Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sermon, Proper 22B, Mark 10:13-16

What are the first three points of our mission statement?

Invite. Include. Inform.

We all have a requirement to participate in all five of our points, but especially these first three. These first three points are how we evangelize. Evangelism, we were reminded at convention, is a requirement of every Christian. Jesus didn't tell his disciples, "Make disciples of all those who come to you . . ." What he said was, "Go and make disciples . . ."


Go forth and invite people into the kingdom. Go forth and include people by baptizing them. Go forth and inform them about discipleship.

Episcopalians, in general, do not do a very good job at evangelizing. We tend to see worship as a public expression of our private faith. Again, that's a generalization because, specifically, I think our congregation does do a good job at inviting people in. We've had to. When I first arrived here, we had two choices -- evangelize or close. People chose to evangelize and that is not only reflected in our increased numbers, but it has also become a part of who we are. And that's a good thing.

But evangelism can have a down side. Or, maybe not evangelism per se, but how we choose to evangelize. If we are honest with ourselves, our life would be much more comfortable if the Church were filled with people just like us -- people with the same politics, people with the same theological bent, people about the same age. If our kinds of people filled the pews, we would be less agitated than on those rare occasions when I preach something that might tend to rile people up.

But as our Presiding Bishop said last week in her address to the convention delegates, some of the people who are most important in our lives are the ones who annoy us . Besides, how boring would it be if everyone were just like us? We need those other people. We need the people who annoy us. We need the Other. If for no other reason than to challenge us and make us think about where we are and what we believe. We need to remember to evangelize to those people as well.

And that brings me to today's gospel. After his encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus is alone in a house with his disciples and people were bringing little children to him to be blessed. Now, the first thing you should be asking is, "If Jesus is alone in the house with the disciples, where did all the kids and their parents come from?"

Aside from that, however, I want to focus on this scene. People are bringing kids up to Jesus to be blessed and the disciples got bent out of shape. Why? Because they were kids. Because they were unruly. Because they couldn't sit still. Because they made noise. Because they annoyed the disciples. The people who annoy us the most are often the ones we most need around.

Jesus rebuked the disciples and says, "Let the children come to me. Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

Most people hear that and think something along the lines of innate trust, without second thoughts, without seeing ulterior motives, innocence. And that may be true; but I had a conversation awhile ago where something else was mentioned.

If you've ever worked with little kids, or remember your own as somewhere in the K-2 range, the one thing they are famous for is asking questions. Why is the sky blue? Why do bears climb trees? Is it cold in heaven? If it isn't cold, why do angels wear long sleeves? Why do leaves turn colors? Why . . . why . . . why? It's enough to drive you nuts.

They ask because they want to know. We ask questions when we want to know. Let the little children come to me and receive the kingdom of God as a little child.

Let the children come to me. They make noise at the wrong time. They run around disrupting things. They can't sit still. They can be annoying. And they represent all those people out there who aren't like us. But we are called to evangelize to them as well. Go. Invite.

And kids ask the darnedest questions. How come this? Why that? What if this happened? Can I do that? What would you do if?

Receive the kingdom of God as a little child. If we are to be disciples, we need to ask questions. Everything from, "Was the dispute between Arius and Athanasius really that big of a deal?" to, "Why do you use white wine for communion?" Ask the questions. Be inquisitive. The more childlike we are, the more we'll learn.

Invite. Include. Inform.

Invite those around you to church, knowing that Jesus commanded us to Go.

Include those who walk through our doors welcoming them like little children. That means putting up with behaviors and attitudes we may not like.

Inform people who come in not only by answering their questions but by encouraging them to ask. Because it's through our questioning that discipleship is deepened.

We are all children of God. Now go and invite the rest of the kids to join us.


MadameOvary | 9:01 AM, October 05, 2009  

As the mom of a 5-year-old boy, I can really appreciate this sermon. Thank you!

Reverend Ref + | 9:40 AM, October 05, 2009  

And, honestly, I love that K-2 age group, or 4-7 years old. I can tell stories about Cinderella making pumpkin pie to get her man and angels wearing long-sleeves to look more impressive when they fly; or I can make pancakes in the shape of fish in Sunday school and they all think it's the best story they've ever heard.

Personally, I think heaven means I'll be 6 years old forever.

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