Below is yesterday’s sermon involving hand motions, focusing on the generations, and confessing to my own therapeutic need to deal with balls bouncing in church:
I’m going to do a few hand motions and I want you to do them with me, OK? This is not like Sweatin’ To The Oldies (AV) and I’m not going to pass out Kool Aid afterwards, but I just want you to do what I’m going to do with my hands, OK? First: (OUT in STOP mode). Now: what does that convey? Right! Stop! Don’t go there! Keep your distance. Don’t even think about taking another step, mister! Don’t you get closer to me to try to kiss me good night because I didn’t really want to go out with you in the first place. All of the above. The hands communicated all that.
What about this one? (Welcome.) Now: what does that convey? Right! Come in! Welcome! Mi casa es su casa! I’m interested in who you are and what you have to say. This is one of those hand gestures that is clearly connected with the face: you can’t do THIS without a smile. We use our hands in these ways, don’t we? Even with our own kids: to strike and caress; to correct and to heal. I use them to pray over my sermon prep every Saturday. We do THIS with our hands and it conveys Order, Boundaries, Protection; we do THIS with them and it’s Advance, Relationship, Progress.
Which brings us to today’s little story in Mark. Now: this encounter happens just BEFORE the one we looked at last week in Beyond Me, but it is still in the section of Mark’s gospel where the focus is on how the disciples, Jesus’ inner inner circle, just don’t get it. Jesus is wanting to take them beyond; and they are staying still. Anyway, look at 10:13a:
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them
Who is bringing them? Mothers, no doubt. In ancient times, men very rarely shared any child rearing duties at all with moms. And what motivates these moms to bring their children to Jesus? Well, first and most important, they had seen what his hands could do. They’d seen him heal a woman who was hemorrhaging; they’d seen him raise Jairus’ daughter; they’d seen his hands multiply food so that 4000 ppl got fed. And I imagine one mom brings her infant boy there, a little fella who has an unrelenting cough. And mom has him in the stroller. And mom’s an aggressive type and she sees the long line of people waiting and just decides rules don’t really apply to her. And so she cuts in line because she knows “One touch with THOSE hands and his cough will be gone.”
And she cuts in front of a slightly better mannered woman whose child is a bit older and she thinks to herself, “Well, she’s got some nerve but I’m good because one touch from those hands and this little girl will turn from terror to treasure. She’ll obey!” And one other mom is there with a bored teenager, texting and she’s like “Oh, one touch and I KNOW his SAT will go up 100 pts and he really will go to college!” This is the environment that day.
A lot of you have been there. You have children – problems or not – and you have wanted them to have a touch of love, you want to give them a blessing, you’d even like for Jesus himself in however he still does it these days, to touch and bless your little ones. Like the note I got from a teacher the day our daughter was born: Every new baby reminds us God still loves the world.
So into this type of environment, Jesus’ posse intervenes. Look at 10:13c:
but the disciples rebuked them.
You know what they were acting like? BOUNCERS!
I love it! They decide who has access and who doesn’t and because children are the most vulnerable they were the easiest to deny. They were acting like preachers’ bodyguards (someone attended her precisely because I DON’T have them!)! And you know what they must have done with their hands? THIS (STOP, AWAY) Why? Because they were all about order. They used their hands to enforce order. In their world, Jesus is about NOW, he needs to be protected and their hands enforce those boundaries and that order.
And it’s funny. We still get that. Lord, I love order. I love precision & predictability & safety. You know what gets me? Bouncing balls in church? I know that even if it is allowed, even it is the point of the game, if kids start bouncing balls in KZone, I’ll run in with my hands like THIS & try to stop it! I’ll say to the kids, “Don’t you know bouncing a ball in church sends you automatically to hell?!” So what do I do? I’m growing in my self-awareness, so I just walk away. If I can’t see it, it’s not happening.
But there are other, more sinister ways churches can enforce order. Many years ago, another church, another town, I wanted that church to buy a van. Church van. And a man in that church came up to me, enraged, and said, “if you use that van to pick up black children and bring them to this church, it will tear the church apart.” And for once I said what I thought, “then we don’t have much of a church to start with, do we?” We got the van & that man and his racism left the church. We opted for something other than order. What about you? When it comes to the generations, when it comes to the ethnicities, when it comes to teens & Latinos, church, are you so dialed into NOW and its order that your hands mimic your life: STOP ???
Because Jesus paints such a different picture in 10:14-15:
14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Now: before I say what he is saying, let me tell you what he is NOT. This is not some sentimental picture of children’s wild-eyed wonder. In ancient times, children were not valued for their curiosity. They were instead disposable. When Jesus said “like a child” we immediately think of bright and shiny and curious; you could just as easily think of whiny and petulant and self-centered. That’s “like a child,” isn’t it? So Jesus isn’t operating in the world of sentimentality here; he’s in the real world.
