LSB Setting III with Holy Communion – Rally Day
Sermon Title: Turn, and become like children!
Text: Matt. 18:1-20
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
C. S. Lewis once said: There is a stage in a child's life at which it cannot separate the religious from the [mere festive] character of Christmas or Easter. [A story is] told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began 'Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.' This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety. But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and [festive] aspects of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer seem sacramental [or set apart]. And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the [chocolate] eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweet. They will have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life [of their own].
C. S. Lewis
But today in our lesson we learn of childlike faith and that to be a true Disciples of Christ one must first,
Turn, and become like children!
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Last week we talked about being a disciple of Jesus and picking up our crosses to follow Him. The bearing of one’s cross can a hardship in this life, and for some it has become even a sacrifice of life, or as Jesus said:
“but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
But, the disciples start talking among themselves wondering who, among them, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? The work of Satan and their own sinful pride for sure were at work and had way to the pride of life. Though they had been discussing this privately Jesus knew what had been going on and in the gospel of St. Mark asks them specifically in chapter 9:
“What were you discussing on the way?” Mark 9:33b
So, Jesus, as has been his way teaches again the disciples an important lesson. He calls a little child to himself so as to illustrate the point in a very tangible way. St. Mark goes on to say that Jesus took the child in His arms [Mark 9:36] and we could understand the Lord’s comfort to this little one as he places the child in their midst saying,
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Turn, and become like children!
Sinful pride can become arrogance.
On one of my visits to the seminary I met Bob Scott who was beginning the SMP program a few years after me. He worked for GM for many years before retiring and following the Lord’s call into ministry. Bob also is an author and has written or edited a number of books on the Civil War. The first of his books was written in 1985 and was called “Into the Wilderness”
And, during the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet [which is a low protective wall or earth defense along the top of a trench or place of concealment for troops], over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise … and perhaps he ought to duck while passing the parapet. "Nonsense," snapped the general. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--." And as his words fell silent … General Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded.
Today in the Word, August 30, 1993.
How too our own sinful pride can drop us once again to the ground of dirt and sin back into our own filthy rags from which we have been washed clean and made righteous in the blood of the Lamb. Pride can cause us to look at who we are in the Kingdom, at what status we hold or even what we know as a means of prideful arrogance. Jesus says that:
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
Those who trust Christ with simple faith have Jesus and to receive them in Christ’s name is to receive Jesus.
Consider Christ himself, how he draws little children to him, how urgently in Matthew 18 he commends them to us and praises the angles who wait upon them, in order to show us how great a service it is when we train the young properly.
LW Vol. 45 pg. 372
As we consider our own Rally Day today and the return to our regular worship we too get back to the good and holy work to,
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6
The responsibility even from the time of infancy calls parents of those who have been brought to faith in baptism to not let these little ones who believe in me to fall … back into the sinfulness they were born into … before being called to faith in Jesus Christ by the working and power of the Holy Spirit.
You have a Godly calling as a parent to raise your child in the faith, especially if they are baptized and to make sure that they are brought to God’s house for worship, where Christ gives his gifts of word and sacrament.
Also, the good work available in Sunday school and confirmation class is the responsibility of parents and guardians to see that they stay connected to Christ; for to not do so brings stern condemnation from the Lord saying:
it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
But this also refers to causing any who have childlike faith to stumble. If we as Christians profess Christ but live in such a way that is outside of the way Christ has called us to live, and as a result of our actions cause one with weak faith to fall away, we too bear the same condemnation.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:
27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:27-32
Turn, and become like children!
By childlike faith God in Christ has given you faith in Him and life! He has lifted you up as a little child giving you comfort and peace in Him. He has placed you in the midst of the world as His disciple to shine the light of Christ given you to those under your care and to those who are lost and dead in trespass and sin and by His word of promise, He will bring forth by faith for those who will believe on His name and confess as the church confesses … “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God!”
May you be comforted as a child in the lap of the savior forever kept in His care until the day of His return.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!