Drop files to upload.
Faithlife
Faithlife

Mirror Mirror

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 2 views
Notes & Transcripts


Once upon a time in mid winter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a beautiful queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed, she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow. The red on the white looked so beautiful, that she thought, "If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as this frame." Soon afterward she had a little daughter that was as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony wood, and therefore they called her Little Snow-White.

Now the queen was the most beautiful woman in all the land, and very proud of her beauty. She had a mirror, which she stood in front of every morning, and asked:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

And the mirror always said:

You, my queen, are fairest of all.

And then she knew for certain that no one in the world was more beautiful than she.

Now Snow-White grew up, and when she was seven years old, she was so beautiful, that she surpassed even the queen herself. Now when the queen asked her mirror:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,


Who in this land is fairest of all?

The mirror said:

You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Little Snow-White is still
A thousand times fairer than you.

When the queen heard the mirror say this, she became pale with envy, and from that hour on, she hated Snow-White. Whenever she looked at her, she thought that Snow-White was to blame that she was no longer the most beautiful woman in the world. This turned her heart around. Her jealousy gave her no peace.

Finally she summoned a huntsman and said to him, "Take Snow-White out into the woods to a remote spot, and stab her to death. As proof that she is dead bring her lungs and her liver back to me. I shall cook them with salt and eat them."

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

18     At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

 

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

 

10 “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.a 12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. [1] Matthew 18:1-14 (NIV)

The scripture that we read this morning is the response of Christ to a “grown-up” question that in all likelihood was not a question and in all reality was not very grown up.

1.   Kingdom Greatness

I’m sure that the heart of Christ was grieved at times to see the drive to succeed to be fully alive within the hearts of those who represented the greatest investment of his life.  It’s not so much that ambition alone is a bad or wrong thing but too often it aligns the world into self-proclaimed winners and losers and fosters pride rather than a heart of compassion.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. [2] Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

Everything that ends in a question mark is not necessarily a question.  The devil tempted Eve with the suggestion that perhaps God was withholding something from the first couple when he said,  “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”[3]

It sounded like a question but it really was an accusation.

And this was certainly no question.  It was akin to the witch’s self-centred inquiry to the magical mirror.  Hers was no question either.  It was merely a desire to hear someone or something affirm one more time that she was truly the fairest.

“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

The disciples, though they were not cut from society’s upper crust still manifested the desire to be in a primary position, to be the closest to Jesus, to be able to sit in a place of honour in his kingdom, to be specifically and specially recognised.  When they made this inquiry, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom?”, they wanted one of the following answers:

¨      You are the greatest group of people in this world and together we are going to rule.  We want to believe this at times also.  We desire to be victorious one day with Christ so that we can look at those who have wronged us and sneer at their plight.

¨      They were looking for the name of some well known spiritual figure, perhaps an Old testament prophet like Elijah so they would have someone to try to emulate and thus be remembered in the same way.  And perhaps they wanted some direction, a list of things that they might do as well to achieve greatness and recognition.

¨      Or they wanted to hear one of their own names.  Peter would have loved to hear his own.  It’s only natural.  He was the one who got out of the boat to try to walk on the waves as Jesus did.  The others cowered in the ship.  He had made his declaration of belief in the true identity of Christ and had been praised for his words.  Perhaps it was James or even John.  They had been on the mount with Jesus and had been privileged to see Moses and Elijah there with Christ.  Remember their mother’s request to have her boys sit at the right and left hand of Christ?

Jesus of course never failed to answer these types of questions in a way that caused people to search their hearts, to examine their motives.  He still does that today.

And so the answer that they hoped for was not what they received.

“2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.”

This child had no name, just some beautiful innocent little one playing nearby, oblivious to their conversation.  He/she wasn’t clamouring for a spotlight.  He/she had no great aspirations, and perhaps didn’t even know who Jesus was.  I would imagine that Jesus would have picked the quiet one sitting and watching the others.  It would be like Jesus to pick the one who wanted most to be unnoticed and make them most noticed.  Not to embarrass or create discomfort, . . . in the child that is.

God uses children to teach us lessons that we never forget.  They have no political savvy that they are not taught.  They have no fear, they say what they are thinking, out loud and often embarrass adults with their innocent candor.

“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Fishermen, a tax collector – they were jockeying for position with Christ.  It’s like the old fairy tale, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s greatest of them all?”  When you look in the mirror you see your own reflection.  As I remember fairy tale the lady wanted a pre-determined answer.  It wasn't a question – just a request to hear it one more time.

And Jesus forever refuses to play to people who are driven by ambition to become great.  It seems to me that the people that God uses most mightily are those who never seek to be used mightily.  It seems to me that God recruits out of obscurity.  He looks for people who seek Him first, and people who are content with Him alone.  He doesn’t seem to be impressed with the high and the mighty.  Those who hold worldly power and position are not potentially greater servants for God than those who are unknown.  Sometimes our successes can spoil us for God’s purposes.

There they huddled, hoping for some affirmation or direction and Jesus had the following things to say to them:

¨      If you hope to get to heaven you must change. 

““I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Not the kind of thing that a person wants to hear.  If you are to have any hope of making it to heaven then you must change and actually become more child-like.  We pride ourselves on our dignified persona and our accomplishments over the years.  The things that we have acquired are testaments to our success.  Again, it’s not that this is so wrong but our sense of well-being is inseparably connected to some very temporal things.  We’ve worked hard to become who we are and Jesus dares challenge this?  You’d better believe it.

¨      You must humble yourself as a child.

“. . .whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

There’s no reward for this in earthly kingdoms and power structures.  If you do this you won’t necessarily help yourself, . . .  but God might choose to bless you beyond your wildest dreams.  He might.

5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”a 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. [4]1 Peter 5:5-7 (NIV)

That means to try to live so that other people can win.  It means to take the back seat so that someone else can have the front seat.  It means to plant dreams in the hearts of others until they become their dreams.  It means to redirect credit that comes your way so that others might be noticed.  It means to look for ways to make others look better.  It’s a crazy way to live isn’t it?

¨      It means to honour your children if you want them to honour you.

“5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

I’d say that this makes kids special wouldn’t you?  The way that you treat children is the way that you treat Christ.

They are in the “least of these” category that we read of in Matthew 24.

“As much as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”

Be careful how you treat kids.  God notices.  There are people who are kid magnets and then there are people who scare them to death.  Our country is full of people who will never darken the doors of a church as adults because of  the way that they were treated as kids.  And God help you if drive kids away.  You’ll have to explain that to God someday.

Did you catch the scripture?  Whoever welcomes a little child, welcomes me.  That means that we ought to roll out the red carpet for these VIP’s.  That means that we ought to have a waiting list of people who want to work with children.  It’s not that way though.

I want to commend Pastor Mike, even if he is my son-in-law.  He and a wonderful crew of people put on an exceptional VBS program this past week.  They rolled out the red carpet, so to speak.  There were those who gathered around him at the last minute because others reneged or backed out – some for understandable reasons and some for lesser reasons.  Pastor Marc wrote some incredible sketches and helped in a variety of ways – this is way outside of the scope of his ministry and he has more than enough to do.  They had to operate on next to no funds because our giving has been down so much this summer.  I might encourage you if you are a member of this church or a regular adherent to consider, financially, making up the Sundays that you have missed so that we are not strapped going into the fall.  Kudos to you and the crew.  Somehow in ministering to children you also touch the heart of God.

You know what, I pray that we always not only see children at First Wesleyan but we hear them as well.  I pray that there are always a few black marks on the floors and even a few on the walls.  I hope that occasionally we find a hole in the drywall and things out of place.  I hope that the silence of our small prayer meetings is forever broken by the shrieks of children who squeal when they don’t know what to say because they love to be in the church for any reason.  I hope that they are so welcomed that they grow into adulthood with a fond memory or two of their childhood experiences in the church so that they won’t have to fight with themselves to take their families back when they have children of their own.  I pray that God will give us all grace to grow sweeter as we grow older and the good sense to remember that if we miss a generation we are in peril.  You can go to churches where there are no children.  They are neat – always.  They are quiet – deathly still.  You can find everything because it rarely moves.  I don’t ever want to be one of those churches.  I’d never attend one so I could never work as a pastor to build one.  Does that mean that I don’t care about neatness or reverence or order?  Not at all.  But I’ll take the kids whenever I have to make a choice

Randy Nicholson and Rick Doige are looking for teachers and assistants for the Spiritual Formation hour on Sunday morning, 9:30-10:20.  Ralph and Rhona Chase are retiring from a long, long term commitment to the Grade 5 and 6 class.  We need someone to take this responsibility as passionately as this dear couple has.  They have impacted countless numbers of young lives and we need two giants to stand in the gap.  See Randy or Rick if you are willing to help – please.

