To Hell in a Hand-puppet

I sat there with my mind racing… Children’s time on Palm Sunday. We had made a grand procession around the room – so many little ones and it was such a good moment. And then we put the palm branches in the vases at the front of the church and I had the children sit down so we could have our “children’s time.” And I sat there with my mind racing…

Palm Sunday is an easy children’s message. It’s a parade. It’s a celebration. We love Jesus and so did the people of Jerusalem way back then. They waved their branches and shouted “Hosanna!” They celebrated Jesus much like we do. Palm Sunday is an easy children’s message – as long as you don’t think too hard about what comes next.

It is a detriment to our faith and our life in Christ when we move from the triumphal entry straight on into Easter. We have to deal with the fact that Jesus suffered and died on the cross – death MUST precede resurrection. At least by the definition I know. This is what I was going to preach in just a matter of minutes. I was going to speak as grown-ups do about difficult things and the realities of the world we live in – which is just like the one Jesus lived in. We must look to the cross if we are to see the power of the empty tomb.

That’s a message I preach to the church. But yesterday my struggle came as I faced the children.

Most of the time I like doing children’s messages. I enjoy getting a little silly in order to help them understand God’s great love for them. I try to have a real message to teach them. Some moments are better than others, but I try. However, yesterday we paraded around the room with palm branches and had lots of fun doing it. And as we sat down I realized I needed to say something about the cross. I just struggled to find a good way to do it.

I’m not sure you can use object lessons to teach the crucifixion. I can’t figure a way to use a hand-puppet to show the hell Jesus went through. It’s something I must get better at doing. Not using hand-puppets. Communicating the cross to the children. It’s a careful balance between the reality of violence and death and the tenderness of childhood. It’s a balance I tend to teach in an unbalanced way.

Maybe my thought is that there will be time enough to teach the children about the truth of Jesus’ brutal death – an important piece of our historical faith. Maybe my thought is that having the children know Jesus as one who is alive and worthy of praise is the more important lesson to begin with.

For whatever reason it may be, I guess I just can’t take our kids to hell in a hand-puppet. But, at the same time, I can’t NOT take youth and adults there in some manner or another.

This is Holy Week. This is the week we will remember the “passion” or suffering of Jesus. He will willingly go and die at the hands of sinners in  order to be the final sacrifice for all sinners. He will die our death. That we must remember this week. Only then will the new life of Easter Sunday be made real in us.

Holy high-five to you,


One response to “To Hell in a Hand-puppet

  1. It’s “funny” you should pick this as your topic this week- one of my friends here in Alice was just marveling this morning at our weekly Bible study that her 4-year-old son was telling her the story of Jesus yesterday afternoon and that he actually GOT it. Like, he was telling her how “people were mean to Jesus and they beat him up and put him on a cross and he died and they put a HUGE ROCK in front of the place they buried him but Mommy, later they went to that place and all they found were cloths left behind and someone had MOVED THE ROCK, MOMMY. He was GONE because he was ALIVE AGAIN!” So you’re right, maybe you can’t take them all the way to hell, but they sure can start to understand at young ages. 🙂

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