Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Bob Vetrano, Celebration of Life

For Bob Vetrano
October 30, 2021
Westbury, NY
John 6:37-40

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

For those who don’t know me, my name is George Baum, and I am an Episcopal priest, living in Ohio.  And I’m also sort of still on the staff here at THE LIFE, as Content Editor and Social Media editor.  (You can’t get rid of me, just because I live two states away.)  I’ve known Pastor Vetrano and his family for . . . longer than I haven’t known them.  Pastor Justin and I are Godfathers to one another’s eldest children.  (I mean, like literal godfathers.)  And Pastor Vetrano asked me to say a few words this morning.  Now, I know you’ve already heard a lot of words today, so I am going to keep the emphasis on a few . . . words this morning.

So the first words I want to say are from the mouth of Jesus.  In the 6th chapter of John’s gospel, we read:

Jesus said to the people, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day."

“This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”  This is my absolute favorite verse in the whole Bible.

I have told my family—and anyone else who will listen—that this is the gospel reading I want at my own funeral.  And then I want the preacher to come up, and read those words again:  “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” And then, I want the preacher to read the fist law of thermodynamics—about the conservation of energy—and then just sit back down.  That’s it.  I honestly think Bob Vetrano would get a kick out of that.  Because, just like Pop pop’s hideous shirt, it is subversive, and it is true.  But let me explain.

In a nutshell, the law of the conservation of energy states that energy and matter cannot be created or destroyed; they can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another.  You can turn matter into energy, and you can turn energy into matter, but you can never actually lose anything.  Anything in the entire universe.  Physical things can never be destroyed; they can only be changed, because they are part of this closed system of creation.  (And don’t even get me started on how every speck of zinc in your body was created in the aftermath of a supernova.)  Jesus said, “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

Or, going back to the 3rd chapter of Genesis, you could think of it another way:  Out of dust we were formed, and to dust we shall return . . . until the last day when Jesus raises us back up, because Jesus loses nothing that belongs to him.

Yes, Bob Vetrano is lost to us—while we continue our earthly pilgrimage—but he never was, and is not now, lost to God.  Jesus does not lose what is his.  We are precious in his sight, and he holds us tightly throughout our lives, even when we don’t notice that we are being held.  Bob was given to Jesus in Baptism.  Just as you were given to God in your Baptism.  Jesus is holding onto Bob, and Jesus is holding onto you.

Jesus said, “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”  May we all trust in the promises of Jesus, and live our lives knowing that we too will be raised up on the last day.  Because we are precious in God’s sight, we belong to Jesus, and Jesus does not lose what is his.  Not even Pop pop's hideous shirt.  Nothing and no one is lost to Jesus.  Thanks be to God.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 22

Pentecost 22, 2021
Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 126
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, as I’ve mentioned before, every Tuesday afternoon I get together online with a group of clergy to talk through the lessons for Sunday.  This week, one of them pointed out how weird it is in the first lesson that expectant mothers are included with the blind and the lame.  A strange grouping, for sure.  I suggested that it might be because it’s very hard to get life insurance when you’re pregnant, because pregnancy is considered a life-threatening illness.   But of course, Jeremiah knew nothing about actuary tables.

Anyway, as we heard, God is going to bring the people back who have been exiled, “and among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.”  And the more I thought about it, the more I could see what it is those people have in common.  The blind, the lame, those in labor, they would slow us down, right?  If we are racing back to our ancestral land, we’d probably prefer that those folks just kind of meet us there at some point when they can.  I mean, a great multitude can only move as fast as the slowest members.

But what’s more interesting here is that those particular people, the blind, the lame, and those in labor all rely on the community to get them through.  If you can’t see, you need someone to guide you.  If you can’t walk, you need someone to carry you.  If you are in labor, you need someone to hold your hand while you scream obscenities at them.  (Or so I’ve heard.)  All these folks rely on the community, and God is not going to let them be left behind.  Everyone comes home together.  Everyone.  God says, “With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back.”  The vulnerable bring along what makes them vulnerable, because God will protect them, through the community around them.

