Sunday, October 04, 2015

Trading a "Kingdom" for cardboard boxes

Mark 10:2-16 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,[a] 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Jesus Blesses Little Children
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 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. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Cardboard box blessings
If I gave you some card board boxes and a little bit of time, what do you think you could make? I have in fact brought with me today some cardboard boxes for you to do exactly that – make something! When we are young – we believe that we can make anything out of simple things: Card board boxes and blankets are the tools that unlimited dreams are made of!
Jesus loves the fact that children have amazing imaginations and open hearts. In fact, Jesus blesses the littlest children and encourages their open hearts and imagination. May I give you a blessing today? (Anoint the children with oil) ”Remember that you always are a child of God.”

 Heavenly Father: bless each little one here today. Give them big dreams and inspire their hearts and minds to use their gifts and imaginations to serve you and the people around them. AMEN

Trading boxes...
I’m not exactly sure when it happens, but there comes a point in childhood when we switch playing with boxes and blanket forts for other games like tag and “King of the hill”. Thankfully, my grandson Owen is happily blissful with boxes for the time being. We currently have a large cardboard box tucked into the corner of the kitchen that daily comes out to become whatever his imagination can muster. It is true that little children love to play with boxes, but as kids become older the emphasis on imagination can begin to fade in exchange for the enchanting glow of “winning the game”.

Over the past several weeks we’ve witnessed this challenging in our bible readings as we heard about the disciples arguing about “who was the greatest” and “who would have the honor of sitting to the right side (seat of honor) of Jesus in heaven”. While the disciples are walking with Jesus, they stop living in the present and shift their attention on who will be the “best” at the end of the game.
Perhaps the reason little children are good at creating anything from humble resources is only part their imagination, but mostly their ability to live in the present.

Jesus has the amazing ability to always “be” in the present. When Jesus is walking with the disciples – he is really there. When Jesus is responding to the Pharisees questions about the law and divorce, Jesus is so attentive to his questioners that he can see where their question stems from… hardness of heart. Jesus teaches his present-ness to his disciples even when they try to turn little children away; and takes them into his hands and blesses them. In each and every moment of ministry, Jesus is present. Jesus is attentive. Jesus is the one who calls us his own.

Earlier this week, I spoke with a friend from the west coast who is struggling with her belief in God. She desires to have a burning bush experience with God. She wants all of her questions answered. She desires all things about Jesus to be neatly explained. For all the years we’ve been friends, I tell her, Jesus isn’t easily explained –Jesus is mysterious - but Jesus is always reaching out to you. Jesus really does love you. Earlier this week, she had an experience with hearing this message in a new way from a total stranger.

As she was washing clothes at a laundromat, a woman she did not know came up to her and said, “I just feel like I need to tell you that God loves you and that you are not alone.” With delivering the message, the woman left and my friend sent me a message…“God came to me and told me I’m loved! God sent a woman who did not even know me – or that I’d been asking God to help me – but GOD really did want me to know that I’m loved!”

As I listened to her story, I was reminded that Jesus is always with us in the present. While our moments with Jesus may not be as dramatic as laundromat messages from strangers, it does not nullify the still and not so still ways that God speaks hope, comfort, love and faith into our lives. With God’s help, we stop struggling to be at the top of the hill or to be first in line. Jesus comes to us and blesses us – even in the most difficult of times. Jesus is the one who sanctifies each of us – and like Hebrews 1 states…”those who are sanctified all have one Father. For the reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”

Jesus is the one who went to the hill of Calvary and became the king who would die for the sake of humanity – for all the little children, no matter our age. God knows the challenge it is for us to be in the present – to be open to blanket forts and empty boxes being something other than blankets and boxes. God knows that the weight of life and its challenges pull us away from the present and lead us to past regret and future worry, and comes to meet us in all of it.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God send’s us Jesus. To meet us in our joy – in our sorrow – and even in the laundromat – to extend eminent grace and remind us that we are loved, to remind us that we are blessed and to remind us that we are his beloved little children.

Eminent Grace, (Closing prayer from Prayers on the Prairie )

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