We were privileged to have Dr. Paul Maier preach at both services yesterday, in addition to a seminar on Saturday. He said it was the first time he had ever preached on the end of Mark's Gospel and this welcome to the little children. He placed this in marvelous context (as a great historian can do) and challenged us to see if we indeed are doing what Jesus did in welcoming the children.
He reminded us that in the culture of Jesus' day children had little stature. Infanticide was commonly practiced in the pagan world. If a father did not pick up the infant, that infant was rejected by the father and had no status. He reminded us that Jesus' Himself had to wait until age 30 before beginning His public ministry because there were no child preachers in Jesus' day. The old proverb counseled the young man to go away and wait until his beard grows in before presenting himself as a teacher.
On the other side, Paul reminded us that God chose to come into the world as a baby, to grow up as a child, and to taste the way of life that each of us knows as a child growing up into adulthood. In this profound way God went against the grain of culture. He could have sent His Son as a fully mature adult walking out of the wilderness but He chose to have Him incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Paul reminded us of circumcision and the great implications of an eight day old infant who became part of the covenant relationship with God's people and of infant baptism (we had one yesterday) that claims a little one for the Lord -- without respect to anything that little has to offer or bring to the font.
Paul raised up the importance of teaching the children to know Jesus and Scripture and related his own childhood curiosity inspired and fueled in Sunday school. To the childlike faith that so instinctively trusts comes the great opportunity to teach the Word of God and to make known the message of that Word in Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and ascended. It was a not so subtle call to make sure your children were in Sunday school, make sure you were in Bible study, and continue the conversation at home.
Paul reminded us that in our culture youth is glorified and the gray hair of age is seen in a negative light. Not so in Israel or the world of Jesus' day but today we hold on to youth, we glorify it, we indulge it, and we let it teach us. Clearly the challenge before us is clear -- we must reclaim the role of teacher and make sure that we impart to our children that which is youth's glory even as the glory of old age -- Jesus Christ.
I was reminded of Harry Wendt's comment that Jesus blessed the children and taught the adults and we teach the children and bless the adults. Of course, it is not so simple as that and yet there is much truth to his words. We are attuned to the child in Sunday school, catechism classes, youth ministry, etc... yet how many adults who are in the pew on Sunday morning are not sitting in Bible study? Later Paul complimented the fact that we had 150+ in Bible study that day (a few more due to his presence as study leader, yes) but encouraged us to see ourselves as lifelong students of His Word.
It was a blessed day for our congregation, a great highlight of the 50th anniversary year (Grace Abounds), and a good word to hearten our hearts, minds, and souls. And I must say the congregation shone in all the arrangements -- food delicious and aplenty, well organized plans, dedicated workers!! God bless you folks!! And then some hearty bread, beef stew, and some quiet time and he was off on the plane to continue his role as teacher in other places.