Jesus Our Shepherd
Mark 10:13-16
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

People were bringing their children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples scolded them for this.

When Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them. It is to just such as these that the kindom of God belongs. The truth is, whoever doesn’t welcome the kindom of God as a little child wont enter it.”

Jesus then took the children in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Homily for 23 February 2003
Rev. Frank Baiocchi

The poet, Robert Frost, once wrote, “The human brain is a wonderful organ. It starts functioning the very moment we get up in the morning, and it doesn’t stop…until we get to work!” (Well, my brain doesn’t start up that fast in the morning, but it’s good to see people smile in church!)

Sometimes I think the occupation closest to God’s heart is not that of a doctor or a teacher or a priest but that of a comedian – someone who has the marvelous ability to make people laugh heartily. The God who creates both elephant and butterfly to share the same fields, the very God who invites a hippopotamus and a swan to share the same waters, must have a fantastic sense of humor! To laugh is to share in God’s creative genius!

The last time Kim Peck and her musically talented ”Friends” played and sang for us here at Jesus Our Shepherd, they had just finished a lively rendition of a spirited song. In the silence immediately afterwards, a young child in our congregation yelled out “Yeah!” That brought down the house! Personally, I’d like to reclaim the church for humor –a marvelous talent people have for seeing the funniness of life, the incongruities, the wonder and amazement all around us.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes we read there is a time for everything under the sun: a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Throughout the church’s history, we’ve had the weeping and mourning down pretty well. What we need more of in our churches is laughter and singing and dancing.

Way back before the time of Christ, the joy-filled dance was a common expression of people at worship. David, the King of the Israelites, composed and sang music and danced crazily before the sacred arc of the covenant. Somehow we’ve lost much of that spontaneity in today’s church services. So people go elsewhere to experience it: in taverns like “Cheers” where everybody knows your name, at sports arenas where people can yell and let it all out!

On the issue of spontaneity, might it be that Jesus learned something about what it means to be human. Last Sunday in his homily, Jim related the Gospel story in which at the beginning of his public ministry Jesus cured a man with leprosy and then warned him not to tell anyone! Now can you imagine anyone being instantaneously cured of that terrible disease and then keeping it to himself? That man couldn’t keep it to himself! He was so filled with joy that he told everyone he met about the miracle Jesus had done for him. Perhaps Jesus learned something from that experience. Perhaps it changed him because later in his ministry, Jesus earned the reputation of being a “party” man –loving to sit at table with people, to dine and drink and trade stories and barbs with his hosts and their guests.

One thing we know for certain is that children loved Jesus, and children don’t ordinarily love people who are not lovable and fun to be with. In today’s Gospel reading chosen for the baptism ceremony of Benjamin Joseph, Jesus berated his disciples for trying to keep little children away from him. Children see things in wondrous ways we’ve forgotten; and we as adults are poorer for that loss.

Each time a child is baptized into God’s family here on earth, the angels sing and there are high-fives all over heaven. Each time we laugh on earth, the laughter resounds in the company of all the saints in Paradise –including our honored and departed relatives! There is no more divine-like sound in the universe than human laughter and the joy that laughter expresses. Jesus once said to us, “I have come to bring you joy, and I want your joy to be full.” I honestly believe that joy is one of the truest and most distinctive traits of a disciple of Jesus. It may be that if we haven’t found some considerable joy in our lives – alongside all the tumults and tragedies – then we haven’t yet really discovered Christ.

If there is currently sadness and distress in our lives, look to our children and grandchildren! They are good models for generating laughter in our lives. For instance…

A mother was preparing pancakes for her two sons, Kevin (age 5) and Ryan (age 3). The boys began to argue over which of the two would get the first pancake; and the mother saw an opportunity to teach a lesson. She said to her two sons: “If Jesus were here at this table, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’” Kevin immediately turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

And this one…after the church service, a small girl told the pastor, “When I grow up and earn money, I’m going to give you some.” “Well, thank you,” the pastor replied, “but why?” The girl answered, “Because my daddy says you’re the poorest preacher we’ve ever had.”

And one more instance: a father and his daughter had just returned from the store and began putting away the groceries. The daughter quickly opened the new box of animal crackers and spread them all over the table. “What are you doing?” her father asked impatiently. She replied, “The box says not to eat them if the seal is broken. I’m looking for the seal.”

The Creator of our Cosmos is always “looking for the seal” in our lives, waiting to embrace you, to love you, to laugh with you as your oldest and best friend. That’s what good friends do. So go ahead and laugh a little more. Laugh a lot more. Laugh like you did that time in the school cafeteria when you laughed so hard that milk came out your nose. Laughter is still one of God’s best and most amazing graces, and it heals our hurts!