Monday, April 29, 2019

Therefore, go. This commission is serious business.

I have not played golf in a decade or so but when I was playing every now and then, I’ve never made a putt that came up short.  Some that I hit too hard lucked into going in, but I never made one that didn’t make it to the hole.  I’ve missed them long and I’ve missed them short but only the long misses ever had a chance.

I never made a shot in basketball that I didn’t take.  That’s not quite true.  In basketball, if somehow the other team makes a basket in your goal, the player closest to their own goal gets the credit. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s good to have a friend who is also the team scorekeeper and gets to decide who was closest.
It was hard to play with the level of consistency that I had in high school:  Five points and five fouls per game, and you can’t get your point total up if you get to five fouls before you get to five points.

Some people don’t understand that there is more to basketball than blocking and tackling, but generally, you never make a shot that you don’t take.

Despite the Keto craze right now, I never gained a pound from something that I didn’t eat.  There is some food at fellowship meals that seems to put the pounds on me even when I never put it on my plate, but it really doesn’t work out that way.

Perhaps we will return to these simple concepts later, for now, I want us to consider a commission.  A commission is essentially an order with a grant of authority for the purpose of carrying out that order.  You can find a variety of definitions, but they generally include what you are charged to do and the power or authority to do just that.

For example, I think that it is ridiculous that there is only a two-lane road between Burns Flat and Foss.  That should be four lanes.  It should be on an insurance commercial—everybody knows that.  C’mon, we have a sign on the interstate that says, SPACEPORT OKLAHOMA.  We need a four-lane road.

So, I commission you to make that stretch of road into a four-lane highway.  Chances are you won’t get far with this project.  It’s not that you couldn’t do the work.  You might move ground and run asphalt with the best of them, but I do not have the authority to direct changes to that state highway and I don’t have the authority to tell you to make those changes.

I really can’t commission you to give me a four-lane road.  Looks like we will just have to deal with the traffic congestion associated in living in the state’s spaceport.

A commission must have authority.  I served as a commissioned officer of the United States for 20 years.  I had the authority of our federal government to execute my assigned missions. 

Our presbytery often appoints commissions for specific tasks, ordaining and installing ministers of word and sacrament frequent the list of commissions.  When the work is done, the commission is dissolved.

As a reserve officer, my commission expired on a certain date.  When I became a regular officer, that date was changed to indefinite.  Essentially, I was commissioned until my country said, it’s time for you to do something else.

If you have ever had something notarized, you might note that the notary generally indicates when his or her commission expires on whatever document you have notarized.  There is usually a time element in a commission.

Our commission, sometimes referred to as the Great Commission, begins with these words:  Therefore, go. 

Therefore, is generally considered an adverb or a conjunction.  Don’t stress out, we will not be diagraming sentences later, but I want us to consider a little something about this word.  It usually connects thoughts.  We could substitute the phrases:

·       For that reason
·       Because of that
·       On that ground

We could use other words.  Some synonyms might be:

·       Consequently
·       Accordingly
·       Wherefore
·       Thereupon
·       And a favorite of mine, ergo

But we translate the words of Jesus and find Therefore to be most appropriate.  So what is being connected?  What is the antecedent?  As we get our marching orders, what does Jesus connect with them?

Authority.  Jesus noted, All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.  Jesus didn’t decide to take a time out and just brag a little.  This statement precipitates what follows.

Therefore, go…

God’s authority is connected to the word go.  It does not mean, when you are out and about anyway.  It doesn’t mean when you think about it.  It means go.

Let’s put it this way.  “Runners to your mark.  Get set.  Whenever.  Not!  The word that belongs there is go.

Jesus grants us authority and says go.  In Acts, Jesus adds some geography.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

If all of those places seem far away, substitute this.  You will be his witnesses in Burns Flat or Dill City, the State of Oklahoma, the United States of America, and the ends of the earth.

If you don’t like political boundaries, just thing concentric circles.  Start in the middle and work outwards.

Coming back to Matthew’s gospel, we see that there are some specific tasks in our mission—part of our commission.  They are simple ones but necessary.

