Sense and Nonsense: 'Supper's ready, little children; come and get it'

By Lynda Hollenbeck

As attention was focused on Holy Week and activities leading up to Easter, many conversations touched on references to particular scriptures.
This also came about as a result of many people watching the History Channel's broadcast of "The Bible," which depicted events related to the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.
By no means could I be called a biblical scholar; but by living with one for nearly 37 years, some of that knowledge did rub off on me. And I confess I'm a purist about certain passages that are fully ingrained into my psyche.
While I applaud modern translations that serve to heighten awareness of the Bible, certain portions tend to lose their cutting edge when they become too modernized.
A classic example relates to the birth of Jesus.
I can handle updated accounts of a lot of things, but please don't tell me that Mary was pregnant. To my sensitive ears, Mary will ALWAYS be "great with child."
This thought is illustrated so cleverly in the charming play "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," which has been presented at least three times at the Royal Theatre.
A child who's not part of the church-going crowd responds explosively upon hearing the pageant director refer to Mary as being pregnant. I don't react quite so strongly, just almost so.
And I want to hear that Jesus was born in a stable, not a barn or "a place that houses animals." Mary placed him in the manger, not a straw bed, and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, not just cloths. These were special cloths and they had to swaddle.
It goes along with the "If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it" school of thought. The old stuff has worked for years, so why not leave it that way.
Like many people, I grew up with the King James version of the Bible and the very familiar events in that style have become ingrained into my mind — my soul, really. They're equivalent to poetry, and when they're tinkered with, it's disturbing.
An unreasonable point of view perhaps, but I'm being honest.
In a responsive reading used at my church recently, reference was made to Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. In this particular version, the animal he was riding was referred to as "a colt."
Technically, that's correct, but I heard it first as a donkey and that's what it forever will be for me. Entering the city on a donkey represented a symbol of peace, rather than a war-waging king arriving on a horse.
The issue prompted some biblical research, which did confirm the choice of a donkey, but also pointed out that a young donkey, like a young horse, also is known as a colt. So much for my smartness, but I still want Jesus' donkey to be called a donkey.
Scripture can apply to life in so many instances. I'll never forget an incident that happened a number of years back when Granddaughter No. 1 was a toddler and was sitting with her mother on a pew at the back of the sanctuary. My spouse (the child's grandfather) was the preacher.
Ed hadn't started his sermon yet. The choir, including me, was singing the special music of the day when I noticed people in the congregation smiling and snickering. I couldn't see what was happening until we finished the selection.
That's when I saw Hayley sitting on her grandfather's lap in one of the pulpit chairs.
She had escaped her mother's clutches and pranced down the aisle to reach Poppy. After the music ended, an unperturbed Ed carried her back to the waiting arms of our mortified daughter, kissed her on the cheek and returned to the pulpit.
Speaking to the congregation, he justified the incident appropriately by quoting an old scripture: "Jesus said, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'"
More modern versions of that passage from the book of Matthew would say something more like "Let the children come to me ... "
It means the same thing, but it just doesn't have the same ring.
That particular passage from the Bible evokes another long-ago memory. This goes back to my days in the primary Sunday School class at the Cotton Plant Methodist Church.
The teacher was my mother, who made a habit of concluding each week's lesson by teaching us a memory verse.
When Diana Wilkerson went home that day, her mother asked her to recite the day's selected verse. This is what she said:
"Supper's ready, little children. Come and get it."
The Bible has something for everyone, but sometimes it's all in how you hear it.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.