Every biblical generation of faith is responsible for remembering and teaching faith in God.
Their names were Beulah Richardson, Linda Smith, J. P., and Joy Harner, Don Adkins, Gene Moser, Tom, and Winkie McCann, Joyce Lyle. They were some of my Sunday School teachers, Vacation Bible School teachers, and youth workers who taught me the stories of the Bible as they connected the story of my life with the story of generations of biblical faith. Through their teaching and their care, faith was imparted to me as I was grounded in the generations of biblical faith and learned about stories such as Daniel in the Lion’s Den and Jonah and the great fish. Through their welcoming of me, I learned about Jesus welcoming children to sit with him and the faith in Jesus I could impart as a child.
Most of them have joined the church triumphant and the great cloud of witnesses who cheer on the generations of faith. It is through the gift of their faith in God that I seek to live with the gift of faith of a child. Our scripture readings for today are about the faith of a child.
The Old Testament scripture of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells of how faith is imparted to children: “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children.” Faith being imparted to children is grounded in the understanding that stories of biblical faith link the generations of faith. Rather than being remembered as stories about God’s faithfulness in the past, biblical stories of faith that link one generation to the next are stories about the promise of God’s faithfulness in the future. It is the promise of God’s future faithfulness that is imparted to children in the present living of life as their generation follow the Great Commandment of Deuteronomy 6;4; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
The New Testament scripture of Matthew 18:3 tells of how faith is imparted by children as followers of Jesus live from one generation to the next with the faith of a child. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:5 teaches that the faith of a child is realized when children are welcomed in the same way that Jesus is welcomed: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Whenever children are welcomed in the name of Jesus, they teach the present and future generations about what it means to live with faith in Jesus.
In What is childlike faith? Jeremy Myers defines what it means to live with the faith of a child:
“Becoming like a little child means that we maintain the wonderful and beautiful characteristics and qualities of children that life in this sinful world tends to beat out of us.
“Like what? Like tenderness of conscience. Openness about emotions and feelings. Creativity and imagination. Wonder and awe. Joy. Eternal hope. Playfulness and humor. Trust. Easy forgiveness. Undying love. Boundless exuberance and energy. Always thinking the best about life and other people. Being willing to learn and grow. These are the sort of qualities that tend to define children, but which get stripped out of people as they encounter the sin and brokenness of this world.
“As adults, we get bored with flowers, bugs, and sunsets. We lose delight in talking with others about nothing. We become jaded and disinterested. Adults hold grudges, harbor fears, and stay angry. Adults refuse to forgive. Adults remember slights. Adults lose hope because their hopes have been dashed and destroyed so many times. Adults do things “because they’ve always been done that way” and have trouble imagining anything different.
“But children do not behave in any of these ways. Nor did Jesus. One of the things that attracted people to Jesus is that He was “childlike.” Does this mean He lacked wisdom and understanding? Far from it. Jesus was “childlike” because He was full of the wonder of life, the hope for humanity, and the beauty of creation.
“Jesus lived in awe of life, awe of God, and awe of humanity. And this awe was contagious. People who saw how Jesus lived began to see how life should be lived. Jesus revealed how God intended life to be lived. In other words, those who begin to live life like Jesus are those who begin to see heaven come down to earth. They begin to see the rule and reign of God unfold in their own life with all its beauty, majesty, glory, and creativity. This is what Jesus Himself lived, and this is what Jesus invited others to live also. He taught that if you want to experience God’s life in this life (the kingdom of heaven), then you need to become like a little child once again.
“Do you want to enter the Kingdom like a child? If so, then ask questions. Lots of questions. But also have fun. Laugh. Play. Imagine. Sing. Dance. Hope. Dream. Forgive. Create. Trust. Live life to the full. Be excited. Be adventuresome. Be tender of heart.
And most of all, love. When you live this way, you will become like a little child, and will see the kingdom of heaven rise again in your life.”
To understand what it means to have the faith of a child, I invite you to hear this essay written by Danny Dutton, age 8, from Chula Vista, California. This was a homework assignment in which students were asked to explain God:
“One of God’s main jobs is making people. God makes these to put in place of the ones that die so there will be enough people to take care of things here on earth. God doesn’t make grown-ups. Just babies. I think because they are small and easier to make. That way God doesn’t have to take valuable time teaching them to walk and talk. God can just leave that up to the mothers and fathers. I think it works out pretty well.”
“God’s second most important job is listening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, as some people, like preachers and things, pray other times besides bedtime. God doesn’t have time to listen to the radio or TV on account of this. As God hears everything – not only prayers – there must be a terrible lot of noise into God’s ears, unless God has thought of a way to turn it off.”
“God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere. Which keeps God pretty busy. So you shouldn’t go wasting God’s time by going over your parents’ heads and asking for something they said you shouldn’t have.”
“Atheists are people who don’t believe in God. I don’t believe there are any in Chula Vista. At least there aren’t any who come to church.”
“Jesus is God’s son. He used to do all the hard work like walking on water and doing miracles and trying to teach people about God who didn’t want to learn. They finally got tired of him preaching to them and they crucified him. But he was good and kind like his father and he told his father what they were doing and to forgive them and God said okay.”
“His Dad (God) appreciated everything he had done and all his hard work on earth, so he told him he didn’t have to on the road anymore. He could stay in heaven. So he did. Now he helps his Dad out by listening to prayers and seeing which things are important for God to take care of and which ones he can take care of himself without having to bother God with. Like a secretary, only more important, of course.”
“You can pray any time you want and they are sure to hear you because they’ve got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time.”
“You should always go to Sunday School because it makes God happy, and if there’s anybody you want to make happy, it’s God. Don’t skip Sunday School to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong. And besides, the sun doesn’t come out at the beach until noon anyway.”
“If you don’t believe in God – besides being an atheist – you will be very lonely because your parents can’t go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can. It’s good to know God’s around when you’re scared of the dark or when you can’t swim very well and you get thrown in real deep water by big kids. But you shouldn’t just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and God can take me back any time God pleases.”
“And that’s why I believe in God.”
May God bless us with the faith of a child.
The Faith of a Child
by Pastor Marc Brown
September 19, 2021
Accompanying Scriptures: Deuteronomy 6:4-9 & Matthew 18:1-5
(full online service video below)
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for September 19, 2021
Opening Music “Children’s Medley” arr. Mark Hayes
Call to Worship
One: Bless the Lord, O my soul.
All: And all that is within me bless God’s holy name.
Scripture Lesson Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Matthew 18:1-5
The Good News “The Faith of a Child”
Prayers of the Community
Response: Hear our prayer.
Closing Music “I Love You Lord”
I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you, O my soul rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what you hear, may it be a sweet, sweet, sound in your ear.