Texts: 2 Samuel 12:15b-23; Romans 14:6-9; Matthew 18:1-5,10-11; Mark 10:13-16
We gather in sadness, mourning the death of this little baby, [n.]. Death is never easy. But there should not be caskets this size. We know death is in this world as a result of sin, and death is always a reminder to us of the fact that this world is not as God first created it. We mourn the loss TO US of the life of this baby, [n.], and yet we know that God is in control, and that this child is in the arms of Jesus.
The readings this afternoon reflect that. The first reading was from the life of King David. David of course is well-known. His battle against Goliath, his rise to Kingship, even his great sins of adultery and murder. Perhaps less well know is the illness that plagued his son, the first son born from Bathsheba. This son was sick and died shortly after birth, longer than baby Caleb—seven days, not seven seconds. And yet, for that boy, seven days was one day too short a time. For it was on the eighth day that their boys were circumcised, a sign of being in the family of God, like our baptism, and on the eighth day they received a name. Instead, that boy died without circumcision or a name. And yet despite that, King David expressed his confidence in eternal life and that eternal life had been given to his son in His words: “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
In the reading from Mark, Jesus was indignant that his disciples were trying to keep the children from him. “Let the children come to me,” Jesus said. “Do not hinder them; for to such belong the kingdom of God.” To such, meaning NOT, as some people think, that ALL children are saved, or that we need to become like children in general. To whom belongs the kingdom of God? To people who are like the children that are brought to Jesus!
In truth, each of us NEEDS, if we are to be saved, to become like children brought to Jesus. It is in the nature of children to trust their parents. That’s just a fact. Little children trust that their earthly parents will take care of them, feed them, clothe them, and give them what they need. Unfortunately, we as earthly parents aren’t always able to do that for our children. We aren’t always able to give our children what they need. We don’t always know what to say to our children, we aren’t even always able to ensure that our children can live. This should be so, but it is not. And it is a frustrating part of life in this fallen world.
But that is why we are taught, as parents, to give our children what they TRULY need, and that is to bring them to Jesus, to let Christ the good shepherd and God our heavenly Father take care of them. He knows their true needs. He cares for each of His children in ways we cannot. He is the father to the fatherless, the nurturer, the life-giver to those who die physically. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” Jesus said, “For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
From this passage, we know that even in the womb, our children have angels watching over us, caring for our needs at the command of God the Father.
Just a day or two before this baby’s birth and death, as you sat in the hospital uncertain about the fate of your unborn child, I read that passage from Romans 14: “If we live we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is the key event for each of us. Christ’s death and resurrection is the promise that we, too, will be raised again, raised to eternal life from death, to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Christ our Lord, Christ the Good Shepherd, is truly the Good Shepherd of all his children, all those brought to him, and to him we commend this little one, [n.], placing him in the arms of His Good Shepherd.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.