Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
September 5 and 6, 2020
“God’s Little Ones”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I heard of a sermon that was preached at some large Lutheran conference and the preacher started the message with the words, “America Does Not Need God.” He woke them up before they had a chance to fall asleep. Then he defended his proposition. America has the strongest economy in the world. The science and technology we have achieved are changing our understanding of the world very quickly. Our medicine can do miracles, giving folks better and longer lives. The entertainment that is provided to us amazes us. Everyone and everything seems to be getting better all the time.
With everything happening so well, the preacher, now tongue in cheek, asked his audience, “Who needs God?”
I guess some things have changed since that sermon was preached. A week ago the Denver Post in their section of Local Briefs ran this article, “Just before 8 a.m. Thursday, a tractor-trailer blew a tire and rolled over at a C-470 ramp near Golden. It was the inside of the trailer, however, that posed the most serious problem for rescue workers and fire crews: About 40,000 pounds of chicken poop spilled all over the road. ‘Firefighters on scene say the pictures don’t do the smell justice…’ The exit ramp stayed closed for hours as crews held their noses, scooped up poop and hauled the truck away. ‘This is 2020 in a picture,’ one person wrote on Facebook.” (Friday, August 28, 2020, 6A)
For many people this is 2020 in a picture. Have you asked the question of what God is trying to teach us through everything that is happening right now? We have a virus that has cursed the entire world. Add to that the effects of draught, fire, heat, floods, violence and bitterness that people are showing for one another, and we see that the world is fragile or failing. Jesus tells us about some of the signs of the end of the world, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:7-8) Can this be the beginning of thee end?
Or can this be a lesson, a great one, of how much we need God in our life? Is this the call for each of us to repent and seek the face of God? Jesus gives an answer of how much we need God in our life in the words of Matthew 18. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:1-4)
So many of us love to think that we are self-sufficient, that “I can do it myself”, we don’t need anyone’s help. The twelve apostle’s spent many hours trying to be the greatest in the group. Greatness comes by comparison and by competition, right? We do it all the time. We do it at work, at school, among friends, certainly among our relatives. And so did they. Over and over again. They begin this conversation with Jesus with the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Earlier we read this, “When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.” (Mark 9:33-34) Then, before you get through the next chapter, the desire to be the greatest of the twelve continues. James and John and their mother (Mother’s always stand up for their kids, right?) came to Jesus and had a simple, selfish request, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:37)
And they weren’t done with this whole idea of greatness even after Jesus scolded them for such self-centered requests. At the Last Supper such foolishness was theirs. “Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest.” (Luke 22:24) The words “This is my body and this is my blood” had just been spoken and this was their reaction!! Who is the greatest? Greatness must have been the most important. Comparing one against another must have been the biggest issue. Competition among them was primary. What would tell them if they were the most important, better than the other 11? Maybe if you got to sit close to Jesus at the meals you were the best. Or, maybe, if He selected you to have a conversation, you went into the top 5. Or, if you were just a little more righteous than the others, you’d get the blue ribbon. In Matthew 10 it says, “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Verse 1) Maybe the one who did the greatest of miracles would get first prize.
So Jesus stuns them. He brings in a little boy. He has him stand in the middle of the group and says that unless you become like a little child you’ll never even get into heaven. You’ll be on the outside. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)
Why? What is so great about a kid? That kid wasn’t my grandkid and he wasn’t yours, so how could they be the greatest in God’s kingdom? They’re needy. They’re lowly. They’re weak. They have to depend on others for everything. But that is what makes them great. That is what Jesus wants. Not self-sufficient; God sufficient.
Do you want to be great? Do you want a place in heaven? Then your confession of your need for God has to be your foundation. I can’t fix myself, and you can’t either. I can’t make my life right. I can’t clean up the mess that I’ve made. I’m broken. I’m mortal. I’m a child. I need a Savior. I need Someone who can fix, heal, clean and make me immortal. Jesus takes a child and puts them right in the middle and says, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” It is like when Jesus says in John 3, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (Verse 3) To get into God’s reign you have to start over.
Children trust. When you tell a child something be careful what you say – they will believe your word. If you are goofing around with them, or you’re trying to trick them or lie to them, they will be confused about what you have said. They take you at your word.
God’s children, all of you, you are little one’s as far as God is concerned, must take God at His word. Believe with your whole heart that you are precious to God. Believe with every part of your being that in Jesus you have been cleansed and made whole by His blood. Trust Him that neither life nor death, nor anything in all of creation is able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, your Lord.
What have you learned during 2020? If these are the final days of life on earth then we need Him more than ever. We need Him to make us stand and not fall; we need His Spirit to guide us into all truth.
But if God has decided that the return of Jesus to earth and the culmination of life upon earth is going to wait until another era, I pray that you are learning how desperately and totally you need Jesus in your life every day. I hope that you are as a little child that knows you are in good hands because you are in God’s hands. With everything happening in these days, with so many questions and not enough answers, we can join in the prayer known as the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer: Dear God, be good to me; the sea is so wide and my boat is so small.
That preacher that began his sermon with the word, “America Does Not Need God”, spent the next twenty minutes of his sermon showing that that thought is ridiculous. America needs God. You need God. I need God. Just like a child needs everything from another, so we need everything from God, our Father.
“I need thee, Oh I need Thee, Every hour I need Thee; Oh bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.” Amen!!