or deserving.  Children just receive the gift as a gift.  They are not pretentious, making demands because of how skilled they are.  Their littleness and helplessness understands the love of the giver and the gift of the giver, and so they gladly receive what is offered in love.

In what ways do you and I forbid or prevent people from “becoming like little children” in order to receive the gifts of the Lord’s grace in Jesus Christ?  Foremost is that we don’t always give the gift!  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we don’t always give the WHOLE gift.  We tend to tell people about the love of Jesus, the death of Jesus for us on the cross, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  We share with people about the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life that we have through faith in Jesus, but . . . we often forget to tell folks why this is such a great gift.  We fail to always tell people why they need it.  We might share the Gospel, but don’t always share the Law. 

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the reign and rule of God like a very young child shall surely not enter into it.”  That’s a word of Law.  Jesus tells us that those who are to receive His gifts of grace must first be able to receive such a gift, realizing that they are “helpless and small,” without any claim or merit.  The nature of a child is to take openly and confidently what is given.  The un-childlike piety of achievement must be abandoned: “I’m not that bad of a person.  I don’t really sin, I just have a few shortcomings.  What do I need forgiveness for?”  In sharing the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, folks have to be confronted with the message that they are sinful and unclean, that they are helpless and small before the Lord and cannot merit or earn their salvation from the punishment of death.  Rather, they are to be like children who simply receive by grace the gifts of Christ because they are the gifts that save. 

You and I as Christians are to give people the very best.  We are to give them the fullness of God’s Word in both Law and Gospel.  Show them their need for a Savior from sin and death and then gift them with the message of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  In that way, you are permitting “the children” to come to Jesus, no matter their physical age.  The reign and rule, the Kingdom of God, belongs to such, those who confess their sins, acknowledge their need, and so receive the gifts of God in Christ by grace through faith. 

This is just as true for us as it is for those with whom we want to share the message of the Kingdom.  You and I must receive the gifts of the Kingdom like a little child.  We cannot be so filled up with ourselves as to think we deserve God’s love and grace.  We cannot be so prideful to believe that our behaviors have earned God’s mercy.  Before the Lord we must see our littleness and helplessness.  You and I must know and believe and confess words like Luther used in the Small Catechism: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures . . . and still takes care of them. . . . He defends me against all danger and guard and protects me from all evil.  All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”  “I believe that Jesus Christ . . . is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person.”  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.” 

With childlike trust, we receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of faith in Jesus.  That faith then receives from Christ the forgiveness of all our sins, everlasting life, and salvation.  In the humble posture of a child, we receive the gifts of God for the people of God.  We receive the blessings of the Kingdom—forgiveness, life, salvation, a new heaven and earth, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwelling with us as we live and reign with Him forever. 

But we don’t want to keep that Kingdom and His gifts to ourselves.  We want to tell the story.  We want to show sin for what it really is—rebellion against God’s Word, being enemies of God.  We want to show the Good News of Jesus for what it really is—rescue from our state of rebellion, reconciliation with God through the forgiveness of all our sins, a new life with the Lord as heirs of the Kingdom blessings. 

Folks can’t receive what’s not given.  So let’s give them the very best—the whole counsel of God in His Law and Gospel.  Let’s serve alongside our sisters in Christ in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.  Be the mouths, the hands, and feet of Christ, freely giving to all so that no one is forbidden from the arms of Christ’s love and the blessings of His Kingdom.  Amen. 

[1] http://www.lwml.org/who-we-are


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