“Blessed and Blessing”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
This passage from Mark is one that
is likely familiar to all of us. Even if you have never cracked the spine of a
Bible, or read a word within it, you can likely picture the scene of Jesus
blessing the children. It is one the quintessential images that comes to mind
when we consider the life and ministry of Jesus.
We can picture the scene.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and
is taking every opportunity to teach along the way. As he was teaching, a group
of parents pushed their way to the front of the crowd so that Jesus might bless
their children. It was the desire of every parent to have their children
blessed by a well-known, well-respected rabbi. They were not that different
than parents today. Every parent hopes for the best opportunities for their
the parents push their way to the front, they are stopped by the disciples. We
are not really sure what their motivation was. Jesus was making his final
journey to Jerusalem and had been clear with his disciples what awaited him
there. Perhaps they were trying to shield Jesus from any undue stress as he
made that final trip.
they simply were following the traditional practices of the day. They simply
did not want Jesus to be interrupted or troubled by a bunch of children. Women
and children were not permitted to be in the presence of the Teacher. They were
to remain in the back, unseen and unheard.
that point in his ministry, Jesus was well known. He likely had a large throng
of people following him, hoping to see him and hear him. No doubt there would
have been many in the crowd that would have been perturbed by this interruption
by those parents and their children.
as we heard, Jesus saw this as a teachable moment.
had just had to settle the argument amongst the disciples about who was the
greatest among them. This was an opportunity to reinforce that lesson. It was
also an opportunity to expand the circle of teaching.
said, “Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them.”
of that day had no status within the community. They were essentially no one.
Even within their families they were under complete authority of their fathers.
Even into adulthood, children honored and obeyed their fathers. Unlike the
children of today, who are welcome and honored, those children were not to be
seen or heard.
Jesus offered a very different picture to those gathered there. “In the Kingdom
of God, these people matter. These people are important. In fact, the Kingdom
of God belongs to them!”
was pretty shocking stuff. For those adult MEN that pursued the places of honor
at banquets, who sat at the city gates doling out judgments, their view and
understanding of the world had just been turned upside down and inside out. The
proud will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted. The last, and the least
shall be first! Those who desire to lead, must be willing to serve. And, yes,
not hinder them. What is more, not only do these children matter, but also,
those such as these also matter. The Kingdom of God belongs to them
who have been rejected matter. And those who have been ignored matter. Those
who have been dismissed or disregarded matter. The Kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
I tell you, those who do not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not
enter into it.
who are not innocent like a child or trusting like a child will not enter the
who are not obedient or willing to learn like a child will not enter the
who are not curious or inquisitive about the Way of God or the way of life in
the Kingdom will not enter into it.
who have developed a jaded view of the world or who have lost their joy will
not enter into the Kingdom.
it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.
rebuked the disciples for blocking access to the children. Clearly, they had
not learned the lesson about greatness in the Kingdom. Jesus would give them a
very visible object lesson. He took the children into his arms, he placed his
hands upon them, and he blessed them. He blessed them.
did not push them aside. He did not send them away. He took them into his arms
and blessed them.
children is one of my favorite parts of my ministry. I love that moment when
the parents place their precious child into my arms. I love that moment when
they entrust their child into my care. I love the looks of love that are on the
parents’ faces, and upon the faces of their friends and family that have
gathered there for the ceremony. I love that moment of connection when I look
into the child’s eyes and make the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
love the looks on YOUR faces when I present the child to the congregation. I
love the smiles that spread from ear to ear. I also love that moment when you
make your promise to love and care for that child, that moment when you
dedicate yourselves to the role that you play as the faith community.
I served the church in New London, New Hampshire, I worked with school
officials and community leaders to create the Kearsarge Area Assets Network.
The initiative was based upon research that showed that successful children and
youth are those who have the most assets. And by assets, the researchers were
not referring to financial assets. They were referring to people.
more caring, supporting, encouraging adult relationships that a child or youth
have, the more likely they are to be healthy, happy and successful. The more
teachers, mentors and role models that they have the better their chances and
opportunities will be.
is nothing in that research that should be surprising to us. We understand that
every child, and every adult for that matter, will be happier and healthier if
they have a caring network of support around them.
having said that, it is surprising to me that some people do not seem to
understand that concept. Or they understand it, they just do not seem to be
able to embrace or embody it. Just like the disciples, some people can be slow
me share a couple of examples with you.
church desires to have their church family filled with young families and
children. They are the future of the church. At one of my previous churches, a
young couple with three children started attending. The children were young,
the oldest was probably seven or eight years old. They sat up in the balcony.
Perhaps keeping a safe distance until they decided if the church was a safe
place for them.
a few weeks, they stopped attending. After they had not been there for a couple
of weeks, I reached out to them and made an appointment to stop by and visit
them. I entered their home and saw that it was just as a house with three
children should be … toys strewn everywhere.
chatted for a little bit, and I asked them what was going on. Why had they
stopped attending? They told me that on the last Sunday that they were with us
in worship, their youngest child … their child with autism … was fidgety. One
of the people sitting in the balcony nearing them kept giving them dirty looks,
and finally said to them, “Can’t you keep that kid quiet?!?!”
kid. That family never did return to the church. They could not be a part of a
community that wanted THAT kid to be quiet.
contrast that example with another from another church that I served. It begins
in about the same way. A new, young family began attending worship. They too
had three young children. One day the middle child was fidgety, but the mother
was struggling holding the youngest. Within moments, one of the members of the
church family said, “Let me hold the baby for you.”
the end of the service, the baby had been held by two or three different people
in the sanctuary! That family felt loved and embraced by the congregation and
they joined soon after.
final story. In the very first church that I served, there was a grandmother
that brought her granddaughter to worship and Sunday school. The little girl
was four or five years old, and she loved the children’s message. When I
invited the children to come forward, she would run down the aisle. One Sunday,
she ran down the aisle, and much to my surprise, she leapt into my lap!
the worship service, the grandmother sought me ought. She apologized profusely
for her granddaughter’s behavior.
said to her, “Please do not apologize. It was wonderful! There is nothing
better than the energy of a child’s joy. The fact that her joy was because of
something happening in worship made it even better!”
not apologize. Do not hinder her. Do not steal her joy.
we begin this new program year, we embark on a new adventure with our children
and youth. And we get to decide what kind of community we will be. We can be
the community that tells THAT kid to keep quiet. Or we can be the community
that blesses the children. The community that says, “You matter. You are
beloved. You are welcome here.”
path will we choose?
think that we already know the answer.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771