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Mum that woman’s got a funny nose!

October 3, 2015

I’ve been spending lots of time recently with little children. I’ve been taking lots of baptisms and each time there have been lots of children livening up the church. I’ve also been into the primary schools, visiting and taking assemblies. I love the vibrancy of young children and their honesty. Both can be a problem, particularly when trying to keep order. They get excited about things which needs careful handling in a church service or in school. They can also be relied upon to say the most unexpected things!

I can be in full flow “I baptise you..”, pause for breath and a loud high pitched voice calls out, “Mum that woman’s got a funny nose!” Indeed, if a woman ever wants an honest answer to the question, “Does my bum look big in this?” they should ask a young child.

Children are mostly honest about what they like and what they don’t. Their bodies are new and need to run, jump and play. They tend to say what they think or see; at least until they ‘learn better’. I suspect that the adult world would be very fraught if everybody said exactly what they think, when they think it. But I also think that more honesty would be good. I don’t always want to run around but a little more exuberance would be great too!

So, with this experience in mind I think I have some idea what Jesus might be meaning when he says,

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10.14-15 NRSV).

I think that Jesus is talking about the value in God’s kingdom of honesty and zest for life that young children are famous for having. It is the innocence of young children that is so beautiful. I’m not being sentimental here, I’m under no illusion that little children are angels. Indeed, I would be very worried if I knew a child who was never naughty – it just wouldn’t be normal. No, what I mean is that little children have an innocence that comes of just acting on what they find as they explore their world, good and bad. They are only just learning right from wrong, and, as the law states, they are not fully responsible for their actions.

That is so different from me and my fellow adults. I have a good idea what is right and wrong and I still so often choose what is wrong, or at least what is less than the best. This is the conscious, premeditated nature of adult sin. Something so much worse than the relatively innocent naughtiness of young children.

Jesus therefore is calling us to be more honest, and innocent as we approach the coming kingdom of God. I read that and I want that, but I am an adult and it is so hard to do. In fact I find it almost impossible. Finding it impossible but wanting to be one of Jesus’ children, I prayed. I prayed, “Jesus help me to receive the kingdom like a little child… help me”. I prayed and had the impression of Jesus smiling at me. Then my eyes were opened a little more.

The kingdom is a gift. A gift must be ‘received’. But the kingdom is so nonsensical to the adult mind. As an adult I am too likely to refuse to receive the kingdom of God: A kingdom where weakness is strength, the first are last, and death on a cross is the only road to life. I need to put away all my fixed ideas and see, really see, what God wants to show me. Like a small child I need to be excited by what the Spirit is going to reveal next.

I need to let the Spirit give me a new innocence. An innocence to trust God. An innocence to say what I see, not what I believe can be: To walk into the new Eden of God’s kingdom and not be ashamed.

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