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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

2012-05-20 Where's Jesus - Part 5

2012-05-20 "Where's Jesus" (Part 5)
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

Deuteronomy 6:1-8
The Great Commandment
Chapter 6
1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead,

Mark 10:13-16
Jesus Blesses Little Children
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Good morning!

So we're continuing our series called, "Where's Jesus?" And it's about finding Jesus in your own life. As if your life is your own. But that's a different set of sermons. The current series, "Where's Jesus?" is about finding strategies, practices, and real-life tools to encountering the risen Lord every day.

Because you know, after Easter, Jesus was freed from his human body. He got kind of shape-shifty. In the Bible we read that Mary thought he was a gardener. Cleopas thought he was a clueless stranger. Doubting Thomas said something to the effect that he'd believe Jesus had come back when pigs fly. So, it shouldn't be surprising that it's hard for us to find Jesus if the disciples who walked with him couldn't find him, or see him, or recognize him.

The series is called, "Where's Jesus?" Kind of like Where's Waldo, but much more serious. Because if you can't find Waldo, you can always turn back to the earlier pages where it's easier. Or, you can get a five year-old to help you. A couple of our kids here have said, "I don't like Waldo books." I ask why. "Because they're too easy." Oh. Maybe after a certain age Waldo becomes more invisible. Like the high-pitched sounds I can't hear anymore. And maybe that's the point. If you ask a five year-old, "Where's Jesus?" they know. They'll tell you. And they'll look at you like maybe you're testing them, or you're just not very smart. You know, because, you're a grown up. You're supposed to know everything. There's that pressure. Somewhere along the way, finding Jesus turned all serious. If you can't find Waldo, it's no big deal. But if you can't find Jesus? Lord have mercy. Eternity's on the line. Things get panicky. You get anxious, or you get depressed, or you get mad. Because you're old. And you know you've only got so long before the timer dings.

Maybe that's just me. Anybody else ever have grown-up doubts about "Where's Jesus?" Anybody else ever have doubts that scare you? What do you do with them? Medieval monks used to have barbed rope that they'd punish themselves with. Don't do that. Some people get defensive and mean and lash out at other people with doubts and differences. Some people keep it all inside and beat themselves up for being so weak. Some people, with good intentions, go way out and preach a place of eternal punishment for getting it so wrong. Do you see kind of a theme developing here? Can't find Jesus? You're a sinner. Have too many doubts? Your faith is faulty. Ask too many questions? Sorry. You get punished. Scattered, smothered, covered, and perhaps even burnt.

Which is so the opposite of what Jesus taught. Grown-ups try to get into heaven by punishing ourselves for having bad thoughts or doing bad things. Physically, emotionally, spiritually beating the heck out of ourselves. But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs." He said, "Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

You see, little children don't mind asking questions. That's just what they do. In fact, I think some of them enjoy watching the grown-ups sweat. And when things are different or weird, kids tend to roll with it a lot better than adults do. Kids ask questions. Kids aren't so afraid of making mistakes. You can't fear a mistake if you don't know it's a mistake. Kids don't get all stressed out over asking "Where's Jesus?" because they just naturally gravitate toward love. Verse 16 of Mark 10 is so telling of Jesus and his love. It says, "And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them." Wow. Didn't use Purell or anything. Just took them up in his arms and blessed them.

But I don't want us to skip ahead too quickly there. Because there's another critically important verse at the beginning of this reading. And it's especially important today as we celebrate the kids in our church who are growing up and graduating. It's verse 13, that says, "People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them...." People were bringing the little children. In other words, they didn't just toddle up on their own. People brought them. What people? The Bible doesn't say. Maybe parents. Maybe grandparents. Maybe their older sisters or brothers. The point is they didn't find "Where's Jesus?" all on their own. They had help. They had direction. They had guidance.

So, you parents, you grown-ups, you big people -- you don't have to BE Jesus. You don't have to HAVE all the answers. You don't have to be AFRAID of getting it wrong. You just have to bring the kids TO Jesus, and help them GET to Jesus, and do not forbid them, or fear them, or let anything stand between the kids and Jesus. In other words, get them to Jesus. And then get out of the way.

Which is why it's so cool that today, when we're celebrating graduation, we're also getting ready for a whole bunch of kids' stuff. Bible School, Summer Recreation, a Mission Trip (although that's for grown-ups, too), Montreat, Camp John Knox. Ice Cream. (We are having ice cream this summer aren't we?) We're opening the doors and getting out of the way so there are no barriers between the little children and Jesus. This is a very good thing.

The Bible says, "A little child shall lead them." We're so lucky to have a little Child on staff. Actually, ours is about 5 foot 3. Relatively speaking, that's still pretty small. Cheryl may not have all the answers to "Where's Jesus?" but she knows more than I do. And she's got the heart of a little child that never stops asking, "Where's Jesus?" All this month, we've been asking real people to share their own, real-life answers to the question, "Where do you find Jesus?" And today, we get to hear from Cheryl.