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More Than Just Nap Time and Finger Paint: The Life-Long Lessons Learned in Kindergarten


Come to me you are who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 


What comforting words those are from Jesus in this morning’s gospel –

ones that have certainly spoken to my own weary soul over the years. 


And yet how do we come to Jesus in the daily practice of our lives? How

do we find this elusive rest? 


The answer lies in the first part of our gospel this morning. Our readings

ends with a warm entreaty from Jesus, but begins with clear evidence of

his frustration. The people are not listening. What shall I say about you,

Jesus asks. It is like children, calling you by the sounds of the flute, and

yet you refuse to dance.


The reference to children is quite intentional; in the gospel children serve

as a proxy for a joyful openness to the Word of God. When we are

children, the world is a curious place full of wonder. We ask questions

only to see clear answers. We see goodness without cynicism. And yet

how often do we learn from the children in our lives? How often do we

heed the child within us?


It’s no stretch to see how Jesus himself might be feeling like the children

in his image. John the Baptist had been preaching and baptizing, but he’s

now in prison. Jesus has taken up his ministry of teaching.  Both men were

calling the people to return to a faithful life, but in very different

ways—like the children’s messages about love.  John hammered home his

message with confrontation and modeled an ascetic lifestyle. For that, he

was accused of having a demon.  Jesus took a softer approach most of

the time; his lifestyle was a more joyful announcement of the coming of

the Reign of God.  He ate and drank with all sorts of people without

reservation; he enjoyed a good party. For that, he was accused of being a

glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners and tax collectors.  Neither

John nor Jesus could win, evidently.


What was wrong with these people? Couldn’t they see that Jesus and John

were inviting them to return once again to a faithful living of their

covenant, to a more kinder and just living out of the law that says to love

as you would be loved, to behave towards others as you would want them

to behave towards you?  Your rest away, Jesus cajoles, just come alone.  If

they would take his yoke on themselves, they’d find his yoke easy and his

burden light. How very obvious. How very simple.  Or is it?


Well, of course it’s not simple, because as Paul makes clear, the best

intentions of human beings have been taking wrong turns for as long as

memory. In his letter to the Romans, Paul laments, “For I do not do the

good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”  Doesn’t that sound

familiar? We know the good we should be doing, but somehow by the

time we get to adulthood, we get more and more tangled up trying to do it.

We lose our ability to listen to people pointing out the faults of our ways,

urging us to change. We have more trouble seeing the potential of a

judgement-free world. But somewhere along the way to growing up, the

stuff of the “real” world interferes, and whatever the good of our hearts,

we give into the wrong we don’t want to do.


We might consider what it is that makes it seem easier to do wrong. 

Perhaps it seems easier to look out for ourselves, instead of putting the

effort into giving of ourselves to others.  It certainly is easier to keep

company with people who are just like us than to put effort into listening

to different ideas or rubbing elbows with people we consider different. We

have to admit that in the church we much prefer to say “we’ve always

done it that way,” instead of trying something new.  But if we can see the

answer so clearly for the people who failed to listen to Jesus two thousand

years ago, why do we still find it so hard to make the connection to our

own lives?


Of course, listening to the gospel, we think: if Jesus was hear right now,

we would listen to him. We would be better. But would we? 


A number of years ago, a book came out that became a bestseller. It was

called “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.” The writer,

Robert Fulgham, describes how he was “sputtering along” in his days,

trying to find meaning. “The examined life,” he notes, “is not picnic.” And

one day, he thought: I have already learned what I need for a meaningful

life – when he was 5 years old, in kindergarten. What were those life

lessons?


Share everything. Clean up your own mess. Play fair. Don’t take things

that aren’t yours. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and

draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day

some. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands,

and stick together. Say sorry. Pay attention. Wonder.


As the author noted, all those life lesson can easily apply to adult life –

and yet we have forgotten them. It is a reminder that we learned in the

lessons of the gospel over and over again, if we only listen for them. For

gospel predates kindergarten – and yet it’s tenets are all those very same

lessons. 


Jesus is offering us his yoke – the symbol of obedience to God – not a

human yoke in the “real” world, but something that will sustain us through

the troubles of this world. If we accept that offer, we make possible our

ability to speak of God to others, to play the flute so others might dance –

with words and actions that make certain simple sense, distilled of all the

useless distractions of the grown-up world. When accept that offer, we

find rest. The deep and meaningful kind of rest that comes with a

purposeful life carefully lived. It is as Jesus says, “come to me, and you

will find rest in your souls.” Amen.

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