An act of worship at home
Reading Matthew 11 vv 16-19, 25-30
‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
We humans are strange creatures! John the Baptist and Jesus both knew the truth of the old saying “You can’t please all of the people all of the time”, but for completely opposite reasons.
People complained about John the Baptist because he was so severe in his observance of fasting and abstinence. Many saw him as too narrow and harsh in his beliefs. But they also complained about Jesus because he enjoyed having meals with friends and strangers, and according to our reading some even saw him as a glutton and a drunkard. “You’re just like children,” Jesus told them, “always complaining because I don’t quite match your expectations. Because I do things my way instead of doing what you want me to do or expect me to do.”
But just a few verses later on in the same passage, Jesus commends those with a childlike grasp of his message. He says, “I thank you, Father, for hiding these things from the wise and intelligent and revealing them to infants.”
Perhaps the difference is between being childish and being childlike. Those who are childish are unhappy when things don’t go exactly their way. They need constant support and constant affirmation for all they do. They’re unable to function by themselves, but always need somebody with them to affirm them. Those who are childish haven’t yet faced all the realities of life. They may have grown outwardly, but they haven’t grown very much inwardly.
The childlike are quite different. They find life a constant source of joy and delight. At some point they’ve managed to break those bonds which keep them tied to the familiar and well-known. They’re able to go off and explore by themselves, and they’re able to allow other people to go off by themselves too. They tend to be outward looking rather than inward looking, and they’re able to value other people for who they are, rather than needing other people to fulfil certain expectations.
When we’re childish we can have closed minds and only see life our way. But when we are childlike we can have open minds and so be ready to receive whatever may come our way. And so it’s the childlike who hear God’s word because they’re open to all influences. And it’s the childish who miss out because God rarely speaks in the way in which they want him or expect him to speak, and they’re too afraid to consider any other way.
Jesus summed it up when he said, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15) He was talking about the childlike rather than the childish. He was talking about the qualities of acceptance and joy and the ability to find delight in the simplest of things. He was talking about having an open mind and being prepared to explore in order to discover the truth. He was talking about being able to allow other people to be themselves, rather than always needing them to fulfil expectations.
Those who are able to allow childlike qualities to develop within them are able to experience the Kingdom of God here and now. And anyone who experiences that, discovers a vibrant, exciting, new life; “eternal life”.
God who loves little children of any age,
So often we may catch ourselves being utterly childish. We can pout and sulk when things don’t go our way, and pretend we can’t do anything unless someone comes with us. We know you understand the inner fears which cause us to act in this way, but such childish behaviour is ugly and cramping.
Help us to develop the childlike qualities of fun and delight and laughter. Enable us to face our inner fears, and give us the confidence to dare to go out alone, like a grown-up person. Encourage us to step outside the limiting restrictions we impose upon ourselves, so that we too may experience vibrant, exciting life in all its fulness – life as you would have us live it.
We ask this through the one who dared to be himself, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hymn StF 443 – Come, let us sing of a wonderful love
Come, let us sing of a wonderful love,
tender and true;
out of the heart of the Father above,
streaming to me and to you:
dwells in the heart of the Father above.
Jesus, the Saviour, this gospel to tell,
came with the helpless and hopeless to dwell,
sharing their sorrow and shame;
seeking the lost,
saving, redeeming at measureless cost.
Jesus is seeking the wanderers yet;
why do they roam?
Love only waits to forgive and forget;
home, weary wanderer, home!
dwells in the heart of the Father above.
Come to my heart, O thou wonderful love,
come and abide,
lifting my life, till it rises above
envy and falsehood and pride;
seeking to be
lowly and humble, a learner of thee.
Robert Walmsley (1831-1905)
The blessing of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and forever more. Amen.