W.C. Fields once said, "Never work with animals or children." I love children but recalled Fields' words last Sunday.
The worship service at my church service frequently includes a children's sermon. Adults in the congregation are asked to present the children's sermon on a given Sunday.
Upon arriving at church Sunday morning a friend said, "I see in the bulletin that you're doing the children's sermon today." That was news to me. I looked in the bulletin and, sure enough, it said I was doing the children's sermon.
Then I remembered. Earlier this year someone asked me to present the children's sermon a couple of months down the road and I had completely forgotten about it.
I looked at my watch. I had less than 45 minutes to prepare and had my weekly ushering duties to take care of at the same time.
Always the planner, I prefer to take my time preparing for something like this. Panic began to set in when I couldn't think of a topic.
Then I remembered a children's sermon I did nearly 30 years ago and began building on that. When the time came I was ready.
Picking up the wireless microphone, I asked the kids to come and sit on the chancel platform steps.
"Do you know what genealogy is?" I asked. No one knew.
"Genealogy is the study of your grandparents, great-grandparents and all of your relatives who lived before you," I explained. "And I'm a genealogist! It's one of my hobbies."
I was met with vacant stares.
"In fact," I continued, "I have discovered that through my grandmother's family I am related to the Queen of England. I am about 7,000,000th in line for the British throne." (It's true!)
Suddenly, I had the kids' attention.
A bespectacled little girl sitting up front raised her hand. I moved the microphone toward her and she asked, "Which Queen Elizabeth?"
"The current Queen Elizabeth," I answered, having no idea which one she is.
"You mean Queen Elizabeth II?" the youngster persisted.
"Yeah," I said without confidence, "Yep, that's the one Queen Elizabeth II."
Another hand shot up. It was the first girl's little sister.
"I'm related to Pocahontas!" she said excitedly.
"So am I," interrupted the older sister.
In light of the brief time available I thought I had done a good job planning the children's sermon at the last minute and now I couldn't get to it.
Another hand shot up. "I'm related to Herbert Hoover," a little girl said.
"That's cool," I responded, wondering how a child that age even knew about our 31st president.
Just as I began to move along another hand went up.
"I'm related to John Wilkes Booth," said a precocious (about) 5-year-old.
"Well, we all have someone like that on our family tree," I responded, amazed that child of this age even knew about Abraham Lincoln's assassin. When I was that age I doubt I even knew about Abraham Lincoln.
Another hand shot up toward the back of the cluster of children but I didn't respond. Some folks take too much time for the children's sermon and mess up the pastor's (and my) schedule.
I proceeded with my message, explaining how my great-great grandfather was a very devout man and had raised his children in a Christian home and how each succeeding generation had done so as well. "You are fortunate children," I concluded, "because your moms and dads love Jesus and they love you so much they want you to know him, too."
As I wrapped things up the little girl at the back of the cluster probably about 4-years-old raised her hand again. Placing the microphone in front of her I said, "What did you want to say, sweetie."
She leaned into the mic and in a near whisper said, "Pray to God."
"Good idea," I added and then dismissed the children to go to children's church.
As the kids scrambled down the aisles I remembered W.C. Field's statement: "Never work with animals or kids." They'll show you up every time.
I'll come better prepared next time.