This week I have been at Lighthouse High Wycombe, a big local ecumenical holiday club for children aged 4-11 (for more details see http://www.lighthouseadmin.org). My role at Lighthouse is as Special Needs Co-ordinator in charge of The Space, Lighthouse’s special needs provision.
Our two key policies in The Space are:
- We never turn away a child because of their additional needs.
- We enable children to participate in the mainstream activities for their age group as much as possible, while providing a safe space to retreat to when necessary.
Children with a range of complex needs are supported 1 to 1 by a wonderful, dedicated team of volunteers, most of them teenagers themselves. They participate in sport, games, craft, drama, singing and other activities. They make friends with other children and learn about Jesus.
This week I got a chance to share with the rest of the volunteers at Lighthouse a bit about why we do what we do in The Space. I was speaking about the story of Jesus healing the blind man in Luke 18.35-43:
“What I find remarkable about this story is not so much that Jesus healed the blind man, but that he stopped to talk to him – and to listen to him – in the first place. In Jesus’s time, people who had a disability were often outcasts, people nobody wanted to talk to.
But Jesus draws near to people, especially those people nobody else wants to draw near to. And when Jesus draws near to people, they are changed. They can see things they could never see before, they can do things they could never do before. They are made whole. They are healed.
I’m not just talking about people in the bible, I’m talking about us too, and the kids, and everyone. And I’m not just talking about physical healing, but being made whole in its widest, deepest sense.
Jesus changes lives. Calvin said on Sunday that he’s here because he wants the children to know Jesus. I’d go further than that. I’m here because I want the children to know Jesus, and be transformed by him. And that’s what I want for you too, wherever you are on your journey with God. My prayer is that Lighthouse will be a place where people are transformed by Jesus, here, this week.
People often ask me why I run The Space, why I think it’s so important for kids with special needs to be included at Lighthouse. And it’s because of what I see Jesus doing in stories like the one we’re looking at today. Jesus includes everyone. The least, the last, the lost. The people nobody wants anything to do with. The blind man in today’s reading, Matthew the tax collector in yesterday’s reading. Jesus includes everyone, and so should we.
And why? Because God’s love is for everyone. God’s love already includes every single person there ever has been or ever will be. Because God is love, and everyone is included. You, me, the kids, the kids who use The Space, the people you love, the people you hate – absolutely everyone, no exceptions. Everyone is invited into God’s love, into the kingdom of God.
Jesus often told stories, parables, about what the kingdom of God is like. I want to share with you something about what I think the kingdom of God is like. This is a song by Adrian Snell, who writes music, and is also a music therapist at a school for children with special needs. The kingdom of God is like this:
And the kingdom of God is like this:
[camera facing audience]
The kingdom of God is like Lighthouse. Or perhaps better: Lighthouse is like the kingdom of God. A place where people can come, whoever they are, and be loved and valued, and listened too. A place where everyone is included. That’s what we want to share with the kids. So make sure you do something today that shows a child that they matter, to us and to God. They need to know that. And when you do those things, you’re not only helping the kids have a great week, you’re building God’s kingdom, right here, right now, today.”