Tag Archives: children

A Word in Time: Saturday

This is my final contribution to the Methodist Church daily Bible study. Thanks to those who have commented on each day’s posts here.

Luke 9:46-50

True Greatness

 An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.’

Another Exorcist

 John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’

 

Psalm: Psalm 76 

Background

I recall a conversation with two elderly ladies bemoaning the way children had stopped going to what they called Sunday School. Interestingly, they hadn’t been to church for years either!

Their father had once been superintendent of the town’s largest Sunday School with 400 children each week. One of the sisters said: “And every Sunday they came, sat in rows on the floor and not one of them dared move. They were completely silent because they knew what would happen if they made a peep.”

I suggested it wasn’t much fun. “It wasn’t supposed to be fun,” she said.

Another church I know realised their work with children and families had virtually died and so began afresh, concentrating on babies and parents; building from the ground up. It started with radical welcome, games, new equipment and ensuring that the families always felt at home.

Over time and with much love the work has grown until more than 100 children a month – and their families – now engage with that church and hear the gospel in new ways. And it is fun!

As the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest, Jesus took someone who in those days didn’t count – a child – and shamed them into understanding the upside-down values of the kingdom of God.

To welcome someone who was discounted in the eyes of society was to open the door for God. It enabled God’s just society to be built and it disabused the disciples of the need to prove themselves better than each other.

What about us? Perhaps our church doesn’t have children but we may well have other marginalised people in or near us. As Jesus said: “the least among all of you is the greatest”.

To Ponder

  • What are the issues around greatness that challenge us in our churches? How can we make a difference?
  • Is Jesus’ message about children still relevant in a denomination where many churches no longer have a Junior Church or any children connected? If so, how might you and your local church convey that message?
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Offerings that cost nothing

I’m not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice – 2 Samuel 24: 24 (from The Message*)

TorchwoodLast week’s Torchwood series on BBC1 TV was great fun for lots of reasons but featured a storyline of earth being visited by aliens who demanded the sacrifice of 10 per cent of all earth’s children. A tithe. That, of course, is just like the biblical figure that God expected his people to give in offerings although the connection was never actually made in the programme.

Among the great moral dilemmas running through the series were the questions of which children should be handed over: children from failing schools; troublesome children who wouldn’t be missed; surely not the children of government ministers?

At one point The Prime Minister instructs a senior Whitehall officer that his children will become “units” in the process … for the public good. A terrible outcome is inevitable.

The decision by the Prime Minister is one that costs him nothing. He has no children.

The conclusion to Torchwood: Children of Earth wove a satisfying thread around that dilemma, the deaths of some more of the main series characters and the character of Torchwood’s head Captain Jack Harkness, an undying time-traveller, whose daughter and grandson have been caught up in the madness.

In the Old Testament King David faced a desperate dilemma. He had done wrong and people were dying in his land. He came to make a sacrifice to God and was offered a threshing floor and ox by their owner. His response was “I’m not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice.” In other words, unless the solution had cost him something then it wasn’t a solution. So David bought the threshing barn and the oxen and the fuel for the sacrifice. Then his offering was heard by God.

The end of Torchwood involved a costly sacrifice.

It didn’t have the prospect of resurrection that Christians can hold onto with our Easter story but it showed again the truth that costly sacrifice is at the heart of God’s self-offering.

 

* The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible in contemporary language