Another Word…by Gus Keiser

March 5, 2018

And he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

                                                                                                                                 Matthew 18:3

 As I’m sitting here at the computer, I’m hearing the sounds of the day care kids wafting up the steps and into the den. Ellie’s been doing this work for so many years that, at times on the weekend, it almost sounds strange not to hear the children’s voices echoing through the house.  Children are a delight…well most of the time anyway.  There are those days when crocodile tears emerge, and contentiousness among them overtakes the sounds of play.  But children are and always will be a special part of God’s creation.

As I hear their joyous voices in play in the living room, it’s causing my mind to resurrect a scene that took place many years ago in a Sunday school class on a Sunday morning. It was between worship services, and I was making my rounds checking in on the various classes when I happened to stop by the door of a room where a teacher was working with a group of four and five year olds.  Trying to infuse some enthusiasm into the group, she was leading a cheer.  “Give me a J”, cheered the teacher, to which the children yelled, “J”.  “Give me and E,” encouraged the teacher, and the children responded, “E”.  Next the teacher cheered, “Give me an S,” and the children responded in kind, “S”.  With each letter their voices became louder, as the teacher led them through the final two letters, “U” and “S”.  Then together they spelled out the word,                 “J-E-S-U-S!”  With the excitement having reached a fever pitch, the teacher shouted, “What does it spell?”  And then there was this strange extended pause, until one child finally said, “I don’t know.  I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the innocence of her response…at least at first.

Kids can be like that. They are quick to believe what you tell them, celebrate the joys of discovery and become excited when given new ideas and experiences.  That’s the joy of a childlike faith.  But then as I was walking away it occurred to me, unfortunately, somewhere in that gulf between childhood and adulthood, a drastic change takes place.  Expectations, pains, failures and disappointments have their way of entering the picture and that once joyous innocence of childhood becomes marred.  Faith slowly gives way to cynicism, and those little hearts that were once open and filled to overflowing with love and zeal become closed, cold and empty.

The above verse from Matthew’s gospel expresses Jesus wish for his followers to return to that childlike faith. Quite a number of years ago I lost a good friend and a giant in the world of youth ministry, Mike Yaconelli.  In his book, Dangerous Wonders,  Mike wrote the following: “This voice of our childhood is the voice of wonder and amazement, the voice of God, which has always been speaking to us, even before we were born.” Mike then goes on to describe what happens when things change.  “One sad day, we are aware of an absence. We can no longer hear the God-voice, and we are left with only silence…not a quiet silence, but a roaring silence.”

Yaconelli suggested the reason we stopped hearing God’s voice wasn’t because we wanted to stop hearing it, but that we allowed our lives to become louder. I still contend and am convinced that children possess this innate ability to hear that voice of God and its clarity that makes it easy for them to believe.  But as we “mature” to adulthood, other noises enter the scene, muffling that once-clear sound of God’s voice.  So now we’re forced to go through life spending every waking minute “clearing the air” in order to return to that simple clarity of our childhood.

In that message from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus invites us to come to him as little children, eager to be with him, to simply enjoy his presence. Today, why not take some time to remember the simple pleasures of childhood.  Laugh out loud, sing real loud, lighten your step a little and remember who’s waiting to share this time with you.

Lord, make us like children again. Infuse us with joy as you fill us with your love and mercy.  Amen.

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