Scripture Reading: Matthew 18: 4-5
The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. And the person who welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.
The school year is now in its third week in the area of the country in which I live. I have encountered many children to whom I have asked about their excitement to going or returning to school. I have received many answers. They wish summer was longer. They are excited. They are scared. They are looking forward to renewing their friendships from the previous year. They are terrified that they will be bullied again this year. If we think about it, those are the same answers we face to almost everything we face in our day-to-day living. In both cases, though, we go on with fear and trepidation into the halls of the unknown, at any age, to continue our journey of life. We shed the fears, the excitement, the unknowns, and dive headlong into a new learning experience.
Jesus was making this example known to the people around him. In Luke, we find a similar story, in which the disciples try to keep the children from approaching Jesus. Jesus’ ministry was to all people, not just the disciples, not just to the Jews, but to all people including the children. Jesus takes it a step further by telling the people around him that unless we become like the child, we can never achieve greatness, and at the same time we must welcome all of the children of God in order to be inclusive enough to be known as welcoming Jesus into our lives.
Christianity is not an easy life. We must work for it using the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given us. We must prepare ourselves, as teachers have to prepare themselves for their new classes, to welcome the child(ren) of God into our lives. It is by welcoming the unknowns, the people we know, the people we work with, and the people in our neighborhoods that we welcome Jesus into their lives. It is by our example of our child-like spirit that we welcome people to a world of excitement, new learning, inquisitiveness, questioning, the constant “Why’s?”, some crying, some fear, some reassurances, and some belief.
Years ago in college I took a public speaking class. One of the points the professor made that was when we talk to a group of people, we must appeal to the child-like spirit in them. We do not treat them in a childish manner, but we look for the opportunity to illuminate their understanding so that they recognize and then enjoy what is being taught. Then, we reach the audience to which we are speaking and engage them.
Isn’t that what we do with children? We engage them in an activity, they learn, and in turn engage someone else with that same activity. Have you ever watched children after the last day of school? They play school, replaying the role of the teacher because they now know the material.
Jesus is telling us that we must welcome children – all children – with welcoming arms. They, too, are looking for a way to cross the river of their life’s journey and are faced with the same challenges and fears that we, as adults, face. For we, too, face the river with the same fears that a child would. If we help someone else in their journey, will we not receive the same help from another person who sees our distresses, fears, and anxieties in life? Who knows, the next person we meet, whether it is in the grocery store, at the drive-thru restaurant, at the bank, or even next door to us, may need that welcoming arms which Christ has given us.
Let us focus on being the welcoming arm in our community. I used to be an EMT for a fire department in a nearby town. I did not want to be an EMT to see people suffering or broken. I wanted to help people and let them know that someone else was there to calm them, start them on the path to healing, and see that they were sent to the proper recovery so that they can resume their life. Let us commit ourselves to the service of Jesus Christ, our Savior, and welcome all into our life with our child-like spirit, recognizing that Jesus Christ is in our midst.