When Babies Cry In Church

Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:14)

On Sunday, I was offering the prayers of the church on behalf of the congregation. Sometimes it’s pretty quiet during that time as those in attendance are listening carefully and adding their ascent to each prayer. This past Sunday, it was not quiet. In my left ear there was a baby crying. In my right ear there was a baby crying. From somewhere behind me there were two or three other young children crying. To the cacophony of noise was my voice, crying out the pleas and petitions of our congregation to our gracious and merciful Lord. It was beautiful!

I love the sound of little voices in church. Small people who come because their parents know and place a premium on the value of what Jesus offers us – ALL OF US – in that place. Small children rattling papers and ruffling hymnal pages while trying to do what mom and dad and grandma and grandpa are doing. Faithful youngsters who bravely discuss the faith with pastor during our children’s messages. Confident little Christians who may not get all the words right, but put their heart into praying the Lord’s Prayer together with the congregation.

I even love it when the children get bored. Tired of what has to seem to them the droning on of a long-winded preacher. Who plop down in frustration when they just can’t take it anymore. I love it because they’re there. They’re right where Jesus would have them be. Climbing up on His holy lap and listening as well as a child can. I love the sounds of children in church, not because they’re the future church (although they are that), but because they are the present church joining together as best they can with the rest of the church. As loud as it can sometimes get, I absolutely love the cries and shouts and screams and even the occasional tantrum because in a real way, that’s exactly what we all have to offer our Lord. Our tears, our shouts of “unfair”, our fears, and even an occasional tantrum. Jesus never kicked a child out of His presence, but instead lauded them as the example of greatness.

Our children come, just as we adults do, into the presence of Jesus. We have nothing to offer Him. We simply have the sins we’ve committed, the hurts we harbor, the anger we’ve buried, the sadness we’ve hidden, and little more. As a baby is dependent on her mom and dad to take care of her and teach her, so we depend on our Father to hear and love us.

So I say let the little children come . . . and let them cry! Let them raise their voices! Little loved voices from little loved people. Sinners, like you and me; forgiven by Jesus, like you and me! Let us in fact join our voices with the cries of the babies in church as we cry out for mercy and forgiveness from our Lord for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Merciful Father, hear the cries of all your children. Thank you for hearing us and welcoming us into your presence through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.

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Vengeance or Forgiveness

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

When considering the evils done against us, we get our dander up and quickly see red. When considering the evil we’ve done against others, we want leniency and mercy. Why is that? For our answer today, let’s consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 18. The context of the entire issue is the disciples’ awkward question of who is the greatest. Rather than reject the presupposition of their inquiry, He walks them down a life-changing road. I pray you walk that road with Jesus today.

First, Jesus grabbed hold of a young boy who happened to be in the right place at the right time. When He had everyone’s full attention, He declared this boy and children like Him are the greatest. Not because the boy was anything special – he likely wasn’t wealthy, he didn’t listen to his parents better than other children, and he wasn’t incredibly wise like young Solomon. He was simply a lad. One who was under authority. One who was dependent upon the care, mercy, and love shown him by his parents. Jesus’ answer about greatness was to point to the ones who are weak and dependent.

Expanding upon the foundation of greatness being complete dependence like a child’s, Jesus then directs our attention to the frailty of the weak. Should anyone injure or threaten to harm one of these who are greatest, they would be deserving of a horrible fate. The weak and insignificant are like those who cannot keep themselves from sin. They could cut off every appendage they have, they would not begin to address the corruption of their hearts. These lost sheep are utterly dependent on mercy. These are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven!

The next stop on our road is to understand who these weak ones are. They are you and me. We who can do absolutely nothing to stand on our own before the Lord. We who offer nothing to the Lord, yet ask and receive His mercy. Understand fully that your plight is the situation of all people. That person who injured you – the one you would like to see pay for his crimes against you – that very person is a lost sheep like you. He’s weak and has given into the temptations all around him. He’s completely and utterly dependent on the mercy and grace of the Lord. Just like you.

So have compassion! That’s where this road leads us! To a new outlook and understanding of all that occurs around us in this world. No one is “out to get you” per se. Rather, we are all lost sheep wandering around doing the best we can and hurting each other along the way. In this world – a world covered by the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus – forgiveness rules. Forgiveness, not retribution, is what solves the problems and salves the wounds. Love as you have been loved! Forgive as you have been forgiven!

There is a never ending supply of grace and mercy for you, fellow lost sheep!

Jesus, thank you for gathering your lost sheep, of whom I am chief. Send me out with love and compassion to share you love with others who, like me, need to constantly hear your gracious Word of mercy. Amen.