The Presbyterian Pulpit
A sermon by the Rev. Dr. David E. Leininger


Delivered 4/1/01
Text: Mark 10:13-16
To read endnotes, click on the the note number, then click on the to return to your place in the text.

O, what a beautiful morning
O, what a beautiful day,
The grass and the trees are a-greening,
The snow is all going away!

Amen? Amen! And that is not April Fools!!! Snow, snow, snow. I have had enough. You too? But did you notice how the kids responded last Sunday when I asked them if they had had enough snow this winter? NO-O-O-O!!! Ugh!

Why the difference of opinion? Simple. Adults look at snow and see all the images such weather conjures up - dangerous driving, accidents, heart attacks, cancellations...trouble! But what do the kids see? Sleds, snowmen, snowball fights, laughter. It is a different perspective. And I am not about to say ours is better than theirs.

Jesus didn't. In fact, he was quite clear in our lesson in saying that youthful view was crucial when it comes to the life of faith: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Why would Jesus say such a thing? To come up with an answer, I think we would have to look at what makes children and adults really different, and then hone in on that. There are lots of choices, but the one that jumps to my mind right now comes from all the snow. The kids look at the snow and see a wonderful time, while ol' stick-in-the-mud me looks at snow and sees shovels, frozen feet, an aching back, and spinning wheels. Here is surely one way that kids and grown-ups are different: children look at something and see fun while adults can look at the SAME thing and see trouble.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

One of my cyber-friends has come up with a list of some of the reasons Jesus loved the children:(1)

Children are imaginative. A boy came home from Sunday School where they had just had a lesson on Adam and Eve. He was especially amused by the fact that Eve was said to be created from Adam's rib. Later that day he came down with some sort of intestinal bug and said to his mother: "Mommy, my side hurts. I think I'm going to have a wife."

Children bring us smiles as they learn. For example, one child prayed, "Our Father, who art in heaven, how do you know my name?" Another, asked to describe love, answered, "comforting your puppy when there is a big storm outside and he is full of slobber."

Children know exactly where to go when they need something. They know who provides supper and who needs to be around if they need a ride to soccer practice, and so on. And, as most parents know, children do not hesitate to ask...and ask, and ask, and ask...when they have a need.

Children understand faith. A little boy was told he could not go to the family picnic on Sunday because he had been naughty. But along about Saturday his mother relented and told him he could go after all. "It's too late," was his reply, "I have already prayed for rain." Faith!

A young lady was soaking up the sun's rays on a Florida beach when a little boy in his swimming trunks, carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, "Do you believe in God?"

She was surprised by the question but replied, "Why, yes, I do."

Then he asked her: "Do you go to church every Sunday?"

Again, her answer was "Yes!"

Then he asked: "Do you read your Bible and pray?"

Again she said, "Yes!" But by now her curiosity was very much aroused. At last the lad sighed and said, with obvious relief, "Will you hold my quarter while I go in swimming?"(2)

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

There is a wonderful story around these days about a mom who took her children to a crowded restaurant.(3) Her six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. He prayed: "God is great and God is good, Let us thank him for our food, and God I would thank you even more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, the woman at the very next table growled loudly: "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. The very idea...asking God for ice cream! Why, I never."

Hearing this, the little boy burst into tears and he asked his mother: "Did I do it wrong? I'm sorry. Is God mad at me?"

Mom pulled him over into her lap. She hugged him tightly and assured him that he had done a terrific job with his prayer and God was certainly not mad at him.

Just then an elderly gentleman walked over to the table. He winked at the little boy and he said, "I know God really well. We visit every day and I happen to know that God loved your prayer. It may have been the best one God has heard all day."

"Really?" the little boy asked.

"Cross my heart," said the man. Then he leaned over and whispered into the little boy's ear. Pointing at the woman at the next table who had made the remark that started the whole thing, he said: "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

Naturally, the mom ordered ice cream for her kids at the end of the meal. The boy stared at his for a moment and then he did something that no one in that restaurant that day will ever forget. He picked up his sundae and without a word walked over and placed it in front of the woman at the next table. With a big smile he said to her: "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes, and my soul is good already!"

As you can imagine, the people in the restaurant applauded, and somewhere nearby, Jesus was smiling. "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Do you remember the fun you had as a youngster at a tea party? The tiny plates and cups, the childish formality and good manners with which everything was done? Good times. Knowing Jesus as we do, I would not think it at all irreverent to hark back to those days as we come to the Table. After all, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child..."

Oh, what a beautiful morning,
Oh, what a beautiful day.
The bread and the wine are a-waiting,
Christ Jesus invites us today.


1. Doug Behm, via Ecunet, "Illustrations for this Week," #447, 9/28/97

2. James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 285.

3. I have seen this story in a number of places so the original source has faded into the ether. The telling here comes from James W. Moore in a sermon entitled, "Jesus and the Man Born Blind,

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