Week of Proper 2: Saturday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Parisian Children

The Kingdom of God Belongs to Such as These



Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 17:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

The Lord created human beings from the earth

and to it he turns them back again.

He set a fixed span of life for mortals

and gave them authority over everything on earth.

He clothed them with power like his own

and made them in his own image.

He put the fear of them into all creatures

and granted them lordship over beasts and birds.

He fashioned tongues, eyes, and ears for them,

and gave them minds with which to think.

He filled them with understanding and knowledge

and showed them good and evil.

He kept watch over their hearts,

to display to them the majesty of his works.

They will praise his holy name,

proclaiming the grandeur of his works.

He gave them knowledge

and endowed them with the life-bringing law.

He established with them an everlasting covenant

and revealed to them his decrees.

Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,

and their ears heard the glory of his voice.

He said to them, “Refrain from all wrongdoing,”

and he taught each his duty towards his neighbour.

Their conduct lies open before him at all times,

never hidden from his sight.

Psalm 103:1-4, 13-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins,

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made;

he remembers that we are dust.

15 Our days are like the grass;

we flourish like a flower of the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone,

and its place shall know it more more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him,

and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant

and remember his commandments and do them.

Mark 10:13-16 (Revised English Bible):

They brought children for him to touch.  The disciples rebuked them, but when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them,

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you:  whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.

And he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep us, we pray, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with free hearts those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

Human nature is complex.  It is true that we bear the image of God.  Yet we are deeply flawed.  We cannot pass a day without sinning at least once.  We are capable of caring deeply for one another and of hating each other.  We feed, clothe, and visit each other, yet we commit murder.  We comfort each other, yet some of us bully others.  As the psalmist reminds us poetically, God knows that we are dust.  God has mercy on us; otherwise we would all be doomed.

Ben Sira writes that God has instructed us in what is right and what is wrong, and that God sees all that we do.  We have much power over our fellow species in the Animal Kingdom, and great responsibility accompanies it.  Dominion does not indicate ownership, for Genesis states that we are stewards.  A steward manages what another owns.  So we ought to care deeply and actively for the rest of creation.  Besides, what affects the rest of creation affects us, too.

On a side note, “fear” in Sirach and the psalm refers to a sense of awe.  I wonder if Ben Sira became deeply acquainted with a cat.  I have known several cats very well, and I do not recall perceiving that any of them looked upon me with awe.  I loved all these felines deeply, thinking of them as furry children.  I even gave them my last name.  I have never known a humble cat, and I think that no cat has any reason to be meek.  A cat, an old saying tells me, “may look a king in the eyes.”  And may God bless house cats for that quality.

I confess that I do not like children.  As best I can tell, this derives mostly or entirely from my childhood experiences; many of my age peers were cruel to me.  So human depravity makes sense; if we were noble creatures, this nature would manifest itself more during our formative years.  And I have chosen a lifestyle certain to avoid having any children.  I consider women the better part of the human species, but I live apart from any of them.  My lot is more contemplative and solitary than not.  Children would disturb me, and I lack the patience to deal with them properly.

So the reading from Mark gives me pause.  The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these?  Yes, the Gospels challenge me, too.  William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, identifies four spiritual values children embody (generally speaking):

  1. humility
  2. obedience
  3. trust
  4. a short memory

Children, Barclay writes, are generally not obsessed with their own importance.  Also, obedience is their natural instinct, as are trust in parental authority and the goodness of others.  Finally, children tend to be slow to hold grudges.  There is no divine law against such characteristics.

Perhaps the most important lesson for we educated adults who like to think matters through deeply and question authority is that, when approaching God, we ought not to think too highly of ourselves.  God is God, and we are not.  Arrogance is endearing in a cat, but it is not a spiritual virtue in a human being.

Here ends the lesson.


Published originally as Week of 7 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 4, 2010


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: