The text this morning was Mark 9: 30-37. The pericope ends with Jesus taking a child in his arms and announcing “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
I’ve preached on this text from all three synoptic gospels. I’ve preached on the “Suffer the little children and forbid them not . . .” texts. Always been abstract about it. The child is a representative of us in humble need. If we don’t need the divine the way a child needs its parents we won’t find the divine. G-d does not force g-dself on us any more than a parent forces a child to accept their affection.
Today I finished talking about the desire to be “the greatest,” a desire that afflicts many of us (but not Kris). And I came to verse 37. I looked out and there were four little guys. Three toddler girls. Four guys under the age of 1. Daddy Derek let me take his son Andrew in my arms. I finished preaching with Andrew’s help.
That changed my understanding of what Jesus was saying. He took them in his arms.
I took that little guy in my arms. It changed how I understand that verse. It made me think about the little guy who washed up on a Turkish beach. It made me think again of the nineteen year old pregnant woman who collapsed in front of Richard Engle on the Hungarian border. It made me think about the helplessness of this little guy in my arms.
And there was more, is more. But I can’t tell you the more. The more was a feeling, deep in my soul. Deep in my heart. Deep in my feelings. There is something more to be said about welcoming children, being children. There is something more to be said, but I can’t say it yet. Maybe later. Maybe not later, maybe never.
So if I can’t articulate this new understanding of Mark’s Gospel do I really understand? And how shall I communicate what I’ve discovered to you in the pew?
Perhaps you too have to take a little child in your arms while reading the passage and have that little guy smile at you, drool on you, be a little guy in your arms. “Whoever welcomes one of these little ones welcomes me, and not just me but the one who sent me.”
More than that I cannot say, so I must simply pass over it in silence.