And our gospel reading today is also about community.  But it’s about the transformation of the community.  As we heard, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, is sitting by the side of the road.  A large crowd is walking with Jesus, and the blind man cries out to him.  And what does the crowd do?  Do they pick him up and carry him with them?  Do they tell Jesus that someone needs his help?  No.  Instead they sternly order him to keep quiet.

And Jesus stood still, and told the crowd to bring the blind man to him.  Interesting that Jesus doesn’t go to the man.  Jesus doesn’t tell the man to come to him.  No, Jesus tells the community to bring the man to him.  The community turns to the man in need and tells him to take heart, because Jesus is calling him.  And throwing off his cloak (which we’ll come back to in a minute), he gets up and goes to Jesus.  And Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And here we have to stop for a moment.

I don’t know if you've ever had any friends who were blind.  But more than once—because of bible stories like this—I have asked a blind person if they would want to have their sight back.  Those of us who can see assume that blind people really want to be like us.  But that’s not necessarily so.  Even people who could once see—they know what it’s like—those people do not necessarily want to have their sight back.  Point being, we want to be careful not to assume that everyone who is different wants to be like us, right?

And so look what Jesus does here.  He doesn’t assume the man wants to be able to see.  He asks the man himself: What do you want me to do for you?  I find that both interesting and important.  Jesus asks the man what he wants, without assuming he would want what we would want.  And Bartimaeus says, “My teacher, let me see again.”  Jesus tells him his faith has made him well, and then Bartimaeus follows Jesus on the way.  He becomes part of the community.  The same community that previously sternly told him to be quiet, tells him Jesus is calling him, and now walks together with this man.

Okay, great story.  But back to the man’s cloak.  As we heard, the crowd told the man that Jesus was calling, and “throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.”  Consider for a moment Bartimaeus’ position in life.  He is blind and begging by the roadside.  He has a cloak, and maybe a bowl to collect the alms he might receive.  It is probably very likely that the one possession this man has, the one thing of any monetary value in his life is this cloak.  And hearing that Jesus is calling, he throws off his cloak, springs to his feet, and comes to Jesus.

If you think back to a couple weeks ago, we heard about a rich man who came to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life.  He was told he’d have to leave everything behind, but he couldn’t do it.  What we saw in that case was someone who was trying to save himself.  But the blind man Bartimaeus, and the people from the first reading, the blind, the lame, and those in labor, they all know that they cannot save themselves.  They must rely on God and on the community.  And God and the community are there for them in both cases.  Carrying them when they cannot carry themselves.

So . . . today is the kickoff date for our annual stewardship campaign.  I was asked to preach a sermon about stewardship, and I agreed.  And then I read these lessons and thought, “Uh oh.”  But the more I have thought about it, the more of a connection I see.  Because, in a way, the blind man’s cloak is his offering.  It represents what he is willing to give up in his desire to follow Jesus.  Unlike the rich man two weeks ago, Bartimaeus leaves behind literally everything in order to follow Jesus.  It’s like the most extreme example of sacrificial giving.

Of course, he could have brought his cloak with him to Jesus.  But he leaves the cloak behind and brings his blindness with him.  In his excitement to be healed, his possessions become secondary.  And then, he ends up as part of the community and follows Jesus.

Now I know the connection between Bartimaeus and stewardship is not a perfect through line for us.  But the idea of holding our possessions lightly is there.  There is a broad continuum between the rich man who kept all his possessions and went away sad, and the blind man who leaps up and leaves everything behind.  None of us is at either of those extremes, it’s safe to say.

