19th Sunday after Pentecost
October 4, 2015
Mark 10:2-16 You can click on this link to read the text in Oremus Bible Browser
This story of Jesus blessing the children was my baby brother’s favorite. My mom had a host of stories she used to tell him about Jesus, but this was the one that always got the biggest response. When the disciples tell the mothers to go away and not to bother Jesus, who is a very busy man, Jesus tells them, “No! No!” And Richard would yell, “Yay!” “I love children” Jesus would say, ”I want to hold them on my lap and bless them”
I think that today we all need to sit on Jesus’ lap to be held. We want to know that Jesus cares for the grief and shock we share with our friends in Roseberg. We are a lot alike. My friend, Jane is the pastor there, and she says they were mostly in shock until the names of the victims were released, and then it became a time to mourn.
I have to confess, in the ranting from the left and the right about how this shooting could happen, I had to face my own bias about guns. I haven’t ever touched one, and I don’t really understand them or the people who use them. But in Oregon, we have the kinds of gun laws that other places are asking for, so it occurs to me that this tragedy is not really about guns. It’s about violence, it’s about being able to ignore the humanity of the people you don’t know or understand. It’s about failing to see the humanity of others and their connections to the people who love them.
The reading we have this morning seems to be about divorce, but it’s really about some of the same things that allow people to walk into a classroom and shoot other students. The religious authorities are getting more and more frustrated at Jesus, and they are now actively trying to trip him up and shame him publicly. The way the law stood in their day, a man had the right to put his wife away with a certificate of divorce. He didn’t even need reason. Wives did not have an equal right to end a marriage, and if the husband divorced her, she had no resources, she was just put out of the family to exist on her own. That’s why Jesus says that the law is about hard-heartedness; it was for human convenience.
What God envisions is mutual protection for husbands and wives and families. What God envisions is a community of care that is created by relationships that become unions. These two stories – about marriage and about welcoming children -are connected on purpose. Jesus illustrates the kind of community God envisions by his welcome of the least.
While the theologians want to argue about the rules, Jesus wants to touch lives. While the authorities want to compete for status, Jesus wants to teach welcome. Where the intellectuals see principles, Jesus sees real human need, mothers worried about their children in an increasingly fragile peace with Rome.
The news of this week makes me wonder where Jesus would be in Roseberg, or here in Prineville as we realize that such a thing could happen anywhere. We know he’d be with the mourners, weeping with them and carrying candles. But I wonder what he wishes we knew about how such a thing could be prevented? “Whoever does not received the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
Children know their vulnerability, and their dependence on someone to help them thrive. Children are eager to learn and live in world of wonder. Have we lost our understanding that we need each other and our community to thrive? Have we lost our curiosity and ability to hear about people and ways of life that are different than ours, and demonized them instead? Have we become part of a culture that is violent in speech and dehumanizes people who don’t agree with us? Have we closed our minds and refused to appreciate the fullness of the human experience? Have we failed to support the vulnerability of others?
Have we forgotten that we are God’s children, rescued from a life of striving and emptiness by God’s love? God came to us in person, simply because God loves us, no matter what we do or don’t do. It’s so easy for us to take God’s love for us and God’s forgiveness for granted, and fail to love and forgive our neighbors. In Jesus we see what God’s open arms and healing mercy to all people looks like. It is extended to us without condition, so that we will be converted to love and serve our fellow humans. And often what happens is that we, the converted, turn out to be like everyone else, instead of being more gracious and loving.
I want Jesus to hold me on his lap today. To bless me and comfort me, as I realize how easy it has been for me to be part of a society that lets kids fall through the cracks of care and others to be wounded or die because of it. I want to learn again what it means to receive the Kingdom as a child – openly embracing the love poured out to me, and walking away filled with the light of God’s love. I want to learn again how to listen with respect and wonder to the community around me, and to turn my back on insulting and violent speech. I want to learn again what it means to share, to build community resources instead of ignoring my own vulnerability and that of my fellow human beings. I want this kind of heartbreak to never happen again, and I want to do my part in building God’s kingdom so that it never will. Please, Jesus, help me. Amen.