Last Sunday morning, in the midst of getting ready for the Sunday morning Eucharist, I went out to the big front doors to make sure that they were unlocked so that the early birds coming for the service were able to get in. When I open the door I spotted a little fellow out on the sidewalk. He couldn’t have been more than a couple of years old (or so I thought). He was there chatting with one of the clergy who was here for the service. It was in this moment that I realized that he was not wearing pants and that I had not seen him before. I went over to him and asked him his name. He mumbled something that I could not understand. I noticed that there was a medical alert necklace around the little boy’s neck and so I could my wife, who kindly brought the boy a pair of pants and I went to the kitchen and got him a cookie to munch on. Realizing that he could be seriously lost and ill, I decided to call the police.
In the meantime the same priest outside came across the babysitter who was of course frantic and worried about the little boy. The parents had gone to get groceries and had left the little boy in the sitter’s care. In a flash, he had gone from playing with a computer tablet to disappearing and the search was on. There was much relief and even a smile as the police constable arrived took his notes and went on his way again. Everyone was thankful that the little boy was back where he needed to be again.
I share this moment of ministry with you for a simple reason. Children, whether we realize it or not, are amazing teachers and terrific mirrors. They show us who we truly are and they can teach us how to be servants if we will let them. They will in their own ways reflect our attitudes and repeat all the things we say and do, without too much thought on their part. I think that is why Jesus took a child and put that child amongst his self seeking, me first disciples and challenged them to think not of themselves but of the one who needs to be cared for and to actively seek out those in need as if it were Jesus himself (Mark 9.30-37).
The 12 had been disagreeing with each other on the road as to who was going to fulfil what role when Jesus got to Jerusalem and wiped out the Romans and the religious authorities – when he returned the kingdom of great King David to the people of Israel. This in the face of the fact that Jesus had told them he was going to face persecution, suffering and death and after three days rise again from the day. They missed it. They didn’t get it. They were more worried about themselves and the places they would occupy in a kingdom that was not going to come than in hearing that it was that was going to happen.
So Jesus takes a little child, who has no money, no status in human society, no power to wield nor titles to hold or to confer. He shows them that power and authority is not something to be held and sought for the individual person. Rather such things are given by God to men and women who are going to serve in the building up of the kingdom, the world that is come. Power and authority, blessing and prestige are there for those who will serve the naked, the sick, the lost, and those who are imprisoned. Grace and mercy will be given to those who show it and to those who will proclaim release and jubilee to those who desire it.
We need to remember that Jesus comes to each of us and to all of us because we too have forgotten who he is and who we are. He comes to each and to all to help us discover not only who he is and thus who we are in him and for him. He comes that we might discover our own Galillees that we would effectively reach out with all that we have been given: power, authority, gifts, grace, love and so much more. All that is asked of us is that we offer three simple things: our actions, our prayers and our suffering. This is our common priesthood. It is what each of us needs to do and it is what all of us can hold in common. We do so for the sake of the One who did these things for us and for the rescue of those who will follow after us into the kingdom, those both great and those like a little boy on the sidewalk.