The aim of education is to teach a few powerful ideas that explain and encompass everything.
In Jesus we have a living illustration of how to be in the world. Unfortunately, his biggest and most powerful messages of how to be in the world, of intimacy and depth, of being and belonging, of justice and peacemaking, of love and connectedness to what already is, have been hijacked and replaced with grubby and small moralistic counterfeits, religious nonsenses that do nothing to stir the imagination or to set up your children and all of us, frankly, to be poised for new possibilities. What we often have instead is a set of ought-to(s), should(s) and have-to(s), and moralistic and narrow ideas regarding who is in and going to heaven and how, and who is not. The transaction is a quid pro quo, or so it seems. You pray some sort of formulaic prayer and presto, you are in. It seems that Jesus’s death and resurrection, around which history spins, trumps his life, his big idea, his core message. Maybe it should. But then again, maybe Jesus’s big teaching idea of right relationships has been under promoted. Or maybe it just feels too real, too demanding, and not spiritual enough. But I think that the founders and builders of Menno Simons Christian School understood just how important Jesus’s big teaching ideas were, of right relationships with God, self, others, and the social and natural order. And I would like to explain why.
Jesus taught a powerful idea that explained and encompassed everything—not only for his followers, for their time, but also for everybody, for all time, for good. He taught that the kingdom of God is a way of being in the world that comes about through right relationships with God, others, self, and the created and natural order. When we take up and practice Jesus’s teachings, right relationships are produced. ‘Knowing the right stuff’ follows, does not lead being in the world in particular ways of Jesus.
Jesus referred to this concept of the kingdom of God at least sixty times. You can find at least another twenty references to the kingdom of God in the letters in the New Testament and another twenty references to this concept in the Jewish scriptures—the Old Testament. No other concept, big idea, or theme gets as much airtime in the Bible.
However, there are problems with this concept. It has been overused and often misunderstood. Kingdoms are places or jurisdictions where someone is a king, a ruler. Using the definite article ‘the’ when referring to the kingdom of God does not help either. The logical deduction given the definite article is that the kingdom is exclusive and can be found over there somewhere. It is understood, it seems by many to be a place.
When the kingdom is referred to in the Scriptures, it is more often in language that raises more questions than answers. The kingdom is within you. It is like a mustard seed. Jesus compared it to leaven and to a tree. He gave us clear marching orders to seek it first. Odd and difficult metaphors to understand, and hard to know what to seek, exactly. Nothing seems to give it all away in the descriptions. No pattern. Hardly a theme to lay hold of. Or so it seems.
To make matters worse, history seems to be that long story of many shifts in how people understood the kingdom of God. No need to look any further than denominational expressions of Christianity today in the world. How in the world did that happen, from Jesus’s message of a way of being in the world that comes about through right relationships, to over one hundred different Christian denominations, each with its own road map into truth and heaven. And that does not even include hundreds more different religious expressions of people’s desire to find and know what indeed is true about everything.
But here is the real problem. The kingdom of God does not exist until it does. You will not find it over there, in a building, in the Bible, in a country, in some sacred building in some corner of the world. It is not inert. It is not a place, or a religious system. It is not in nature (though creation is full of hints and guesses of what might be—of new possibilities, new futures). Jesus’s kingdom of God comes into existence only through right relationships. Until it does, it does not exist. This is the big idea of Menno Simons, that religion, that the uniquely human pursuit of religious answers to the meaning of everything, is explained and encompassed by right relationships.
The mission statement for Menno Simons Christian School reveals something important. The founders and builders of the school ‘got it’ regarding the kingdom of God. They knew and were willing to stand up for a reality, a truth, that the kingdom is not exclusive, small, and does not need to be confined to mere abstractions, to a curriculum of decision-making, to the questionable emphasis of integration of faith with learning. I am not opposed to decision-making or a neck up focus-knowing the right stuff. But these are not what the founders and builders wanted. They recognised I am sure, that right thinking and good decisions are the results or consequences of right relationships; they are the outcomes of being in the world in particular ways. They are not the best initiators. So, Menno Simons goes on with a mission statement that has much to commend. We are continuing here as a staff and parents to lean into this statement of who we are, what we stand for and how we want to be known.
Menno Simons Christian School strives to assist students to integrate faith with their experience and their living. Our school provides a sound academic curriculum taught and modeled by Christian professionals in a setting where students are nurtured as they learn, question and form life values. Together with the family and the church, Menno Simons Christian School offers an Education for Life, preparing students for effective participation in the community through Christian discipleship, service and peacemaking.
Bernie Potvin, Principal MSCS
 Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education and Other Essays (New York: New American Library, 1961),