“But Jesus said, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matthew 19:14, KJV)
Last Wednesday in Chapel, I read this story out of the Jesus Storybook Bible (JSB) to the 1st-4th graders who gathered (the 5th and 6th graders were out that day, providing an opportunity for time with the little ones who, being suddenly foisted into leadership in the chapel, were blessedly deer-in-headlights quiet). In the JSB, this story ties together the disciples arguing about who was greatest/most-beloved-of-Jesus among them, and the little children approaching Jesus (this is one of the many reasons i love the JSB–they’ve always thought of connections that I haven’t made). The disciples are acting the way that one expects children to behave, “I’m best!” “No, I’m more clever!” “Clearly, it’s ME who’s most important!” While this niggling is going on in the background, Jesus is left un-guarded, and children start wandering up to him–drawn by his approachability, his gentleness, and his love. They run into his arms, and he laughs with them (according to the JSB–a colorful, though fair!, description), they talk about what’s going on in their little lives, and sit on Jesus’ lap. Finally, the disciples realize what’s been going on, and they rush over to shoo away the children who are disturbing the Important Work of Jesus.
Of course, Jesus then sets the disciples straight, showing them–and us!–how much we have to learn from children, from the way that little ones know that there’s more to the world than what we see–the world is magical–that Jesus is the Most Worthy of our love and trust.
At the close of the story, I told the children about the leadership they’d be expected to take in showing the 5th and 6th graders the new habit we were going to start in chapel on Wednesdays (the day I lead). All year, we’ve been taking prayer requests by voice, imagining that we’re placing those people in our two up-turned hands and then lifting them up to God. Last Wednesday, we took it a step further. I encouraged the children to take a slip of paper, to write on it any request they had–people they wanted to remember, or situations that they might want to bring to Jesus–and by rows, I released them to leave the paper on the altar at the front of the chapel. They brought their hearts up to Jesus and laid their worries down on the altar in front of Him.