Something quite profound happens when we set a child “in the midst,” as Jesus did (Matthew 18:2) – when we stop, that is, and pay attention to the children in our homes, neighbourhoods, and churches.
Immediately, we’re aware of the wonder of what these children are. They’re beautiful. They’re so delightfully fresh to the world, so receptive and energetic, so open-hearted.
Just as quickly, however, they produce another effect on us: an enormous sense of responsibility. We see their innocence, their ignorance, their dependency. These children need us and we have to respond. We have to tend to them, body, soul, and spirit.
Perhaps the third effect children have on us, then, is one of the lessons Jesus wanted his disciples to learn when he said, “become like little children.” It’s an awareness of our own dependency. We realize how unlearned we are in our role of caring for, and living well in front of, these little ones. Whether as parents, teachers, pastors, or friends – whatever our relationship to the child may be – we know we can’t fulfill our responsibilities alone. They soon exhaust us.
It’s not perfection we’re after as we teach and model the way of Jesus, however, but the awareness of how we fit in the scheme of things. There may be no better motto for those involved in leading children than the words of the unnamed centur-ion who sought help from Jesus (and we borrow them slightly out of context): “I too am a man/a woman under authority.”
“Accept the truth we hold before you,” we can say to the children in our homes and churches, “walk this path with us, learn these virtues, trust and obey, because we’re under authority too, we’re under the lordship of Jesus.”
As we do this, we find that the children in our lives have one more effect on us. It’s gratitude, because their presence has acted as a stimulus. Their enormous need for care and love has pushed us to rely on God, to learn to pray, to grow up too. Entirely without intending it, these children are also raising us, and we’re thankful.
An exciting year ahead
Three events of great significance for Canadian Mennonite Brethren lie on the horizon of the coming year.
One is the Mennonite World Conference’s 15th assembly in Paraguay this July. Another is the study conference on Christology to be convened by our national Board of Faith and Life in October. The third is the 150th birthday of the Mennonite Brethren church on January 6, 2010.
At first glance, these events may seem peripheral to our personal or congregational lives. What’s another conference, after all, or another anniversary?
As we glimpse their intentions and possible contours, however, we recognize their potential to both stretch and focus us. Paraguay 2009 is an opportunity to strengthen our wider “family” association. The study conference and various components of the 150th anniversary are opportunities to sharpen our identity, as well as celebrate. All are opportunities to open ourselves to the Spirit’s work in this world.
The MB Herald will carry information and news about all three events before and after they occur. We hope that many people will participate – by reading, praying, attending, or sponsoring others to go.
About this issue
The topic of children and faith is much too large to cover in a single issue. What emerged in features by Adam and Michelle Knowles (about a family mission trip) and Stacey Weeks (about Sunday school), however, is that Christian education at its best involves the church and family together. Pedro Miguel Landu Lutiniko of Angola in the “Beyond Borders” column says it too: “Children’s faith is a job for everyone.”
The “Stories we live by” series, which formerly appeared on page 2, has ended, but we’re pleased that Ken Reddig will keep writing people stories for us on occasion. One appears in this issue, in People and Events. There’s also an interview with Doug Heidebrecht, director of the Centre of MB Studies, whose passion is the ongoing education of the “big kids” in our denominational family.
Speaking of children, we’re happy to announce that, on December 27, a daughter was born to Herald editor Laura Kalmar and her husband Jason Topnik. They named her Sophia Natalie Ann. Laura will be on maternity leave during 2009. We wish the new family God’s richest blessings.
–Dora Dueck, interim editor