Friday, October 26, 2007

Where'd You Learn to Talk Like That?

A while back one of my children got busted for foul language.

At church.

I got the news leaving the chapel after Wednesday night Bible from a children’s worker. In her sweet Alabama accent she said, “Pastor Gary, I don’t want to get [name withheld to protect the not-so-innocent] in trouble, but I thought you’d want to know. [Your child] went down the slide saying, ‘Holy s%&!, Holy s^%$, Holy s#%!’ I corrected [your child], but thought you might follow up at home.”

Fatigued, I pulled out my go-to response, humor. “At least [my child] said it three times – true Trinitarian formulation!”

It wasn’t received well.

At home I gave the standard lecture about using good words and bad words, and my wife followed up with the old-fashioned “I’m gonna wash your mouth out with soap.” Literally. Later that night we wondered where [our child] had learned to talk that way. I tried to blame her, but the answer was in the mirror.

Children imitate their elders, especially their parents. They learn the language of cursing and the language of blessing depending on the example we choose to set. Same is true at church. If our children see adults worshipping by singing strongly, praying sincerely, and engaging the teaching deeply, they will follow suit.

Something like that was going on in Matthew 21. You know that passage because it’s where Jesus ran out all the money changers. But don’t skip over an important detail. There were children shouting in the temple, calling Jesus the “Son of David” and saying “Hosanna!”

Where did those kids learn to talk like that?

I’m guessing they picked it up “on the street” when Jesus entered Jerusalem and they heard the grown ups shouting “Hosanna.”

The kids were annoying the “real” religious people there, the stuffy sort of people. They were telling the truth about Jesus and it was driving them crazy because it defied their authority and challenged the order of things. The chief priests and scribes did what all religious posers do, they complained about the noise. “‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, [quoting Psalm 8] ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise”?’ Then he “vamos-ed” out to Bethany.

So here’s the point. Maybe our quiet, orderly worship services are not all that impressive to God. Maybe we grown ups need to follow suit and shout a few hosannas in the temple this Sunday? Maybe we could learn a thing or two about authentic worship from a little kid who isn’t restrained in showing passion for God because of familiarity, or social acceptance, or the fear of being seen as silly. After all, to most of the world the cross already seems foolish – why not confirm just how “crazy” we Christians really are?

We’ll be unpacking this more in a sermon this weekend called Shouting in the Temple. We gather for worship at 9:00 a.m. and 11:10 a.m. on Sunday. You’ll have to shout in the later service as we’ll be holding our annual “Blessing of the Bikes.” It’s a raucous good time of worship and prayer, an annual event where we welcome motorcycle riders from around the area to join us in worship and have their machines blessed. We feed ‘em and send ‘em on a ride into God’s glorious Sunday afternoon. That is a happy group!

Get your motor runnin’,
Pastor Gary

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Matthew 21.12-17

12Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13"It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'"
14The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.
16"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, " 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"
17And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

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