I have the privilege of overseeing the ministry to children and families here at Cities. The aim of our ministry is threefold:
- Help parents to be the smile of God to their children
- Build a church culture that welcomes children in Jesus’s name.
- Teach children the whole counsel of God.
The exhortation this morning concerns that second aim. In Mark 9, Jesus’s disciples are arguing about which one of them is the greatest in the kingdom. Jesus calls them on it, tells them that the first must be the last and the servant of all, and then he gives them an object lesson in what he means. He takes a child, puts him in the midst of the disciples, and says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
That’s why a church culture that welcomes children is so important. That’s why individual Christians who welcome children are so important. Do you want to receive Jesus? Do you want to be a part of his kingdom? Then receive the children in his name. Receiving children is a litmus test for receiving Jesus. If you turn your nose up at children, if you have difficulty in receiving children and welcoming children and loving children, then you have trouble receiving Jesus. In other words, if you say, “Kids really aren’t my thing. I don’t really enjoy being around them, so I’m going to let other people handle that,” then Jesus says to you, “I don’t think you really understand my kingdom. I want you to be a servant of all. Including children. And so I’m going to incentivize welcoming children.” Jesus says, “If you do it in my name—meaning, if you receive children with my joy and my love, with glad-heartedness and humility—if you receive children in my name, you’ll get more of me.”
At Cities, we’ve got lots of kids. And we’ve made it easy for you to receive more of Jesus by receiving children in his name. The most practical way that we do that as a church is on Sunday morning with our Serve Rotation. Every fifth week we provide you the opportunity to serve the families of this church in the nursery during the service. You miss the sermon, you miss the singing, you miss the table. But you don’t miss Jesus, if you receive the children in Jesus’s name. If you welcome them and play with them and read with them and pray for them and show them what Jesus is like and delight in them and laugh with them and hold them when they’re missing their mom, and you’re doing all of those things believing in the promises of Jesus, then you get more Jesus. But if you come grumpy and distant and distracted, or if you’re put off by the short attention spans and the fussies and the crying and the simplicity of their play, you’ll miss the service, and you’ll miss Jesus. The door to the kingdom is child-sized and those who won’t stoop can’t enter. So when your Serve Team is up, and you get the email, respond promptly, get here early to prepare the rooms and to prepare your heart to receive Jesus by receiving the children in his name.
And, of course, since there are some here who have other responsibilities that prevent them from doing nursery, there are other ways to receive Jesus by receiving children. In your Community Groups, don’t despise the children who are running around. Welcome them in Jesus’s name. Greet them here on Sunday morning. Sunday School is about to begin on September 3. Parents of children who will turn 5 over the next year, they are welcome to join us every Sunday at 9am. You simply need to let me know so that we can sign them up. And we’re still in need of Sunday School teachers for the upcoming year. Not only can you receive the children in Jesus’s name, but you have the great privilege of teaching them the whole counsel of God. If you’re interested, find me after the service.
If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all. This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s seek the Lord together.
Prayer of Confession
Our Father and God, you have given us the tremendous blessing of children. Not only our children, but the children of others are a great and glorious blessing to us. They teach us humility, simplicity of faith, and a thousand other good things. Children are indeed a gift from you.
But we confess that we have sinned and grown old. We have despised this gift, neglected this gift, and felt ourselves to be to important to receive the children. We are impatient with their questions, frustrated with their neediness, and distracted from their desires. We are puffed up with conceit, and refuse to stoop to serve those whom you have called us to love. And in rejecting them, we have rejected you, and Jesus whom you sent. This, O God, is a great evil. Forgive us we pray, for refusing to receive children in Jesus’s name. Have mercy upon us, O God, for we are miserable offenders.
And we know, Father, that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual. So we confess our individual sins to you now.
Father, we thank you that you are a God who receives children. Not only that, you receive those who become like children in humility and faith. Thank you for receiving us because of Jesus. Humble us that we might walk before you with lowly hearts and grant us the grace to gladly be the servant of all. By your Holy Spirit, renew our hearts so that our thoughts, desires, loves, words, and deeds align with your own. Through Christ we pray, Amen.