Like a Child

364999056_e58e2cdf39_z\ 1 Samuel 16:1-13

No one would’ve looked at David as a boy and imagined that one day he would be king.

It wouldn’t even have crossed anyone’s mind. It would be so far from the realm of possibility, that the thought itself would have been absolutely absurd.

The only way someone could become king is to be a member of a royal family, to be an heir. At the time of this scripture, the king was a man named Saul and David was not a relative of his. Things were not necessarily going so well with Saul and God was preparing to do a new thing, but no one would have imagined young David would replace him.

Not only was David not a member of a royal family, he wasn’t even the eldest son in his own family. He wasn’t the second oldest son or the third or the fourth or the fifth. He had seven brothers in front of him that were older, more mature, and looked the part more than he did.

When God sends Samuel to meet the sons of Jesse, he sees the first one and assumes this is the one. He looks the part. He is tall, handsome, powerful. But God tells Samuel not to look at the outside. The second is brought in, the third, the fourth… David isn’t even brought in to the room. Samuel has to stage a stand in protest in order for them to bring David in from the field.

And yet, we know the rest of the story.

David is anointed and goes on to slay a giant and become a king.

Pastor John preached on David a few weeks ago and how he got distracted and off-course with Bathsheba. John taught us about how God used Nathan to bring David back and we can read in Psalm 51 how God gave David a new heart.

But David was more than a man who made a mistake. He is celebrated to this day as the greatest king in the history of Israel. He built up Jerusalem. He brought the Arc of the Covenant home. He is described as having a heart like God’s.

But no one would’ve looked at him as a boy and imaged that he would be that man.

No one could’ve imagined that the young Jeremiah could become a prophet.

Not even Jeremiah.

When God calls Jeremiah his response is, “Ah Lord God! Truly I don’t know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”

No one would’ve looked at a teenage girl named Mary and thought it would be through her that the Messiah would enter the world.

If I were God, I would’ve picked someone a little bit older, a little more experienced. A family with access to resources and who had demonstrated some solid parenting skills.

But the angel Gabriel shows up to this young girl and declares “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.”

No one would’ve looked at Mary’s boy as a 12 year old and have expected him to astound the religious leaders in the temple who had spent their whole lives studying and memorizing the scripture.

No one would’ve expected that when the Messiah, the Christ, came he would surround himself with children.

After all, there would be some serious work to be done.

There are hungry people that need to be fed, crowds of people bringing their sick to him, teachings to be given, an entire kingdom of God to be brought in to this world, as it is in heaven.

So when people start bringing their children, and even their infants to Jesus, the pictures-of-jesus-with-a-child-1126923-wallpaperdisciples step in. They try and stop it. Jesus is way too busy and important to be a babysitter and bothered with children. The disciples “sternly order” the parents to stop.

But Jesus says:

Let the little children come to me, and 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.

Children are our key to enter the kingdom of God.

Fortunately, today, children have a bit more status than they did in ancient Israel. I believe children are even heard more today than they were a generation ago. We can see it in the movement started by the students of Parkland High School, whose voices have echoed across our country.

And while every church I have ever been to says they want to have more kids in their congregation, I don’t know that we have looked at children as the key to entering the kingdom of God.

How are children that key?

First, kids are incredibly resilient.

I often hear adults say that life was so much easier when they were a child, before work and responsibility. But I think being a child is hard. To be a kid is to be a small person in a big world. It is to have little or no control over your environment. You get up when you are told, you eat what is put in front of you, and you go to bed whether you are ready to or not.

Our kids live in an uncertain world. Us adults have not given them much security and even my boys were afraid to go to school a few months ago when threats were made against their school.

And yet they keep moving forward, they embody the persistence of faith that the Apostle Paul writes about.

Second, kids love purely.

When a little girl wraps her arms around her mother, there is no agenda there. There is no ulterior motive or manipulation, it is pure love.

This is how Jesus teaches us to love God and love one another. With the love like that of a child.

So for us adults, there is much we can learn from the children of our church. Children aren’t around just to be cute or make us feel good, but they are the key to the kingdom of heaven.

But us adults also have a role. We are called to be their guides and mentors. Throughout the scriptures God calls young people to be part of God’s work, but God also uses the adults around them to journey with them.

David has Samuel, Mary has Elizabeth. So for you adults, I want to ask you who are you mentoring? Who are you a Samuel or a Mary for? Who have you recognized as a child gifted by God that you will help guide on their journey.

To the children of our church, I want to directly say the words we say in our church are not just for the adults, they are for you too.

You are made in the image of God.

You, children and youth, are beautifully and wonderfully made.

God loves you just the way you are and God is not finished with you yet.

You are a gift to our church and we are blessed to have you lead us.

You are they key to the kingdom of God, the key for all of us, to become who God created us to be.

And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t be whatever it is that God has created and called you to do.

For God not only called people that no one ever expected in the Bible, God does the same thing with us.

When I was a kid I struggled in school. I went through testing and my mother was told that I had a learning disability. The evaluator said I would probably be able to barely graduate from high school but the best I could hope for was a manual labor job.

And here I am, with five college degree, and honored and humbled to be able to stand here and share the good news of Jesus Christ with you.

No one would’ve looked at me as a kid and expected that I would grow up and become Pastor Greg.

Pastor John grew up in a family where his parents didn’t go to church. No one would’ve looked at him as a kid and imagined he would be such a remarkable man of faith and leadership.

How many of you adults were once at a point in your life where being an active member of a church would’ve seemed the most unlikely thing?

And yet, here we are together, the United Methodist Church for All People.

So what has brought us together and created this remarkable church?

When Samuel anointed David, the scripture says “the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon” him.

It is the Spirit of the Lord that touches our lives every time we come to worship, pray, study, or put on a shirt from the Free Store.

The only way I can explain how I went from being a kid who struggled to the person I am today is the Spirit of the Lord.

The only way we can explain the miracle of the Church for All People is that the Spirit of the Lord came upon us.

This last week all of the churches and pastors and lay leaders of the West Ohio Conference gathered for our annual conference and I want to share with you that the United Methodist Church for All People was well represented.

We were well represented in the people who attended: myself, Katelin, the Ciampas, Anna, Marcia, Mike, and Ernest.

But we not only had good representation, every day our impact was felt.

Our Freedom School received a recognition and award for its work.

Members of our church were elected as leaders on conference boards and committees.

Reverend Chris and Sam provided the core of the music in worship services that were really the highlight and best part of the conference.

Pastor Ernest gathered signatures for the petition on prison reform.

Rev Dee Stickley-Miner spoke before the 3,000 people gathered and proclaimed that “God’s Spirit obliterates the chains of fear.”

Our new church and community worker, Anna Troy, presented Bishop Palmer with four awards from Global Ministries. One of the awards recognized the West Ohio Conference as the number one conference in all of the world in health ministries. And as the former HEAL director, I think we had a little bit to do with that.

Katelin and Mike spoke from the conference floor about the importance of welcoming the stranger around immigration issues and called on the broader church to truly be a church for all people.

Our church was named numerous times, in many presentations, as an example of a church that is doing what a church is supposed to do.

The Church for All People was very present, but not only in our voice and actions but even in the language that was spoken throughout the conference.

The words that we always speak around living in a divine economy of God’s abundance, proclaiming that our God is a God of abundance and not scarcity, knowing that there is enough for all people, was the theme of the entire conference. I believe that the reason this language was spoken is because of our leadership and the fact that we have demonstrated that the assurance of abundance is true.

The United Methodist Church for All People is not only changing the South Side of Columbus, we are changing the church. We are making people look at church differently in the West Ohio Conference and around the world.

So I return from annual conference with a message that you should be proud of who you are as a church. We are having an impact greater than we can see.

34408515_10155784924119755_48291963736162304_nAnd yet, just as we say about ourselves individually, God is not finished with us as a church yet.

I believe we have incredible potential as a church community to share the gifts of grace we have found in ways even greater.

We live in a world where the majority of people we know don’t go to church- p m and we have the opportunity to share with them the love we have found in Jesus Christ.

We have opportunities to grow in our own discipleship to deepen our faith, to be at work in missions to share what we have received, and to work for justice for all people.

Our potential is unlimited, but the key to living in to it is through our children.

As Jesus taught, children are the key to entering the kingdom of God.

So let us be the church that does what a church is supposed to do: let us learn from resilient, faithful love of our children. Let us nurture and guide our children. And for all of us, don’t ever listen to the voice of anyone who might tell you that you can’t. For this church illustrates the truth that with God all things are possible, because with God, anyone is possible.

Amen.

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