(Please realize these sermons are still in their rough drafts and I post them in hopes that there are others out there who might profit from seeing this at this point in the week. Thank you for looking beyond the spelling and grammar errors and into the true nature of a sermon, God’s Word. Also, as I seek perfection, I would love some feedback on suggestions or comments on how I can better this sermon before Sunday. Peace to you all.)
Designed by God, so I must be Special
In the Gospel of Luke there is another verse that I would like to remind you of. It says, But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Now many of us are familiar with this text but we do very little about it. We need to be able to receive the kingdom of God like a little child.
This got me thinking, how does a little child receive something? Luckily I have a source for that answer, my 2 ½ year old niece, Ellie. Last year, during Christmas, Ellie was really excited about opening presents. She was so excited about opening presents that she had to take a nap half way through to calm down. She was so excited, that she worked herself up into a frenzy and had to take a nap to calm down. What would church be like if that is how people got to receive communion or baptism, or heck, even the sermon?
Children receive with honesty, with pure emotion, and without hesitation. When you get to be an adult you have to act with modesty, you have to make sure you look reserve and controlled when receiving. Take for example to fight for the check at a restaurant. I was at lunch the other day and I witnessed some business people having lunch together. The server finally brought them the check and they spent the next five minutes fighting over who should pay. They all wanted to but eventually one person won out and took the check. The others sat there and looked defeated, they looked almost depressed and guilty. I got the impression they weren’t receiving their gift very well.
One of the major reason people have a problem with God is the gift dilemma. You all know this dilemma well whether you know it or not. The gift dilemma states that if a person gives you a gift that makes you entitled to return the favor at some point in the future or immediately. By no means should you ignore the fact that this person gave you a gift but you should give back at a equal or greater value. You see this all the time at Christmas. One an simple level you have Christmas cards. If you wait until mid-December to send out your Christmas cards, I bet you will send them to everyone who sent you one. You feel compelled to return the favor. The same is true with Christmas gifts, if someone gets you one you felled obligated to get them one.
Once the gift dilemma is settled then all is right in the world. Giving something to someone who has given something to you enables the balance of power to be equal. This means that the gift giver doesn’t have power over the receiver if the receiver gives in return. It all comes down to power and control. That is why we have such a huge problem with God. We cannot stand the fact that God has given us such a wonderful gift and we cannot return the favor. We are so angry that God gives and cannot receive back with equal or greater value that we tend not to accept the gift that is given. If we don’t receive it then we stay in control and in power.
Yet in the gospel of Luke we are reminded that we are to receive the kingdom of God like a child. And that is what this book reminds us to do. The scriptures I read earlier all point to God as our creator, our maker. He is the artist that designed such beauty and awe that surround us and makes us, us. God created each of us in his image and has known us ever since we were conceived in our mother’s womb. God’s gift of life is given to us with every beat of our heart and every breath from our lungs. God has given us so much that we need to learn to receive as a child and not as the adults that we are.
That is why I am doing this four week sermon series on the theology of Children’s books. We need to remind ourselves to receive like children, to have the faith of children and to remind ourselves of the simply lessons that are found in these books. As I have read these books to Dean, I have often sat back afterwards and taken those lessons in myself. They are like children sermons. While talking to some of my minister friends we all agree that many people in the congregation get more out of the children’s moment then they do the sermon. Why, because if done right, the children’s sermon is strait forward, easy to follow, and effortless to understand. That is what I hope to accomplish over these next couple of weeks, to remind ourselves of the strait forward, easy to follow, and effortless to understand lessons we learned as children but tend to forget as adults.
I am sure many of you have seen the animated movie Cars. It is very cute movie about a race car Lighting McQueen. McQueen is a rookie in the piston cup circuit who gets lost on Route 66 while on his way to California. He gets into some trouble in Radiator Springs and has to rebuild a road that he destroyed. While he is there he learns a valuable lesson. Before his week in Radiator Springs his life when 180 miles per hour, literally since he was a race car. McQueen also was only focused on himself all the time. His whole life was focused on getting a big sponsor and getting the Piston Cup.
