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The Least in the kingdom of Heaven

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 15 December 2013

As a child care social worker I was trained in family therapy.

Family therapy considers human groups and families as whole systems. It is the whole system which is ailing when a problem is presented like arson, or bedwetting, or truanting (though a family try ever so hard to make one member the patient!) By the therapist’s gentle work over time, the so-called “scapegoat” is brought into the role of messenger who reveals what’s awry for the whole group. In some families the remarkable thing is that once everyone lets go of the rigid idea of “where the problem is” greater truth is revealed. The views of grandparents, tiny children, adolescents, parents come spilling out into the open and are honoured for the partial revelations they contain.

Jesus understood how many people in the society around him were scapegoated for the problems they appeared to cause. He stretched out his hand to the leper, the mentally ill, the deviant, the collaborator. In doing this he disturbed the power held by the religious and political status quo so that they turned against him instead. He perceived that their rigid system for codifying good and evil in others was preserving them in power while disempowering many from a sense of worthiness, of being thoroughly loved by God and upheld by God’s grace. He discerned that the least in the kingdom were messengers revealing belief in a false god.

In the Gospels children are such messengers. They play a small but vital role. Jesus encouraged children to come to him. He took a young boy’s offering of food to feed the crowd. He healed a young girl from her bed of sickness. He urged us to become like children. He was himself the Child who is the axe at the root of the tree, the one who is coming to tell truth to power, that we may hear.

Revd Clare Herbert