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The Wheels on the Bus

I have a memory of myself as a child – probably six years old: catching a bus with my granny. This was my first time on a bus, and I was very excited to be able to get a window seat and watch the world go by outside. I remember that magical moment when I was allowed to press the bell to tell the bus driver to stop so that we could get off. And then the great discovery – in the school library was a book about catching a bus! I took it home to my mother with joy: because there I was at 6 years old and I could read the words. Granted they were not very complicated – because they repeated themselves – and it was helped by the fact that we had learned them as a song in school. It was “The Wheels of the Bus go round and round”.

This song was published way back in 1939 by Verna Hills. It appeared at a time when busses began to carry children to school, and was probably popular because it encouraged kids to climb on their school bus. But this song has transcended time and is to be found in many countries of the world, translated into many languages. The thing about this song is its adaptability: after the first verse we can add anything:

  • The wipers on the bus
  • The horn on the bus
  • The grannies on the bus
  • The babies on the bus
  • And the book I now read to my grandson tells how “the crocs on the bus go yakkity yak”. So here is a story of how everyone – even the animals are welcomed on the bus.

This seems like an appropriate metaphor for South Africa today, because this is the time of year that South Africa remembers its rich and diverse culture. Everyone is welcomed into our new constitutional democracy and we all found  our place together in the African sun…..Everyone is welcome on the bus!

Which was not always the case: I remember that trip with my granny…. I lived in South Africa: and when Granny and I got onto the bus there was another line of people waiting for a different bus: a bus for black people. So the wheels on the bus went round and round for white people and another bus was going to do this for black people. And I thought that this was the way the world worked – until I was introduced to the Bible and I discovered that the followers of Jesus did not do things this way:

When Jesus called people to be part of his group of disciples he did not have two lines. Everyone was welcome on his bus:

Matthew Ch 10These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Luke 8:  After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Here are the people who got on Jesus bus:

  • Men and women…history has tried to push the women aside by only referring to the male disciples – but it is right there in the Bible!
  • There were some who supported for the government: like Matthew the tax collector, and Joanna who was married to the minister of finance. And then there was Simon the Zealot – Simon the one who belonged to the group fighting to replace the government.
  • Most of the disciples were Jewish, but we remember Philip who was Greek.
  • Some of the disciples grew up deeply religious – but then there was Mary, from whom 7 demons were driven out.

The wheels on Jesus’ bus turned round and round for everyone! There was not another line for the women, or for the sinners, or for the foreigners. In fact there was even space for Judas the betrayer. This did not mean that it was easy for the disciples. Acts 15 tells of a moment when followers of Jesus struggled to accept  Gentiles. But the Spirit of God helped them discover that the wheels of Jesus bus went round for everyone – both Jew and Gentile.

There have been other moments when people have wanted to argue about who is welcome on the bus….and each time the Spirit of God has reminded us that everyone is welcome on the bus. There is not another line for those we do not like. So the Grannies are on the bus, and the babies are on the bus, and the blind people, and the poor people, and the gay people and the non-religious people are on the bus.  Jesus welcomes everyone onto his bus. We who follow Jesus are not bus conductors who try to keep the “undesirables” off of the bus. We are fellow passengers, who shift up to make space for others who want to experience the love of God. Our task is not to decide who are worthy to travel on Jesus’ bus. We are called to love everyone, and to leave the bus-driving up to Jesus.



“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)