But especially over these past two years, I think we all have learned to hold our possessions just a little more lightly.  We’ve found ourselves focusing on our health, and our families, and our friends.  Money and things became a little less important when we found ourselves staring death in the face for months and months on end.  Over these past two years, I’ve watched the people of St. Tim’s be so extra generous with your contributions of clothes and food and toys, in seeing how you volunteered countless hours working in the garden, tearing out the carpet, washing every touchable surface and dish.  Keeping up with your pledges as you were able.   In seeing your contributions of time, talent, and treasure, I could see that we all moved a little closer to Bartimaeus and a little farther away from the rich man who went away sad.

As we begin this year’s stewardship campaign, I would encourage all of us to consider what it is we are willing to part with in order to see the ministry of Jesus’ grow in this place.  Maybe it’s just a little.  Maybe it is significant.  And both of those are okay, because we are a community together.  But no matter what we might pledge, Jesus is calling and welcoming each one of us.  To heal us from whatever holds us back from following him on the way.  To join together in this community to share the good news with others.  The news that they too should take heart, because just like Bartimaeus, Jesus is calling for them too.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Massillon Tigers Prayer Service

Tigers Prayer Service
October 23, 2021

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So lately I’ve been reading a bunch of articles about the difference between transactional coaches and transformational coaches.  A transactional coach cares only about winning; a transformational coach cares about people, and inspires them to win.  A transactional coach might help you for a day; a transformational coach will help you for life.  This is important stuff, to be honest.  Especially because you are fortunate enough to have transformational coaches here in Massillon.  I want to read you something written by Coach Steve Weidl, because I think it applies to today’s game.

Transformational coaches not only look at the present, but they also make an emotional investment in young athletes’ long-term development. A transformational coach will aim to develop leaders who are not only good athletes, but also better people, and better ambassadors for the sport they participate in. They strive to inspire young athletes to achieve their goals and make them truly believe they can achieve anything they set their minds to. If a coach believes their only job is to make athletes strong and fast, they should think again. Coaches should also strive to build their athletes’ character, to help them improve as athletes and as human beings, because better people make better athletes. Teaching respect and discipline, and inspiring hope and self-confidence should be a priority for any coach.

I don’t want to take your focus off today’s game with all this talk about coaches.  But on the other hand, yes, I definitely do want to take your focus off today’s game.  Because your coaches at Washington High School care about who you are, and what kind of person you will become.  And because your coaches care so much about you as a person, that has an impact on everything you do, both on and off the field.

The UCLA Coach Red Sanders is quoted as saying, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”  And, sure, that’s kind of funny.  But it’s not true.  Winning is not the only thing; it’s not even the most important thing.  No.  Being the best person you can be is the most important thing; that’s the only thing.  Learning to be yourself with the gifts you have been given.  To do the best you can to make this world a better place.  Your coaches spend their time and effort helping you become the best person you can be, because—as I have seen with my own eyes—you have transformational coaches.  Above everything else, they care about you as a person, they care about your future, and they care about teaching you to be true to yourself.

And so, as players on this Tigers football team, being your true selves on this day, in this game, in this year, that’s the thing that matters.  I know that your coaches support you today, and I know that you will support each other today, and I know for a fact that this entire city supports you all the way today.  And all of that is what truly matters.  It is my hope and prayer that each of you will see and know how important you are to this town, to this team, to your coaches, and to the world.

May God bless you this day and every day.  Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 20

Pentecost 20, 2021
Amos 5:6-7,10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I want to start this morning by talking about something we don’t often talk about in the Episcopal Church.  That is, Prosperity Theology, or as it’s sometimes called, the Prosperity Gospel.  If you know what that is, feel free to zone out for a minute.  Basically, prosperity theology says that God financially blesses those who vigorously claim blessings and healings as part of a binding contract with God.  Most televangelists fall into this category.  Think Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts, and so on.

In my younger days, I remember being home sick from school and watching some of these TV preachers, and a common refrain was that if you give them money, God will give you even more money in return.  It’s like a pyramid scheme right out in the open, with no effort to hide it.  But the most dangerous problem with prosperity theology—other than taking money from people who can’t afford to give it—is the implied connection between financial success and God’s blessing.  That is, you can tell God loves you if you have a lot of money.  And if you’re poor, well, that’s a sign that God doesn’t really care very much about you.

