Here’s a portion of Mark 10:13-16 NIV
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
A familiar story, no doubt. Loving parents want Jesus to bless their children. Disciples (protective? businesslike? efficient?) try to stop them. Jesus intervenes – “The Kingdom of God belongs to ‘such as these’” and proceeds to bless them.
So what might Jesus mean by “such as these””? Such individuals? Such innocents? Such curiosity-seekers? Such trusters? Such little ones? People with small physical stature? People with limited education? I don’t know that there’s one answer. Perhaps He means some of all of these, and perhaps He means even more.
But as I read this Gospel today I wondered to what extent, if any, it might be possible to apply the words of Jesus to congregations. After all, some congregations are quite small in terms of membership or attendance, and sometimes this means that they seem to get pushed to the side by their judicatories, publishing houses, or others. Not, of course, if they are mission plants where they are expected to start small and grow (lots of time and effort and attention is devoted to them); but certainly with congregations that have remained at a “small” size for some time or that have once been larger but have grown smaller over time.
So in what ways are these congregations like the children in this Gospel lesson? In what ways are they treated like the disciples treat the children – and who takes on the “role” of the disciples for these churches? And how are they among the “such as these” children that Jesus speaks of?
I’m not sure I have all the answers to these – maybe some of you do – but I’m pretty sure that this needs to be said: the Kingdom of God would be incomplete and unfinished without children, and the Kingdom of God would be incomplete and unfinished without these Indispensable Churches.