Yesterday (Palm Sunday), the kids in our church came marching into the worship center carrying palm branches and shouting Hosannas: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” As I watched their adorable little faces—some delighted to be in the “big church,” some looking puzzled as to why they were there, and some maybe even a little scared—I was suddenly catapulted back across the years to a long-ago Palm Sunday.
As I drove home from church with all three kids in the back seat (Woody was on call that day), I asked them what their story had been in Sunday School. The two older boys had pretty reasonable accounts of Palm Sunday. But it was Erika’s story I remember best.
“Oh, Mommy,” she exclaimed. “It was a little sad because today we had the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a horse. And the horse fell down and broke his leg, and Jesus fell off. But it was OK—‘cause He didn’t get hurt.”
Pretty creative listening, wouldn’t you say? As I gazed at those fresh faces yesterday, I wondered what stories their parents would hear on the way home from church. And I wanted to tell those parents—and you—not to give up on the stories of Jesus. Tell them in parts, a little at a time, age-appropriately. And know that they will sink in, little by little.
Another year comes to mind as I write this: a Holy Week when one afternoon four-year-old Bjorn had a preschool friend –we’ll call him “Matt”—over to play. The two boys were playing out on the porch when suddenly I heard Bjorn’s voice booming across the kitchen: “No, no, Matt, you are the angel. You say, ‘He is not here. He is risen just as He said.’”
Nothing like acting out the Easter story to keep a couple of four-year-olds busy!
The next day I got a call from Matt’s mother. “Thanks so much for having Matt over to play yesterday,” she began. Then there was a short pause, ’til she continued: “There’s just one other thing I wanted to talk with you about.” My heart skipped a beat, wondering what might come next.
“I just wanted to thank you,” she said, “for the wonderful way that Bjorn taught Matt about the Easter story. You know, we haven’t really known how to tell him the real story. We just stuck with the Easter bunny and eggs and candy and all that. But Bjorn did a great job telling Matt the real story, so I wanted to thank you.”
Hmmm . . . maybe even four-year-olds can spread the Good News!
This morning I read Lars’ blog about Palm Sunday in Iraq. He was happy that he had been able to worship with a handful of other Marines and soldiers and sailors and their faithful chaplain in their little trailer-chapel, cement-block barricades surrounding them for protection, their weapons at their side.
He had also been able to fly yesterday afternoon over parts of Iraq that brought the Old Testament alive for him, he said. I thought how happy it would make my Old-Testament-scholar-Dad to hear that. (Don’t you think he knows this, up in heaven?)
And I thought back to an Easter season many years ago when Lars’ account of the Easter story in Sunday School was something like: “Today we had the story about the empty tomb and how the guys in the white things told the girls, ‘Jesus isn’t here. He rosed from the dead!’”
Indeed He did!! He is risen. He is risen indeed! I wish each one of you reading this a joyous Easter celebration. And I pray that each of you will have patience—and perseverance—as you share the great news of Jesus Alive with your kids. They will understand the story in time. And they will want—I pray—to worship this Risen Lord, even if some day they’re halfway ’round the world in a dusty little trailer in a far country with a handful of fellow believers. You’ll be glad you shared The Story!