What does childlike faith look like? What did Jesus mean when he told his hearers to “let the little children come to me … for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”? How can we, as adults, have a childlike faith?
This is the talk I gave on childlike faith, for an all-age baptism service. I’ve changed the name of the child.
Childlike faith; Reading: Luke 18:9-17
Who’s watched or read or listened to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? What happens?
Only 5 children allowed in if they’ve found one of the golden tickets, in Wonka chocolate bars.
They were: Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee, Charlie Bucket.
Charlie Bucket is the hero. His family are very poor and he only finds the last golden ticket after he finds some money. The other children aren’t very nice. Veruca Salt is spoilt; she gets what she wants, and keeps on pestering her parents until she gets it! Veruca thought that she deserved all the good things that she was given, so she couldn’t understand when she met something that she couldn’t buy.
Can anyone remember What happened to Veruca Salt?
She wanted a squirrel, but ended up being thrown away by them. They thought that she was ‘a bad nut’!
Well, Veruca Salt was a bit like the Pharisee we heard in the reading.
“Thank you that I’m better than other people” is basically what the Pharisee was saying.
Veruca thought that she deserved all the good things that she was given. The Pharisee thought that he deserved good things from God, that God owed him something.
We can think that we’re only allowed to meet God if we’ve got a golden ticket. If we’re very special or very lucky we can find a golden ticket. So, if we’re Charlie or Veruca then we can meet God. But what about the rest of us? What about all those of us without a Golden Ticket?
Well, do you remember the Oompa Loompas?
Oompa Loompas worked hard for Willie Wonka. He rescued them from Loompaland where everything tasted horrible, and in return they worked hard for him, so they could have chocolate.
So, you might think that you need to be like an Oompa Loompa to get to know God. If you’re good and work hard then you’ll get your reward. But, of course, that was what the Pharisee thought. And he was wrong.
The person who knew God better was the tax collector. Tax collectors were like the spies that made Willie Wonka close the chocolate factory down. They were traitors, were working with the enemy. But, Jesus says he’s closer to God because he realises that he’s messed up and he comes to God. Not thinking that he deserves anything, or can buy or trick his way to God. But knowing that if he comes, God loves him and will welcome him with open arms.
And then Jesus goes on to talk about welcoming children, about letting children come to him. And that’s one part of what we’ve done this morning, at Ralph’s baptism. We’ve welcomed him as a member of God’s family. So then what are children like?
Well, we know from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that some of them are like Charlie: caring for others, interested and some of them are like Veruca: spoilt, wanting their own way and whatever they want, now. And of course, many of them can go from being Charlie to Veruca very quickly. And then back again.
What are children like? Particularly young children:
They respond to love. They’re trusting. They’re open to new things. They want to find out more. ‘Why?’ is a great question. And if we adults could ask that a bit more, then maybe that alone would make the world a better place. Children are alive to the amazing things around them. It can take half an hour to get to the bottom of the path, because they’re seeing all these amazing things around them.
What happens at the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
Charlie doesn’t simply get a Golden Ticket, but he inherits the factory as well. He is given the responsibility for running Willie Wonka’s chocolate business.
And that’s the same for us. Because of Jesus, Ralph has been given his Golden Ticket this morning. He has been welcomed as a member of God’s family. But, like the children in the Chocolate Factory discovered, being given the Golden Ticket is just the start of the adventure, not the end.
Ralph and the rest of us are on that adventure of finding out more about God. And we’re given responsibility by God too. We’re given the responsibility of living our lives in the light of his love for each one of us. That means loving one another and loving ourselves. Caring for each other and ourselves. And also, we’re given the responsibility of caring for all of God’s creation.
That’s the adventure we’re on, and the responsibility that we’ve been given. Amen.