Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Boy King

James Burke writes in his book The Day the Universe Changed:

"You are what you know. Fifteenth-century Europeans ‘knew’ that the sky was made of closed concentric crystal spheres, rotating around a central earth and carrying the stars and planets. That ‘knowledge’ structured everything they did and thought, because it told them the truth. Then Galileo’s telescope changed the truth. As a result, a hundred years later everybody ‘knew’ that the universe was open and infinite, working like a giant clock. Architecture, music, literature, science, economics, art politics – everything – changed, mirroring the new view created by the change in the knowledge. . . . At any time in the past, people have held a view of the way the universe works which was for them similarly definitive, whether it was based on myths or research. And at any time, that view they held was sooner or later altered by changes in the body of knowledge."

Now for an 8 year old boy named Josiah, it was not much different. For Josiah, Galileo’s telescope came from the mouth of one of King Amon’s messengers who carried the horrifying news that Josiah’s father, the king was dead. A political assassin was responsible for Josiah’s fatherless nights. There would be no more tucking in; no more nightly prayer with his father; no more songs just before lights out. Josiah’s universe changed. But with this terrible news that his father was dead, came also a crown. And for an eight-year old boy who’s mind should be on his next little league game is this was a huge deal. This boy’s world was turned on its ear and he was only eight.

Josiah was crowned king of a nation at the age of eight. I want each of you to think back to when you were eight, and think of who you were, what you did, what was important to you. I was probably a bit different than you. By the time I was eight, I had been Superman, a member of an elite paramilitary group called the A-Team, the next 007 agent, otherwise known as 008, and I could turn myself invisible by just wearing my jacket backward. At eight, I would sneak time to watch MTV and Nickelodeon. At eight girls were still kind of disgusting.

It was very different for Josiah. At eight he was the king of a nation. At eight he recognized the importance to live for God even though his father, Amon, and grandfather, Menasseh, only modeled idolatry for the young king. Josiah’s convictions had already been formed. But his knowledge of the universe changed drastically and he was only eight.

Okay, okay, you get it already. You know where I’m going with this. You’ve heard it before. Children are important to God. We know that God has hidden the things of his Kingdom “from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25). But do you get that you must become like little ones to enter the Kingdom of God? Do you really see that?

I say certain things as I minister to children and families. Julia calls them Evanisms. You will hear me say, “Children are not the future of the church. Children are to be expected to be and accepted as the church here and now.” You will also hear me say, “Children, just like adults, are called to be whole and holy citizens of the Kingdom of God with all the rights and privileges therein.” These things are not easy to grasp, and to our sensibilities they are just as radical as Galileo’s telescope.

Josiah grew up differently than his father and grandfather. He feared the Lord. He worshiped God and even began to rebuild the temple of the Lord. He did these things because he knew it was right. When Helkiah brought the lost sermons of Moses to Josiah and they were read aloud to him, the universe changed again. When Josiah heard the words of Deuteronomy, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind” he tore his clothes. He went to the prophet of Israel, Huldah, and she told him that while he caught the eye of the Lord and would not be punished, God would still allow Judah to be exiled because they did not adhere to his commandments. This news of Judah’s destruction did not stop Josiah. He mounted his men and rode throughout the country destroying the statues of Baal and Asherah, rebuilding the synagogues, celebrating Passover once again, and putting nothing before God. For Josiah, God was not merely first, God was only! The revival of Judah came because the boy-king Josiah got it. He understood his role as a citizen in God’s Kingdom.

All of this from a king crowned at the age of eight, a child to whom the mystery of the Kingdom of God was revealed. The Bible calls him Israel’s greatest king. He brought Galileo’s telescope. He made revival possible. People once again knew that there were to be no other gods before God. God is not God first, he is God only.

I believe revival will come today when we begin to accept children as proper citizens of God’s Kingdom, when we begin to expect them to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Revival will sweep this world when children are accepted as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As pastor to children and their families, I will partner with parents, casting vision, equipping, encouraging, resourcing, building relationships with you so that we can minister to the children of Dayton, Oh. Together we will model for them what it means to be citizens of the Kingdom of God But know this, I cannot not do it alone. It can only be done in partnership. Perhaps this for you is Galileo’s telescope, changing the way you view the church. God has called us to his purpose. We must become like little children to enter into his Kingdom.

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