Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” – Matthew 19:14

This time of year brings good memories to me of being a former elementary teacher: the excitement of starting a new year, decorating my classroom, and anticipating the arrival of new students. It’s a blessing and pure joy to have six Head Start classrooms in our building throughout the school year, filling our church with young children learning and discovering the world. This week the Head Start teachers from McHenry County are gathering in our church for orientation meetings. Our building has been a favorite place for teachers to be assigned because they feel welcome, safe, and cared for by the community of Bethany.  

In Sunday’s Gospel reading, while the disciples were not welcoming to the children who came to visit, Jesus opens his arms wide to them and invites them to come to him. This was a radical gesture by Jesus, since in those days children weren’t always seen as human. They were seen as possessions, and a great drain on resources that may or may not pay off.

Mothers saw a quality in Jesus that welcomed children, unlike the tradition of society, so they took a chance and brought their children to see Jesus. What are qualities we need as a community of faith that young, old, and people that don’t look or act just like us will feel welcome, safe, and cared for?

Jesus was teaching the community of his time that the kingdom of heaven is expansive of who it belongs to, and children and those on the fringes of society have a place.  Our circles of who’s in and who’s out are not representative of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was teaching the gathered crowd that this kingdom also belongs to people beyond those that look just like us, especially those who we exclude.  

Come join us this Sunday as we discover how we might create and connect in new ways, that those yet to come see a quality and a characteristic at Bethany that is inviting and welcoming -- a place where people feel safe to be their authentic selves. Amen.