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Children of the Promise


Ephesians 2:10;  Mark 10:13-16

Today our 2023 Vacation Bible School comes to an end, and we can say with a mix of relief and excitement WOW! What a marvelous, intense, revealing days God has gifted to all of us! children, church folks, families! Inspired by a very warm, welcoming Jesus, together we explored what it means to be children of God, designed to be good people and to do all the good we can.


That mural painting on the back can you see it sums up the whole week.

Despite being so busy with teaching and healing the multitudes, Jesus still found time to be with a bunch of kids jumpy, noisy kids, like us here today. Isn’t that nice?

To a certain point, because he then said something that upset his disciples and other adults: “Friends, if you don’t welcome the kingdom of God like one of these jumpy, noisy kids, well, you’d better forget about it!” No wonder those grown-ups were upset – “Jesus, did you say “to be like children,” these children? Don’t you see? They are distracting you from serious business, they are wasting your time and ours!”


Those grown-ups had some problems with the notion that kids are sort of entitled to inherit the kingdom just because they are kids. As we all know, kids can be mean and self-centered as adults. Let’s see — is Jesus talking about the average toddler, whose Property Laws read more or less like this?

If I like it, it’s mine. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine. If I can take it from you, it’s mine. If I saw it first, it’s mine. If it was yours and you put it down for a second, sorry buddy, now it’s mine. If it’s broken, well, in that case is yours!

Is there any sense of “innocence” in these toddlers? Or in this boy, 8, who wrote to God like this –“Dear God, Do you have an extra plague for my sister. Like you did to the Egyptians. She’s real annoying.” Or is Jesus talking about the average 11, or 12 year-old kids, like the one in the story about lunch time at a parochial school?

The nun in charge of the cafeteria posted a note next to the apples at the beginning of the lunch line: “Take only ONE. God is watching.” Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A kid posted a note that said, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”

Where is the “innocence” of these kids? Are these the children Jesus has in mind when he says that the kingdom belongs to them?


Over the years I have grown more skeptical of the so called “innocence” label we commonly attach to our kids . . .But if not “innocence,” what is that that Jesus is trying to identify with children that is so unique to them, something so special in them that qualifies them to inherit the kingdom?

What Jesus has in mind – it seems to me — is that creative, trusting sense of wonder — so unique to our children. The same sense of trusting wonder that shaped our own lives as kids.

Do you remember those days when what was inside our heads was so real, so tangible, so concrete as the chubby Santa who showed up on Christmas Day with our dream presents and plenty of candy? When it was so easy for us to welcome the holy, the sacred, into our lives?


Imagine our lives now with such a child-like sense of trusting wonder! We can constantly hope and pray that everything may be better than it is. That God’s love may eventually prevail in a Good Friday world. And we would not hesitate to be all the good we can be, to do all the good we can do!

All those children in the mural – all these children right here in our midst today– point out to the Promise of a new life in the Spirit, a new life each of us can enjoy and share if we welcome it with the same sense of wonder and trust that adorns their lives. It is not their wisdom, their strength, not even their righteousness what makes these children heirs of the Promise. Rather, their absolute weakness and gracious dependence on a gracious God who has made them “unique” and who has “designed” them to be good and to do good.


When I first heard this story about Jesus with the children, our Sunday School teacher used the word “fullness,” “plenitude” of life, so it was just natural for me to imagine the kingdom of God as my favorite chocolate cake all covered with dulce de leche and hundreds of scoops of vanilla ice cream on top, and around, all over.

Thus, I was always so excited with Jesus’s Promise. Thank God my early theological understanding has evolved a little, yet I still get excited with the promise of a life lived in plenitude – to the brim, as grandma used to say.

Friends, our Gospel today invites us to reclaim this amazing gift, this extraordinary power, for it can transform our lives and make us dream about a new beginning.

Please, let the Holy Spirit do her job. And if you do, you will soon know that you are seeing reality as it is. And when that happens, you will rejoice with the joy of childhood, and you will trust as children usually do whenever they recognize someone both lovable and loving.


Bob, age 6, wrote to Santa: “Dear Santa, I was going to write God but I heard that you were in charge of toys. Maybe next time. Love you tons.” Anita, age 10, wrote, “Dear Jesus, I want to thank you for going up there on the Cross for us every Good Fridays. You must be real happy when the weekend is over.” Ryan, age 7, addressed God as “Dear Special Person –my next birthday is July 16. Mark it down. You are neat.” Michelle, age 9, wrote, “Dear God, could you change the taste of asparagus? Everything else is OK. Love.”

Pastor Ariel, almost 75, and a big boy at heart, someone who really knows about cakes, wrote, “Dear God, don’t forget to reward all these parents and grandparents and great-grandparents with a big slice of your kingdom, for they shared their kids with us. And another big slice for our church folks, for they welcomed these kids into their hearts. Love you more.”