Only The Children Get In

WILLIAM EDWARD WILLARDSON                                             NOVEMBER 9, 1999

MARK 10:13-16                                       BELLAIRE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH


 No use beating around the bush.  There’s a whole lot of other places we’d all like to be today.  Digging ditched.  Doing our tax returns.  Cleaning out the garage.

 If fact, I believe everyone of us would rather be anywhere but here.  Because this was a day none of us were prepared for, or expecting.

 We’d all gladly go out and feed the street people in soup kitchens than be gathered here in dark suits and trying to say our good-byes to this precious little boy.

 Having said that, we don’t have the luxury of choices today.  Because given the situation, there’s no better place for us to be in this moment than here to support the Willardson family and offer thanks to God for this child-who has touched us all so profoundly.

 And we approach this funeral differently than we do someone who’d live three scores or more.

 We come with a different set of questions and emotions.  We come with our sorrows, our griefs, our unresolved issues.  And some of these questions and issues my linger with us for a while.

 But most importantly we have come because we are grateful to God for this little boy.  And we want desperately for his mom and dad to know how much our love extends to them.

 And let me say from the outset, we are not gathered here because of some lesson God is trying to impart.  That is not the God I know and worship.  God doesn’t take lives.  God creates life.

 It was not God’s will to take this little child from us.  That is bad theology.  It is God’s will that we might draw closer to him.  But God doesn’t take human life to draw us closer.

 If anything, God weeps in a moment such as this.  It’s one of the great mysteries of God.  To be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent.  Those are big words.  And yet this God who is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere, suffers along with us.

 Who weeps at the loss of Lazarus.  Who weeps for the loss of his only begotten Son.

 There’s no ulterior motive on God’s part in the loss of this child.  Unfortunately, we live in a world that is fragile, vulnerable, diseased, and famine still exists.  And there’s no easy take on this.  But there is something to be learned from all of this.

 This past Friday afternoon when visiting with William and his parents, I read the Gospel lesson read today:

           “Let the children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Mk 10:14)

 And what that reading said to me is simply this: “ONLY THE CHILDREN GET IN.”

 And what exactly do I mean by that?  Well – twelve disciples in an earlier passage had been arguing along the way as to which one of them was the greatest disciple.

 A game by the way, that is still played out in corporate America.  King of the Hill.  Queen for a Day.  We all know too well how that game is played.

 Jesus astounds the disciples and each succeeding generation with his radical spin on what real discipleship is all about.  It’s about accepting children.

 Children, as you may know, were “non-persons in Jesus’ day.  Seen but not heard.  Radically dependent upon their fathers.  They didn’t count for much in the power of circles.

 And although times have changed, children may be heard and seen, but few if any are CEOs of any company I know anything about.

 And yet Jesus says later in this passage:

 “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mk 10:15)

 And that flies in the face of everything we have been taught since grade school.

             Grow up - act you age not your shoe size – get a life!

 And yet Jesus seems to be saying something just the opposite.  If you want to get a life in my kingdom, you must receive it as a little child.

 You remember Nicodemus.  He scratched his head when Jesus suggests he has to be born again. 

             “You mean I’ve got to be born in my mother’s womb again?” (John 3:4)

 Quite the contrary.  Neither is Jesus suggesting that you and I become childish.  Childlike – yes.

 Unfortunately, some of us gave up our childhood many years ago.  We traded it in for an intellectual, rational, logical, analytical, world of order, production, and control.

 We’ve all but forgotten what fireflies look like.  When was the last time any of us grown ups went chasing after butterflies?  We are more apt to be chasing budgets and surfing the cyberworld.

 Cotton candy has become some ancient taste.  Merry-go-rounds are a distant memory.  Patty cake is a forgotten ritual that faded when we graduated into knee highs.

 Until we had children, or surrounded ourselves with children.  And then something marvelous and even miraculous happened.

 I almost grew up at age 27.  And then I began to remember at the birth of our first born.


            Red Rover, Red Rover, let Paul come over.

            Ring around the roses, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

            Simon says?  Mother may I?


            Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man

            Roll them, roll them up, throw em in the pan.

 And these things were coming back for this wonderful couple.  It began this summer for Jacque and D.K.  They became children again.  They retrieved ancient rhymes and made nonsensical sounds known as “baby talk.”

 Children live with their senses.  Smell, sight, taste, hearing, touch.  They are alive to the world around them.  They sense things we have long ago forgotten.

 Until we teach otherwise, they can paint, dance, act, sing, and show us how to laugh and play.  They sense the presence of God in the little things.

 They marvel at bugs.  They laugh at funny faces and sounds.  But most importantly, children rely upon us for their well being.

 And in these nearly four months, William has taught his parents exactly what children offer us and teach us about entering God’s kingdom.

 Stay with me, because I believe this is the gift that little Will leaves for all of us to ponder.

 Because it is the nature of a child to be radically dependent upon his/her parents for their feedings, burpings, changing of diapers, warmth, and love.

 A small child is totally dependent upon the care giver.  William was not interested in who’s going to reside in the White House in 2001.

 William is not concerned about where he lived or what type of car his parents drove.  What mattered most for little William at this stage, was radically depending upon his mom and dad for love and protection.

 His total trust, belief, and hope was based upon his mother and dad.  He had put his whole life in their hands.  And to the very end they were there for him. 

 He trusted them, believed in them.  To know in his own little way, that it was his mom and dad who would take care of him.  And they did.

 And I believe that is William’s legacy.  To face this day as he did.  Relying upon our heavenly parent.  Relearning that independent we may one day become, we never grow up to the point of not needing or depending upon God.

 If there is hope for any of us.  If there’s any silver lining in this cloud, then we must take our cue form little Will.  You want to be a success in this life- Call your broker.

 If you want to be faithful and want to gain entrance into God’s kingdom – then we must become like little Will.  Place our trust and our hopes in God just as he did in his parents.

 And that’s the lesson taught by Jesus that day to prideful disciples.  Pride is a barrier to the kingdom.  Only those who depend upon God will get in.

 Will has gotten there before us.  He’s waiting to see which ones of us will be children of God.

                         ONLY THE CHILDREN GET IN!

 Let the children of the church say:  AMEN!

 Mark H. Young

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