Sunday’s Sermon: Faith Like a Child

  • You know, there are kids all around the world doing some truly amazing things.
    • Arti Verma –10-yr-old girl –> challenged caste system in her village in India
      • Amazing that she challenged centuries-old system at all
      • Even more amazing because she’s a girl
    • Abdul Maqeet – eco conscious little boy in United Arab Emirates
      • Attended 75 workshops around the world in 3 yrs.
      • Makes paper bags out of newspapers and distributes them to cut down on plastic bag usage
    • Kylie Trawick –13-yr-old girl –> hiking Appalachian Trail for hunger awareness
      • App. Trail = 2180 miles from Georgia to Maine
      • 4000 lbs. of food raised for her local food shelf
      • Hiking since early May – should return home TODAY!
    • Dozens of stories like this on –> stories of kids who are changing the world one paper bag, can of food, and village at a time. They aren’t letting anything get in their way, especially not something as trivial as their age. They’re just doing what needs to be done to make the world a better place.
      • Able to do this because of openness in children – open to dreaming big and trying new things, open to being instruments for change
      • This morning, I want us to think about what it might look like to translate this openness to our faith because when we have that child-like faith, God can do amazing things through us.
  • 3 elements to child-like faith seen in today’s Scriptures
    • Trust –> children on Kids Are Heroes website have trust in goodness of others, trust in their willingness to help
      • See element in OT passage –> Jeremiah = trust in goodness of God, in God’s willingness to help people once again
        • Jeremiah = tasked with delivering the Word of God to the people of God –> And this was no small task. He was called to deliver a serious word for a serious time. Jeremiah certainly wasn’t the first prophet to the nations of Israel and Judah, so he knew what kind of reputation prophets usually got. He knew that the lives they lived were difficult ones full of rejection, isolation, and sometimes even worse.
          • Later, Jeremiah’s own life was threatened because of the message God has given him to deliver
          • Yet Jeremiah trusts God.
            • Partly inspired by assurance from God’s own mouth – text: “You shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am going with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”[1]
            • Heb – “with you” = more like “I am going before you” –> God is promising Jeremiah that even though God knows Jeremiah will face struggles because of his calling, God is willing to shoulder the brunt of those struggles for him.
              • Scholar connects this to our lives: If we can see our own vulnerability in Jeremiah’s, if we can hear our own reluctance in his protests, maybe we can also take to heart God’s assurance that the one who calls will also sustain.[2] –> God called Jeremiah, and Jeremiah trusted in God to sustain him in that call – in the actions that would be required of him to carry out God’s mission. And God calls us, too, to all sorts of different missions each and every day.
                • Not always easy, but same promise extends to us: God will sustain if we trust enough to follow
    • Exuberance –> Kids are Heroes children have exuberant spirits, an enthusiasm for their cause and giant hearts for those whose lives they touch
      • See in NT passage, specifically in young woman’s reaction to healing – text: When he laid hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.[3] –> Don’t you just love picturing this scene? This woman who’s been bent over for 18 years suddenly stands up straight. And what’s her first reaction? She begins praising God!
        • I imagine her leaping and dancing and running in wide, swooping arcs through the crowd as she shouts out praises at the top of her voice … maybe with a “woo hoo!” thrown in every once in a while for good measure.
        • Displays unbridled exuberance for part she has been chosen to play in God’s mission –> can only guess at what she did next
          • Enthusiastically told her family about what Jesus had done for her –> maybe told her friends who told their friends and families and so on, like a ripple in a pond.
    • Humility –> Kids are Heroes children aren’t doing amazing things for the glory or the news coverage, not doing them to be heroes or make it onto the website – doing amazing things because they see a need and they want to fill it
      • See humility in both passages – Jeremiah: Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”[4] –> In this plea, we can hear Jeremiah’s reluctance about this call – fear, timidity, and uncertainty.
        • Not happy prophecies that Jeremiah was doling out
          • Declares kingdoms of Israel and Judah have both broken covenant with God
          • Threatens exile for the people if they don’t return to God
          • And in the face of this weighty charge, Jeremiah makes it clear that he feels unworthy of such a task. “I am only a boy. This task is too big for me. It’s too demanding. It’s too significant. I can’t do this on my own. I am only a boy.” In voicing this, Jeremiah shows humility, upholding the importance of the message God had given him over his own importance.
      • Also see humility in woman mentioned in gospel passage –> Scripture tells us Jesus called out to her
        • Now, this is an abnormal occurrence when it comes to people’s healing encounters with Jesus in the gospels. Most of the time, it’s others who call out to Jesus for their healing. They approach him and ask to be made clean. Even the woman who had been hemorrhaging for years sought Jesus out when she reached out and touched the hem of his cloak. But not the woman we read about today.  
          • No doubt she’s in need of healing – Lk’s description: a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.[5] –> And yet despite this serious physical need, she doesn’t approach Jesus. The woman in today’s story must’ve known that she was near Jesus and must’ve heard the stories about his other healings, but still, she didn’t seek him out.
            • Lk: When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”[6]
            •  I don’t know about you, but I see humility in this.
              • Maybe she didn’t ask because she didn’t think she was worthy
              • Maybe she didn’t ask because she thought there were people who needed it more
  • When we come to God with that child-like faith – a faith full of trust, exuberance, and humility – we give God an opening to do wonderful things through us.
    • Encouraged in OT passage – God’s words to Jeremiah: See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.[7] –> That’s a pretty amazing list – “to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” – all things God is promising to do through the child Jeremiah.
      • Sounds like lack of restrictions felt by kids who end up heroes –> Those kids all have the strength and the courage and the creative energy to do the amazing things that they do because they believe they can do it. No one’s told them that they can’t.
        • Imagine how different the world would be if some other people had succumbed to “can’t.”
          • E.g.s – world
            • Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel – over 5000 sq. ft.
            • Building of the Notre Dame cathedral – took 87 years to build
            • E.g.s – Scripture
              • Esther = simple young girl from the country made a queen because of her beauty – ended up saving her people from planned genocide
              • King David = just a shepherd kid from the hills before he slay the giant Goliath and was anointed king over Israel by prophet Samuel
              • Scholar: In biblical and contemporary experience the call of God is often counter to what passes for common human wisdom. God often calls unlikely people in unlikely times and circumstances – or so it seems, when measured in commonly accepted human terms.[8] –> Somewhere along the line, as we grow from children into adults, we lose that assurance. Somewhere along the line, we hear, “No. You won’t. You shouldn’t. You can’t.” And we begin to believe it, forgetting that God does call unlikely people to do amazingly unlikely things … if we’re willing to follow and believe.
  • Lyrics from Jars of Clay’s song “Faith Like a Child” – They say that love can heal the broken. They say that hope can make you see. They say that love can find a Savior if you would follow and believe with faith like a child.[9] –> And it’s true. So I guess the better question is this: When we allow ourselves to embrace that child-like faith, what can’t God do through us? Amen.

[1] Jer 1:7-8

[2][2] Sally A. Brown. “Proper 16 (Sunday between August 21 and August 27 Inclusive): Jeremiah 1:4-10 – Homlietical Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C, vol. 3. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 365.

[3] Lk 13:13.

[4] Jer 1:6.

[5] Lk 13:11.

[6] Lk 13:12 (emphasis added).

[7] Jer 1:10.

[8] Bruce C. Birch. “Proper 16 (Sunday between August 21 and August 27 Inclusive): Jeremiah 1:4-10 – Exegetical Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C, vol. 3. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 367.

[9] “Faith Like a Child” on Jars of Clay (self-titled album), © 1995.

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