I see this wonder and curiosity at a program offered at the library once a week called Books and Babies. For thirty minutes, children, mommies, and me, get together to sing songs and read stories… And I see all of these little children engage their world around them with genuine acute curiosity and wonder. There seems to be no judgment. They don’t judge the stories, even the ones I think are kind of dumb. They don’t judge others around them.
Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child….
Is this what it means to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, that we receive the world without Judgment. And you know I’m not talking about decision making here. I’m talking about the kind of judgment that would lead to separation, the kind of judgment motivated by power, judging others and their actions to put people down, in order to feel better about yourself. ‘Judge ye not, lest ye be judged (Surely Jesus spoke KJV). Believe me, I know what kind of judgment Jesus is talking about. It is one of my more refined qualities. I like to be judge. I know when people aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing It’s easy for me to point out the speck in other people’s eyes.
Maybe it would be good to learn a few lessons from Ruby about how to be less judgmental. She, unfortunately, is going to have little choice but to learn from me. An article that appeared in the Sept 15 edition of Newsweek entitled, “See Baby Discriminate,” shared research in which children are able to distinguish differences in people based on a number of factors, and the easiest is color. When parents talk about people of different skin colors in negative ways, their children in most cases will have negative feelings those “different” people.
As many of you may know, I am coaching an under 6 soccer team. These kids are a trip! 5 five year olds, 4 four year olds, 4 children who are deaf. They run around, chase after the ball, laugh, cry when they fall or get kicked hard.
So often we teach our little children about life, rather than learning from them what it means to run around and play and no one really cares at the end who wins, just so long as there are good snacks. And they grow up with the values they are taught. And at some point their understanding of the world—their curiosity and wonder—eventually becomes one of fear and judgment.
Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.
Sometimes I feel like war between nations is so distant—so removed from my experience. Yet, our nation is constantly at war. Daily we hear reports of our troops in combat. It may be far from our home, yet, those fighting are from around here, those fighting have made distinctions between the colors of flags and creeds and determined that one side is right and another side is wrong. This is what Chris Hedges, long time war correspondent for the New York Times, says of war:
“I learned early on that war forms its own culture. The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug. It is peddled by mythmakers—historians, war correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state—all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small stations in life, and a bizarre and fantastic universe that has a grotesque and dark beauty…. Fundamental questions about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of our place on the planet are laid bare when we watch those around us sink to the lowest depths. War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us….
We change from being little children—to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs; to people who may find our meaning, our purpose, our reason for living, by making war, not only around the world, but in our own communities. Who can we trust? Who can make the right decisions? And for us adults, the challenge this morning on world communion Sunday is: How can we become child-like again so as to inherit the kingdom of God? To contemplate a world with curiosity and wonder, and not fear and judgment.
The passage from Isaiah chapter 2 is one of my favorites, appropriate for this world communion Sunday. In poetic language, the prophet sees God’s house established on the highest mountains. All nations make their way and gather there. And there everyone learns of the law of the Lord. There God sits on the throne, and it is when they see that God is judge—a just and righteous judge—what do they do? They beat their swords into plowshares. When they recognize God as judge, they find their spears will be more useful as pruning hooks. This beautiful portrait is one that according to Isaiah we are to anticipate happening in the latter days. But, can we begin to live in anticipation of this event, live as if it is happening now. I love this big view of all nations gathering at the mountain.
For it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 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 hand on them, and blessed them.