In her book “Not Counting Women and Children- Neglected Stories from the Bible”, the Roman Catholic theologian and story-teller Megan McKenna reflects on her experience working amongst people who lived in small villages and towns in Northern New Mexico:
“They spoke of their childhood, of belonging to all the adults in the town, known by all, and told by each what to do—when not to do something, to go home, to fetch, and to do errands. They carried water, firewood, and slops, emptied chamber pots, and were sent on errands by their parents, grandparents, and neighbours. But they spoke too of belonging to all the people, of being accepted, cared for, loved, and protected. Home was not a house, but a place of relationships, of extended family, a place that looked out for others needs and considered it normal for children to obey and serve. When this passage (the one from Mark about “who is the greatest?”) was discussed in small groups, it dawned on the participants that this is childhood in the kingdom—service combined with belonging, obedience given in love, servant-hood that is both joyful and hard, expected and appreciated. It revealed a relationship that bound the community tightly together and an atmosphere that share responsibility and privileges across family ties. It was home. “ (p.74)
Later in the same chapter, McKenna wrote:
“Home is going after the lost, the little ones, the children of God. One old woman, a grandmother of many, told me that if we want to behold the face of God always, we find it in those little ones, the lost, the ones needing to be found, taken in and taken care of, the least, the poor. She knew the wisdom of God and put it bluntly. The face of God looks remarkably like the face of the least of the lost in society, the little ones, beloved, and most favoured children in the kingdom that Jesus brings.” (p. 77)
McKenna does a marvelous job of weaving together the “child” threads in the gospel stories. Jesus uses the image of a child to call the disciples to understand true “greatness”. Jesus is presented as the “child of God” who makes himself vulnerable to the suffering and hardships of the world. Jesus brings the message that our identity as children of God is linked to how well we welcome and embrace, and listen, to the weakest and most at risk people in our world.