Somehow in my mind, Palm Sunday is a children's activity. In the words of theologian Henry Cox, "this is an occasion when grown-up men are playing." Children and grown-ups shout and wave branches and cover the roads with their clothes (creating the red carpet) for the royal Jesus to come in.
I think that so often we have overstretched the adult imagery of Paul when he writes "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish things ways behind me." (1 Cor. 13:11) This faulty interpretation creates the belief that children have very little faith activity and few encounters with God. Like other ordained clergy types, I spend enough time debating when a child's faith is authentic or how early they can come and take the Lord's Table or when they can be baptized. We want to do the things pertaining to God in an orthodox way.
Yet, Palm Sunday invites us to enjoy the exuberance of the children. In my imagination, I envision many of the children that were welcomed by Jesus accompanying Him to Jerusalem. I imagine that this Jesus laughed and played with them and they were giddy with joy in his presence.
The gospels take time to present the disciples as trying to take Jesus away from the children. Jesus corrects them and welcomes the children into his arms and blesses them. The children that came along with Jesus are shouting hosannas in the Temple. The priests, recognizing that these children came with Jesus, ask Him to quiet them down. Jesus tells them that if the children will not shout praises to God, the stones in the vicinity of the temple will do the shouting. In an intriguing way, Jesus is telling them that the children understood the event, while the priests missed it entirely in their attempt to maintain proper decorum.
As I just celebrated another birthday and I am moving towards the 60 year mark, I have learned many orthodox terms over the years and I can hold my own in a theological debate about God. I praise God for the many academic opportunities that I have had and I enjoy the academic setting as much as I enjoy the teaching and preaching in the church. However, often I go back to the faith of my childhood when I read the Bible for the first time and learned all those children's songs, which told me that Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. I grew up with Jesus - He was a part of my childhood. I cannot tell you when I received Christ in my heart because He has always been there - in our family, in my heart - the constant friend of our childhood, youth and adult years.