First Mennonite Church
March 19, 2017
Owners of the Kingdom of God
Text: 1Samuel 1:1-27; Mark 10:13-16
Hannah was a childless woman who in her desire to become a mother pleaded with the Giver of life—Jehovah God. She pleaded with brokenness of heart and with burning tears she implored the favor of God. And God gave her the desire of her heart. Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the LORD.”
This passage lays the foundation for the Christian practice of child dedication. Child dedication in the kind of Hannah is born out of gratitude, not because of pressure to obey a law, nor out of guilt to ease the conscience, and not in exchange for God to do us a favor.
Child dedication is a public commitment parents make before God, their families and the church. The dedication service provides the parents with an opportunity to express publically their desire to guide and nurture their child in the way of the Lord. This task of nourishing and leading their child is shared with the fellowship of local believers and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In that regard, child dedication is also a public commitment on the part of the church to support parents in their god-given obligation to raise their child according to the Lord’s admonishment.
“For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.”
As parents, we know that dedicating our children to the Lord is just the beginning of a life’s spiritual journey. Child dedication is not and should not be a box to check in the list of things we need to do for our children. It is a life-long commitment, as in Hannah’s words, “So I have dedicated him to the Lord, as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.”
The New Testament passage that affirms child dedication is the example of Mary and Joseph. In Luke, chapter 2, following the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple and dedicated Him.
In both Scripture passages, the parents entrusted their child completely to God.
The writings of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5–9 describe God’s instruction on how parents should raise their children:
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
What does that mean for us today?
From my experience, let me tell you that I do not and cannot be reciting scripture to my children all day long or every time we are driving to school or elsewhere. At the same time, let me tell you from experience that I make a deliberate effort to see that every word, action, motivation in my relationship with my children is guided and shaped by the word of God. We talk about God/Bible/faith matters with our children. And we do so deliberately because we know that is the commitment we made to God and the church the day we dedicated each of our children. Child dedication is not as someone said about another issue, a “Kodak moment.” Child dedication is a life-long commitment to God and the fellowship of believers that we as parents want our children to be raised under the Lordship of Jesus.
Let me clarify one more issue about child dedication. Child dedication has nothing to do with the salvation of the child. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them. In the gospel of Mark 10, which was our New Testament scripture today reads:
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, 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. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
How would you feel if someone tried to prevent you from entering your own house? How would you feel if your children were denied by a stranger to go to their room? The disciples did not know that the kingdom of God Jesus had been proclaiming belongs to children, including those that were being brought to Jesus. When the disciples saw parents bringing their children that Jesus might touch them, they started to scold those parents. They wanted to prevent those parents from bringing their children over to Jesus. Mark tells us Jesus was indignant—literally, Jesus was “much grieved” or “not dignified” by the disciples’ actions.
We as parents cause much grief to God when we hinder our children from retaining their rightful ownership of God’s kingdom. Every child is by God’s will and grace an heir of his kingdom. A child does not have to have faith in Jesus to be saved. A child does not need to be taken to church to belong to God. But as the child matures and begins to exercise his or her free will to choose, so also does the child begin to become responsible before God for those choices and actions. That is why in both the Old and New Testaments parents are encouraged to take advantage to shape the mind and character of their children when they are still young. Proverbs 22, verse six, says: Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
Timothy was taught scriptures by both his mother and grandmother since he was a child (2Timothy 1:4, 5). How often we as parents fail to see that our children’s spirituality is something we should also encourage. How often we neglect our children’s need to grow in their knowledge of the Lord! How often we worry about our children’s social and academic well-being but not their spiritual well-being?
So once again, dedication is an act based on gratitude to God for our children. Child dedication is a public commitment on the part of parents and congregation to raise the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Child dedication is a life-long journey together. And child dedication is not to access salvation to the child, because the child is already an owner of the kingdom of God. Children are, by God’s will and grace, owners of the kingdom. Amen!