St Mark 10: 13 – 16 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.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
Reflection: Most of our churches are familiar with the idea of parents bringing infants to be “blessed”, “baptised”, “christened” or sometimes just “done” by the Minister. Churches can be as curmudgeonly about this as the disciples seemingly were. We want to question their motives and check whether they really understand what they are doing. It wouldn’t do if this were just superstition, would it? We’re not in the business of indulging superstition, are we? Yet when parents brought infants to be touched by the holy man, Jesus seemed pretty relaxed with the whole scene.
More than that, far from taking the opportunity to educate the parents and check out their credentials, Jesus uses the occasion to educate the disciples. “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
There is plenty of mileage to be had from thinking through just what this essential essence of “childlikeness” IS which enables you to receive the Kingdom of God. I don’t think it is cuteness or innocence, but rather, total helplessness. The infant can make no case for having earned or deserved her place in the kingdom of God, she just accepts it as a gift of grace.
But I’d add one more thought. My experience of infants is that if you give them something they will test it to destruction. They will put it in their mouth, throw it at the dog, push it into the CD player or bang it against a wall… They will play with it and be creative with it, they will be joyful with it and noisy with it. Maybe that’s also how we should be receiving the Kingdom of God?
Prayer: Gracious God, you offer me the Kingdom of God, I mentally catalogue the good deeds that must have entitled me.
Gracious God, you offer me the Kingdom of God, I recount the story of my faithfulness that must have gained my entry.
Gracious God, you offer me the Kingdom of God, Make me infant-like in my acceptance and toddler-like in my living of it.
The Rev’d Phil Nevard, Minister of Kingsteignton URC, South Devon and Synod Interim Minister.