People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “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.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
As the adult child of two teachers, I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years about what it’s like to work with many different kinds of students. The ones that are “A+” scholars, the jokers, the nerdy ones, the outcasts. You know the outcasts — “those kids” — some of my parents’ co-workers would call them. They were the kids that nobody seemed to want in their classes because they were either apathetic about school, or they liked to cause trouble. Or were more of a challenge to teach in conventional ways because they had special needs.
Today, I can’t help but think of “those kids” as I look at this piece from our Gospel reading for this coming Sunday. Perhaps, in our minds, we have this picture of happy, smiling, picture perfect kids being set before Jesus. But it’s probably more realistic to imagine them as the unruly students in a class, the trouble makers, the ones who are dealing with illness and infirmities. The parents, desperate for some healing and guidance, bringing them to Jesus for help. Even for a simple touch that might help them in one way or another.
It is “these” kinds of kids — all of God’s children — to whom the Kingdom of God belongs. Not just the “A+ers”, but the outcasts, too. All children enter this world with a sense of curiosity and wonder. And their lives will all go in different directions. This week, however, Jesus reminds us to not push them away from him. And even more so, he reminds us that it’s okay and right to enter God’s house, the church, God’s presence, with a sense of wonder and curiosity.
We won’t always understand, like a kid who struggles with school for whatever reason, what the Kingdom of God looks like. And we won’t always understand what it is God is asking us to do or be as the body of Christ. But we can, with assurance, know this: all of God’s children are welcomed, loved, and accepted in the Kingdom of God. No matter if we’re outcasted here, or not. We belong to God, and we are welcome each week into God’s house and to share in his promises with the rest of the body of Christ.