Okay. I’m a weeper. Yeah, that’s me. So if you hear sobbing in church, it’s most likely me.
Sorry about that.
I did it again this past Palm Sunday.
Growing up, we never really did anything for Palm Sunday. I heard the story of the Triumphal Entry, of course. I remember seeing all the Catholics (well, they might have been Lutherans or Methodists or even — eegads! — Presbyterians, for that matter. But to my Baptist eyes, they were all Catholics.) at the Beefcarver for lunch that Sunday, and they all had their little label-pin palm frond. My dear mom explained the custom to me. It was as mysterious as the ashes on the forehead a few weeks before.
But this past Palm Sunday — my first one really outside fundamentalism — I got it for myself. And I cried for joy.
Because the children led us in worship. They. Led me. To Jesus.
I’ve said it over and over — that one of the biggest reasons for our departure was because of the poor “theology” of the child. I don’t even know if that’s the way I’d say it, but that’s becoming a big phrase for our fellow believers across the pond. The children are treated as lesser. “One anothering” is good for everyone, but the wee. The Gospel counts for you only if you can understand it, otherwise you get Law and Order! Which is really ironic because none of us really understands it, and, in fact, Jesus Himself said that the little ones get it better than we grown-ups do! A dear friend described her similar epiphany when she realized on the mission field that she was kinder to those she was trying to win to Christ than to her own children.
But all that will come later in a larger tome.
When the children entered the sanctuary that Palm Sunday morning waving their palm branches, they sang:
Hosanna, loud hosanna,
the little children sang,
through pillared court and temple
the lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them
close folded to his breast,
the children sang their praises,
the simplest and the best.
From Olivet they followed
mid an exultant crowd,
the victor palm branch waving,
and chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of earth and heaven
rode on in lowly state,
nor scorned that little children
should on his bidding wait.
“Hosanna in the highest!”
that ancient song we sing,
for Christ is our Redeemer,
the Lord of heaven our King.
O may we ever praise him
with heart and life and voice,
and in his blissful presence
I burst into tears. Jesus welcomed the praise of the forgotten and the less-than. Just like He accepted the extravagant perfume foot wash from a prostitute. Or met the tax-collector after hours. Or talked with the Samaritan woman by her watering hole.
But there it was: a regular ecclesiastical practice as part of the liturgical calendar. Children were included. Children led us to praise Jesus the King.
Look at how Matthew describes events after our King’s entry:
Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:
My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.
Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.
When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”
Jesus our Hero-Redeemer comes in on that donkey to the praise of “infants,” kicks out corruption, and makes room for the broken, sin-sick people to get to Him. When the religious leaders scoff at the children, Jesus stops them cold: the kids were fulfilling prophesy!
That’s when I am just sick when I hear more sniping Pharisee than loving King in our talk with and about the children. Just as one example. . . . in Fundamentalism, I heard a preacher insist that he must explain to his preschooler, while she was coloring, that her picture was meaningless to a great and powerful God.
I understand what he was trying to say: that God exists and He’s big. But that’s not what came through. What came through is that we adults, like God, don’t care much for child-like things.
It’s all very pagan, to be honest.
Where did we get this stuff? How easily we become so egocentric! Augustine would have words for us. He would remind us that actually we adults are “better” sinners than our children because we’re sneakier about it. So it only proves his point that these critiques of children’s egocentrism are so blazenly egotistical.
No, we need a reminder. We need a regular reminder every year of how Christ included children. We need Palm Sunday.