7/17/05, P9A

... an enemy came...
Matthew 13: 24-30

is name was Butch and he was the class bully. In particular he seemed to dislike the preacher's kid. What was worse was that we rode the same school bus. There and back, every school day, he would kick and pinch and grind my scalp with his knuckles. Rumor had it that his mother was a witch, or at least looked like a witch, but nobody would say that they had actually seen her. They lived in a house down a curving dirt driveway and no one would go near their house. The rumor was that it had no windows. The son of a preacher and the son of a witch were bound to not get along. My Daddy said that I should be nice to Butch and smile and that the rumors about him were probably not true anyway.

Then one afternoon there was the inevitable confrontation on the bus. Butch rubbed the filthy warty backs of his hands on the backs of my hands and said that I would get warts too. Maybe it was psychosomatic, but I did get warts all over the back of both hands. One evening Butch threatened to beat me up the next day on our ride home. I told my big brother Eddie and he said he would handle it. The next day as our big yellow bus approached my stop I saw somebody standing at our mail box. When the bus door opened Eddie stepped onto the bus and asked, “Where is Butch?” None of us could see Butch for a few seconds until one of the girls spotted him hiding under his seat. Eddie looked at Butch and said, “You had better leave Bobby alone!” And he did from then on.

Sometimes we have to deal with the sure and certain enemies, as did Jesus.

Two Sundays ago our Lectionary quoted Jesus saying to all people, “Come unto me!” All of the Butches of the world were invited. Later the Pharisees came to kill him. Last Sunday we heard how “Crowds Came” to hear Jesus' preaching and many had their lives changes, but inevitable some refused. Of course, you have read the rest of the story, or at least have seen Mel Gibson's movie, and you know that in the end the enemies did kill Jesus; however, the end was not the end for Jesus as he was resurrected and still lives. He wants to teach us how to face our adversities and our adversaries. Jesus wins the battle for souls every time one of us chooses to worship Him and to reject the dark side huddled in the black corners awaiting our bus door to open.

In today's world my situation with the bully would be handled differently. One call to the Assistant Principal in charge of discipline would have gotten the school counselor involved who would have made a home visit and suddenly Butch's mother would have died her hair blond and started wearing pastels. Seriously, we have improved the system. In rural counties high school juniors and seniors no longer drive the big school busses. The best thing is that parents have been included in the process of their child's education and have learned to be more involved in their child's school experiences, just as they are involved in everything else their young children do. Bullies have been taken seriously and most have been helped. There are specialists in school counseling now who have expertise and understanding of why bullies do what they do. Schools have become involved in children's home life too. We know that kids do not live in two different worlds, but one. Perhaps today there would have been something better than prison. Hopefully, we know more about leading a bully to change his/her behavior.

Marilyn attended a continuing education workshop for Licensed Professional Counselors last week at Peachford Hospital and an expert on the subject shared that bullies act out from a superiority complex, not and inferiority image as was formerly assumed. In other words they have a real sense of evil in that they feel no remorse whenever they hurt someone else. Indeed, their superior sense of great worth is heightened, in their minds, by bullying someone else.

Also, the Harry Potter books have provided and avenue through which families can discuss the reality of good and evil more openly. Kids love these books and movies and they have provided a doorway to engage others with Biblical understanding of the world and also, the gospel. Potter is not as direct as in C. S. Lewis' beloved “Tales of Narnia,” where the Lion King Aslan willingly sacrifices his life to save the lives of the lost children. This universally recognized noble act has drawn children to appreciate valor and noble Christian love for others. In “ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ,” Harry is called “the boy who lived” because he survived an attempt by the evil witch Voltermort to kill him. He survived because of his mother's willingness to sacrifice her own life that enabled Harry to live. It would be an easy step to point out to children that this willingness to sacrifice one's life, as in the Potter characters, is in the real world incarnated in the vicarious passion of Jesus Christ.

In Francis Schaffer's language, “Jesus Christ lived in space and time, performed the supreme act of sacrificial love by willingly dying in the place of guilty sinners.” Whereas Harry Potter's mother's sacrifice only demonstrated love for her son; Jesus' sacrifice saves all who will allow Him into their hearts.

There is a sense in which, through the death of any saint, there is a vicarious experience in that their dying is an example of the victory that one has through Jesus Christ. Indeed, their triumphal achievement displays to the world the exact opposite of what is seen in those that would be enemies of Jesus Christ.

Five of my Dad's preacher buddies were killed in the crash of a private airplane. All were victorious believers who had impacted my life. They were men that many respected. They were my role models. There has always been in my heart the feeling that they died as an example for many, for in their dying many young people found a deeper dimension to life. What greater love than to live one's life for Him!

And I also got rid of the warts. Eddie said that they would go away and they did.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
7/17/05, P9A