Jesus welcomes the voicelessPublished 9:05am Friday, September 21, 2012
Across the Pastor’s Desk
By the Rev. Don Rose, United and Mansfield Lutheran Churches
Jesus taught his disciples using a child as an object lesson. He told his closest followers that to receive a child was to receive him and to receive him was to receive the one who sent him. From a modern perspective this teaching example seems obvious. Who doesn’t like a child and who wouldn’t welcome one into the midst of God’s people? We live in a culture where the cult of the child is ever growing. Parents will do virtually anything for their children, except for perhaps the most difficult and important thing, i.e. to give themselves and their time. To understand the impact of what Jesus was teaching one must understand the place of children in the society of Jesus’ time.
In Jesus’ day children had no status whatsoever. Childhood as it is known today was virtually unknown. Children would spend time with their mothers not with the men. Children were understood to be the property of their fathers, who could decide their futures however they pleased. This is not to say that children were not loved and valued. Children assured the family’s continuation as well as support for parents in their old age. A woman’s worth was gauged by the ability to have children, especially male children, and her children would provide the mother with much emotional support within the family. However, then as now children were the first to suffer as a result of both the natural and man-made devastations of the day. Passage to adulthood was well celebrated because so few made it that far.
Thus for Jesus to welcome a child was to welcome one who could do nothing in return, one who could not share any benefits either financial or cultural. It was to welcome one whom the world did not value. For us to hear what Jesus is truly teaching we need to replace the idea of a child with an image of one whom this society and culture considers to be without status or value. Who are the “children” of our day? Who are the voiceless in our midst? Who are the ones whom the world discounts as being without merit or worth?
These are the ones whom Jesus encourages us to welcome into our midst, not because they can do anything for us but rather because we can do for them just as Jesus did and continues to do.
As those called and taught by Christ, we are regularly asked to consider whom are we receiving? Jesus has made it quite clear where he will be found along with the one who sent him.