·       Make disciples everywhere
·       Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit
·       Teach them to obey what Jesus commanded—what he taught

The first two on the list don’t seem too hard.  When someone professes Jesus as Lord, discipleship is the next step.  I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.  There is a lot of learning involved here.  Discipleship involves learning.

Baptizing, well, we can pawn that off on the preacher.  It’s important and the believer will want to do this.  He or she will want to share publicly what’s gone on privately. 

Then we come to the last one.  We are to teach what Jesus taught, right?  That’s sort of like making disciples, isn’t it?

Not exactly.  We are to teach those who profess Jesus to obey that which he taught, which he commanded, which he directs.  Now that can be a might prickly because people in this century don’t like the obey word.  Folks today would prefer generally go along with or not offended by, but the word that has the most fidelity to the original text is obey.

We know and we must be conversant in the fact that Jesus told his followers that to put his words into practice is like the wise man who built his house upon a rock foundation.  Everything else is sinking, wash away, won’t hold up in a storm sand. 

To obey our Master is to put his words into practice, and oh by the way, we already know this part from our study of faith, obedience will not be a burden.

That does not mean that we force or coerce compliance.  We teach disciples to obey what our Lord taught us.  Part of teaching obedience is living obedience, with love one another at the top of the obedience list.
How long do we do this?  Let’s make this multiple choice.

A.    As long as it is called today.
B.    Until death
C.    Until the end of the age.
The answer is D, all of the above.  Essentially, our commission does not expire until we do or this age does.

This commission comes with a bonus.  Do you know what it is?  Did you pick it up?

Jesus is sending us into the world to share the good news, but instead of commissioning us and saying Good Luck, he says, I’m going with you.

Surely, I am with you until the end of the age.

That’s the nuts and bolts of our commission.  We are sent into the world with good news and the authority to deliver it.  So what now?

If you have been here for a few months or a few years, you may have noticed that most of my messages are about discipleship.  I am preaching to the saints—to the saved.  I do have some evangelical messages, but mostly I am talking to those who will do the evangelism.

And I have fallen short in equipping you.  In the past I might give you a challenge.  I might appeal to your nature that is becoming more and more like that of our Master, desiring none to perish.  I might have loaded you up with gospels and wristbands, but I didn’t give you everything that is available.

Part of that is just having blindspots.  We all have them.  When I have them, they might affect you.  They might impact your effectiveness in sharing the gospel. 

Remember that we are a church in the reformed tradition.  What’s that mean.  It means that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow but the church with Jesus as the head, changes means and methods, tactics and techniques, and feels free to go from the didactic to the dramatic.  We will find a way to get the good news to the people who need it.

Unlike the first century world where the good news was shared with a Jewish community that was heavily vested in atoning for its sins on an annual basis and a pagan world that made its own gods and the rules to go with them, we face a different challenge.

We go into a world that serves the twin gods of apathy and ambivalence. We bring a message of love not fear, but we must bring it with urgency.  Tomorrow is not promised.

Now, to those blindspots.  For the rest of this year, I will give you a weekly challenge.  That challenge will be to give out 3 cards a week to people who are in your path in the course of that week.  This is for everyone junior high to senior adult.  For the younger ones, I will give you one card a week.

The front of the card has our service times.  The back has a website full of videos about Christianity.  For the purpose of this evangelical effort, you may invite people to church.  Yes, I know that we are the church, but if it breaks the ice and helps you deliver the cards, then invite someone to church and give them a card.

Next Sunday, I will ask, “Who delivered all three cards?”

Don’t just give yours to your husband so he can give you his.  Give them out in purposeful fulfillment of the Great Commission.

The back of the card is not a substitute for personal and group Bible study.  It is an appetizer.  It lets people get some basic questions answered that might help them walk through the doors on Sunday.

Remember, our biggest challenge is apathy and ambivalence.  People should taste the goodness of God when they encounter us.  God’s light should shine through us.  We must not be afraid to step out of our comfort zone a little bit more.  Some of you have done this a few times.

Understand that there is a difference in being a disciple and fulfilling our commission.  The former helps us fulfill the latter, but just living the Christian life is not a fulfillment of the commission.  Our commission calls us to deliver good news.

