People were bringing even infants to Jesus that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and 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.” (Luke 18:15-17).
We often idealize this reading as a sentimental moment between Jesus and children to make the case for the importance of nurturing faith in our youngest members, and including them in worship. And that’s a good thing. Children in worship, and in general participating in the life of the congregation is a sign of healthy ministry.
But it is important to note that in Jesus’ time, children represented a particularly vulnerable and marginalized segment of society. The disciples believe that Jesus is “too important” for the likes of these children.
Yet Jesus reminds them (and us!) that it is to the vulnerable and marginalized that the kingdom of God belongs. That can be a tough pill to swallow. But it reminds us that our relationship with Jesus requires vulnerability. Not as a prerequisite, but because it is our vulnerability that breaks down any notion of our own self-righteousness and opens us to a relationship based on grace. Vulnerability – being honest about our shortcomings and weaknesses – is the antidote to our feelings of not being, doing, or achieving “enough.” We are not perfect. Thank goodness we don’t have to be.
By owning our vulnerability rather than shunning it, it becomes our greatest source of strength. We are not in charge. God is! And because Jesus welcomes us, we are invited to consider others who are vulnerable or marginalized as equally welcome.
When planning our ministries, particularly our worship services how are we allowing the “little children,” – those who are vulnerable, marginalized, feeling “not enough” – to come? And remember that in today’s average congregation, this includes actual children! There are many dangers that might stop others from coming. Our own cultural biases and personal preferences can become stumbling blocks to an increasingly diverse and unchurched society.
But when we truly open our doors (or zoom rooms) in a way that embraces vulnerability, we mirror the kingdom of God.
Eternal God, you sent your son to reveal the boundless nature of your love. Forgive us when we put limits on your love. Teach us to embody the grace you give freely. Equip us to love like Jesus. Amen.