I Go To Prepare a Place for You
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I Go To Prepare a Place for You
The Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Dawne Olson, a South Dakota mother of four, was preparing to give a talk on unity at her women’s Bible study. She woke up early to type out the scripture verses. She wasn’t quite finished when her four children began coming downstairs asking for breakfast. She could hear the children just around the corner in the kitchen as they rummaged through the refrigerator and cupboards for something to eat. At some point they discovered half of a toaster pastry on the counter from the night before. They all began screaming and fighting; each claiming the half-eaten Pop Tart.
As Dawne made a couple of futile attempts to quiet them down, she finished typing the verse in Matthew 5:9 that says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” Taking her cue from scripture, she hollered into the kitchen above the noise, “Would somebody PLEASE be the peacemaker?!”
There was a moment’s silence and then Garret, 6, piped up, “I’ll be the piece maker, Mom!”
Then to his brother and sisters he said: “Here’s a piece for you and you, and a piece for you and one piece for me.”
Needless to say, Dawne had her opening illustration on unity and peace for that evening’s Bible study! (1)
Aren’t children amazing? You never know what’s going to pop out of their mouth. You never know how God is going to take their innocent ears and through a twist of words or a misunderstood phrase touch our hearts and lift our spirits. Each child is a treasure given to us by God. I truly believe that children are special in God’s eyes. They should be special to us as well, because they can teach us about the faith and the simplicity of faith.
I. A BLESSING:
A. Jesus knew that children are a blessing. They are treasures in the Kingdom of God. That’s why he said we must come to God like little children. Children are instruments of God’s grace and allow us to see things from a different perspective. That’s partly why Peter says we must be “like newborn infants,” and “long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it [we] may grow into salvation, [for we] have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3)
B. One little boy knew exactly how good God is. He even admitted it in his bedtime prayer.
“Dear God, please take care of my daddy and my mommy and my sister and my brother and my doggy and me. Oh, please take care of yourself, God. If anything happens to you, we’re gonna be in a big mess.” (2)
II. THEY TEACH US:
A. If you listen to children as they pray, you hear just how profound they can be.
One particular four-year-old prayed: “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” (3)
I think that’s pretty profound. That’s exactly what sin is. It’s the trash in our lives. The more we sin the more the basket gets full. And when someone sins against us, it goes into the basket too, along with our feelings for that person. The point of our faith is to empty our trash baskets at the foot of the cross. And to forgive those who have sinned against us.
B. Of course, like adults, kids don’t always live out their faith. They may know what to do but not do it.
One Sunday a little boy was “acting up” during the morning worship hour. The parents did their best to maintain some sense of order in the pew but were losing the battle. Finally the father picked the little fellow up and walked sternly up the aisle on his way out. Just before reaching the safety of the foyer the little boy called loudly to the congregation, “Pray for me! Pray for me!” (4)
Sure, sometimes they get it wrong. But more times than not, children let us see things through God’s eyes and feel what God feels. But we have to take the time to listen and look through their eyes. One little girl misquoted the 23rd Psalm but probably got it better than anyone else except maybe the author. “The Lord is my shepherd, that’s all I want!” (5)
Sometimes they get it wrong, but sometimes the get it more right than we could ever imagine.
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III. PREPARE A PLACE:
A. John Todd was born in Rutledge, Vermont into a family of several children. They later moved to the village of Killingsworth back in the early 1800’s. And there, at a very early age, John had both his mother and father die, and he was left without parents.
The relatives wondered what they would do with the number of children, how they could parcel them out to friends and relatives. One dear and loving aunt said she would take little John. The aunt sent a horse and a slave to get John who was only six at the time. The slave named Caesar, came and put the little boy on the back of the horse. On the way back an endearing conversation takes place:
John: Will she be there?
Caesar: Oh, yes, she’ll be there waiting up for you.
John: Will I like living with her?
Caesar: My son, you fall into good hands.
John: Will she love me?
Caesar: Ah, she has a big heart.
John: Will I have my own room? Will she let me have a puppy?
Caesar: She’s got everything all set, son. I think she has some surprises, John.
John: Do you think she’ll go to bed before we get there?
Caesar: Oh no! She’ll be sure to wait up for you. You’ll see when we get out of these woods. You’ll see her candle shining in the window.”
When they got to the clearing, sure enough, there she was standing in the doorway with a candle in the window. She reached down, kissed him and said, “Welcome home!” She fed him supper, took him to his room and waited until he fell asleep.
John Todd grew up to be a great minister of the Gospel. But it was there at his aunt’s home, with her as his new mother, that he grew up. It was always a place of enchantment because of his aunt; it awed him that such a place of replacement existed. She had given him a second home. She had become a second mother to him.
Years later, long after he had moved away, his aunt wrote to say her own death was near. Her health was failing and she wondered what was to become of her. This is what John Todd wrote her:
“My Dear Aunt, Years ago I left a house of death not knowing where I was to go, whether anyone cared, whether it was the end of me. The ride was long but the slave encouraged me. Finally, he pointed out your candle to me and there we were in the yard, and there you stood embracing me and taking me by the hand into my own room that you had made up. After all these years I can’t believe it, how you did all that for me; I was expected; I felt safe in that room, so welcomed. It was my room.
Now it’s your turn to go, and as one who has tried it out, I’m writing to let you know, someone is waiting up, your room is all ready, the light is on, the door is open, and as you ride into the yard — don’t worry, Auntie. You’re expected! I know. I once saw God standing in your doorway — long ago!” (6)
B. In our passage from John, Jesus tells the disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you may be also.” As a child, John Todd found that to be true through the love of his Aunt. And in her old age, his Aunt found it to be true as well.
This morning we find it to be true in another way. For our Lord has prepared a place for us, a place where we can feast with Him. A place where we can taste the goodness of God and be filled with the bread of heaven.
This morning we also have the opportunity to look at faith through the eyes of our children and allow them to minister to us in a very unique way. This morning we get to see the hands of Jesus through the hands of our children as they break the bread and share it with us. I will serve them first and then they will help me serve you. Let their hands be a blessing to you. Let their service in this way be a blessing to you as well. We will be depending a lot on God’s Grace. So be in prayer also as our children serve us this morning in this most sacred way.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. THE FUNNY THINGS KIDS SAY, by Grace Witwer Housholder, http://www.funnykids.com
5. The Pastor’s Story File (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), November 1995
6. I first heard this story on a Walk to Emmaus, I wrote it down, but I don’t know its origin.
Copyright 1999, Billy D. Strayhorn. Used by permission.