Sermon by Roberta Anderson for Parkview United Church, Jan. 10, 2010. Sermon Topic: “The Kindergarten Chair”

Mature man sitting on child's chair in corner of room

Mature man sitting on child’s chair in corner of room

Sermon by Roberta Anderson, Jan. 10, 2010. Sermon Topic: “The Kindergarten Chair”

Story: The Kindergarten Chair

When I was a Kindergarten teacher in Kathmandu, my good friend Theresa taught 6th grade. We had a wonderful time together so one afternoon she came by the room for a visit. She had brought some coffee, so we settled into the tiny Kindergarten chairs to sip coffee and chat. We had a great time comparing notes and planning for our next outing. But it was the one and only time that she came to kindergarten for a visit. From then on we only got together in her room.

I didn’t think much of it until one day when the topic came up and I asked her why she didn’t come over to Kindergarten any more. Was I surprised when she told me that she didn’t feel comfortable on my little Kindergarten chairs! She was too close to the floor, she said. And wasn’t used to looking up all the time. She felt awkward and uncomfortable with this new perspective.

As I remembered this story about Theresa and the chair, I wondered if this was the reason that God sent His Son to earth as a baby – because He would present a new perspective that would force people to look at everyday events in new ways. It would shake us up!

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem the Jews must have been very surprised. This was not the kind of Messiah they expected. They wanted a strong, warrior Messiah who would lead them to victory over their enemies, not a helpless, vulnerable baby who would still need to grow up before He could even help them.

While I thought about these questions and theories, these 2 verses kept popping into my head “and a little child will lead them” and “Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” I felt that God was urging me to think more deeply about children. What exactly would a child be able to offer that an adult couldn’t? Why should we be more like children?

So I took some time to brainstorm what I knew about children. To start with I had a lot of experience having taught children on 3 continents from 3-14 years of age for 30 years. I also have 3 children and 3 grandchildren and have learned from them along the way as well. My list was very long, but, the ones that stood out among many other characteristics were that children are trusting and vulnerable; curious and questioning; enthusiastic and spontaneous; innocent and dependant. Children also ‘Tell it like it is.’; and Want things done ‘NOW!!

Out of all I’d gathered, I decided that the most common trait shared by all children is that they are small. This gives them the advantage of seeing everything in this world differently. It also means that when we play with them we often get down to their level, and see things through their eyes. Could this be the characteristic of children that God wants us to focus on – their ability to see things from a new perspective and to encourage adults to do the same?

I can identify with small children because I’m short myself. I never had any trouble with those Kindergarten chairs, like Theresa did, but I did have trouble working on the line at FRAM…

Story: On the Line at FRAM

For 8 years I worked at FRAM, 5 on the line and 3 on a press. I wasn’t happy on the line because I was not as fast as I needed to be. My problem, of course, was my 5 foot height and short arms (inherited from my Dad.) It was difficult to load and unload the far side of the conveyor belts because I had to raise my arms up before I’d stretch them out. This motion made me slower.

One day as I worked at the end of the line packaging the finished products for shipping, the boxes were piling up faster than I could move. In fact they were starting to bunch up and fall over onto the floor. I felt like Lucy Ricardo when she worked in the chocolate factory! Thankfully, someone looked over and noticed the chaos in my area. Quickly they brought a skid for me to stand on and instantly, I was 4 inches taller! It’s amazing how different the world looks from that height! My productivity increased at once which made me, and my supervisors, very happy. This 4 “ growth spurt definitely changed my perspective and reaped big rewards for everyone.

Of course a change of view, or by “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” can be a great learning experience for everyone and certainly can result in a lot of change and learning

Story 3: A Lesson in Compassion

For many years medical teaching hospitals have tried to teach compassion and listening skills to their students, since the most universal complaints about doctors are that they aren’t compassionate enough and they don’t listen to their patients. But many educators believe the direct experience of misery will be far more effective in the long run. So they set up a program which changed the perspective of students and doctors. This is the situation:

“Ellen Weiss can hardly see. David Schmitt can barely hear. Together, the elderly woman, who suffers from diabetes, congestive heart failure and arthritis, and the widower, who is recovering from a hip fracture, slowly make their way through the hospital halls.

Are they victims of aging’s cruelest blows? Not really. Weiss is actually a 30 year old resident doctor and Schmitt is a 26 year old medical student. Their med school training includes a course where they are assigned ages, roles, and infirmities to act out. It’s hoped that doctors and students will experience a little bit of what it is like to be a patient.

“Makeup artists work their magic to transform them into elderly people. Then the disabilities are applied: yellow goggles smeared with Vaseline distort vision, wax plugs dampen hearing, gloves and splints cripple fingers, and peas inside shoes impair walking. The final step is for them to perform common tasks such as purchasing medications, undressing for X-rays, filling out medical forms, etc…”

These “Instant patients” start out peppy and joking. What a lark!! But by the end of a few hours most of them are exhausted! In Schmitt’s case, he began to resent the physicians who didn’t realize how much medication would cost and how hard it was to go and pick it up. And Weiss had an epiphany (Hey we talked about that last week!): “I realized how little I talked to patients.” she said.

This new course has changed the perspective of many people involved in the health care field. It has become quite a catalyst for change in the way medical schools are taught and hospitals run. For example:

  • Curriculum has been changed to place more emphasis on how to relate to patients

  • Older students and those with non-science backgrounds are being encouraged to study medicine

  • Actors are being hired to portray patients whom students must then interview and counsel

  • Hospital admissions’ procedures have been reduced to a maximum 15 minutes or less

  • More understanding doctors will be produced in the long run

Jesus used the Old Testament, which the people had been faithfully following for hundreds of years, as a foundation for His new teachings. But He did put a new ‘spin’ on it. He gave it a new perspective.

In Matthew 5: 17, 18 &21 He says “17 Don’t misunderstand why I have come – it isn’t to cancel the Old Testament laws and writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them, and to make them all come true. 18 With all the earnestness I have, I say: Every law in the Book will continue until its purpose is achieved…21 But I have added to that rule…”

There are already many commandments in the Old Testament, including the 10 Commandments. But in John 13:34 He adds a commandment to those in the New Testament saying: “34 And so I am giving a new commandment to you now – love one another just as much as I love you. 35 Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are My disciples.”


This morning we experienced some of this new perspective idea in our worship:

  • The children led us as we sang Jesus Loves Me

  • We sang to a harmonica, a non-traditional church instrument. Was that a new experience for you?

  • We had the opportunity to worship from a different part of the sanctuary. Did you feel a bit frustrated and uncomfortable when I asked you to move to another pew? Did you see the windows from a new angle? “pass the Peace” to at least one new person? or hear new voices raised in song and prayer?

Here we are at the beginning of a new year. It’s the perfect time to look at things as a child does, (as God wants us to), from a different perspective. The same scene will look different. New features will stand out. What is important from one perspective will not even be noticeable from another view. New people will be involved. New ideas will be exchanged. As we enter this new year of anniversaries and celebrations, let’s allow a little child to lead us” Amen