Now I’ve described all this in such a way that it sounds foreign to us, right?  I mean we don’t believe this kind of wacky stuff, do we?  Well . . . maybe not in so many words, but you can see it from here.  We all carry parts of this way of thinking, because we live in a country that is so profoundly influenced by the Protestant Work Ethic.  You know, the Lord helps those who help themselves, and all that.  It is part of our culture to think that when we are successful it is because God approves of us.  And the reverse of that is the deep dark secret of our times.  That people are unsuccessful and poor because God does not approve of them.

But we can tell all this isn’t true just by looking around.  Rich people don’t get rich because they have God’s approval.  Just think of Martin Shkreli who jacked up the price of HIV medications, or Bernie Madoff who stole people’s retirement money.  Or, on the other end, think of Mother Teresa, or the faithful poor people around the world.  Being rich does not imply God’s blessing, as though God controlled all the world’s money and doles it out to worthy recipients.  And being poor does not mean that God has somehow withheld blessings in your life as a punishment for not living up to God’s expectations.

We all naturally assume a correlation between financial success and God’s approval.  But if we step back a minute, we can see that this is not how life works.  And then we also have the upstanding law-abiding citizen side of things, which might include how often I go to church, or help out the local charities.  How many of the Commandments I keep or break.  Here again, we are thinking that we can earn God’s approval by our own efforts and actions.  If we behave, God will reward us.

The man who comes to Jesus in this gospel reading is a self-made man.  He has his money, and he follows the law.  He is doing everything just right, all on his own, and expects that he will also be able to earn his way into eternal life.  He thinks that God clearly approves of him because he has followed all the commandments, and you can tell God approves of him because of the fact that he is so wealthy, right?  He exemplifies prosperity theology long before the invention of the television.

But look at how he asks the question: What must I do to inherit eternal life?  What must I DO to INHERIT eternal life?  He’s got everything all backwards here.  What must I do?  It assumes there is some action I can perform that will get me the one thing I lack.  Gaining God’s love and acceptance is just a matter of finding out the thing God wants me to do so that God can reward me for doing it.  By my own efforts, and by keeping my nose to the grindstone, I can earn my way into eternal life.

And also, how about that word “inherit?”  That kind of gives away the game, doesn’t it?  Imagine talking to your parents or grandparents this way.  What must I do to inherit your house, mom?  What must I do to inherit your farm grandpa?  Is this how normal relationships work in our world?  I sure hope not!  To think that there is some action I can do that will twist someone’s will so that I might inherit something?  At its most basic level, this question assumes that my relative doesn’t love me enough just as I am.  That I must somehow become, or do something extraordinary in order to prove myself worthy of their love.

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing.”  And what is that one thing?  Tell me Jesus, what is that ONE THING I lack?  Is it one thing in addition to all the riches I have collected?  Is it one thing in addition to all the rules I have followed in order to make myself acceptable?  No.  It’s instead of all the riches and the rules.  The one thing you lack, man who wants to inherit eternal life, is that you’ve been barking up the wrong tree the whole time.  In collecting and striving and relying on yourself you missed the whole point:  Salvation is a free gift from a loving God.
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.

Just stop with all the doing and collecting things.  Stop thinking you can somehow earn God’s love and approval.  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a self-made person to understand that they cannot save themself.  If you spend your whole life hoarding money and doing for yourself, and following the commandments by your own effort, well . . . good luck trying to accept that you cannot also earn God’s approval.  If you cannot set all that deserving aside and see that you cannot save yourself . . .

