Kathleen Marie Pryor, 58, passed away on July 6, 2014. She was born in Waterville, Maine on September 18, 1955. Kathy is survived by her parents, Don and Marlene Pryor of Benton; her brother, James, of Waterville; her sisters, Debra Haske and her husband, John, of West Virginia, and Donna Wilson and her husband, Greg, of Benton. She is also survived by her nephews, Justin Pryor and his wife, Abbie, of Maryland, Luc Poulin and his wife, Emily of Virginia and Daniel Wilson, of Benton; and her nieces, Amanda Poulin, of Virginia, Danielle Poulin of Ohio and Juli Bearce and her husband, Jayson, of Waterville… She will be missed by Jaimi and Paula Cole, Mikayla and Breanna and her KFI friends who so lovingly watched over her.
As obituary’s go, this one is brief and quite modest. It says nothing about Kathy’s hobbies or accomplishments in life as many obituaries do. It says nothing about the people whom she loved. It mentions only her date of birth and date of death and the family and friends who loved her and took care of her.
There are people who are remembered for what they have achieved and accomplished during their life. Some are remembered for their passion for certain hobbies or interests. Some are remembered by their love for their parents or their spouse or their children or their neighbors or a favorite pet.
But Kathy is remembered primarily by those who loved her and took care of her. Kathy was a person who required a lot from others. She was not one of those ‘independent’ people that we tend to admire and strive to become like. She was ‘dependant’ on others to take care of her and provide for her all her needs.
Would it be safe to say that for Kathy’s entire 58 years of life, she was a little child? And if it is safe to say that, then I think it is also safe to say that Kathy leads us right to the Gospel reading we just heard?
People, probably fathers and mothers, were bringing their ‘little children’ to Jesus, much like we bring our children to doctors and special care givers. There are certain things that our children need that we are simply not equipped to give them. And so we take them to those who can.
This is just what happened when Kathy was brought to Jesus through Holy Baptism. She was brought to Jesus so that He might touch her. And by His watery touch, she was blessed by God, with all that His blessing gives.
So, when these people were bringing their ‘little children’ to Jesus, they were confessing that, in some way, their child needed something that they could not give them. But they believed that Jesus could. They wanted Him to “touch them.” They believed that somehow, in His touch, He was able to give “God’s blessing.”
To be “blessed by God” is to be loved and cared for by almighty God. It was to be protected and delivered from the power of sin and death and even the devil himself. In a word, to be “blessed by God” was to be saved.
The disciples thought that Jesus would be bothered by the ‘little children.’ They should come back when they’re grown up, more mature and able to control themselves. But when Jesus saw what was going on, He was “indignant.”
I chased that word around the New Testament a bit and discovered that it’s used several times. On Palm Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the people were carried away in their enthusiasm for Him, the Pharisees were ‘indignant’ that Jesus didn’t tell them to be quite. The ruler of the Synagogue was ‘indignant’ that Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. The disciples were ‘indignant’ with James and John for lobbying Jesus for a seat on his right and left when he comes into his kingdom. And all of the disciples are ‘indignant’ when the sinful woman wastes her expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.
You would think that this would be a word frequently applied to Jesus who must be ‘indignant’ with so much of what he witnesses in us. But the only time the word is ever used for Jesus is when the disciples “hinder the little children from coming to him.” Here is the one thing that our Lord cannot stomach. “For to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.”
It’s not that children are saved simply because they are little children. It’s not that grown adults are saved simply because the ‘act like a child.’ No. Jesus uses ‘little children’ as the best example of what our life in the Kingdom of God is like. It’s not about our I.Q. or our accomplishments or our achievements. Nor is it about our love for others or how we took care of others.
Little children need to be taken care of and they are happiest and secure and confident when they are sure that someone is taking care of them. They are not independent but dependent, and they know it and they don’t fight it.
The problem that most of us have is that, even though we are all ‘little children’ before the Lord, totally dependent upon His care for us, we resist it. We don’t like the idea of ‘depending’ on someone else. We want to be ‘independent.’ Or at the very least, we want to ‘earn our keep.’ We can’t settle for being waited on, for free, by grace alone. We insist on ‘doing our part.’
And although all of this is very good and helpful as members of our family and community and nation, it doesn’t work with God. When we try to show God all that we have done and accomplished with our life as the reason for why He should give us all that we need and take care of us for eternity in heaven, we miss the most important and precious message that He has for us.
“I have done everything for you through My Son, Jesus Christ and His cross. Not because of what you have done and accomplished with your life or because of what I now expect you to do for Me. I have given My Son to you for free, by grace alone, and through Him, I HAVE taken care of you and AM taking care of you and WILL continue to take care of you until the end of the age. My Son has prepared a place for you to live IN MY HOUSE with me into eternity. And in My House, every is like a ‘little child,’ perfectly happy and content and thankful to be ‘LOVED AND CARED FOR’ by Me.”
“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter it.”
In the Greek of the New Testament, there are several words for “child,” and each one is specific to a particular stage of development. The word here is ‘paidos.’ And the best translation is ‘little children.’ These are children who are still nursing.
I chased the word “paidos” around also. When Solomon, the son of David, is installed as king of Israel, he prays, “And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.” (1 Kings 3:7) And we know how pleased the Lord was with Solomon’s prayer.
When the 72 return from their first mission trip, Jesus prays to the Father, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Luke 10:21)
In the Upper Room as soon as Judas leaves to betray Him, Jesus looks at the eleven and says, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you.” (John 13:13).
When the apostle John writes to the Church he repeatedly calls them ‘paidos.’ “Little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.” “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John)
“Little children” are those who are ‘nursed’ on the pure milk of God’s love poured out for us through Jesus Christ. They are those who rest secure in the peace and security that comes from trusting in a trustworthy God. They sing, “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”
When Martin Luther died in 1548, one of his closest friends prepared His body for burial. As he removed Luther’s shirt, checking the pockets, he found a little piece of paper. The last thing that Luther ever wrote. Only six words altogether. Three in German and three in Latin. "Wir sind bettler. Hoc est verum.” “We are all beggars. This is true.”
We all stand before God as beggars, on bended knees and extended hands, crying, “Lord have mercy upon us.” And in His great love for us, He gives us all that we need, even the forgiveness for all of our sins and His own righteousness and holiness, and life – even eternal life with Him in heaven.
Kathleen Marie Pryor. The summary of her life was that she was loved and cared for. And in that she has a great deal to offer us. In her ‘childlike’ life, she shows us what the life of every “little child” in the Kingdom of God, regardless of our age, is all about. And so we thank God for her and for His care for her.
“And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.”