Summer is a great time for reading, and the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre, www.mennonitechurch.ca/resources, has got some great new reads in the area of Faith Formation. After focusing on a book on intergenerational church ideas for several weeks, I thought Anne Richards Children in the Bible: A fresh approach (2013) would surely move my focus back onto those in the first third of life. Well, yes, but it did much more. You see, Richards is a mission theologian who is deeply persuaded that children stand right at the heart of God’s vision for the world, and her vision of God’s vision is all about calling, saving, commissioning, healing and blessing everyone.
Part of Richards’ fresh approach consists in presenting Adam and Eve as the symbolic children of the human race, and presenting the new Christian congregations (the first audience of the Epistles), as the church as child. By identifying the childlike aspects of these bodies, she does indeed provide fresh and helpful ways for thinking about them and childhood. Even the oh so familiar story of Jesus blessing the children gained a new perspective as she pulled on other biblical texts and centuries of artistic interpretations to suggest possible reasons in Jesus own childhood and family life for Jesus’ indignation with the disciples who tried to keep the children from him.
This book provided me with much more than I was expecting. Oh the expected stories the children in the Bible were there; young David, Samuel, Isaac, Ishmael and the 12 year old Jesus in the temple, but with a deeper, more respectful analyses of how God was actively present through their child-ways and faith. The same applied to her deep treatment of biblical stories where children were healed or resurrected, where difficult questions are tackled with rigour and integrity. The categorized biblical appendix is a treasure on its own.
All of this was accomplished from a basis of solid biblical scholarship in conversation with the needs and strengths of today’s children which; illustrated with memorable stories.
Here are her concluding paragraphs:
“We have explored how God finds children worthy of calling, commission, salvation, healing and blessing. We have struggled with the narratives of biblical texts to find how, in the context of so much child suffering and death, God’s life giving and life-affirming purposes emerge. We can summarize our findings like this:
· God calls children into life.
· God does not want any child to die.
· God invites all children to be part of the divine will for creation and delights in them.
· God wants children to be whole and happy.
· God’s blessing on children privileges them before adults.
It is our job to find ways of responding to these purposes of God in appropriate ways and that means taking children seriously as mediators to us of God’s own language. It means taking their spirituality as serious and meaningful and it means working to make sure that children are protected from harm and exploitation as well making sure they are not smothered by our protection.
Yet all children will become adults. Scripture and theology have given us the understanding that we are all children of God and that no matter how old we are, we are part of God’s young family; brothers and sisters in relation to one another in the household of the mother and father who is God. As such the kingdom is offered to us as children, and it is as spiritual children, learning from real children, that we find ways to understand what kingdom living is all about.”
This is a book for pastors and serious students of the Bible as well as for those whose ministry focuses on children. I hope it makes it onto your summer reading list.
 Anne Richard’s, Children in the Bible: A fresh approach, 2013, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Great Britain, 135-136.