And the disciples were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”  Who can possibly do enough to get God to love them?  Who can possibly collect enough possessions to make grandpa include them in his will?  If even the rich folks can’t count on buying their way into heaven, how can anyone possibly be saved?  Well, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

We naturally think that our relationship with God is dependent on us.  On what we do, what we say, how we act, what we do with our money.  But it’s not.  Thank God it’s not!  Jesus loves each one of us unconditionally with no extra conditions.  You cannot earn your way into inheriting eternal life, and you cannot disqualify yourself from inheriting it either.  

If you want to try to inherit eternal life on your own, through your own efforts, by doing something, well . . . okay.  The first thing to do is to sell everything you have and give the money to the poor.  You can’t do that, can you?  Where would you live?  What would you eat?  What would happen to your kids and grandkids?  You can’t do it, can you?

Exactly!  There is just one thing you need to do by your own efforts to inherit eternal life.  And you can’t do it.  Perfect.

And this is where Jesus looks at you, and loves you, and says, you cannot earn what you already have.  You are loved beyond measure, and you have already inherited eternal life.  Stop trying to earn what has been given to you out of love, because you are precious in God’s sight.

And now, come into the banquet hall and share this meal with the saints of every time and every place, the ones who also did not earn their way into inheriting eternal life.  A meal where Jesus comes to us, freely offered with no strings attached, in the body of Christ, and the bread of heaven.  Another free gift from God, and the assurance of our salvation.


Sunday, October 3, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecotst 19

Pentecost 19, 2021
Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

It will surprise no one to hear me say, this is a difficult text.  And it is a particularly troubling gospel reading for anyone who has gone through the soul-crushing meat grinder we call “divorce.”  And, sadly, this gospel text is easy for people to hijack for the purpose of making things worse for those who have been divorced, or who are about to be divorced.  Because some people like to quote little pieces of scripture out of context with the goal of making other people feel bad.  (You know, like Jesus always tells us to do.)

You’re probably familiar with the quote from Alice Roosevelt Longworth:  If you haven’t got anything nice to say, come sit by me.  That of course is a clever riff on the age-old wisdom, If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  You could imagine saying that to your kids, right?  If you’re like me, you already have said that to your kids.  If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

But then imagine you’re sitting around the dinner table and your kids aren’t talking.  When you ask them what’s up, they respond, “you told us not to say anything at all.”  And you’d rightly say,  “Wait.  Not saying anything at all is the emergency brake here.  It was the backup to prevent you from doing something worse.”  A safety net.  “But you told us not say anything at all.”  Not really.  Now that’s a long way to go to get where I’m going, but, believe it or not, that is what is happening in today’s gospel reading.

As we heard, some Pharisees come to Jesus and, to test him, they ask, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  They’re Pharisees.  They know the answer to this question already.  But they also know that to answer the question either way will cause division, which is exactly what they are hoping for.  But it’s even trickier.  Because their quote back to Jesus, from Deuteronomy, is not about divorce; it’s about remarrying someone whom you’ve previously divorced, but who has been married to someone else in between.  Don’t even bother trying to follow that.  Let’s rephrase it all a different way.

Let’s pretend that in Deuteronomy it says, “If you drop an anvil on somebody’s head, stop what you are doing and make sure they’re okay before you do anything else.”  And the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask, “Is it okay to drop an anvil on somebody’s head?”  And Jesus asks, “What does Moses tell you?”  And they say “Moses says, yes!”  Which is why Jesus then says, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.”  Or, as you might say to your kids, “Because you can’t say anything nice, I made this commandment for you not to say anything at all.”  The Pharisees are looking to find an excuse for dropping anvils on people’s heads, and are misusing the Law of Moses as the basis for it.  And in this case, the dropping of anvils is—in actuality—divorcing one’s wife.

“Hey Jesus, is it okay to divorce a woman and leave her to fend for herself with nothing, in this first-century culture of ours that devalues women and children?”  Jesus answers, “What does Moses say?”  They respond, “Moses says yes!”  You ask your kids: Did I tell you not to say anything at all?  The kids say “Yes!”