Think about this.  I announce something from the pulpit for six months.  I put it in the bulletin for the same period of time.  It could be to be on a fellowship team or on a committee or to sing a special.  Those announcements are so powerful that I often get no response.

How could we not get volunteers?  I announced it from the pulpit!

But when someone comes and invites you personally, the response is so much better.  Do you think that God did not know that personal contact is so much more effective that a Facebook post?  Do you think that we are commissioned to deliver the good news for no particular reason?  God is purposeful in everything he does.  His purpose in this commission was for us to go across the street and into the world and talk with people about being made right with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.

We are starting with a small step and a small card.  Take wristbands and gospels as well if you want, but deliver three invitations and three cards this week.

Please do not do this because Tom said so.  I challenge each of you to reflect upon, pray about, and be fully convinced in your own mind that you are serious about fulfilling your commission from God.

I have preached the Parable of the Talents close to 50 times over the past dozen years, not always in this gathering.  On several of those occasions, I asked the question, What did I do with what God gave me?

I have often broken this into areas of time, talent, and treasure.  Those are the traditional subtitles.  But over the past half dozen years, I frequently went beyond the traditional three and include the gospel, asking, What did I do with the gospel entrusted to me?

This week, I charge you to give out three invitations to come and worship the Lord—you can say come to church—and accompany these invitations with 3 cards.

It’s simple.  It’s doable.  It should not take you too far out of your comfort zone.

I am going to ask next Sunday who did this.  This is not to coerce you or embarrass you but to remind you we are doing a little something extra in fulfilling our commission.  I believe that after your time of prayer and reflection, you too will choose to take the commission that the Lord has given you very seriously.

You might want to latch onto an accountability partner that will send you a text on Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday and Saturday seeing how you did. 

We are not only saved from our sin and from death, but we are also commissioned to rescue others.  The Holy Spirit is going with us. 

Know that I will run out of cards before we run out of people to talk with.  It’s a target rich environment.  People need to hear the gospel and people who have heard it and responded at some point need to come home.

I have never made a putt that came up short.  I have missed some long and missed some short but only the ones that I missed long had a chance to go in.

I’ve never made a basket without taking a shot.

I’ve never shared the gospel with anyone that I did not speak with.

We are called to live a life of love, be God’s light, and even be the God seasoning of the world as his disciples, but we are commissioned beyond just living this godly life.  We are commissioned to share the good news.

Will you take these first steps in fulfilling your commission?  It is a mission that we execute together with our Lord. I pray that we fulfill our part, not with fear but with faithfulness.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Who is going to roll the stone away?

Read Mark 16:1-7

Three women got up early on Sunday and headed for the tomb of Jesus.  They knew where to go so perhaps they also knew that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had made some hasty burial preparations.  The two men surely could not have completed what needed to be done in such a short time.

There was some serious work to be done to do right by their Lord.

I can only say for sure who one of these women were.  Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name.  She followed Jesus after he had cast out 7 demons from her. 

Mary the mother of James leaves us wondering, which James?  If it was James, the Lord’s brother, would she not be identified as the mother of our Lord?  Was it James the son of Zebedee?  Why not list both James and John?  Why not call her the wife of Zebedee?  Perhaps Zebedee has passed by this time.

Matthew’s gospel only calls her the other Mary.  Luke’s gospel agrees with the other synoptics as far as the Mary’s go.

Then there is this woman named Salome.  Salome was the woman that danced for Herod and helped her mother manipulate her new husband into killing John the Baptist.

Salome was probably the name of Zebedee’s wife.  Luke’s gospel differs slightly in that a woman named Joanna is mentioned in lieu of Salome.  Joanna is sometimes mentioned as the wife of Chu za, and part of the household of Herod.

There are other references to her as the granddaughter of Theophilus, to whom Luke’s Gospel and Acts are written. All of these women had surely followed Jesus.  All may have been present in those very intimate hours that took place in the upper room as well.

In any case, three women got up early and headed to the tomb with everything they needed to finish what the men had done in haste.  Of course, they had to talk along the way.  What do you talk about while you are walking to a tomb?

How about, who is going to move that big ole stone that’s sealing the entrance? You think that they might have thought of that before heading out that morning.

