Ordinary Time (Proper 22)
Mark 10:2–16/10:2–14 IV
Bring the Children
Genesis 2:18–24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1–4, 2:5–12; Jacob 2:22–24; Doctrine and Covenants 151:9
With the scriptural base of Mark 10:2–16/10:2–14 IV, this would be a good day for baby blessings. There are alternative worship suggestions for baby blessings at: www.CofChrist.org /baby-blessing-ideas. If the sacrament of baby blessing is included, take care to give each sacrament focus and attention (Communion and baby blessing).
As a way to continue the invitation to the children in your midst from last week, place a large, plain table as a central visual focus for the congregation. As the prelude is offered, have the children bring up either one large wrapped gift box or several small wrapped boxes. The box(es) should have enough small gifts (stickers, pencils, sticks of gum, snack-size bags of fresh fruit, or candy) for each person.
People were carrying little children to Jesus so he could bless them. The disciples scolded the people bringing children as they arrived. When Jesus realized what was happening, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Then embracing the children, Jesus “laid his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:13–16).
Call to Worship
Invite the congregation to join in this echo reading. The congregation repeats the leader’s phrases from Psalm 8 and responds to interspersed comments with song snippets and hand motions.
O Lord, our Lord, (congregation repeats, “O Lord, our Lord”)
How majestic is your name in the entire world! (congregation repeats)
“This is God’s wondrous world” (sing this phrase from CCS 136, and congregation repeats)
Your praise reaches up to the heavens; (congregation repeats)
Continue the reading with the congregation echoing the leader each time.
Praise the Lord! (loud)
Praise the Lord! (louder)
When I look at the sky, (sweep the sky with arm)
which you have made, (look up)
at the moon (form circle around your head with arms)
and the “earth and all stars” which you set in their places (sing the phrase from CCS 102; sprinkle the sky with stars using your fingers)
What are human beings that you think of them? (make a questioning gesture)
What are mortals that you care for them? (hands out to include all)
Yet you made them only a little lower than yourself;
You crowned them with “all glory, laud, and honor.” (sing phrase from CCS 467)
You gave them dominion over everything you made;
You placed them over all creation,
“God of creation” (sing phrase from CCS 147)
sheep and cattle, and the wild animals too;
the birds and the fish and the creatures in the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, (throw hands up toward the sky)
How majestic is your name in all the world! (with arms extended turn a full circle)
Amen. (fold hands in prayer)
“Sing of Colors/De colores” CCS 332
OR “God of the Sparrow” CCS 138
OR “Lord, for the Gift of Children” CCS 490
God, present in all creation, in all life, we hear your call: “Bring the children.” God, present in the spectrum of all creation, we embrace our call to bring children to you. We seek your blessing and pray our insight be quickened to see and hear the one who came like a child, even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
“like a child” (stanza 1) CCS 403
OR “Jesus’ Hands Were Kind Hands” (stanza 1) CCS 585
Sharing Joys and Concerns
Prayer for Peace
We light this candle for peace. Peace for the earth. Peace in our world. Peace in our community. Peace in our families. Peace in our hearts.
Light the peace candle.
Hymn of Peace
“Come and Bring Light” (stanza 1) CCS 287
OR “The Spirit of God like a Fire Is Burning” (stanza 3) CCS 384
Prayer for Peace
Dear God, please bring peace today, even as Jesus called all the children to be blessed. Please bless each one here today with the peace of Jesus Christ. Bring light to the darkness. Amen.
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org /daily-prayer-for-peace.
Reading of the Word
Mark 10:2–16/10:2–14 IV
Discuss the meaning of the scripture. Then work as a group to figure out the secret message from Jesus, “Let the little children come to me” by identifying each picture and recording the first letter of that word. See the secret message handout.
Share the gifts from the box once the secret message has been discovered. Just as you are willingly receiving this gift from me, you can also receive the kingdom of God.
Jesus loves all of us. Big people, little people, and in-between people—people of every age. All people are important and can do many things to spread Christ’s message.
One day people brought their little children to see Jesus hoping he would bless them, but the disciples tried to keep the parents and their children away. Jesus spoke up and told the disciples to let the children come, because God’s kingdom belongs to them. Wow! A kingdom belongs to the children? Then Jesus told everyone that to enter the kingdom of God, they needed to receive the kingdom of God as a little child.