But that key part: Let them come & do not hinder. It’s interesting. Elsewhere Jesus says he’s going to have to compel adults to come; kids he just has to let. There is some kind of natural momentum – even if it’s messy! – towards Jesus. Do not hinder – which is Jesus’ way of saying to those got-it-wrong-again disciples: change your hands! No more STOP & a lot more WELCOME! Your hands right now as you are in bouncer mode are all about resistance and order. Mine are about healing & welcome & progress. The disciples in this case are looking at these children for who they are now; Jesus is looking at them for who they will be – residents of the kingdom, serving its king. Disciples: now. Jesus: beyond now. Here’s where it lands us: Your hands will either enforce order or enable progress. And beyond now people enable progress.
Can I acknowledge something? When you open up, when you choose progress over order, there’s a risk to it. Little boy was in a relative’s wedding and as he was coming down the aisle, he would take two steps, stop and while facing the crowd, put up his hands like claws and ROAR. Steps, claws, ROAR. As you can imagine, it sort of altered the mood of the wedding. Up on the altar, the pastor asked him what he was doing: “I was being the Ring Bear,” he said. Risks to progress!
So there are risks, but the reward in this inviting all people which includes little people church, is quite substantial. Here’s what we’re going to do; here’s what Beyond is all about, here’s how we live into Your hands will either enforce order or enable progress. And beyond now people enable progress.
We’re not going to hinder children or students here. We’re not going to HANDS STOP. We’re going to HANDS WELCOME. Because we realize we can hinder kids when the environment here is good-but-not-great. We realize we can hinder teens when we consign them to a space across the street, disconnected from the intergenerational life of the church. We realize we have an opportunity to choose progress over order & begin enabling upcoming generations to have a living rel w Jesus Christ. That’s why the Beyond Project involves moving the K-Zone from good to WOW (AV). Irresistible, unforgettable, three-dimensional. But be very sure of this: in the way we do it, every WOW moment, every drama sketch, every piece of 3 D gear oriented décor, every loving teacher, every bit of compelling content, is to tee up a conversation between that child and their parents. Content hereis but a conversation starter at home. We not children’s ministry. We resource moms and dads to be children’s ministry. As good as the KZone will be, the best CM is in your family room.
Oh the Student Ministry is the same concept! We don’t want to hinder them by isolating them. Instead of isolating we want to be integrating. That’s why the Living Roomis so perfect! We add a voice of consistency & clarity to the voice mom and dad already speak into teenagers. And those cases where students DON’T get it at home, well we want to be well positioned to invited students to move from death to life. Your hands will either enforce order or enable progress. And beyond now people enable progress.
We’re so excited about all this that we made a movie for you:
And we know this story in Mark is all about the hands and their posture! Why? Look how it ends in 10:16:
And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Jesus rebukes the STOP and blesses the WELCOME. He chooses progress over order.
So will we. And you know why I know we’ll do this well? Because you all have an incredible record of “not hindering” kids you’ve never even met. In 2010 it was What Child Is This? (AV) and $207,000 at Xmas to free internationals caught up in trafficking. In 2013 it was $400,000 on one day to free domestic girls being raped for profit. You all have shown radical generosity for kids you don’t know and will never meet. Well . . . how much more for the children of this church and this community? Both kids we got and kids who haven’t been here yet. Because we know that if you can connects kids with a living relationship with Jesus, the chances are so much better that they continue in that than if you hold off and wait and give them the gospel whey they turn 21. Most people who become Xns do so by 14 or so. Fascinating. Not my story but it IS the story of most ppl with a living relationship. Like this note I got one day:
And can I say a word to those of who either don’t have kids or your kids are grown and so they will never take advantage of either the KZone or the Living Room? Get this: your life will last a lot longer than your lifetime. With your generosity, your hands can have that posture of WELCOME and not STOP long after your lifetime has ended. We’re not going to name the place after you – or anybody, for that matter, except The Good Shepherd – but your generosity on Feb. 8 and beyond will have a ripple effect. You will enable generations not towards order & resistance, but towards progress and faith. Your life will be continuing much longer than your lifetime. REFRAIN
We started with hands. THIS (DO STOP) and THIS (DO WELCOME). You know, there is a least one other posture with our hands. It’s this, when you lift a hand to say “sign me up!”. We’ve talked a lot about upcoming generations in a living relationship with Jesus here, but I don’t want to skip YOURS.
(And then we did an invitation to salvation with “raising a hand” as the response. Trickles of people at 8:30 and 10 and then a wave at 11:30!)