OK, somebody’s going to have to wake up 3 or 4 of these guys who have been crying themselves to sleep all night.  What’s the point of heading out there alone?

But they did.  They just took their supplies and headed to the tomb.  They were going to do what they knew to do—give the body of their Lord the preparation needed to spend eternity in that tomb.

But when they arrived, the stone had been rolled away.  There to greet them was a young man sitting in a white robe.

His first words were, “Don’t be alarmed.”

He continued, “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One whom you have been following, the One who was crucified.  He is not here.  He is risen!  Come see for yourselves.”

OK, it’s empathy time.  Imagine the single most thought on your mind was how are we going to move that big ole rock, and the next thing you know you are witness to the resurrection of the Lord.  This is all before your morning coffee.

And the hits just keep on coming.  The young man in a white robe tells them, “Go tell the disciples and Peter that he is going ahead to Galilee.  That is where you will see him.  OBTW—just like he told you.”

He is risen.  He is not here.  He is not here. He is risen!

You know what the women had to be thinking.  We carried all of this stuff for nothing!

I don’t think that thought crossed their minds.  They were in a state of shock.  The scripture says that they didn’t talk to anyone.  I think that means until they got back to where the disciples were staying.

There is so much packed into these few words.  Among them was a special instruction to Peter that his Lord had not kicked him to the curb after he denied him three times.  The next was that they would meet up in Galilee.  Jesus knew the logistics of gathering there would be a little better than in Jerusalem.

I love this one.  He told you ahead of time. 

The women started their day going to a place of death.  They had work to do there but the tomb marked the end of the road for their Lord. 

They left that place of death with news of life.  The tomb was empty.  Their Lord was risen.  For wherever they had started—fishermen, tax collectors, possessed by demons, members of Herod’s court, and many other places—the journey began now.

The story of all stories began at the tomb.

He is not here.  He is risen.  He is risen.  He is not here.

You are a bunch of crazy people to get up this early on a Sunday morning, unless, of course, you know in your heart that tomb was empty and he is risen.

He was not there.

He is risen.

He is here.

We gather in his name early in the morning and he is here!


Resurrection from a different perspective...

A few years ago, I returned from our two weeks that we spent in Florida or South Carolina or wherever we went that year and Robert, the pastor at the First Baptist Church called to say hello.  He said that someone we all knew was spreading the rumor that I had “Flown the coop” and wasn’t coming back.

I finally got to abuse a Mark Twain quote and say, “Rumors of my departure have been greatly exaggerated.”

Sometimes people have to come up with their own explanations.  

Sometimes the truth doesn’t set them free.  It scares them. 

But, I thought that Jesus said the truth will set you free?

What he said was, If you abide in my word (if you continue in what I have taught you) then you are my disciples for sure.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

But what if you ignore his teachings?  What if you resist the teachings of our Lord?  What if you just are not interested in what God has to say?

Then the truth probably scares you.  Then you promote that which confuses, dilutes, or initiates rumors.  You do your best to avoid the truth.  You put up smokescreens.  You fight hard not to have to hear the truth or let others here it.

The prophecy which the Sanhedrin and Teachers of the Law should have know so well was fulfilled right before them.  They did not see.  They did not want to see.  They had to manipulate their basic tenants to send Jesus to the cross and now that had been accomplished, they wanted to make sure that was the end of the story.

There was this talk among his followers that Jesus said he would rise from the dead.  To make sure that they didn’t have to contend with this Jesus even after they had killed him, they asked the Roman Governor to put a guard on the tomb.

He agreed.  He dispatched a guard—that’s not a person but a small detachment—to guard the tomb.  They were to seal it up and watch it that it was not disturbed.  It should have been a simple assignment.

Orders:  Nobody gets in.  Nobody gets out.  Got it!

There had been no major revolts for some time and the most violence that the disciples had initiated resulted in one ear being cut off from a Hebrew guard.  Jesus mended that injury on the spot.

The thinking of that day was that nothing can go wrong here.  Nobody would be crazy enough to mess with the Roman guard over a body in the tomb. 

Understand that these are Roman soldiers.  This was the best fighting force of the First Century.  These were some pretty tough Hombres here.

