The sentry at the door must have fallen asleep, because on Monday morning I turned around and realized our church facilities had been invaded by a band of little human beings with small hands, small feet, short arms, big smiles, quick tears, hungry minds and open hearts. At first the sensation overwhelmed your senses especially your hearing, but once you realized the little ones meant you no harm their joy was contagious.
If you have not read between the lines yet, I am describing a week of Vacation Bible School at your local neighborhood church. For decades VBS has breathed life into churches old and young, big and small, because children have a God-given ability to bring back wonder and mystery into old dusty places in our hearts and minds. That is why I believe Jesus loved to hang out with children, and children always seemed to be nearby offering their sack lunches, crawling up in his arms, or responding to his healing touch.
One day Jesus’ band of followers quizzed him with what they considered a deep theological question. Sensing a bit of their own superiority and begging for a complement from their Master they asked:
“Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
I can see them sitting back waiting for the applause of heaven because of their courageous wisdom in choosing to follow Jesus at all cost, Jesus surprised them. To their shock and amazement instead of calling one of their number to his side, he motioned for a child—a young boy—to stand sheepishly in their midst.
Looking deep into their hearts and souls Jesus uttered the most stunning words saying: “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NIV)
Don’t miss the obvious point, Jesus warned them about their assumptions of greatness when they were in danger of missing heaven altogether. True greatness starts by simply getting into the Kingdom first, and entrance starts with taking on the trust and innocent devotion of children.
This week I have enjoyed a crash course in the joys and wonders of the Kingdom of God in the faces of children. Children, big and small, share an incredible openness to the Spirit of God. They embrace wonder and mystery with innocent abandonment.
Let me share a couple of glimpses of this abandonment to God. Marsha, who led them in worship which consisted in a wonderful blend of aerobics, joy, singing and rhythmic choreography, shared with me that her heart swelled watching the children sing with all their hearts and souls. There was no looking around to see who was watching, they sang, moved, and experienced worship in the moment.
Fast forward, I am walking by a pew, and a little hand reaches out and grabs mine. I look down into bright eyes framed by little glasses. As she peered into my heart, she smiled and whispered, “I want to be baptized” with the innocent boldness of a child. I wish my “wanting” was so pure.
A frazzled teacher shared with me about her struggle to tame a herd of little boys. I reminded her little boys need a firm loving hand to guide them. You see children learn best with love wrapped in firm boundaries. In fact we all do. Jesus sees the child in all of us— so smile, sing, dance, and believe your way into His Kingdom.