SCRIPTURE – Matthew 19:13-15 – Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
Is There Room?
June 7, 2015
As we’ve moved through this capital campaign to renovate and expand our South Wing, there’s been a lot of talk about room. There isn’t enough room, we’re cramped for space, we need more room. The choir room isn’t big enough, the Worship and Wonder rooms aren’t big enough, the bathrooms aren’t even close to big enough. We need more room! But I want to ask this question today: Room for what? What do we need room for?
In our passage today, it doesn’t appear as if the disciples felt that children needed more room. Glad we’re not asking them to pledge! In fact, the disciples acted as if children didn’t deserve any room. Jesus is meeting with the crowds, teaching and healing. And in the midst of the crowds were mothers and fathers with their little children, hoping to get a glimpse of the now-famous rabbi, hoping to have him touch and bless their child.
I wish you all could see what I see every Sunday morning when we call the kids down front for Children’s Time. I love the look on their faces as they come walking or running down the aisle, looking for a place to sit, already pondering what they’re going to say to torture…er, stump the minister. There’s simply no way to describe that moment when a child comes forward.
But imagine one of our Elders jumping up and saying, “Sorry kid, Kory has more important things to do.” That’s basically what the disciples do. Why in the world would they do that? In that culture, children were almost valueless; they had a very insignificant social status. The prevailing belief back then was that children should be neither seen nor heard. Besides, the disciples knew Jesus was a busy guy with impossible demands being placed upon him by the crowds, and by this time in Matthew’s gospel, they also knew he was headed toward Jerusalem and the cross. So the last thing he needs is a group of snot-nosed kids climbing all over him, tugging on his beard, getting his robe all dirty. So they hinder them. “Sorry kids, no room for you here.”
Can you imagine hindering our kids today? Can you imagine us telling our kids that there’s not room for them here at Crestwood? “Sorry, kids, we have more important things to do than make room for you.” Back in Jesus’ day, Christianity was really the first religion for the entire family that invited both sexes and children to participate. Thankfully, we’ve continued that trend and we welcome all shapes and sizes of families into our midst. We’re not doing anything to intentionally hinder the children from coming to Jesus.
But what about unintentionally? Our Children’s Wing has served this church incredibly well for many years, but we have simply outgrown it. We’re currently asking children to be taken care of in small nurseries, to learn in cramped classrooms, and to do the kind of thing you do in bathrooms that feel more like closets. We would never intentionally hinder the children from connecting with God. Not intentionally.
Part of the challenge we face is that we are dealing with a building that is old. How old? I’m not saying our children’s wing is antiquated, but on one of the walls there’s a mural of Noah’s ark…autographed by Noah. I’m not saying the children’s wing has been around for a while, but the key on Benjamin Franklin’s kite opens one of the storage closets. Are you getting the idea? This building has served us so well for 54 years. But we’ve grown, and our building needs to grow with us to sustain our vision for the future.
So, we need more room. Our plan is to renovate about 6,000 square feet by expanding classrooms, opening up the middle of the building as a spacious flex area, and turning our current choir room into a large arts and crafts room. We’re also proposing to add about 4,000 square feet of new building, which will include an expanded nursery suite and a choir room more than double the size of the current one. And have I mentioned bathrooms? There will be four new ADA-complaint bathrooms. So we’re making more room.
But I’ll ask it again…room for what? For example, will there be room for books? Will there be room for a child to sit down with an age-appropriate Bible and read the story of Jonah and the whale or Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? Those stories have echoed off the walls of those classrooms since 1961, told and read by some of our most amazing Sunday School teachers. Our new space will create more room and more opportunities for those stories to be told and learned through the mediums of drama, videos, cooking, science, and good old-fashioned reading. Yes, there will be room for books.
