Sunday, October 18, 2009

peter might have the keys, but who really owns the kingdom?

"let the little children come to me"

what wisdom exists in such a simple statement. ok, it continues to be even more profound, but first, let's think about just that phrase. the disciples are rebuking parents for bringing their children and babies to jesus and jesus responds by saying to his disciples, "let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of god belongs to such as these." (luke 18:16b)


let the little children come to me. and how often do we simply give lip service to the importance of children and youth? yes, we all know that "they are the future," but do we realize that they are also the present? they are the church and they are the world. they own the kingdom of god! now, i’m not suggesting that children should own houses, cars, etc. but owning the kingdom, changes how we as "non-children" view and understand church and our relationship with god. if little children own it, it takes us back to thinking about what we learned in kindergarten: share your toys, play nice with others, say please and thank you, and you can do anything you want. what a different view from the one we get from society!

and let's face it, children in general (and perhaps all people) are usually smarter than we give them credit for. this is especially obvious if you've ever taught a bible study or sunday school with kids. the questions they come up with and the insight that they provide never leaves me without something to think about.

so, if we are inviting the little children to come, it must mean that we need to listen to them, right? no, they can't make all the big decisions, but why not ask the kids in your life what they think about an issue before you vote on it at church or before you decide at home? have kids be more involved in leadership, give them a place, or at least a voice, on church council. i think you'll probably also find that kids are maybe a bit more generous than non-children, which, however problematic it may seem, is very much needed in the world in which we live and move and have our being.

ok, where did this come from? well, there's a bit of a story to that. "pre lepší život (for a better life)," the association i'm working with here, is geared towards children. they are the very clear focus of the work we do and right now, we have an after school-type program that we are running. well, this year is the fifth anniversary of the association's founding, so we had a retreat this weekend to celebrate.

during the retreat, i couldn't help but notice, as i wrote in my journal, that this group "is a fierce example of how we are supposed to love one another. here there are men and women, roma and gadje all working together and loving each other as christ first loved us." this group of people loved, lived, joked, laughed, prayed, and praised together, but none of that would have happened if we hadn't all had the commonality of the pre lepší život. if we weren't all here for the children, to work for a better life for them, then all of that love that we so readily shared might not have ever even existed.

i have found that when something is focused on children, whether it's fundraising, after school projects, or anything else you could think of, people are a lot more willing to get involved and people are a lot more generous. they are more generous with money, yes, but more than that, they are generous with their time, attention, and love. (i do realize this is not at all a universal truth, but instead a sweeping generalization, and i'm ok with that) people come together for children, and they share love with the children, but also, and perhaps more importantly, with everyone involved.

so, maybe when jesus said "let the little children come to me" he knew it would mean that so many more people would also come, after all, who lets their child run off without at least knowing where they are going or following them? it was really a marketing ploy by jesus. get the kids to want it (like with toys on tv) and the parents will have to buy it too, or at least check it out, and if not the parents, then friends or relatives. let the little children come and watch the love and generosity increase exponentially as others check it out also and work together for a better life for everyone.