I’ve been looking back over a cartoon I found in the ChurchTimes a while ago which joked about Sunday School / Young Church / Créche. It jokes about how each week the children are really taught the same thing: be nice to each other, share your toys, and tidy your room. Well maybe so. But with connections with Biblical stories and with life, these lessons seem to evolve into: Love your neighbour, share what you have, and respect the gifts you recieve.
I never went to Young Church as a child, but those three lessons do seem rather key for life don’t they? (To make up for never going to one, on a Sunday earlier in the year Yvonne – our young Church leader – got me to experience one, in which I sat on a tiny chair with the children and coloured in lions, giving one youngster a piggyback, discussing who God is – fascinating answers sprung up from the children – and telling the congregation what we’d done. It was lovely actually!)
The children of the Young Church really are very important.
As I’ve been following the lectionary since the start of this Church year, I’ve been making pencil notes around the pages, taking note of which passages share a certain theme. I remember tagging one with childhood innocence. Now looking back in my lectionary, I see that I also wrote precious and valuable in the margin. Luke 10:21-24:
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’
Jesus rejoices. What do I see in this passage? I see a wonderful man thanking the heavens that we’re born in God’s image, with the capability of being wonderful beautiful human beings, I see the “wise and intelligent” – meaning arrogant and snide here not intellectual – beings of the world actually knowing very little about the fullness of life, and being told so. I see those who understand Jesus – who understand love – being blessed, being happy. I see Jesus telling us that whilst knowledge of books, of prophets, is important… it is not the only thing that is important. Wisdom is much bigger than that.
The beauty of youngsters gets to us all. Why? Because they are innocent, because society hasn’t yet conditioned them into acting a certain way, and they really don’t have all that much to fear. It’s instinctive to take hands with the child next to you and sit with them to draw – before an adult pokes us apart and tells us to stick with ‘our own kind’ or whatever. Before we’re told about certain things, conditioned into a certain way of thinking which hides from reality – no the starving children in Africa aren’t our problem, and actually there really aren’t very many of them – we believe in love, and in innocence find few reasons to hate, to hurt.
We can’t retain the fullness of that innocence – there are problems we need to solve that would be too shocking to a very young person. But we should be able to retain more of our loving, open, non-judging side.
And kids say the darndest things – they’re honest. We need that.
I’ve overheard some members of my congregation (occasionally) assuming that they know what the Young Church children want, because they are children. Some attitudes seem to be that because they’re young, adults can get what they think and assume that it is therefore right for them. Make decisions for them. But come on guys… not all decisions can be made for them. That’s just not right. Sure we teach our children – the decision of not having another chocolate bar seems to be rather a hard lesson to get through eh? – but they teach us so much too. We just have to listen to them. Talk with them not at them. Don’t talk down to children. Whatever age they are. We’re all equal, and we can all learn from one another.
Our older members of Young Church are very mature, and responsible. They’re all a wonderful bunch.
Be nice to each other, share your toys, and tidy your room… Love your neighbour, share what you have, and respect the gifts you recieve. Maybe we all need to go back to a Sunday School lesson every now and then eh?
More on what growing up is all about here…