The Message, May 22, 2022, "... and He Blessed Them"

The Message, May 22, 2022, "... and He Blessed Them"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
May 24, 2022


“… and He Blessed Them”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Mark 10:13-16

            Prior to enrolling in seminary, I worked a variety of jobs. I worked for a plastics company in their injection molding department, as a part-time custodian for my church, and I was offered a position with the childcare program at the local YMCA. (The Executive Director of the Y was a family friend.) I shared in my Weekly Greeting this week that early on, children made me nervous. I did not know how to relate to them. So, I thought that working at the Y would be helpful.

            Naturally, before I could start, I had to go through their training programming. As one might expect, one of the sessions focused upon boundaries and appropriate touch. It was all pretty obvious: do not initiate touch. No hugging. No hand-holding.

            I distilled the lesson to its most basic level … Do Not Touch The Kids!

            When a child asked me to tie their shoes … do not touch. Do not touch.

            One day, I was working with the kindergarten class, and I was sitting in one of the tiny chairs so that I could be at their level. Then, one of the children climbed into my lap. Alarm bells. Do not touch! DO NOT TOUCH!!

            I launched myself up out of that chair as if I was sitting on a rocket booster! The poor child was ejected from my lap in the process and went tumbling onto the floor.

            I asked the YMCA Director to move me over to custodial services. Too much pressure working with the children!

            The passage from Mark’s Gospel is dramatically different than my encounter with the children. It is a tender and beautiful scene. It is likely that this passage is among those that people consider to be their favorites. It is a truly beautiful moment.

            Jesus was sitting and teaching. He had been answering questions from the Pharisees. In fact, he had just finished answering a tricky question about divorce. Then those adults appeared and pushed their way through the crowd. It was every parent’s desire to have their children blessed by a famous rabbi.

            And as we heard, the disciples rebuked them, they tried to shield Jesus from them.

            Before we get too critical of the disciples, let us remember that at this point, Jesus was making his final trip to Jerusalem. Without a doubt, the tension and anxiety among the disciples must have been overwhelming. They knew that they were heading into a perilous time and they may have wanted to protect Jesus.

            That is what makes the scene even more meaningful. Despite what was happening in his life and ministry, despite the fact that he was heading into the teeth of his opposition, Jesus made time for the children. He reached out and drew them in. He may have hugged them or even … heaven or the YMCA forbid … allowed them to sit on his lap. Then he laid his hands upon them, and he blessed them.

            It is a precious moment. I am certain that we can all picture it in our mind’s eye. It is so tender, so intimate. It is a moment that we would love to insert ourselves into. We would love to have witnessed that incredible scene. Even more, what we would not give that have Jesus lay his hands upon us and bless us.

            Then, ever the teacher, Jesus knew that this was a teachable moment for his disciples. He said to them, “Truly I tell you, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. If you do not approach the kingdom life as one of these, you will not enter into it.”

            We lose a little something when we read a text in isolation. We do not fully grasp the context in which the passage occurs. Not only were Jesus and the disciples on their way to Jerusalem, walking for Calvary and the Cross, but Jesus had just rebuked the disciples because they had been arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest among them. (Mark 9:33-37) And that episode was followed immediately by the disciples trying to stop an “outsider” from using Jesus’ name. (Mark 9:38-39)

            This is a tender and beautiful scene. However, nearly two thousand years later, we tend to romanticize the story. We have colored it with Twenty-first Century “pencils” … with our thoughts and sensibilities.

            “Oh, this story is soooo much nicer than Pastor Scott dumping the children on the floor. Jesus is so tender and sweet!”

            And that is true! Jesus IS tender and sweet. Jesus loves all of God’s children. However, all of the beautiful images of Jesus smiling and blessing the children while he holds a sheep under his arm are a projection from our desires. They are not inaccurate. They just do not tell the whole story.

            The world of the First Century was very different than our world today. Our children are precious. They are the future. We desire to see them, hear them, and include them in our collective lives. But, in the First Century, children were non-entities. They had no status. Essentially, they were nobodies. They were the property of their fathers. The father made all of their decisions, often into adulthood. The father could even SELL them if he so desired.

            With that understanding, we might get further insight into why the disciples rebuked the adults. “What are THEY doing here?! Why are you troubling Jesus with THEM?!”  

            With that in mind, we see that the scene and the lesson take on a whole new dynamic and added significance. Jesus did more than simply stop and share that beautiful and tender moment with the children. He also taught that ALL people are worthy of our time, our care, our attention and our blessing. No one is a non-entity. No one is a nobody in Jesus’ eyes or heart.

            Therefore, WE must reflect the same in our lives and our ministries. Every child of God has value.

            The accompanying lesson is that like the children that depended entirely upon their fathers, we are to approach the Kingdom of Heaven like those who depend entirely upon God. We are dependent upon God’s grace. We do not have the right or the authority to set the terms for those who seek entrance into the Kingdom.

            The disciples needed to learn from the children rather than hinder them. They needed to learn how to bless and also how to be blessed. They needed that oft-repeated lesson of the importance of humility. They needed to learn how to receive the kingdom like a child … a First Century child.

            On this day, we gather to celebrate our Christian Education ministries here at First Parish Church. We celebrate all of those who commit their time and energy to teaching our children, and we are so thankful for all of them, and the gift that they share with the children.

            We also gather here to remember all that we have to learn from the children. Their insights matter. Their view of the world can speak to the part of our hearts and brains that we may have not listened to for a while.

            And we also come into the Presence of God to be reminded that ALL of God’s children are precious. ALL of God’s children have value. And that we are called to gather them in and bless them. Amen.


Congregational Church