2.   A Grave Warning

So Jesus talks about true kingdom greatness using a child as an example.  Now he talks about the danger of causing a child to sin and issues a grave warning to people who do so.

“6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

It would be better?  I can’t imagine what would be worse?  This is a “grave warning”.

You’ve all heard this before but it is worth the public read.

Children Learn What They Live

 

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with fear, they learn to apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty,they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

 

by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. - 1972

When it comes to the faith we teach our children every day to obey God or to disobey Him – we teach them that He is the most important consideration of life or that he is a “tag on” to be casually aware of. 

So we are teaching them to honour God or to sin.  This is a parent’s primary responsibility regardless of whether the church has one pastor or two hundred.  They look to you and they take their final cues from what your life represents and whatever it is will be passed to the next generation.  Interested in winning your kids, don’t try to change them, change yourself – that’s what Jesus said – “You must change. . .”  to a degree you must know how to become like them rather than insisting that they become like you.

And he emphasises in this teaching that there is no price to great to pay.  Cut it off, gouge it out . . .   Whatever in you is offensive, show no mercy.  Don’t try to rationalise your liberty.  Be ruthless with sin’s encroachment on your life, in action, in attitude – do what is necessary to avoid causing sin in the little ones or allowing it in yourself.

3.   The Lost Sheep

And then finally Jesus teaches about the straying or lost sheep.  Remember here that he is still teaching about greatness in the kingdom illustrating with the life of a small child.

10 “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.a 12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. [5] Matthew 18:1-14 (NIV)

It’s not about the person who gets their knickers in a knot and stops attending church over some silly issue.  It’s not about those who by now, know how to care for their own relationship with God – it’s about the little ones, the littlest ones – the lost little ones.

I believe that the scriptures are a mandate for the church and the church is nothing more than a collection of individuals who are striving to honour God and to serve Him.

They serve as a mandate to:

·         To every adult in this church to treat our children with great care because of the value that Christ ascribed to them.  Yes they will try your patience by times, but regardless of that this truth still remains.  A church that knows how to treat children properly will be a church that grows.

·         I think it’s a mandate for us to do everything that we can do to develop an exceptional ministry to children, to staff and operate programs that reach out to the children.  I think it’s reason to fund these programs. 

·         I think it’s a call to parents to be among those at the front of the line to minister to children in the age group that their own children represent.  Our most faithful children and youth ministers are often those whose own children are in the ministries that they volunteer for.  If you have children in the nursery you should volunteer there unless you hate kids.  If you have toddlers, we need your help first because no one has as much patience for your kids as you do.  You don’t think you have much patience, - others will have less.  Follow your children along the way mom and dad.  They need you and other children need  you as well and your family perhaps.

Do you know what happened to the old witch, the Queen in Snow White.  I never knew this until I read the fairy tale on line.

Their wedding was set for the next day, and Snow-White's godless mother was invited as well. That morning she stepped before the mirror and said:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
The mirror answered:
You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But the young queen
Is a thousand times fairer than you.

She was horrified to hear this, and so overtaken with fear that she could not say anything. Still, her jealousy drove her to go to the wedding and see the young queen. When she arrived she saw that it was Snow-White. Then they put a pair of iron shoes into the fire until they glowed, and she had to put them on and dance in them. Her feet were terribly burned, and she could not stop until she had danced herself to death.

A little different than a millstone and a drop off of a cliff.  Jesus said that would be better.

So just how important are the children?

Priceless according to the words of Christ.

A little girl was sent on an errand by her mother. She took much too long in coming back. Mother, therefore, demanded an explanation when she finally did return. The little girl explained that on her way she had met a little friend who was crying because she had broken her doll. "Oh," said the. mother, "then you stopped to help her fix her doll?" "Oh, no," replied the little girl. "I stopped to help her cry."

   --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 113.

“. . . their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

 

No wonder!


----

a  Some manuscripts heaven. The Son of Man came to save what was lost.

[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

a  Prov. 3:34

[4]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

a  Some manuscripts heaven. The Son of Man came to save what was lost.

[5]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

RELATED MEDIA
See the rest →
RELATED SERMONS
See the rest →