1374) Let Them Come

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LUKE 18:15-17:

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them.  When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.   But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

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    One of the best sermons I ever heard from one of my students was by a young woman who didn’t have a church, and no place to preach.  So she went over to Wesley Woods, a little place for elderly people with three levels of care– you know those places.  They let her have a Sunday afternoon service once a month in the sun-room.  People would wheel down there and listen to her.  She was a sprightly young woman, and she said to me, “Would you come and hear me preach and evaluate my preaching?  I want to be a good preacher, and I don’t have a church.”

     I said, “Okay, okay,” and I went one Sunday afternoon.  She read her text from Luke 18, the one about the mothers bringing the babies to Jesus; the one where Jesus says, “Permit the little children to come to me.”  I said to myself, “Good grief!  Of all the texts to read here– the average age is 117– and she reads, ‘Bring the little children’?”

     This is what she did.  She said, “I still can’t get over the fact that Jesus’ helpers, the twelve apostles– you know, ministers– said, ‘Get those children out of here.’   But in a way, I can understand this.  I mean, after all, they make noise.  They have to be cared for.  Sometimes you have to get up and leave with them.  They take everybody else’s time.  Besides that, they can’t give anything.  They can’t teach a class.  They can’t sing in the choir.  They’re just, you know, they’re a burden.  I understand that.”  She went through all that.  But then she told them that Jesus said, “Leave them alone, let them come.  Those are kingdom people.”

     And those old people just nodded– “That’s right, that’s right.”  She never mentioned elderly people, but they perceived; they got it.  And it was marvelous.

–Preaching Professor Fred Craddock, Craddock Stories, page 148.

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We commit to your care, O Lord, those who are old and full of years, and can no longer bear the burden and heat of the day.  Grant them to have so trusted and learned of you in years which are gone, that in the loss of their daily work and the world they have long known, they shall not have lost you.  Give them light at evening time, and the assurance that, by serene example, they may also serve who only stand and wait; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Willard Sperry, Dean of Harvard Divinity School,  (1882-1954)

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