On top of that, their commanders set some high expectations.  If you were assigned to guard a tomb and you had to kill 100 Jews to do it, that would just be a day’s work.  There would be no review and no second-guessing by your superior officers.  

Mission accomplished.  There were some casualties.  Give me a few days off and I’m ready for my next assignment.

So just who would have the audacity to break the governor’s seal, roll back the stone, and take the body?

Nobody who walks this earth and is in his right mind.  You are messing with Roman soldiers here. 

But there was an earthquake, and an angel, and bright lights and just like that the tomb was empty.

The guards reported this to the chief priests, which might make you wonder if these were not guards from the Sanhedrin.  Perhaps, but their report was such that it wouldn’t have made any difference who was guarding the tomb or by whose authority it was sealed. 

This resurrection thing happened.  The guards we stunned.  They were helpless to do anything.  It was a done deal before they knew what happened.  This was Shock and Awe first century style.

What to do now?  Somebody better come up with a story and somebody better motivate the story-tellers to get it right.  This had to be their story and they had to stick to it.

Why?  Because the religious leaders feared the truth.  What occurred was exactly what they were afraid of, that they had made a big mistake.  Even the Roman centurion who was in charge of the crucifixion knew that Jesus was the Son of God.

But the religious leaders were blind.  They believed their own propaganda.  They would not accept the truth.  The truth scared them.

Money was the motivator for the First Century Fake News.  And the guards spread the story as best they could.  If they were Roman soldiers, they should have been glad to get the money as they would never see a promotion for the rest of their lives.

If they were soldiers dispatched by the Sanhedrin, they would have been ordered to lie in any case so the money was a bonus.

But the religious leaders of the day were afraid of the truth because the truth was that this truly was the Son of God.

The truth was that these religious leaders were responsible for his death.  

Yes, Pilate the Roman governor ordered the crucifixion but he would have been content to send this faultless man home and the Jewish leaders packing.  But Pilate was not a strong man and he was subject to manipulation.

The truth was that Jesus died according to scripture.

The truth was that God raised him from the dead.

The truth is, he is risen.  He is risen indeed.

The truth is that the truth will set you free, unless you fear the truth and run from it, or tried to deny it, or try to throw so much confusion into the mix that you hope to obscure it from yourself and others.

For you who believe in the Christ and have committed to following him, hear these words of Jesus once again.

If you abide in my words you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set your free.

Know the truth.  Don’t run from it.  Don’t hide from it.  Don’t believe the rumors.  Don’t believe the lies.

Jesus, having the same mind as the Father, stepped out of heaven, lived the human life, having to start out just like us as a helpless baby, was about his Father’s business by age 12 and just over 20 years later was on his way to the cross to die for our sins.

That in itself is a celebration—he took away our sins, but the grave was not the end of the story.  Normally when we think of a grave, we think that’s all folks.  That’s our human model anyway.  But we know the grave was not the end of the story.  It was very much a beginning for all who step into eternity, for all who pass from death to life in professing their Savior—Jesus is Lord.

God raised him from the dead.  He is the first among many.  We are among that many who will follow him into eternal life.

Know the truth.  Don’t settle for another perspective on the truth.  Don’t believe the rumors.  Don’t believe the lies.

While we as humankind were still sinners, Christ died for us—truth.

We are forgiven--truth.

God loves us more than we can comprehend--truth.

He has saved us from our sins by the blood of Jesus--truth.

He has a place reserved for us for all eternity--truth.

Because Christ arose from the dead, we will know what it is to be with God for eternity.

Don’t believe rumors.  Don’t believe the lies.  Don’t be trapped in senseless arguments for they are everywhere in this age that has been labeled evil.
Even in this age where nations and people move farther and farther from God, know the truth.  Live in the truth.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The cross is empty.  The tomb is empty.  The truth is awesome.  Today we celebrate truth in these simple words.

He is risen.  He is risen, indeed!


Friday, April 12, 2019

Hear the Children

It’s Palm Sunday.  It got here in a hurry.  Usually the Palm Sunday messages are about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem or about the Passion of the Christ.  These are two appropriate topics for this day.  You have heard them both here over the past decade.

