Remember Art Linkletter? He used to do that program with the little kids who were sitting on chairs in a line on a platform so that he could sit on the edge of it and be face-to-face with the boys and girls. It was called “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and I heard some of the funniest stuff on TV then and now on that program.
Well, his premise is still true today. Kids, with their innocence and literal thinking process absolutely say “the darnedest things,” and we adults continue to laugh at them. At church a few weeks ago, I had asked a little girl to bring up an object (a surprise to me) during the church offering segment of the worship service for me to use for an “object lesson.” This is a little “sermon” I use to teach the children (even the adult children!) which I call the Wonder Box – because the object is usually brought up in a box and I “wonder what’s in it.” I actually learned this from a clergy colleague years ago and it still stands me well, partly because “kids still say the darnedest things.”
Anyway, this 5-year-old brought her mother with her and together they handed me a crucifix which did not have a body on it. It was just a cross with holes in the two ends on the cross-beam and in the bottom of the cross. Her mother explained to me that when they had moved, the body had come off of the cross and they were hesitant to put it back on because they didn’t know how they felt about nailing Jesus on the cross.
Wow! What a sermon opening! No preacher could get this one wrong. I started like I always do by asking the child or children some questions to identify the object – like, “What is this?” and “What do we do with this?” I asked the little girl what the object was and she looked at me like I was a dunderhead and said, “It’s a cross.” Then I asked her, “Why are there holes in the cross?” Again, she looked at me like she couldn’t believe I didn’t know the answers to these obvious questions and then she leaned forward and whispered to me, “They were for the nails – to keep him on the cross.” Before I could say a word, she turned to the congregation and said, in a loud voice, “I guess she doesn’t know about Jesus and the nails.”
Needless to say, she brought down the house! She didn’t know why everyone was laughing but she looked very proud that she had obviously said something very clever. She turned around and beamed at me and said, “I can tell you about him if you like.” Well, I was undone. It was at least 2 minutes before I could speak an intelligent word. And then, all I could say was “Great – tell me.” And she did.
What a wonderful model for a Christian and for a preacher. She showed us all that it’s not only OK to talk about our beliefs, it’s a necessary thing if everyone is going to have the same information. She illustrated for us all how easy it can be to talk about what we believe and how natural it is. My favorite thing about the whole encounter was her facial expressions which made it abundantly clear that she was appalled at how little I knew about someone as important as Jesus.
I guess my point today is – as someone once said, wisdom comes “Out of the mouths of babes” more often than it does from adults because the children have not yet learned to be afraid of saying something stupid or wrong. They just say what they know. They have not yet become self-conscious about much of anything, which lets them speak their minds without all the qualifications we adults have to add in order to sound intelligent. Most adults would have answered my questions like so (if indeed they spoke up at all): “What is this?” “It looks like a cross.” (God forbid they should be wrong so they hedge a little.) “Why are there holes in the cross?” “I’m not sure – maybe to hold it up on the wall or to hold a jewel or some other decoration. What do you think?” Another hedge….
Kids don’t hesitate or hedge or try to keep from sounding stupid. They just tell it like it is and the result is – they sound smart. Oh that we adults could say the darnedest things again!