Rather than the traditional children’s sermon, here at First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald, Ga., we have something called the Happy Club, which features the Happy Sack. This practice was instigated by the esteemed interim pastor who was my predecessor, Dr. Ches Smith, a legendary South Georgia pastor and a fine minister and gentleman.
I have chosen to try to continue the tradition. We’ll see.
It works like this. At an appointed time in the service, the Happy Club members, that is, the older preschoolers and younger children, come down to the front. One of them bears the Happy Sack, which he or she received the previous week and in which he or she has placed an object upon which the only limitations placed are these: (1) It cannot be alive and (2) It cannot have ever been alive. I then pull the object out of the sack and have to come up with an object lesson on the spot.
On the plus side, I don’t have to prepare a children’s message, and the exercise gives the children a personal investment in the experience.
On the minus side, I don’t have a prepared children’s message, and I never know exactly what the children have deposited in the sack.
On March 15, a boy named Taylor handed me the sack. I reached inside it to pull out not one but two objects: a pair of toy binoculars and a plastic dagger.
Someone had earlier reminded me that March 15 is the Ides of March. When I saw that plastic dagger, all I could think of was the stabbing of Julius Caesar.
And so I heard myself saying that many years ago, even before the children’s grandparents were born, a king named Julius Caesar was assassinated, which I explained meant that he was killed, by a group of men who didn’t want him to be king anymore. I said this was not terribly surprising to Caesar but he was surprised – and disappointed – that his friend, Brutus, was involved. His surprise and disappointment provoked that famous statement, “Et tu, Brute?” which loosely translated means, “With friends like you, who needs enemies?”
I went on to say that our friends count on us and that we should be faithful to our friends; we should not do harm to them but should rather do good to them. I pointed out that Jesus said that people can have no greater love than to lay down their lives for their friends.
I told them that I didn’t know how to relate the binoculars to what I was talking about, except to say that maybe if Caesar had been in possession of a pair, he might have seen his killers coming and avoided the whole scene.
But I hereby confess that while Julius Caesar could not dodge those daggers on that Ides of March, I did dodge a bullet on this one.
When I pulled that dagger and those binoculars out of that sack, the first thought that came to my mind and that almost came out of my mouth was, “You’d better watch out so your friends don’t stab you in the back.”
Had I said that, the Happy Sack might now be as dead as Caesar!
Michael Ruffin is curriculum editor with Smyth & Helwys Publishing in Macon, Georgia.