While in Radiator Springs though he meets a city lawyer Porsche named Sally. One day Sally and McQueen go for a drive. This is something he has never done before. Usually if he is driving it is around a race track but this drive was different. Instead of looking at the pavement in front of him or the cars he had to pass, McQueen looked up and around and noticed the world he was driving in. He was taken aback by the beauty of the world he was in. He noticed rock formations, waterfalls, and grassy valleys. This new realization transformed McQueen and not only did he start to notice the world around him, he started to notice the beauty in the people around him.
That is what this book is all about. As it moves through our senses, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching, it reminds of the world we live in. God gave me my eyes so that I could see all the beautiful things around you and me. Much of our lives are spent looking down on the pavement in front of us, looking at the cars ahead of us which we need to pass. We, as adults tend to only focus on the tasks ahead instead of taking the time to look at the world we are in. We don’t notice butterflies of every color, bunnies, frogs and puppies too, rainbows, kittens and candy apples just to name a few. We don’t notice them because we are too busy.
Yet, why did God create us this way. Hear the Psalm one more time, for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. I love the imagery in this psalm. God knew us while he knit us together in our mother’s womb. We praise God because we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And God’s work is wonderful. God knows us inside and out, from foot bone to our ear bones, God knows how and why he created you.
The human body is simply amazing. Did you know the average human brain has more than 100 billion nerve cells, 100 billion! Did you know it is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open? Relative to size, the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue. Babies are born without knee caps. They don’t appear until the child reaches 2-6 years of age. Did you know the human head weighs 8 pounds? The average human blinks their eyes 6,205,000 times each year. The human body is comprised of 80% water. The average human will shed 40 pounds of skin in a lifetime. Every year about 98% of the atoms in your body are replaced. Yes I Googled fun human body facts.
I quoted these all to you because this is simply to tip of how amazing we are as humans. Children understand this because as they grow up they start to notice the fun things God gave them, like belly buttons, noses, ears, and mouths. He gave me my ears so that I could hear all the many sounds both far and near. God gave us an amazing body to live in for this short time we are here on this earth but why?
For some people it is to do amazing things. For Samson in the Bible, his mother offered him up to God and he was known to have amazing strength. He wrestled lions, whipped out an entire army with the jawbone of a donkey, and was able to collapse a building all because of his great strength that God had given him. Michael Jordan could do things on the basketball court that no one had been able to do or can even duplicate. He was amazing to watch and still is the best basketball player on earth. Lance Armstrong, after defeating cancer amazed the world by winning the Tour de France seven consecutive times before retiring. An athlete from Morocco whom I cannot even pretend to pronounce his name, holds the world records for running the fastest mile; his time, 3 minutes and 43 seconds. Takeru Kobayashi is probably the best competitive eater in the world, and won the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest six years in a row until being beaten last year. He still holds the records for eating 58 brats in 10 minutes, 20 pounds of rice balls in 30 minutes, and many other eating records.
All of these people have taken the bodies that God made for them and have done amazing things with them. All of us posses what we need to do amazing things with our bodies. God created us so that we could experience the world around us and see God. He gave us eyes to see the leaves changing colors in the fall. He gave us ears to hear the sound of train whistles and golf balls going into the hole. He gave us mouths to taste banana pudding, steak, and fresh fruit. He gave us a mind so that we can think up things like television, cars, Harry Potter, music, and imaginary friends. He gave us our skin so that we can feel the touch of a loved one, the embrace of our parents, sloppy kisses from our pets, and the tears of our children. He gave us a heart in order that we can open it up to love the people and the world around us.
Most importantly he created us in his image. He gave us a soul, a spirit, so that we could know that all of these things are from him. All of these things are masterpieces created by a God who loves us so much he wanted to give it all to us to experience. Children don’t take this for granted. They go out and experience the world with fresh eyes and wild imaginations. Adults need to hear the lesson in this book though. We are special because we are designed by God.
May you realize how wonderful you are and how beautiful God created you. May you look in the mirror and see with the eyes of God. May you see a child of God. A child who is to experience the world around you knowing it is all a gift from the Father.
And all of God’s children said…Amen.