Did Jesus mean that unless you take naps and are still learning to count and read, that you can’t be part of God’s world? Or maybe it’s if you can’t yet do algebra and are still learning how to drive. Maybe that’s what God meant.
Or, maybe Jesus meant that the way to enter the kingdom of God is to learn how to trust God, to give radical obedience to Jesus in every part of our lives, and to depend on God the same way children trust and depend on the adults who love them and care for them. Yes, I think that is what Jesus meant. Jesus wanted everyone to know that children are important and that God loves them completely and totally.
There is a secret message on my paper. Let’s see if we can figure it out. The first letter of each picture will help us find Jesus’ message.
A short message based on Mark 10:2–16/10:2–14 IV
Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
Song of Confession
“Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart” CCS 48
OR “Eternal Spirit of the Living Christ” CCS 182
OR “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” CCS 215
Focus Scripture: Mark 14:22–24
Communion Focus Talk
A short talk about the purposes and meaning of this sacrament.
Ministry of Music or Congregational Song
“God Extends an Invitation/Nuestro Padre nos invita” CCS 520
OR “Bread of the World” CCS 527
Blessing and Serving of the Wine and Bread
Disciples’ Generous Response
In 1995, Community of Christ awarded the International Peace Award to Marian Wright Edelman, a national advocate for disadvantaged Americans, especially children. She is the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund. As members of Community of Christ, we too are called to help end child poverty and ensure that all children are happy, healthy, and ready to learn. Let us remember the needs of children and the call to be “free with your substance” and “before you seek for riches, seek for the kingdom of God.” We are called “to do good; to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:22–24).
More recent counsel says, “You who are my disciples must be found continuing in the forefront of those organizations and movements which are recognizing the worth of persons and are committed to bringing the ministry of my Son to bear on their lives” (Doctrine and Covenants 151:9).
Song of Generosity
“Creation Flows Unceasingly” CCS 107
OR “We Are Children of Creation” CCS 340
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples -generous-response-tools.
Pastoral Prayer of Blessing for Children and Youth
Hymn of Commitment
“Wonder of Wonders” CCS 491
OR “Sing a New World into Being” CCS 576
Creator of all children,
May the understanding of the ages and the hope of new life transform and heal us as we go forth from this service of worship. We give thanks for your message that convicts and inspires us, renews and releases us in harmony with creation as one human family. May the heart of every child be joyful. May the mouth of every child be nourished. May the viewpoint of every child be filled with your message. May the soul of every child be blessed. We pray this in the name of the one who came like a child, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Ordinary Time (Proper 22)
Exploring the Scripture
Today’s passage can be divided into two parts. Mark 10:2–12 is about marriage and divorce. Mark 10:13–16 deals with the blessing of little children. Since Mark’s Gospel is short enough to read at one sitting, read today’s passage in the setting of the whole Gospel of Mark. Mark begins with Jesus proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14– 15). This contrasts with the bad news of Caesar and the unjust Roman Empire, and Herod and his brutal Galilean and Peraea kingdom. (John is arrested and eventually killed by Herod.) Jesus has already warned twice of his impending crucifixion at the hands of the authorities in Jerusalem (Mark 8:31, 9:30–31).
In the preceding chapter, Peter, James, and John saw the transfigured Jesus (Mark 9:2–8). It is a mountaintop experience. But they came down the mountain only to enter a valley. The other disciples could not cast out a demon from a child and then all of them argued about who was the greatest among them (Mark 9:14–29, 33–34).
The kingdom of God has a different view the disciples still do not fully understand. To help the disciples, Jesus talks about service not domination, and then takes a little child, puts it among them, and holding it in his arms says: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me…” (Mark 9:37). So, today’s passage should be read in the frame of reference of God’s kingdom where its citizens take the lowest place to serve and children are blessed and welcomed. Peter, James, and John’s mountaintop experience is not meant to promote them but to strengthen them to serve the least. They are not to expect to be rulers, with the power to dominate and kill, but to be servants. God’s kingdom is different from the kingdoms of this world.
Next, we will examine the first part of today’s passage which addresses marriage and divorce (Mark 10:2–12). Jewish law only allowed men to divorce their wives who were powerless to launch such action (Deuteronomy 24:1–4). In Jesus’ day husbands could divorce their wives for little cause, leaving the women destitute. By quoting the original intents of God in creation (Genesis 1:26–27 and 2:24) Jesus seeks to correct the then Pharisaic understanding of marriage and divorce. Women and men are both made in the image of God. Women are not objects or property that can be discarded. Rather women are persons of equal dignity to men, made in the likeness of the supreme personal being, the Divine.