So then Jesus does them one better, and says “. . . from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  He turns the conversation from being about the legality of divorce into being about the gift of marriage.  They ask, “Is it okay to demean women and throw them into the street?”  And Jesus responds with, “As God intended from the beginning, men and women are equal.”  This response is no small deal, in that culture, or in ours.  Jesus turns their cynical selfishness into a justification for elevating the downtrodden.  “Hey Jesus, we’ve already got all the power.  Is it lawful for a man to get even more?”  

But we don’t hear this passage from Mark’s gospel that way.  What we hear is, “Don’t get divorced!  Jesus says so!”  But that is not what Jesus is saying to the Pharisees.  He is saying forget your legal trickery for oppressing women and look at the point of marriage: two actual people come together on equal terms, as God intended from the beginning.  But, in response, you might then point to the conversation with his disciples in the house afterward, where Jesus says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

And my response to that is, first of all, this is a statement about remarriage, not divorce.  And, more importantly, women did not divorce men in that culture!  This is a radical thing to suggest!  In the conversation with the Pharisees and in the conversation with the disciples, Jesus is elevating women to their rightful place as equal to men.  Which might sound good and right so to do . . . but was definitely absurd to the people around Jesus.  It’s like here he goes again, lifting up the lowly, declaring that everyone is loved by God, threatening my value by making someone else my equal, like he did with that Syrophoenician woman a few weeks ago with that crumbs under the table stuff.  What’s next, Jesus, turning our children into our teachers?

Well . . . Jesus 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. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  Jesus always turns everything upside down.  Thanks be to God!

The Pharisees and the disciples were both trying to get legal arguments out of Jesus for the purpose of clarifying what they were allowed to get away with.  This is what adults do, you see.  Tell me the bare minimum I must do against my will in order to get what I am entitled to.  Or, sometimes, let me tell you why I am so deserving of your love, Jesus.  Or, get a load of how worthy I am because of all the things I have collected and hold so tightly in my closed hands.

But a child?  How does a child approach Jesus?  With open, empty hands, that’s how—just as we saw two weeks ago.  A child can offer nothing.  And in that culture, a child is worth nothing.  That’s why the disciples are trying to keep the children away from Jesus.  These worthless little brats have no business being around Jesus, say the disciples, because Jesus is only interested in the people who matter.  You know, the men . . . who can divorce their wives . . . like Moses says.

This gospel text is not a lesson on the evils of divorce.  And if you want proof, just look at what upsets Jesus here.  It’s not divorce, is it?  No, he is angry with the Pharisees for their hardness of heart, and for trying to twist the gift of the Law of Moses into a justification for mistreating women.  And did you see what makes Jesus indignant in this text?  The disciples’ keeping the children away from him.  Jesus doesn’t love the children because they’re cute; he focuses on them because they are insignificant and rejected, which is what makes them first, rather than last.

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  So—just like two weeks ago—we must ask ourselves, how does a child receive the kingdom of God?  How does a child receive anything?  The key to answering that question is to focus on the word, “receive.”  The word is not “earn,” or “deserve,” or “demand.”  No, the word is receive.  Children receive things because children cannot go out and get them on their own.  Children rely on the kindness and love of the adults around them—for better or for worse.  Which is why when the disciples try to stop them, Jesus becomes indignant.  Which is a very strong response when you think of it.  He is indignant that they would keep the children from him.  Indignant!

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  How do we receive something?  We stretch out our hands.  Our empty hands.  Nothing to offer, everything to gain.  This is how a child receives the gifts of God.  And it is also how the people of God receive the gifts of God.  We come to this Altar and stretch out our hands.  And if someone tries to stop us, we know that Jesus will be indignant.  Because you are welcome to this meal.  You are called to this heavenly banquet.  All of us equal.  All of us welcome.  All of us little children of God.  

And that’s when Jesus takes us up in his arms, lays his hands on us, and blesses us.