The following is part of the sermon I delivered at Buffalo United Methodist Church
Harry Adams, a professor from Yale Divinity school, was the author of a commentary I read as I prepared for today. He told a story of an event he was planning. Harry was responsible for deciding where people would sit. There was a newcomer to the group, so Harry placed an experienced person next to the new person as an act of hospitality. When the experienced person saw where he was to sit, he moved his place card to the center of the table, next to the person who would be presiding. I think we might say that it’s natural to want to be perceived of as important. The one with power and authority.
But Jesus turns that upside down. Do we want to hear that?
Children have no power at all. They have no authority. Knowing a child won’t advance your career or bring you any prestige. Those listening to Jesus would have seen a child as almost less than a person. A child has no honor, no ranking or influence. And yet Jesus equates welcoming a child to welcoming the Messiah – to welcoming God. We don’t always hear that as radical, but it is. It is completely upside down from what they expected – from what we expect.
But we can expand this – Jesus words for us aren’t just about children. Who among is the least? The person with no authority or prestige? Who are we called to welcome in the name of Christ? Not only that, but to welcome as if they are Christ?
Is it the person who is homeless? Who is addicted? Who is poor? Is it the person who is oppressed? Is it the person who has been in prison? Is it the person who is sick or alone or elderly or afraid? Who are we to welcome as if that person is Christ himself?