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.


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