AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM
Isaiah said, “A little child shall lead them.”
In today’s gospel, after Jesus told the disciples he must die, they argued with themselves on the road about who among them was the greatest.
When Jesus found out what they had been arguing about, he said to them, “whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
Then he held a little child in his arms and said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
But that’s hardly the only time Jesus uses a child to make his message.
In the very next chapter of Mark, this happens.
“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ Then he took the children up in his arms, laid his hands on them and blessed them.”
Six other times, in Matthew and Luke, Jesus says much the same thing about children.
So, what is it about children that Jesus so admires?
I don’t know for sure, but I have some ideas.
Children are ‘guileless’, innocent, without deceit.
Children are trusting and depend upon those around them to protect them.
Children are open to possibility, longing to learn and know, excited about being alive.
Children are gentle, curious, loving and wanted to be loved.
Jesus loves them and tells us to welcome them in his name and to ‘be like them’ to enter God’s Kingdom.
So why do children suffer so much in this country and around the world?
There are 3 million cases of child abuse reported each year in the US. That’s 9000 a day. And that’s JUST the cases that GET REPORTED!
6 of 10 girls and 4 of 10 boys will be sexually abused in some way before they are 18.
And ‘neglect of children’ is rampant—‘neglect’ includes lack of food and shelter. Lack of affection. Lack of supervision, education and medical or dental care.
This is what the world does to those Jesus loves.
I spent two years as a Child Protection worker in Fairmont, WV, before I went back to finish seminary and be ordained.
Much of abuse and neglect stems from income inequality in this country. Some families just don’t have the means to provide adequately for children. The current administration is working to correct that and bring millions of children out of poverty. God bless them.
I could remove a child from a poor family with no trouble. But I had a case when I knew a young boy was being abused by his mother. I went to court 4 times to seek his custody, but his father was a doctor and their lawyers stopped me every time. Finally, his mother killed him.
She spent one year in the county jail and then was freed.
A song from my Sunday School days went like this: “Jesus loves the little children/all the children of the world/red, yellow, black brown and white/they are precious in his sight/Jesus loves the little children of the world”.
And so must we, beloved, and do all in our power to keep them safe.
Shalom and amen.