What about tables? You know, kids need a lot of space to spread out! Will there be room for tables? With larger classrooms and a significantly larger Arts and Crafts room, there will be plenty of space for tables, chairs, cabinets, and other furniture. There will be tables for decorating, tables for coloring, tables for gluing and glittering, and tables for snacking. As Disciples of Christ, we are a people of the table, where everyone is welcome and everyone has a chair. We are all guests invited to the tables in this church. Yes, there will be room for tables.
What about doors? Will we have enough doors? That never seems to be a problem in this church, does it? We have plenty of ways in and out of Crestwood! Our renovated Children’s Wing will have controlled-access doors to our children’s and nursery area, so that we can ensure their safety while they are with us. We’ll have a new entrance on that side of the building with a canopy and beautiful sculpture. And, most importantly, all the doors will open so that guests who are visiting with us can walk through unhindered. Yes, there will be doors.
What about music. Will we have enough room for music? You bet! There will be space in the new Children’s Wing dedicated to our children’s choirs and instruments, and the new space for our adult choir will give them plenty of room to practice their gifts with which they bless us each and every Sunday. There will be ample space for their robes, their music folders, and they’ll even have their own restroom and bar…for coffee! Yes, there will be room for music.
The room we’re providing through this renovation is about more than bricks and books, more than mortar and music, more than tables and doors. We’re providing room for things like imagination. When we give our kids the space – both physical space and spiritual space – to imagine, we are opening them up to the mystery and wonder of God. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in our new space, we hear a story like the one where the girl was drawing a picture in Sunday School. Her teacher said, “Dear, what are you drawing?” The girl said, “I’m drawing God.” The teacher said, “Aw, honey, no one knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will as soon as I’m done!” In our new space, there will be room for our children to imagine.
There will also be room for their questions. Isn’t that important? Too many places try to feed us answers about God without hearing our questions. As we open up our space to our children, we invite them into a safe place, a sanctuary, where they can ask their questions about God, about Jesus, about faith, about life. Each Sunday, we intentionally take a part of our adult worship and give it specifically to our children. It’s called Children’s Time. By doing so, we are sending the message to them that they matter, their questions matter, their presence matters. Our renovated Children’s Wing will send that same message. Unlike the disciples, we’ll be saying, “You matter to us. You matter to Jesus.”
We’re also making room in our new space for blessing. Did you hear what Jesus did when the children came to him? “And he laid his hands on them.” In that culture, when a baby was born, it wasn’t officially accepted into the family until the father performed a ritual that included taking the baby in his arms and blessing it. By doing so, he was claiming that child as his own. At the end of our Worship and Wonder session, as each child leaves, and adult standing at the door touches the child on the head or hugs them and says, “Go with God.” Do you know the power of hearing that message each and every Sunday? “Go with God.” It can change a child’s life. In our new children’s wing, there will be room for blessing.
But all of these things for which we are making room are really secondary to what we’re really making room for at Crestwood with this project. Jesus tells his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Jesus knew that a little child was the perfect representation of what the kingdom of God looks like, because he knew that a little child was utterly dependent upon its parent. I treasure the moments when my girls were little and they would hold my hand was we walked beside each other. That desire for connection. That trust and vulnerability. That willingness to be led, to be taught, to be blessed. Jesus says, “You want to see the kingdom of God? Don’t look to the palaces or mansions. Don’t look at the political or religious leaders. Look to the children. The kingdom of God is there.”
By expanding our South Wing and increasing the capacity for children here at Crestwood, we are doing no less than making room for the Kingdom of God in this place. We are inviting God’s kingdom to come and dwell among us. We have so much to learn from them, don’t we? Things we used to know but have forgotten, like how to laugh at ourselves, how to serve without expecting anything in return, how to imagine without worryin about what others think or counting the costs. Hey, if we pay close enough attention, we may even learn what God looks like!
With this proposed renovation, we are ensuring the future of Crestwood for generations to come. But this isn’t just about the future. This is about inviting the kingdom of God into Crestwood right now, so that we all can learn what it means to be touched, to be blessed, to be called a child of God. Is there room for that? Is there room? There can be.