But today, I want to talk about the kids.  Think about the kids shouting Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Son of David!  Hosanna in the highest.  They were probably just repeating what they had heard as Jesus rode into town.  Probably.

Jesus went on to the temple and disrupted commerce to say the least, then he was back to healing again.  And there were two distinct responses noted in the text.

The religious leaders were indignant.  Just who does this guy think he is?  We’re the big dogs here.  Who is this Jesus of Nazareth to steal the show?

The children said, Hosanna to the Son of David

The religious leaders were blind to the fact that this is the Son of David.  This is the Messiah.  Even Bartimaeus knew that Jesus was the Son of David.  It seems that the kids and a blind man have the best vision.

The children cry out Hosanna!  It’s an interesting word.  It’s a Greek word that sounds pretty much like the Hebrew word or words.  It’s a cry for help and a cry of happiness.  It means not only save us, but save us now. 

It’s save us, I pray you save us.  I am petitioning the one who can grant my request.  That’s a source of joy.
The kids knew Jesus was the Son of David.  It seems that they also knew he was Savior.  It seems that they had connected more of the dots here than the really smart people, at least the self-proclaimed really smart people.

We shouldn’t be surprised.  Jesus has already taught that whoever humbles himself like a child will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

He said whoever welcomes a child in his name is welcoming him.

Oh by the way, woe unto the person who leads a child in the wrong way.

He went on to say that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these, referring to the children that had come to see Jesus and the disciples thought he was too busy.
Sometimes it seems that children see so clearly, know instinctively, and have faith without doubt as their first nature.

We adults have complicated things quite a bit.  We split hairs over theology—swallow camels and strain out gnats if you will.

Kids just see the reality of God.  We complicate it with the reality of a world conformed to sin.

Here comes Jesus the Son of David riding on a small donkey.  People shout Hosanna.  He clears the temple of the money changers.  He is not happy about how his Father’s house is treated.  He heals those who are sick, lame, and even blind.

The kids get it.  This is the one that we have been waiting for—this is the Messiah that the rabbis teach of. 

The teachers were blind to the man before them, asking: Who is this guy whose cutting in on our turf?

This is Palm Sunday but we have been talking about faith all year.  The kids believe.  The kids have faith and do not doubt.  They probably don’t even know they have faith.

The adults, especially these very well-educated adults, have complicated things.  Does that mean that we should not study and show ourselves as a workman approved?

No.  We study, and memorize, and learn, and practice but we do it with the faith of a child.  We need the innocent faith of a child in a world that detests innocence.  I think you understand what it is like to be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes.

We have been sent out as sheep among wolves and too often we become like the wolves.  There is an acceptance that children have that we need.  We need to understand the world around us because the days are evil, but we need that pure acceptance that we seem to find only in children.

Every 3 or 4 years I find I reason to tell this story.  I could only wait one year this time. It is very much a true story.  It comes from a missionary sent from England to Zaire many decades ago.  Her name is Dr. Helen Roseveare.  She died at the age of 91 in 2016.  I have read most of her books and can say without equivocation, that the things that she went through in God’s service would make most Marines feel like a bunch of wimps.

One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.

We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.

A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “…and it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, ” …And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?” As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen?” I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next, came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – – that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, “A brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!” I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “That afternoon!” “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24.

Most of the time when I share this I talk about the verse from Isaiah, but today consider the faith of the child—the innocent, undoubting faith of this child named Ruth.

“If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!”

She had no idea that the box would come.  She had no idea what was in it, but when she saw the first part of her prayer answered, she had no doubt that there would be a dolly in that box as well.

The answer to her prayer would be in that box.  God wouldn’t ship the items separately.  The doll would be in that box.

The kids knew who had come to town that day, riding on the colt of a donkey.  They were not encumbered by the patterns of the world.

They cried-out Hosanna to the Son of David.

It’s a cry of joy and petition.  It is a cry for help knowing the one who can help hears us.  It’s casting aside the chains of the world and seeking salvation from the only one who can deliver it.

Today, Palm Sunday, I want you to know the joy of calling out Hosanna to the one who saves.  We know already what he has done for us, but let’s call out all the same.

Hosanna.  Hosanna to the Son of David.