A Children’s Sermon to Remember
Our pain can draw people to Jesus when it changes us so we can deliver the message about the afterlife in a way God himself would want it to be communicated. When we first become Christians, we’re not exactly the most ideal candidates to handle public relations for the Almighty. If the president of the United States searches far and wide for the best and brightest people to serve as his go-between with the public, you would think that the creator of the universe would copy his idea, but God seems quite content using people like you and me.
I often wonder why Jesus didn’t commission angels to be his spokespeople. In the Old Testament, when God wanted to communicate a message that he didn’t want to get messed up, he always sent an angel. In fact, the Greek word in the New Testament that is translated “angel” is angelos, which actually means “messenger.” When God needed to get an important message to Abraham and Sarah about the birth of their son, what did he do? He sent angels. When he wanted to communicate battle plans to Gideon? Same thing. When he announced the birth of Jesus, who did he send? You got it, angels. So why the change of plans? After his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21), and every eyebrow in the room had to be raised. “What? You’re sending us? No angels?” What was Jesus thinking? Why send Joe Smith from Atlanta or Brian Jones from Philly or Jane Doe from Indianapolis when you have angels like Michael and Gabriel on standby? Angels never get scared and rarely forget their lines. There is also the added benefit that angels can’t be beaten up or killed.
My guess is that Jesus knew that the decision to become a Christian would be more genuine if a human being learned how to do so from another human being. Perhaps Jesus didn’t want people to feel coerced into signing up to follow him and knew that sending an intimidating creature the size of a middle linebacker wouldn’t really accomplish that. Yet he also had to know the potential for communication problems. He knew that we humans tend to be arrogant and petty and that we could dilute the message or change it altogether.
For example, when we lived in Ohio, we had the opportunity to visit another church in our community. During the service the pastor announced that it was time for the children in the church to come forward for a children’s sermon. As our daughters went forward and sat near the podium with the other children, I smiled and thought, This should be nice. We don’t do this at our church. I noticed that behind the pastor was a hammer dangling by its two claws on the edge of a table. Attached to the handle of the hammer was a piece of string that dropped down to the floor and then ran up the pastor’s leg and into his pocket. A Barbie doll was directly under the hammer.
The pastor started his sermon by asking, “Boys and girls, can anyone tell me what the word sin means?”
One girl raised her hand and said, “I have a new hamster!”
The pastor smiled and said, “That’s nice, Samantha” and offered his own definition. Then he asked if anyone knew what the word Hell meant.
I whispered, to no one in particular, “These are preschoolers. Where is he going with this?”
No one could provide an answer to the pastor’s second question either, so he provided his own. Five minutes into this “children’s sermon,” the pastor said in a loud, commanding voice, “Boys and girls, this is what happens when we sin against God and refuse to become Christians!” and he pulled the string attached to the hammer. The children lunged backwards and screamed as the hammer crashed down on top of the doll below. My wife, whose view was blocked, leaned over and asked, “What happened?”
I said, “God just killed Barbie.” I thought about standing up and interrupting the guy, but my wife talked me out of it. After his message I grabbed my kids and we walked out the door, praying that there weren’t any non-Christians in the room that day.