I did something this week I’ve never done before: I preached the gospel at a church preschool commencement ceremony.
Since 2007, I’ve been asked to pray and offer a word of welcome at more than a dozen preschool events—but until this week I had never used the event to do the main thing I’m supposed to do: to share the gospel.
Why? Most parents, grandparents, and friends who attend these events are not connected to our church. Many of them, I’m sure, haven’t yet made a decision to receive God’s gift of eternal life through Christ. Moreover, they are a captive audience. What better opportunity? They’ve enrolled their children in a church preschool, for heaven’s sake! It’s hardly inappropriate for me, a pastor, to take advantage of that! Don’t most churches say they have preschools for the sake of outreach or evangelism? If we never speak evangelistic words, what are we doing?
So… shame on me for being derelict for all these years! I repent. The following is the homily I preached on Tuesday night:
Homily Text: Mark 10:13-16
Jesus was a very popular teacher, preacher, and healer. Wherever he went, he drew large crowds, and people in the crowds would bring their children to Jesus, so that Jesus would bless them. And Jesus’ disciples didn’t like this: It says they “rebuked” these parents. They did not approve of having all these kids around. It would be much easier, the disciples figured, to do ministry without worrying about kids!
And before we come down too hard on these disciples, let’s sympathize with them for a moment: Kids are incredibly difficult. Aren’t they? Parents, do you agree with me? Kids make everything you do so much more complicated!
We’re fast approaching summer, which means summer vacation… Going to the beach. Do you remember vacations B.C. Before Children. You would do wild and crazy things on vacation Before Children… Like sleeping until you wake up. Parents of young children, let me ask you: When was the last time you slept until you woke up? But Vacations Before Children, you used to do that! Or… Now this is really crazy… You would take naps on vacation! Or read books. Or work on your tan while drinking those drinks with the little umbrellas in them… without a care in the world! You didn’t have to worry about anyone drowning, or eating sand, or asking you to help them build a sand castle. And you could go anywhere you wanted to eat and stay out as late as you wanted. Now it’s like, “We gotta find a place with chicken fingers on the menu!”
Kids are hard, let’s face it! They require us parents to basically put our lives on hold for 20 years. We sacrifice in so many ways. For instance, financial priorities change: You don’t have discretionary income anymore. You have to pay for diapers, for piano lessons, for braces, for Little League, for smartphones, for prom dresses…
Then there’s the time, the energy, the worry you invest in your children… We exchange our interests for our children’s interests. We also talk on our children’s illnesses and problems and burdens upon ourselves…
Someone said a parent can never be happier than their least happy child. Isn’t that true? We suffer when our children suffer. But we do so gladly, if doing so means their health and welfare and happiness.
When my first child was born, I knew immediately what it meant to want to lay down my life for someone—to step in front of a bullet, jump in front of a speeding locomotive, to fight off a hungry lion if necessary.
I certainly don’t want to be in a situation where I have to do that, but if I were, you better believe I’d do it. And if I did so it would be totally worth it!
What wouldn’t we do to save our kids? Because we love them that much!
And if it’s true that even we fallible, imperfect, sinful human parents love our children with this kind of self-sacrificial love, how much more true is it for our heavenly Father, who, unlike us, loves his children perfectly, completely.
Talk about sacrifice! God came to us in the flesh, in his Son Jesus, and he lived and suffered and died the most excruciating death on the cross—suffered hell for us—so we wouldn’t have to. God the Son was scourged, beaten, mocked, and nailed to a cross for us, on our behalf, so that our sins would be forgiven, our debts would be paid, and we could have eternal life and live with God forever.
That’s the greatest sacrifice anyone could ever make. But from God’s perspective, guess what? It was totally worth it! Because he loves you and me that much.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Receive the kingdom like a child. That means, just as our children depend on us parents for everything in order to survive and be safe, so we trust in our heavenly Father for everything—including trusting in his Son Jesus for our salvation.
My prayer for the children in our preschool—and all of the parents, grandparents, and friends who love and support them—is that we would all learn to trust in the Lord in this way. Amen?