East Weymouth

Congregational Church,

​​​​​​​United Church of Christ


Why does Jesus says we need to be like a child to enter the kingdom of God? I thought we were all supposed to grow up? How do we go back to childhood?

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter18, beginning with the first verse: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them. And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus challenges his disciples with a call that is of great importance in his ministry, as attested to by the fact that it is repeated in three of the gospels—“Turn and become like children again in order to enter the kingdom of heaven,” he says. But what exactly does Jesus mean? Is he inviting us to take on the characteristics we find most admirable in children—should we emulate them by trying to be more open, unhindered, imaginative, innocent, affectionate, trusting and dependent on God? Is Jesus calling us to become more humble, letting go of our preoccupation with status and inflated hopes for greatness?

Yes, but Jesus is also calling us to a way of being that is even more basic. By urging us to become like children again, he is, in effect, asking us to begin our spiritual lives afresh, to begin anew. Throughout the New Testament, we are reminded of the significance of new beginnings. John tells us, in his gospel, that following Jesus calls for starting all over—we must be born again in spirit. Paul tells us that in order to be in Christ, we must be as new creatures, because old things are passed away—“Behold,” Paul writes, “All things are becoming new.”

But how do we start? I imagine that each and every one of us can think of our own new and diverse ways of connecting with God.

Perhaps, for example, we will renew our prayer lives and reserve more time to sit in stillness, listening carefully for God’s footsteps as he walks with us in our spiritual journeys. In whatever ways we find renewal, may we never lose sight of one important fact—that is, we are blessed everyday we have even the mere opportunity to start anew.

One man in particular so beautifully illustrates this. He did something noble one New Year’s Eve. Inspiration about new beginnings came that night not so much from fireworks for the millenial that scorched the global skies, but from a single flame, lit in a dark prison cell, in the very place that this one man had once been so cruelly imprisoned for over two decades. Nelson Mandela lit one candle in that jail and then passed it on to a child, to symbolize the flame of freedom that can never be extinguished and is always renewed. This simple act comes from one who, in describing the day of his historic release, wrote the following: “I felt at the age of 71—that my life was beginning anew.” Mandela models for us that we too can summon courage and motivation to embrace new beginnings and new hope with God, it is never too late, because the old is passing away, and everything has become new.

What is so magnificent about a single flame of fire, is that from moment to moment, it is always generating new flames into one smooth stream of light. And so like fire that is ever renewing and bright, so are the spirits of the children of God, like you and like me.

Let us pray: Gracious Jesus, help us to discern from you how to turn and become like children again. May we begin anew today and everyday by following you and trusting in God’s love for us. Amen.