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Summary: Children seem more in tune with God. We need a childlike faith like the kids who shouted "Hosanna" on Palm Sunday.

The praise of children…Psalm 8 & Matthew 21:14-17 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugu, Massachusetts

On Art Linkletter’s television show House Party he had a famous interview segment, called, “Children say the darndest things.” They said some pretty hilarious, unpredictable stuff! Linkletter, who is now in his 80s has said, “The two best interview subjects are children under 10 and people over 70, for the same reason--they say the first thing that comes to their mind.” Art never talked down to children; he respected them, and you could tell Art was in touch with his inner child and appreciated what kids had to say.

Jesus urged His followers to have childlike faith, and the faithful gathered on Palm Sunday. The children cried out “Hosanna!” Adults often act indignant when children express their thoughts and feelings. The Pharisees, those upright (and uptight) religious leaders, were shocked and offended by the devoted cries of these children. They had no clue that these little children were fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. How could they? They viewed children as insignificant, unimportant--from a grown-up perspective that has lost touch with real life. These stuffy religious leaders angrily scolded Jesus: “Do you hear what these children are saying?” They needed to go back and re-read Psalm 8, quoted by Jesus as a rebuttal and rebuke.

David writes, “From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise” (Ps 8:2). Children praise without hesitation. We could have a closer walk with God if we’d be willing to be childlike in our devotion to God. Our problem is, we confuse “childlike” with “childish”. To the Corinthian church, Paul says to put aside childish things (13:11), but not to lose a childlike faith. God wants our mature mind and childlike heart to be led by His Spirit.

When was the last time you read a children’s book, and I don’t mean reading to a child? I first read the Chronicles of Narnia as an adult. I wish I’d read them when I was a child, and I had to convince myself that it was OK to read a kids’ book. I’m glad I did. How ever did C.S. Lewis, who hardly knew any children, write such wonderful fantasy books for them? In the Narnia movie, there’s a scene where the Pevensee children give Aslan a hug. Wouldn’t you like to give Jesus a hug? We adults think we’d reverently bow before Jesus, but if we could be like children, we’d instead give Him a big hug! We see the endearing innocence of the youngest, Lucy, and wonder if we can recapture some of her trust and delight. Like Art Linkletter, Professor Lewis spoke to children as equals, and answered the letters they wrote to him. Readers are urged to enter Narnia first with their hearts and only later with their intellect. It is important for children to first fall in love with and long for Aslan and then to transfer that love and longing to Christ.

While C.S. Lewis was writing the Narnia books, his friend J.R.R. Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien’s epic fantasy, we see that is only through the childlike innocence of the hobbits Frodo and Sam that the quest is fulfilled; if they had been childish, they would have refused the ‘burden’ of the Ring and would have stayed at home in the Shire.

Robert Fulghum wrote in the Kansas City Times, "Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school! These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.” Fulghum has captured some of what Jesus meant when He said, “Unless you become like little children, you can’t enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

Children love parades and festivity; they love to sing…often we adults lose some of this, thinking that childlike joy is childish. When we grow up, we sometimes lose our earlier sense of wonder that was present in the children of Jerusalem. These children celebrated the Messiah on Palm Sunday. Some of us adults are too embarrassed to even take a palm branch this day because we’ve suppressed our inner child, or someone’s done it to us, pressured us to be more adult-like. We’re told in many ways to grow up, when we might well become more like children. I heard someone complain, “Your inner child punched mine in the nose!”

Even Jesus’ followers had a pharisaical attitude towards children. When people brought their children to Jesus, they acted as gatekeepers, trying to keep the Master from having to deal with such trivial matters. Jesus rebuked them, saying “Allow the children to come to Me; in no way hinder them; for such is the Kingdom of God.” Kids are important, and they may well be closer to the Kingdom than us. We get distracted by the cares of the world. We get way too serious, when we should be more playful, more joyous, more carefree.

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