“Let the children come to me. Whoever does not receive the Kingdom like a child shall not enter it.” These are not generally the words of a Thanksgiving Sunday. Or are they?
To understand Jesus’ words we have to know a little Greek. “Child” here refers to anyone who is not an adult, which in his day was about 12 years old, since individuals didn’t have the life span that we have today. So to comply with Jesus’ words, we would literally have to live in the world like a child.
But there are all kinds of children. What kind might Jesus have had in mind? The runny-nose, smart-mouthed, self-centered little brat who pushes other kids off the playground swings? Or the sweet, loveable, darlings whom we look at asleep in their beds after being hugged and kissed goodnight and told how much they are loved? No matter what kind of child we are, unless we receive the Kingdom of God like one of them, we aren’t getting in.
What do Jesus’ words “like a child” suggest to you? Children live by grace. They don’t think they have to earn their parents’ love and care. It takes a lot for a child to become jaded about life? And since kids aren’t given much say about the world they live in, they simply discover what’s there: from Cape Cod houses to mansions. That’s how they learn. A child is a master of curiosity. The world is there to be explored, and experienced. It’s not something in the future. It’s to be met head-on. It’s a now kind of thing.
What Jesus is always talking about with Kingdom comments like this one is that this is the Kingdom right now. Right here. It’s not at some distant time years from now. It’s at hand.
Big folks like us talk about entering the Kingdom when we die. We talk about being good enough to get in. We believe those who haven’t accepted Jesus are outside the Kingdom. This morning we are reminded that Jesus says to simply accept life the way kids do. It’s there, available, to be enjoyed. Accept it with the grace God has given. Live in it.
The more children learn about the world, they discover that most of it is where it is because someone else put it there. Food on the table because of Mom. Toys are gifts from somebody. Schools are there because towns taxes paid for them.
The more children explore the world, the more they discover how much a debt of gratitude they owe to the past. Their reality has been prepared by and given to them by someone else. The faithfulness of past generations created this world and gave it as a gift to the children.
That’s what Thanksgiving is about. The faithfulness of past generations building a world and giving it to its children. This morning we have done just that when we baptized Joseph Abraham Nicoll and to all children, through our efforts, desires, love, hope, sweat and vision.
When you were a child and came to church, possibly even this one, the building was here because of the faith and generosity of others. You asked questions. You raced around getting oriented, maybe even playing “hide and seek” with friends among the pews. You discovered pews, brass plates, a baptismal bowl. Everything had special names provided by past generations. And we accepted them, all of them even now. We need to say and do something to say thank you.
A little boy from a small Midwestern town was born blind. The mother and father did all they could to address the problem. But when he was six they were finally told that they need to visit Mass General for special surgery. With the help of community fundraisers, the family raised enough money for the surgery and the travel. As the family readied to leave, the boy returned to his room to retrieve his teddy bear. It was old and tattered, with eyes and an ear missing. The stitching was coming loose and some stuffing was protruding. Mom said he could get a new one in Cleveland, but the boy said, “I need this one.”
The boy held on to the bear all through the operation. It had been given a special surgical gown just like the boy’s.
The surgery went well. The boy could see. Mom and dad for the first time. The entire world for the first time. When it came time to be discharged, the boy reached out to the surgeon and said, “I want you to have this,” as he handed out his teddy bear. The doctor tried to refuse but the boy insisted. “Doctor, I don’t have any money, so I want to give you my bear to pay you for helping me to see. It’s my way of saying thanks. The doctor took the bear and shook hand with the boy.
For as long as that doctor practiced, the teddy bear with the missing eyes and torn ear and torn seam was on display in his office. A small handwritten sign was propped beside it: This is the highest payment I have ever received for professional services.
When we open our eyes and see all that has been done for us, say look around. Say thank you. Then prepare the gift for those who will follow.
An old farmer was walking his fields with a forester. The farmer had been harvesting timber most of his life. He was walking through the fields of small maples, oaks and hard wood trees, which would take 30 to 50 years before they would be ready to harvest. .
The forester asked the farmer, “Why are you wasting your time planting these hard wood trees? You could be planting fast growing pines and get another crop before you die.”
The old farmer said, “I am planting these trees for my grandson to harvest,, because of all the I trees I have lived off of in my lifetime, that my grandfather planted for me.”
Leave the world a bequest of your thanks to be harvested at a later time.
In this way you will be “letting the little children come in into the Kingdom,” one which you have helped to prepare for them.
Sow the seeds of the Kingdom for little boys like Joseph and all the generations like him to who will follow. Let this be our Thanksgiving promise.
May God bless us all.