Scripture: Mark 10:13-16 (NRSV)
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.
The image of children and Jesus from Mark's gospel is both beloved and powerful. Jesus reminds his friends and followers that children hold a special place in the kingdom of God, and all who seek that kingdom are to live like children — open.
The way of life for children in the first century was not easy. It is not easy for many in the 21st century. Images of children have been in the news over these last few weeks as the worldwide refugee crisis grows day by day: children huddled together keeping warm, children with arms extended waiting for food, and children clinging to their parents for life and safety.
And then there's the image that went viral and straight into our hearts: a three year old boy, with a red t-shirt, blue pants, and tiny Velcro shoes, face down in the water. Aylan Kurdi, along with his brother, Gaylip, and his mother, Rehen, drowned after a failed attempt to flee from Syria to Greece.
In the midst of all these images, someone asked me, "Where is Jesus?" I couldn't respond at the time, but a few hours later, the Spirit whispered these words: He's in the tears of the parents, in the courage of those who seek safety, in the arms of rescuers and refugee workers, in the voice of those who speak out for justice and compassion, and in the hearts of those who open their homes to receive a stranger. And Jesus can be in me and you when we let the children come to us, and respond by lifting them with love and blessing them with our acts of kindness, compassion, and justice.
Jesus, our Jesus, give us courage to follow your example and open our arms to all the children of the world. Amen.
associate minister at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford