July 18, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 18:1-6
Thanks so much to Ashley for sharing her passion. She and Ginny share a similar commitment to the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education and you will get a chance to hear from Ginny next Sunday! (And Allison the following Sunday).
It is so exciting for me to be on the cutting edge of a fresh way of incorporating children into the life of the Beloved Community! When I first heard of the Reggio principles, I was so impressed. It just makes sense and seems so respectful of children and to me, fits with the way Jesus honored kids.
The birthing of our current ministry to children started sometime around March of 2020. It was the brainstorm of several women: Ashley Reed, Ginny Beamish, Sarah Porto, Sarah Wittman, and Nikki Francis. They actually had one SS class for kids when the Pandemic hit. Now, they have been joined by Lori and Bruce Rademachir and the Ministry & Worship committee and the early stages of our new Christian Education Team.
I believe it is the message behind Jesus’ words that is moving them: “The kingdom of God belongs to little children like these. I tell you, the person who will not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never get into it at all.”
If the reign of God belongs to little children, we need to figure out what they know that we need to learn or have forgotten! There is something in the heart of a child that we must recover in order to be a full participant in the rule of God. What is that?
What have we lost in the growing up that needs to be recovered?
A. Do you suppose it is the ABILITY TO TRUST? Children often have a kind of acceptance / an almost naive willingness to trust that makes them vulnerable and we adults must be a cautious voice for them. Warning them of danger lurking is definitely our adult job. But in the process of protecting them, we can teach them an inordinate kind of fear! A fear that slowly deprives them of their wonderful ability to trust.
So it is possible that we adults must re-learn the art of child-like trust. After all, our walk with God is a walk of faith, isn’t it? One of the ways we can learn such a precious lesson is by watching the little ones. (Sometimes we have to watch the very youngest, because fear so quickly dominates.)
Look at their Trust, their courage and can I say daring? We were in the swimming pool behind Sarah’s house and little Hailey was standing on a tall rock at the pool’s edge with her Daddy holding out his arms to catch her if she wanted to jump. And she did with the biggest giggle. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” the Hebrew writer said. “The person who will not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never get into it at all.”
B. Do you suppose it is WONDER? Do you remember when your new baby first discovered his own feet or fingers? Do you remember when the light came on and you could see it in his eyes that for the first time, it seemed to dawn on him that those funny things belonged to him?
I will never forget the day I carried my newest grandson outside a restaurant on a brisk Fall day and I let out my breath and he saw the puff of air as a little cloud and he just giggled. I heard myself say: “That’s amazing!” and he thought “amazing” was the word that big people used for that puff of breath.
I remember the morning that Mary Ann took her young grandson out to catch the school bus on a wet morning when the dew was heavy. Little Ben just stopped in his tracks, in true awe as he saw the green grass adorned with sparkling jewels. Before I knew it, both of them were on their knees for a closer look at the wonder-filled yard.
“This is my Father’s world” we sing, Maybe we need a child to really learn to see the world again with wonder and awe. What a difference that can make! It makes room for praise and lifts our spirits from worry, fear, and getting caught up in trivial things of our world.
C. Perhaps it is their CAPACITY TO ACCEPT. Prejudice – that deeply imbedded suspicion-turned-to-hostility – is not something we are born with. We learn it. We can let our children teach us this important and fundamental principle of the kingdom of God.
Sarah, Mary Ann’s oldest daughter, was in her kindergarten class at school of all black children except for her for several months before she came home one day and said: Mommy, I think I’m the lightest child in the room! “The person who will not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never get into it at all.”
This journey of learning to learning to learn from our children is a beautiful journey. To be sure, we are all here to teach the little ones and we have so much to teach. The collective years of experience and wisdom are a treasure irreplaceable. But truly, we have so much to learn as well. And our little teachers are poised and ready to teach. Maybe it was Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching who said: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!” Keep your eyes open for opportunities to engage with the little ones around us – volunteer to be present with them – just watch them as they play. See and notice and learn. God is among us in the faces, the trust, wonder, and the acceptance of the children.