Sermon on Innocence

The importance of innocence was given by Jesus very nicely in Mathew 18.1-7. “At that time, the disciples came to Jesus saying ‘who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven ?’ and Jesus called a child to Himself and set him before them and said: “Truly, I say unto you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one such child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck and then be drowned in the depths of the sea.  Woe to this world because of its stumbling blocks!  For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come and woe to that person who is not strong enough to overcome them.”  What does this teaching mean ?  It is not a parable; it is a direct teaching and yet something seems to be left out.  Why does Jesus ask that children be allowed to come to him, for indeed, they were attracted to him?  And what special characteristic of children was Jesus talking about that made them eligible  to enter heaven, besides humility?  I know that this kind of teaching gets on the nerves of some people, who feel that they are more eligible to enter heaven than a child.  They may say, well Jesus, why don’t you just tell us what you mean straight out.  They want everything in black and white.  But many men and women will tell you that not all things should be talked about in polite conversation, for some things are understood to be on the grey area and to avoid bad feelings, you just must listen; we will just call this discretion.  Discretion in a woman makes her a lady; discretion in a man, makes him a gentleman.  And you don’t have to ask for respect; you get it automatically.  You are probably wondering how this applies to Jesus.  I will tell you a story that will make it crystal clear.  In the 1940s, a popular singer named Dinah Shore asked a songwriter to compose a special song for her.  It was a complaint against men who wanted everything in black and white only.  The song that she got satisfied her in all respects.  The name of the song, from 1948 is Why Can’t You Read Between the Lines?  Now men, why can’t you read between the lines, it just takes a little meditation.  Let us now read between the lines and see what Jesus is relishing in children.  Is it not the special quality of innocence?  To me, what Jesus is saying is Cherish the Innocence!  Does that mean, when a girl reaches puberty, she must be immediately deflowered?  No, just the opposite Cherish the Innocence!  Actually, this message is so important that it should be made a mantra.  A mantra is a discipline for the mind that requires repeating over and over.  I want everyone to remember this mantra and take it with you after church and remember it in real life (most mothers do).  If you cherish the innocence of children; they will love and cherish you, for they know that they are free to follow their inclinations to go out and play.  Yes, to play at being a cherubim or a little angel.  Unfortunately, some children are little devils, but this is against their inclinations and is more the exception than the rule.  Somehow, the devil has corrupted them and the words of Jesus comes back to us “but whosoever causes one of these to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck and drowned by throwing him into the sea.”  Thus, a child can be corrupted by bad association or hanging out with bad people; teaching him to sacrifice his innocence by eating bloody meat and to steal is to grow up artificially.  A child is like a herb garden, you have to keep the weeds out by pulling out the bad influences.  In other words, you have to protect your child.  To correct this situation, you must be like Jesus, a good role model.  And keep chanting Cherish the Innocence, then soon, very soon, they will be strangely attracted to you; but then-do-not take advantage of them.  Whenever your mind wanders, chant the mantra.  It is then that you should accept your role as teacher of the mundane and the divine.  Pray regularly and show by your example as Jesus did.  Everyday prayers can be done standing or sitting, speaking or silently, but serious prayers should be done on your knees.  Teach your children this Bedtime Prayer while kneeling at their bedside.  “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I awake;  I pray the Lord my soul to take.” These words come from a popular song of 1916.  Soon, by the grace of the Lord, you will be contented and rewarded for your service, because you are without ulterior motives.  In other words, you are cherishing the innocence.  That is the correct mental attitude; count your blessings instead of sheep.  Women, also teach your men to be discreet gentlemen, not scoundrel pirates who say anything and do anything.  That is not civilized behavior.  A gentleman is a person who has learned to control his passions.  In the old world, this was called being a yogi and in women, it was called being a yogini.  A Christian gentleman should be dressed nicely and smelling clean and sweet.  He is discreet.  You don’t have to tell him, for he can read between the lines.  He has found a sublime message, as if it were written in braille.  Here is what it says:  Cherish the Innocence ~ Amen