The Sights and Sounds of the Kingdom of God

Our new house is right across the street from a Fort Worth ISD elementary school. A school is a busy place, it turns out. Starting early in the morning there are the sounds of food deliveries and dumpsters being emptied and teachers and maintenance and cafeteria workers arriving for their day. Lots of sounds. Our house is actually right across from their playground, so if you are home during a school day, the sound you hear the most is that of children playing.

At about 8:30 am on Friday I looked out the window and saw one teacher and about 5 boys playing soccer. The teacher was in his dress shoes, pants, and shirt and tie, but that wasn’t stopping him from playing all out with these boys. I saw him dribble the ball the length of the field, score a goal, and celebrate, and I saw him run full-speed back down the field to help on defense. I don’t know who these 5 boys were and why they were getting to play soccer at 8:30 am with a teacher, but they all seemed to be having a great time.

Later in the day I happened to look out the window and see several classes out on the playground for recess. And I noticed one teacher walking around the fence line with a student while the other children were playing. They were walking slowly, he had his arm around her shoulder, and he was listening and intently and talking gently with her. I don’t know what important thing that girl had going on in our life that that teacher was being present for, but I know they were in their own quiet place with the noise of recess all around them.

When I saw that I commented to Jamie how these are the kinds of remarkably important moments of adults giving their attention to children that occur every day in our schools all over the city, and we happened to see two of them that day because we happen to live across the street.

Jesus had a thing about paying attention to children. He noticed them. He saw what was going on down there around their mothers’ ankles.

In Jesus’ culture, children were opening acts, not main events. They were gifts of God who would be useful someday—
to look after their parents,
to hold down responsible jobs,
to have children of their own—
but in the meantime they were just . . . children.

Jesus seemed to like them just the way they were, which was unusual for a man, and especially for a bachelor.
[Barbara Brown Taylor, “Last of All,” Bread of Angels]

Before I had children of my own I was scared to death to hold a baby; I remember when my oldest brother brought his new baby to visit. I was home for the summer after my freshman year of college. I was counting down the days for that baby to go back to its own home—the crying, the diapers.

But Jesus didn’t shy away from other people’s children.

He took them in his arms and blessed them. He knew how to put his hand behind their wobbly heads, how to pass them back to their mothers without dropping them. Even two-year-olds didn’t bother him. Even middle school students didn’t bother him.
[Taylor, “Last of All”]

One time, as Jesus was being tested by the Pharisees and teaching his disciples, people were bringing little children to him; they wanted Jesus to touch them. The disciples sternly told them to go away.

When Jesus saw that, he was indignant. He said, Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them. It is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. The truth is, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.

And he
took the children up in his arms,
laid his hands on them, and
blessed them.

Jesus said the kingdom belongs to such as these. They are full-fledged citizens of the kingdom of God—not someday, but now.

The disciples had bought into ancient society’s valuation of children—they are not important. Children have no status, no rights. So their presence is a nuisance.

Jesus sees things differently.

In fact, the kingdom of God belongs to people like this:
poor widows,
people who are often thought to be a nuisance. When the disciples rejected the children, they didn’t just make a slight error in judgment. They missed the whole point of Jesus’ ministry.

If you want to follow Jesus, here’s a good start: go
find a little child to put your arms around or
squat down in front of and listen to and
learn how to open your eyes and your ears and your arms to the kingdom
of God.

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