Exodus 1–3, Psalm 18:1-20, Matthew 18
Children often have a hard time. When Jesus explains that real greatness in the kingdom requires us to become “like children,” he was being deliberately shocking. Children are vulnerable and weak; they are easy to abuse and hurt. Jesus makes it clear that those who have the lowest status in society are much closer to being great in the kingdom.
Back in the opening chapters of Exodus, children are the primary victims. Joseph has been forgotten. The leadership of Egypt has turned the Hebrews into slaves. To maintain their superiority, the Egyptians are attempting to eliminate male babies. In this tragic situation, a young Hebrew mother places a baby “among the reeds on the bank of the river.” Through God’s grace, one child is saved.
Jesus is very clear about the value that God places on a child. To hurt a child is a wicked sin. Children have a special place in the kingdom. The sense that everything around us is a gateway to the spiritual comes easily to children. Adults lose that sense of wonder and awe, but children have it all the time. The miracle of a flower growing and the mystery of the stars are understood by children; adults can so easily take it all for granted.
It is a great gift and responsibility to care for children. Whether as a friend, parent, or grandparent, we are invited to strive to be a good and constructive influence on children. Today’s gospel invites us to meditate on what we can learn from children. Perhaps we need to recover some of that childlike appreciation of this remarkable world that God has made.
Recall your own childhood. Reflect on those moments when you learned about the world around you. Are you still amazed by the miracle of life and being?
Think about your friendships with children. Spend a few moments considering how you can have constructive relationships with children.
Holy and Loving God, thank you for the gift of children. Help me to retain a childlike appreciation of this remarkable way. For Christ’s sake. Amen.
-The Very Rev. Ian Markham
Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary