Did You Hear the One About… 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 8 – Thursday after 1st Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
Graham Duncan, my lecturer in Christian Education at the Federal Theological Seminary in Imbali Township outside Pietermaritzburg, had a sure-fire way of working with children in church. His motto was simply this, ‘Take a room full of children and a quarter-pound bag of sweeties and you can rule the world!’ This is a maxim that I have frequently put into use and found incredibly successful – ask anyone who has heard one of my baptism sermons.
As the church tries to understand the way the world works in an age of mass communication she has correctly realised that the old ways must change. The days of everything being centred on what happens in the church service on a Sunday, a ‘Church Shaped Mission’, need to be replaced by a more dynamic ‘Mission Shaped Church which reaches out to God’s people of all ages and circumstances and not only those who worship regularly.
Jesus our Beloved taught us this from the beginning when he refused to put Synagogue, Temple, or even his disciples at the centre of his message of love but proclaimed a child to be the most important. He knew that children indeed ‘rule the world’ even without the benefit of a quarter-pound bag of sweeties! A lesson that many parts of the church have yet to learn.
Messy Church is a way of putting the child at the centre of the Gospel, as Jesus did, without running the risks of being patronising of the faith of the ‘Little Ones’ of Jesus’. All too easily, if we do not think through things, we turn children into props for the entertainment of the ‘real’ worshippers. After all, are adult worshippers applauded when they read from the Scriptures, give a testimony, or lead the prayers? So why are we tempted to do so with our children as if their faith is a sideshow instead of at the centre of our mission?
Moreover, when it comes to Lent children are almost totally excluded. Think back to Ash Wednesday and ask yourself how many children in your church received ashes. If you are fortunate enough to have a church school in your community, were children offered the opportunity to ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ’? I suppose we have a picture of all children as being innocent having little sense of intentional wrongdoing or sin. Spend a few moments with any parent or schoolteacher and you will soon be disabused of that presumption.
Children are vital to our faith, which is why Jesus put them in the middle as an example for us to follow. The One Who Loves us Best died for them as much as for us and we should welcome them as brothers and sisters on the journey homeward not a sideshow or entertainment to be tolerated and kept quiet with a round of applause and a quarter-pound bag of sweeties.
After all, if we do not learn in Lent to be like the ‘Little Ones’ of Jesus’ we stand little chance of becoming like Him.
Give praise for the gift of children,
for the birth of love
and the blessings of laughter
and joy and rollicking music.
Sing out to God,
who from the shadows of pain
gives birth to life anew.
for with the ravines and lonely valleys
comes the warm wind
and the life-giving rain.
from Sierra Leone
- Talk to a child about their faith. If you are fortunate enough
ask them to pray for you.
- Examine how you welcome children in worship and ensure
that you see them as ‘partners in the faith’ rather than under-cooked Christians
Find out more about Messy Church here: http://www.messychurch.org.uk
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017