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Jesus Answers the Headline News: Welcome the Children

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

Listen to these headlines concerning our children:

…15% of all U.S. children lived in poverty. (

…The U.S. has the highest rate of infant and maternal deathsout of 13 other high-income countries.  (

…1 in 4 New York City Children Now Lives in Poverty (NY Times, February 21, 2024)

These are stark, painful statistics, especially considering the seemingly boundless resources we have as a nation. The only reason we aren’t up in arms is the long-standing nature of these statistics have inured us to the urgency of action. As they say, children don’t vote. And yet, we see our Lord’s aim is to welcome the children, to lay His hands on them, and to castigate His disciples for pushing them away.

Lest we think Jesus’ was simply speaking in sweet metaphors, “…to such adorable tykes belongs the kingdom of heaven…” He issues a frightening warning, “‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Jesus was serious.

In this age and especially in our community we invest a tremendous amount in our children for we see them as divine gifts from above whom God has given us the privilege and responsibility to rear. But in Jesus’ time things were starkly different. And so His words not only confused the disciples but shocked them.

In ancient times children often led desperate lives. All too often they were treated like property or free labor, like miniature adults, but without any rights whatsoever. Children existed to serve the needs of the parents.

In the 4,000-year-old Babylonian law known as Hammurabi’s Code we find ... harsh penalties… would befall any child who did not bestow appropriate honor and respect on the father who reared him. A son could lose a tongue, an eye, or fingers, depending on the circumstances of the offense. He could sell them into slavery or servitude. Though law required parents to rear all their sons and at least one female child, all too often infants were simply abandoned.

According to Children of Ancient History, “An infant could be abandoned without penalty or social stigma for many reasons, including an anomalous appearance, being an illegitimate child or grandchild… The practice of selling sons lasted for about 600 years…”

At least seven times Jesus admonished us to welcome children while also holding them up as examples. Throughout this series we have been examining Jesus’ blueprint for recreating this world so that it reflects the heavenly realm. In this passage He tells us that in order toencounter and be a part of this kingdom that we must receive it as little children. Part of the power of a child is the ability to dream about amazing possibilities for themselves and the world. A child’s dreams reflect the depth of human hope. Yet, because we are leaving children behind their dreams all too often are of more immediate matters. 

Some years ago a New York City teacher gave an assignment on Martin Luther King Day to write about their dreams. These are the 1995 "dreams”:

1. Michael dreams that the leukemia will go away.

2. Brandon dreams that someday he will have a dad, "for real."

3. Amber dreams that someday she and her mom can be "safe."

4. Marcia dreams that she can stay in this house, and the judge won't make her go back to "the one where you are always scared."

5. Cheri dreams of food - "a lot" and "a lot of it."

6. Monica dreams that Daddy really wasn't killed so Mom can buy something that isn't food.

7. Jane dreams that "no one kills me before 16 so I can drive away."

8. Chris dreams that he gets a new heart before this one stops.

9. Tim dreams that someday he can be an artist and not have to fight.

10. Perry dreams that people will stop selling drugs so the cops will stay away.

11. Ashley and Ralph "don't have time to dream cause 'living's hard work.'"

By the way, these are 6-, 7-, and 8- year-olds.

Brick understands our role in a manner after the heart of our Lord. Not only do we seek to provide the most excellent nurture for our own children, but we find ways to open our doors to welcome and love children from various economic and religious backgrounds. In this, our work to build a world which reflects the heavenly kingdom becomes visible. In heaven scripture tells us there will be people from every ethnicity, nation, and people. The snapshot of our students is a snapshot of heaven.

But the kingdom belongs to children because, though they do exhibit most of the weaknesses we all do, in them we discover the true beauty of ourselves, of humanity. Their power to forgive, to share, to dance, and to sing has not been dimmed but the years and children all around the world exhibit Christ to us in the most powerful of ways.

There was the child in the midst of a hungry crowd while Jesus was preaching. He was not only smart enough to bring food but rather than hoard it for himself he shared it with Jesus. In turn, Jesus took that one act of generosity, multiplied those loaves, and fed 5,000.

There was the 6-year-old girl I met at the orphanage in Haiti. The children get one present the entire year, at Christmas. The other girls each had a toy or a doll, but she had nothing. I asked the director why.

“This past Christmas she got the doll she had always wanted. She loved it. Then when we were out for the day she encountered another young girl, this girl had a home, a mother, a father a sister but she looked sad and so our girl gave her the one special thing she had in the whole world.” Jesus told us a parable of the man who sold all he had to obtain a pearl of inestimable worth. He likened it to the Kingdom of God. When that little girl gave away that doll it became a Kingdom-sized blessing of love.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “The soul is healed by being with children.” I know this to be true. A few weeks ago, as I was rushing home, I almost ran into a four-year-old on the corner. She had the most beautiful beaming smile and look of delight, as she looked my way. For a moment I was confused, but quickly recognized her from our weekly Chapel services at the school. Her beaming smile still lifts my spirits.

One of my colleagues on a trip to the Dominican Republic got to meet a child he and his wife sponsored in school there. He later said to me, “When I looked at her, I suddenly felt in my heart what I always knew in my head, ‘God loves this child just as much as my child in America. God wants the exact same thing for her that God wants for my daughter.’”

Children are indeed a blessing from God, all children. Today we have been blessed by seeing the third graders receive their Bibles. It is part of our calling to treasure them and welcome them. It is a great joy to nurture their love for God, for each other, and for themselves. Let us love our children as Jesus commands us, then let us reach past our homes, past our neighbors and our friend circles into the places of challenge and love them with all the love to which God calls us. Amen.

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