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. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. ~ Matthew 18:1-6
I was meeting with one of newest members of the Cathedral family earlier this week and she shared with me something wonderful that her little boy said to her. As they were coming to the church, she talked to him about going to the nursery, to which he responded, “I don’t want to go the little nursery. I want to go to the big nursery with you!” Ah, yes! What wisdom from the mouth of this little one!
I have often spoken to people about the fact that the church is not a “Hotel for Saints” but rather a “Hospital for Sinners.” I hadn’t ever thought of the church as a nursery, though. But you know, that’s exactly what it is, or at least, that’s what it should be.
All too often, we fall prey to the false notion that we have “arrived” as a Christian. I remember one man claiming that he had actually “graduated” as a Christian. He then showed me a diploma from his Sunday School. St. Paul speaks of feeding his disciples milk rather than meat. Now, that presupposes that there might be a movement from milk to meat, but he is clear that they are not ready for that move.
Likewise, Jesus speaks to his disciples in Matthew 18 as they are puffing up with pride of place, and makes clear that actually, the better posture to take is that of a child. That’s the posture of those who are great in the Kingdom of God. One might even say, it is better to long for milk as one in the nursery. As St. Peter puts it in the second chapter of his first epistle, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
So, as we come to worship together in the Cathedral this Sunday, let’s welcome little ones like that boy who reminded us all that we, whether we’re small or grown up, are all children coming to the “Big Nursery.” We are coming to drink deeply of the pure spiritual milk that brings salvation – the very Gospel of Christ Jesus.
[Coming Close is a weekly article by our Dean and Rector, The Very Rev. R. Peet Dickinson]