Toddlers toddle forward unsteadily on chubby legs. One in diapers suddenly sits. Some wear big-boy pants, and some twirl in a skirt. All are not yet two years old. One lone toddler scurries after them, and nearing the minister, he sits beside him. His sister bolts at full speed down the aisle and skids to a halt in the minister's arms. All giggle.
One six-year-old girl carries a younger sister whose forefinger is hooked over her nose while sucking her thumb. Two more girls, not yet four years old, hold hands as they skip forward, giggling. Six boys about five years old, race in a bunch to see who gets to the front first.
One lone boy aged three, toddles backwards, waving to momma, papa, and proud grandma. All are smiling.
Middle-grade schoolboys on wiry limbs, flexing toned calves protruding from cargo shorts, wearing superhero t-shirts, and sporting spiked hair, poke along, sullen-faced, to the front.
Some of the children sit with crossed legs, or tuck them under, or stretch them out into the aisle. One kneels; one clings to the altar railing; another leans on it. Two girls chatter; one youngster gazes at the ceiling fans circling slowly. One small boy sits next to the minister and chats him up.
The preacher doesn't preach; instead he asks, "What day is today?" One child answers, "Sunday", another, "Mother's Day", a third volunteers, "We're going for hamburgers and ice cream after church." Everyone in the sanctuary laughs, since all know that children will say the most off-topic things.
The minister continues to tell the gathered children about Jesus ascending into heaven and His coming again in glory. Praying, he commends them to God, finishing, "Amen. Remember the candy in the front pew baskets. Don't know why I remind them 'cuz they never forget."
We learn from the children themselves during their sermon that honest eagerness probably exceeds staid piety in the eyes of Jesus. Most ministers would be delighted to have their congregation race to church with the abandon of children — safely and minding the traffic laws, of course. They'd love their congregation to show the eager expectation of a child at worship.
We adults long for the freedom of youngsters and their innocence as they gaze with wide-eyed wonder at ceilings that must seem cavernous to three-year-old eyes. Don't we desire their exuberance, their energy as they bolt for the altar? We salivate as they return to the pews while unwrapping Tootsie Rolls. Be honest. Don't we wish that we could pop a piece of candy to quiet our stomachs during the sermon? But we're the adults, so we must adult. Right? Maybe not. Let's listen to Jesus.
Mark 10:14-15 – When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it." (NLT)
The Kingdom of God is the church on earth and in heaven. It belongs to "those who are like these children". What does it mean to "receive the Kingdom of God like a child"? Children are honest, eager, and unpretentious. They speak their minds. We often wish that they wouldn't, but they do, which doesn't seem to bother Jesus one bit. The qualities Jesus looks for in His followers are childlike, racing to worship with eager faith, honesty, and openness to hearing God's Word.
Prayer: Father God, we come asking for the honest eagerness of little children's faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam" (Lyrics)