Friday, January 22, 2016

Memorial sermon for Fiona Kathryn Cierra Wims

            Of all the Christian hymns and songs I know, I probably still love best the ones I learned as a little child.

            Like, Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world, Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

            And, I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, trusting only Thee.  Trusting Thee for full salvation, Great and free.

            Or, I am Jesus’ little lamb, ever glad at heart I am, For my Shepherd gently guides me, Knows my need and well provides me.  Loves me every day the same, Even calls me by my name.

            And, of course, Jesus loves me this I know, For the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.

            Jesus loves little children.  The Gospel lesson chosen for this day leaves absolutely no doubt about it.

            “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them…”   To me, that is one of the least surprising sentences in the New Testament.  Of course, if you were a parent or grandparent, wouldn’t you want your child or grandchild to be blessed by Jesus?

            The people gathered around Jesus knew about His works.  They knew what He had done for a father named Jairus.  Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter became seriously ill.  All the usual remedies had failed to make her well.  Jairus was aware of Jesus’ mighty miracles.

            Perhaps Jairus knew the story of the man who was possessed with many demons.  Jesus healed him.  Or maybe Jairus was aware that there had been a great storm on the seas which threatened the disciples.  Jesus stilled it.  Maybe Jairus know of the man suffering from leprosy.  Jesus cleansed him.

            The miracles were amazing.  But what also drew people to Jesus was the way He related to others.  Tax collectors were considered thieves in Jesus’ day.  But Jesus called a tax collector, Matthew, to be one of His disciples.  People who didn’t keep the Law and Traditions of the Pharisees were considered unclean.  They were called “sinners.”  Jesus reached out to them and taught them about God’s love.

            Jairus reached out to Jesus and asked the Lord to heal His little girl.  And even though news came that the little one had died, Jesus comforted Jairus.  The little girl was only asleep, said the Lord.  And then, with just a few words, Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead and gave the girl back to her father.

            So it just makes sense that people would bring their little ones to be blessed by Jesus.

            What makes absolutely no sense is how that sentence concludes.  “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.”

            Now, I’d like to think that the disciples were trying to help Jesus.  Maybe He was running on a tight schedule.  Perhaps there were plans to travel to another village and this kind of interruption would throw off their travel schedule.

            I hope it wasn’t that the disciples didn’t consider little children important enough to take a little of Jesus’ time.  I’d like to think that the disciples were not thinking that the children didn’t need Jesus and could wait for Him until they were older.

            Jesus doesn’t become angry very often.  But this is one time when the veins in His neck are ready to pop.  I don’t know if the words Jesus says are spoken after He calms down.  But He makes it clean to the disciples and to us just how important little children are to Him.

            “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  The kingdom of God is for everyone, just as we sang earlier.  Red and yellow, black and white, (children) are precious in His sight. 

            The way children are brought into the kingdom of God today is through baptism.  Parents and grandparents bring their kids and grandkids into this house to receive a blessing from Jesus.  At the baptismal font Jesus calls children by name to come to Him.  They receive His sign – the sign of the cross which marks them as redeemed, purchased by Jesus, forgiven and made part of His family.  Water is poured over their heads three times in the name of the Triune God.  But not ordinary water.  This is extraordinary water, made so when joined by the powerful word of God.  As Martin Luther said, “(Baptism is) a life-giving water, rich in grace and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.”

            Then Jesus speaks more truth: “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 

            Oh, that we would all believe like a little child.  Our little ones take us at our word.  We tell them we’ll do something and they believe it.  They have no doubts.  They don’t spend time worrying.  They believe.

            Oh, that we would all believe like a little child.  That we would always take Jesus at His Word.  He keeps His promises.  His Word does what it says.  We need not doubt the Lord.  Every promise Jesus has made He has kept.  Forgiveness of sins? Promise kept.  Answers to prayer? Promise kept.  Always present in our lives? Promise kept.  A place in heaven? Promise kept.

            And then Jesus does exactly what the disciples tried to keep Him from doing.  “(Jesus) took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.”

            There are few images in the Bible that are sweeter and more meaningful than this one.  I can just imagine Jesus tenderly picking up each child, maybe mussing their hair or caressing their cheek.  I can see Jesus gathering up children and wrapping His arms of love around them.  Did the disciples get the message that day? Jesus loves little children.

            Jesus loved Fiona.

            And, thankfully, Fiona knew of Jesus’ love.

            She learned this love as you taught her those songs that we sang at the beginning of this message.  These sweet, simple songs proclaim a powerful truth, the one we know from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Or, if you don’t mind, let me personalize this verse: For God so loved Fiona that He gave Fiona His one and only Son, that as Fiona believed in Him, Fiona would not perish but have eternal life.”

Yes, Jesus loved Fiona.  How much?

Enough to leave His heavenly throne to come down to this earth and be her Savior.  The King of heaven became the poor baby of Bethlehem.

Jesus loved Fiona so much that He obediently did the will of His Heavenly Father.  It was the Father’s will that the sin that Adam and Eve brought into the world, the sin with which we’ve been infected, be covered by someone.  But not just anyone.  It had to be someone who would keep God’s Law perfectly.  Someone who lived life perfectly.  Someone who could offer a perfect sacrifice.

This Jesus did for Fiona and for the whole world.  The devil offered Jesus a cross-less future.  Jesus turned the devil down.  His disciples wanted to wage war against the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin.  Jesus had them put their swords away.  Pontius Pilate gave Jesus every opportunity to offer a defense of innocence.  Jesus did nothing to sway the guilty sentence that was handed down.

Jesus endured a horrible beating by bloodthirsty soldiers, a humiliating walk through the streets of Jerusalem, and the excruciating pain and suffering of crucifixion.  Even worse was the pain of knowing that His Father had closed His ears to Jesus’ cries.  Finally, after Jesus had fully paid for the sins of Fiona and for us all, He cried out triumphantly from the cross, “It is finished!”  Our debt paid in full by Jesus’ suffering, death and yes, on the third day, His resurrection from the dead.

This is important for us to know.  The only sin that Jesus’ shed blood did not cover is the sin against the Holy Spirit, that is the sin of unbelief.  Sometimes people commit sins and they do things that they wouldn’t ordinary do.  Sometimes, when a person isn’t in their right mind, they take actions that just make no sense.  But does Jesus reject us when we commit such sins? Absolutely not! His love for us is great, greater than the greatest sin we could commit.  Jesus knows us.  He understands us.  His grace is more than sufficient for us. 

So, on this day, we can be confident of Jesus’ love for Fiona.  Just as Jesus took up those little children and blessed them, Jesus has taken up Fiona to Himself.  He is faithful and He keeps His promises.  Jesus loves the little children.  Jesus loves Fiona.  To that we say, thank you, Jesus.  Thank you, Jesus.  Amen.