Saturday, October 03, 2009

B, Pentecost 18 Proper 22 - Mark 10:13-16 "Jesus Reaches"

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 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. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)

Everyone is within Jesus' reach. However, it takes a lifetime for us to really get it!

When we were brought to the waters of baptism Jesus reached out and took us in his arms and blessed us. He gave us the kingdom of heaven, he gave us himself completely, and we were perfectly recreated in his death and resurrection. Just like the earth after God had washed it, saving Noah and his family, we were washed, sanctified, and living in harmony with God.

Yet, just as it didn't take long for Noah and his sons to move away from this perfection and cleansing, we too were saved in the waters of baptism and then looked away from God, tainting our innocence blessedness, and maturing the old nature put to death in our new God-given existence.

We had Jesus, the kingdom of God was ours from the moment we heard and received the word of truth and rested in its reality. Jesus was within our reach and he took us in his arms and blessed us. In fact today and every day he was and is within our reach!

We are free to come to Jesus. But as we grow in our human ways, like a child we increasingly become headstrong. We want to do it our way and have Jesus take us in his arms according to our agendas. Like the people of Noah's day we move out from under his arm and seek to build ourselves up in importance and stature seeking to be noticed by God and others for what we have done. And just as God came down to see the sin of humanity at Babel; our seemingly incredible feats are flawed and flaccid in the face of God.

Just when we think we are finally getting somewhere, we've actually got nowhere. In fact, if anything we've slid backwards, further and further away from reaching God. Yet, God is still within our reach; his desire is to take us in his arms and bless us!

But no! We are not babies we can stand for ourselves! So we repel our Heavenly Father and continue to build our rickety towers of triumph, climbing higher and higher, closer and closer to God. Or so we think!

Yet, in reality, we're further and further from contentment, from satisfaction, from peace, and from the loving embrace of God's blessing. Like a child pulling free from dad, we protest, "No, no, no! I'm grown up now; I want to do it myself."

But, even so, you're still within God's reach; his desire is to take you in his arms and bless you!

When we are little children our parents can correct us quite easily. We are content to live within the confines of their protection. But as we advance in years, it seems we regress from the spiritual maturity that God sees as necessary for our inclusion into the kingdom of heaven.

As baptised children we can knowingly say, "Jesus loves me. The bible tells us so!" We live happily in this reality. It's the status quo! Why would anything be different?

But as we grow in the maturity of our human existence, then comes all the conditions, the questions, and the struggle to be autonomous. The bible tells me so! So what! I know so much better! And as we grow we turn away from the truth of God's word to the half-truths of our hearts.

It might seem peculiar that positioned next to each other are two texts on divorce and children coming to Jesus. But they demonstrate how we humans turn the things of God on their head so we might do as we please and only accept what we want.

In the second text, Jesus is indignant or greatly distress that the disciples were rebuking the children and those who were bringing them to Jesus. When the disciples "rebuke" the Greek equivalent infers the disciples lay a tax upon those coming to Jesus. The disciples were imposing a law which sinfully separated little ones from Jesus' reach. Supposedly these little one had to first prove their worth before being taken and blessed by Jesus.

However, we know Jesus reaches out to all people; his desire is to take you in his arms and bless you. Yet like the disciples we often think it's too good to be true, and impose taxes upon ourselves to build ourselves up before God.

Alternatively, we justify ourselves by accepting only the parts of God's word that don't offend us. We seek to rationalise the word through our reason so we can conform God into the very things that deceive us and lead us away from God. And we fool ourselves by believing this allows us a closer walk with God.

But Jesus says to you and me, "If you oppose me and my kingdom by imposing conditions and taxing yourselves with laws that condemn to death, the kingdom of God is not yours.

The bigger the ego, the harder the fall! The stubborn will of an obstinate child, the arrogance of our human pride, always precede the fall. Like a child that demands its own way, choice is always free, but consequences are never free.

Society's views on marriage, divorce, and sex demonstrate how quickly we move away from the truth of God's word into the half-truths of our emotions, ideals, and the standards we impose for ourselves.

Jesus tells us adultery and divorce are wrong because they're against God's will. It's as simple as that! As a young child we accept this. In fact, we know it's the truth, the bible tells us so.

But adults, those who have grown in their human hardness, and have shrivelled in their softness towards God's will, place all sorts of conditions and justifications on his word. We tax the truth, and water down the word of God making it more and more difficult to hear actually what the truth is and believe it. But despite the divorce and adultery, you're still within his reach; Jesus' desire is to take you in his arms and bless you.

And just in case any of us are pointing the finger here, Jesus' word on adultery extends even more. He says, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28) And the same goes for women who lustfully look at men. And further more, all of us lust after many material things and possessions. And God calls this coveting.

When we pull away from God and the means he gives his children in his church in favour of deciding for ourselves, we unknowingly, and sometimes knowingly, build up ourselves and our world with half-truths. But unless we hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth how can we expect God's help?

The truth is this: Sin is not something to overlook. When we overlook something God's word says to allow us to continue on our path of sin, this overlooking is yet another sin. And so the heart hardens, the old nature grows in its defiance, and our ears close over to the absolute truth of God's word.

However, when God's word shows us our sin, and we see plainly our sinful nature, as we hear his word. Like the children whom Jesus took in his arms we too, the children of God, can lay down our hardened hearts, and accept we are sinners. We can return to Jesus who has died for our sin and willingly seeks to forgive us as he takes us into his arms and blesses us with the promise of eternal life.

You are within Jesus' reach. The lesson you and I need to learn in our lives is this: he has already got me. We are his; won at the cross and at our baptism into his death.

We no longer need to prove ourselves or hid the things we do wrong. Instead of hiding our sin, pretending it doesn't exist, and giving it power by trying to beat it ourselves, God moves us toward spiritual maturity where we confess our sin, and trust the Lord's loving and powerful arms will protect us having reached out and taken us in forgiveness and love.

Why? Because Jesus loves me, the bible tells me so. Amen.