People were bringing even children to Jesus that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ (Luke 18:15-17)
Reflection 1: As a child, I have nearly always been a part of the congregation at church. I can recall at South Yarra when the adult congregation first acted upon Jesus’ instruction to ‘let the little children come to him’, however I think that I remember being intensely bored the first time we were brought into the service. I didn’t really understand church politics and I hadn’t read the bible, being about 4 years old, but I thought it was good to be a part of the service as I felt like one of the big kids, a stage I’m sure every child can relate to.
The children of Sanctuary have been included since the beginning, something which I am grateful for. I believe church is for everyone to experience and interpret in their own way and at their own pace, even if that is children thinking of the weekly gathering as an excuse to see their friends. Tessa and Jubilee, born into Sanctuary, have been a part of our congregation from the start, and will continue to learn and see church as something for them, not for their parents and elders.
Having children in the church is also important as they/we have new ideas and contributions, seeing the Bible in different ways to those more experienced in worship. So consider the gospel, as Jesus says ‘whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it’.
Reflection 2: When I was given the opportunity to go back to uni and study teaching, I automatically reached for the Primary Education course forms. I’ve always sensed that teachers have a natural giftedness for working with students of a certain age. Some are brilliant with pre-school aged kids. Some love working with early Primary students, while others seem to have mastered the ability to cajole apathetic teenagers into learning by stealth.
For me, I quickly discovered my calling towards teaching grade 2s to grade 5s. I find this age to be the ultimate balance for formal learning. Students know enough to understand the ‘rules’ of the classroom and how to respectfully interact with one another, but their minds are still learning big concepts every day. You get to sit alongside a child and watch their brains literally have a moment of revelation every day. It’s magical to share in. As a Principal of a secondary school now, I miss these moments of sitting cross legged on the floor and calling students to come and learn alongside me.
I’m not sure that Jesus had Primary teaching in mind when he asked the children to come to him, but my time in the Primary classroom helped me to realise the significance of verse 17. Within a day of having my own class (17 beautiful grade 2s), I realised that I wasn’t getting paid to teach. I was actually entered into a vocation of learning, for self and for those in my care. I was in every way a co-learner and some days I couldn’t imagine the 8-year-olds were learning as much as me.
The concept of God’s Kingdom, or God’s culture, has been something I’ve caught glimpses of in my life. Most of those glimpses have been in a Primary classroom as those 8- to 11-year-olds have allowed me to rediscover a lens for viewing the world through – one which I’d forgotten as I aged and accepted responsibilities that aren’t of God’s Kingdom. I see teaching as a calling, to a vocation of service, but perhaps too to seeing more and more of God’s vision for our reality.