Jesus is saying marriage is different in the kingdom of God. Extending the teaching from the preceding chapter, husbands and wives should not dominate or abuse each other. Rather they should serve and bless one another. Finally, nothing and no one should separate two joined by God.
The second part of the passage—on the blessing of children (Mark 10:13–16)—follows naturally after verses on marriage. Marriage of parents should be faithful, loving, and committed. This is the biggest blessing possible to give a child. Children, like women, were powerless and marginalized in the first century. These two stories remind us of Jesus’ concern for both groups. Marriage, family, and society in the kingdom of God are to be child-centered with men and women of equal dignity and worth. The kingdom is a safe place for all children.
God has joined us together in the covenant of baptism. Let nothing separate us. Let us be a congregation that treats all humans with dignity and is a wonderful place for children.
- Marriage equality and the dignified treatment of women and children are expected in the kingdom of God.
- Marriages and congregational life are lived in the setting of Jesus’ teaching.
- Jesus reminds us to be a blessing to children in our congregation and neighborhood.
Questions to Consider
- Marriage and divorce are very sensitive topics. How can we preach on this passage without people feeling condemned or judged?
- How do we equip priesthood, especially priests, to bring loving ministry to families having trouble?
- Do we encourage all priesthood members who can conduct the sacrament of marriage to help couples with premarital classes to prepare them for marriage? (For instance, see the FOCCUS Inventory which is often used in Community of Christ in the English-speaking world.)
- How can our congregation be a place of blessing for all marginalized people, especially children?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Mark 10:2–16 NRSV
The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.
The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
Dear God, please bring peace today.
Even as Jesus called all the children to be blessed, please bless each one here today with your peace.
As we spend time with you may we be strengthened to shine as beacons of your light to all the world.
Be with us as we commit ourselves to bring your light where there is darkness.
Sit with relaxed posture and close your eyes. We will spend five minutes in centering prayer.
Breathe in a regular, natural rhythm.
As you breathe in, silently name what you would like to receive. As you exhale, state what you would like to release (for example: breathe in peace, exhale fear).
Breathe in and out, focusing on what you are breathing in and what you are exhaling.
Watch the time for five minutes. Urge participants to continue the breath prayer for the full five minutes.
When time is up share these closing instructions: Offer a brief word of thanks to God, take a deep breath, and open your eyes when you are ready.
Sharing Around the Table
Mark 10:2–16 NRSV
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Today’s passage can be divided into two parts. The first is about marriage and divorce. The second part deals with the blessing of little children.
The kingdom of God is different than any earthly kingdom, and the disciples still do not fully understand this difference. When reading today’s passage, keep in mind that in God’s kingdom the greatest are those who take the lowest place to serve, and the lowest are welcomed, blessed, and served.
With this in mind we will examine the first part of today’s passage, which addresses marriage and divorce. Jewish law allowed only men to divorce.
Wives were powerless to launch such action. Husbands could divorce their wives for little cause, leaving the women destitute. Jesus sought to correct this understanding of marriage and divorce by explaining that marriage is different in God’s realm. Extending the teaching from the preceding chapter, husbands and wives should not dominate or abuse each other. Rather they should serve and bless one another.
The second part of the passage is on the blessing of children. Children, like women, were powerless and marginalized in the first century. Jesus showed compassion and concern for both groups. Marriage, family, and society in God’s realm uphold the worth of each person in the household relationship. Men and women are of equal dignity and are valued equally. God’s realm is a safe place for children, adults, the powerful, and the most vulnerable.
- Marriage and divorce are very sensitive topics. How can we talk about relationships without people feeling embarrassed, hurt, or judged?
- Have you ever experienced a broken relationship? What helped in your healing process?
- How can our congregation or group be a place of blessing for all marginalized people, especially children?
NOTE: If using Thoughts for Children today, make time for the children to share their drawings with the group before reading the scripture below.
“Sharing for the common good is the spirit of Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 165:2f).
We receive God’s grace and generosity. The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response.
This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
God, May we be a generous people in response to your boundless grace and unending love. Bless and magnify our gifts and our service to others. Let generosity become part of our nature, we pray. Amen.
Invitation to Next Meeting
CCS 233, “Strong, Gentle Children”