The Little Girl
Text: Matthew 19:13-15; 28:16-20
Rev. Garry E. McCaffery
When looking at all the things going on in this world, especially many of the events that have happened recently, do you ever find yourself asking, “where is Jesus in all of this?” “Where is God and why isn’t He doing something about this?” These tend to be fairly common questions asked by people of many walks of life. Even within the church there are times we ask these questions. And we get frustrated because it seems there is no response. Where is Jesus? We want to know.
When we reflect on our lives and look at the many events we have experienced, wherein it feels like we’ve been walking alone, we wonder about the presence of Christ. As I reflect on my own journey there are times I’ve wondered, “where are you in this, Lord?” Maybe you’ve been walking through a time in your life now where you find yourself asking that.
We have been in Covid restriction mode for nearly a year now. We are in our 51st week of the 2 weeks to flatten the curve. We have decisions being considered or made that could have dramatic impacts on our lives. We know of people who are hurting due to job loss, homelessness, divorce, anxiety, fear, cancer, and a myriad of other things.
It is no secret that heartache, hurt, and tragedy surround us in this world. For many the darkness can be overwhelming. Is there any hope or are we left to face all of these things alone? Where is Jesus in all of this?
Many years ago I heard a song on the radio that touched my heart deeply as I listened to it. The lyrics brought a depth of emotion that I didn’t expect because it told a story that is very tragic; yet provides an answer to the question we are considering. Mind you, I haven’t thought about this song in a long time, and I was reminded of it when Nate asked me if it was something I could use in a sermon. The song is titled, “The Little Girl” and was written by Harley Allen and recorded by John Michael Montgomery, a country music artist, on August 29, 2000.
In a moment I’m going to share with you the lyrics and I want you to pay close attention to them. Mind you, the story is likely to evoke emotion. Like most stories it can hit close to home, close to home in the sense there are so many in our world, and in the community surrounding us, who do not have a relationship with Christ. They are lost and hurting with a deep sense of angst and hopelessness.
Here is the story of the little girl…
The Little Girl
Song by John Michael Montgomery
Her parents never took the young girl to church
Never spoke of his name, never read her his word
Two non-believers walking lost in this world
Took their baby with them, what a sad little girl
Her daddy drank all day and mommy did drugs
Never wanted to play or give kisses and hugs
She'd watched the TV and sat there on the couch
While her mom fell asleep and her daddy went out
And the drinking and the fighting
Just got worse every night
Behind their couch she'd be hiding
Oh what a sad little life ...
And like it always does the bad just got worse
With every slap and every curse
Until her daddy in a drunk rage one night
Used a gun on her mom and then took his life
By this point in the song my heart had broken completely. How tragic and awful this would be. How sad that this song speaks to a reality that some children experience. How sad that this song speaks to a reality experienced by some men and women who are in that kind of abusive relationship. How tragic that these things can be going on around us and we live as though it doesn’t happen. We’d rather close our eyes and ears and pretend our world could not possibly be as bad as it is. Yet, these are the life events that go on each day and break our hearts when we hear about them. We cry out in the midst of them, “Jesus, where are you?”
Let’s continue with the song lyrics and see if we discover the answer…after the tragic death of the little girls parents we hear…
And some people from the city took the girl far away
To a new mom and a new dad
Kisses and hugs every day ...
Her first day at Sunday school
The teacher walked in
And a small little girl stared at a picture of Him
She said I know that man, up there on that cross
I don't know His name, but I know he got off
'Cause He was there in my old house
And held me close to His side
As I hid there behind our couch the night my parents died.
This is where the song ends. Did you hear it? Where is Jesus? Not distant. Not far removed. Not just some religious figure that people talk about on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights. No, Jesus is close by. Not just close like, he’s in the house somewhere. Not just close as in the same room. But close, as in holding the little girl, surrounding her with his presence.
The little girl in this song, although not taught about Jesus in any way through the beginning stages of her life, recognized him as the one who was present with her in the most tragic moment of her life. In the most frightening experience imaginable, Jesus was there.
Even in the time prior to the horrible event of her parent’s death, Jesus was present. Even before we recognize God’s presence in our own life He is still there, surrounding us, loving us, and working within us. As I mentioned last week, this is prevenient grace. God’s grace surrounding us before we are even aware of it. This is a grace we all walk in, including the non-believer.
We also see Jesus present with the little girl when she’s adopted by a new mom and dad who lavish love upon a child who has never known that kind of love. Kisses and hugs, affection. Along with that, parents who love the Lord and want to introduce her to God’s love. They bring her to church, to Sunday School. Yes, the place where she recognizes the one who is no longer on the cross, because he was present with her.
This song evokes our emotion because it connects us to places in our own life where there is pain and suffering. It also connects us to One who is with us in the midst of our pain and suffering. It encourages us to open our eyes and see once again the truth. The truth of Jesus’ resurrection and the truth of what Jesus has told us in His word.
When we feel as though we are lost and alone in the darkness and we don’t know how we’re going to go on we need to ask the Holy Spirit to remind us that Jesus is no longer on the cross. Jesus is no longer in the grave. Jesus has been raised from the dead and has triumphed over death! Nothing can stop Him or His power from reaching us!
Also, when we feel as though we are lost and alone in the darkness we need to ask the Holy Spirit to remind us of Jesus’ promise. Do you remember what it is? We heard it read this morning. Right at the very end of the gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, the latter half of verse 20, “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Yes, this promise came right after he gave the disciples the great commission. It wasn’t a promise that was limited to his disciples. It isn’t a promise limited in terms of his being with us only when we share the gospel. It is Jesus’ promise to be with us always, forever, in all circumstances whether good or bad.
In Hebrews 13:5 we are reminded that Jesus promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Even in the Old Testament God encourages us to be strong and courageous because He would be with us wherever we go.
Yes, in life we have difficulties we face, many things that frighten us and cause us anxiety, things which stretch our faith to its outer limits. And where is Jesus when these things are happening? Jesus is right here with us. Jesus is wrapping his arms around us and holding us close as we live through these events. He is holding us as we tremble and cry and hurt. He is holding us close because He loves us and cares about us. He is holding us close because he promised to always be with us and never leave us.
Jesus is present with us, right now, in this place and in the homes of all who have joined with us this morning. In a few moments we are going to be celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion. As we do so, it is a time for us to remember what Jesus did on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins. It is also a time to remember that He is present in a special way in the elements of bread and juice that we partake. This is an opportunity for us to become more aware of Christ’s presence, to open our eyes to the reality that we are not alone in our heartache and hurt. We are not alone in our joys and celebrations. In all things, in all areas of our lives, Christ is present.
We know that man who was up on that cross, we know His name, and we know he came down off the cross, and we know He lives. Where is Jesus? Jesus says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.