September 23, 2018: Jesus for Grown-ups

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus says, in today’s Gospel, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” This is one of many Gospel verses connecting Jesus with persons not considered important in his society—in this case, children.

But the Bible does not have many stories about children. Samuel heard God’s voice while a child. Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem at age twelve. The grown-up Jesus called the children to him when his disciples wanted to chase them away.

Yet—strangely—we tend to think of the Bible and our faith tradition as something that is good for children but something that we outgrow our need for, as we come to think for ourselves and put childish things behind us.

The Bible and our Christian tradition say almost the opposite. Our faith is too serious a matter, too difficult a matter for children. It is not play but life.

The Gospel for today tells of disciples arguing over who is greatest. Jesus in effect says that is silly, childish behavior.

Real life is much more difficult and much more costly, but also much more exciting, much more rewarding, and much more satisfying. Real life is life that looks more like the life lived by Jesus, the life to which he invited his followers, the life to which he invites us, a life for grown-ups. In today’s Gospel, this is described as being “last of all and servant of all.”

Each of us has to figure out what that means for us, how to live it out. But following Jesus is definitely a life for grown-ups.

Hermann Weinlick, retired pastor, Minneapolis, Minnesota