May 8, 2011

Acts 2:14-41           Mother’s Day                    May 8, 2011
I was in 7th grade, and I had a friend I’ll call James who was in my class.  He was one of the bigger kids in my class, and rose to the top of our Junior high pecking order without too much trouble.

There was another kid who went to our junior high school back then.  He was older than us; maybe in 9th grade, maybe 8th (I wasn’t really keeping track).  I’ll call him Bob, and he was like Jame’s counterpart among the older kids.

James and Bob were the tough guys in our school that year.  I’ll call James my friend, but really he was more of an acquaintance; I didn’t really know him well.

What I mean is, he was a kid who was good to keep on your good side, you know?  As long as he was around, you wouldn’t get picked on (unless it was by him).

Bob, on the other hand, was the kind of kid I tried to avoid.  He never really picked on me, but I just didn’t like him.  He picked on other people, so if I’d see him in the hall, I’d sometimes try to go down a different hall, or just stay out of his way.

Bob and James had it in for each other.  Maybe they were both just a little too tough for their own good.  Maybe our Junior High wasn’t really big enough for the both of them, or maybe they were both just struggling with Junior High hormones and needed to work out their aggression on each other, I don’t know.

Anyway, they got into multiple fights throughout the year, back before ‘zero tolerance’ was a term anyone had thought of.

Things escalated between James and Bob all year until the tension mounted to a fever pitch.  Their differences could no longer be handled in the confines of the school, so they arranged a final showdown off of school grounds, so no teachers would break up the fight.

They set it up for after school one day towards the end of the year, just a week or two before Summer break.  It was going to happen at the park in my home town, at 4:00 at the Tornado slide (which was by far the coolest piece of playground equipment our park had to offer!)

Finally this thing would be settled once and for all.  There would be no weapons; the two of them were just going to slug it out until…I’m not sure what anyone expected to happen.

But maybe you can imagine the stir the news caused among us 7th, 8th, and 9th graders as the end of the year approached and we were chomping at the bits to spend more time outside and less time in school anyway.

I’ll just speak for myself; I formed a kind of tunnel vision.  This was going to be an epic battle between good and evil, and I didn’t want to miss it for the world!  The fight was all I could think of for the rest of that day.  I tuned out my teachers, I didn’t pay attention to my reading…all I could think about was the fight and how I was going to get there after school without my parents finding out.

So many wrongs would be set right… if my guy won the fight.

That’s how tunnel vision makes you view the world.

Bob was symbolic of all that was wrong in my junior high world.

I was eager to see him meet his match.

Nothing else was that important.
You might disagree with me, but I’m starting to think that behind all the rhetoric and political posturing that happens on the global scene today, really we’re all just like Junior High kids with more power, more money, and more sophisticated weapons.
We wander the hallways of this world, just trying to keep our heads above water…hoping for promotions, raises, nicer things and protection by our strongest friends.
Like kids in Junior high, we hope the biggest kid will always be on our side.  Like my friend James…or for the Israelites, it was King David.  He was the ultimate guy to have on your side.

See, King David was kind of like the biggest, strongest kid on the block in the eyes of Israel.  The people sang his praises because having his protection was kind of like having the very protection of God Himself.

You just couldn’t find a bigger, stronger friend to have in your corner than David!

In this junior-high world, who else would you put your trust in?

But Peter told the disciples in Acts what I’m repeating this morning; that even David died and was buried and his tomb is still doing it’s job!  David did not ascend into the heavens.

The best king in history; is still just a king!

Jesus did!  And he’s the only way out of this Junior-high, tit-for-tat, survival of the fittest world we live in!  He took apart our right to revenge as he endured the cross and absorbed his pain with no retaliation against his physical attackers.

David is dead!

Jesus isn’t!

God made Him Lord and Messiah, not just for the world back then, but for all people throughout all time!  Like Peter says “The promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

It’s like this; that day by the tornado slide, there was a winner and a loser.

Whenever David went to battle, there was at least one winner and one loser.

Earlier this week, at a compound in Pakistan, there was a winning side and a losing side in a fire fight in the ongoing tragedy that is the war on terror.

In countless fights and wars over the past 2,000 years, there have been countless winners and countless losers…but the one thing all the winners have in common is the need to fight again, you know?

Violence, fear, and intimidation breed violence, fear, and intimidation.

But thanks be to God, Jesus leads the way out of that vicious cycle!  All we have to do is follow him (which I know is a lot easier said than done)!  It takes patience, devotion, and sacrifice, day after day!

But the reward is worth it; not just on the other side of this life, but right here and now!  As we turn towards Jesus as Lord, the fights we yearn to see lose their attraction.

As we follow Jesus, we begin to see that the only real victory our world needs is the victory over violence, fear, and sin; that is, the victory that Christ won on the cross for all time and forever.

Now, since today is mother’s day, it would be fitting if I had some kind of story about how my mom intervened that day and stopped me from going to the fight, but I don’t.

I didn’t make it to the fight, but it wasn’t because of my mom.  It’s not that I didn’t have time, in fact I had plenty of time, a bike in good working order, and every intention of going to the park when I got off the bus that afternoon and walked the short distance home.

I rushed around to do the few things I was expected to do after school so my absence wouldn’t be missed, but then as I was literally heading out of our driveway, I saw a stray puppy walking towards me, up across our garden towards our garage where I was standing with my bike.

I had a little bit of time to spare, so I gave it some food and played with it a little bit, but I was conflicted.  I spent a few minutes seeing if it would leave, but it seemed pretty content to just hang around.

I eventually pedalled away, but this dog kept trying to follow me.

I couldn’t stand the thought of leading the poor thing into traffic where it could get hit or maimed, so I stayed home playing with our ‘new’ puppy instead of going to the fight (which I found out later was over in a matter of seconds).

I chose to play instead of participating in the spectacle of violence between two tough guys.  As far as Mother’s day wisdom, I guess you could say my mama raised me right!

See, God is like a wise mother, who sets the choice before her children knowing that in the end it’s their decisions that will make the difference between life and death, not her forcing their hand.

I made a good choice that day that I was incapable of making at the time.  So my upbringing, my concern for this dog made it for me.

I think God ordained that moment, providing a way out of the vicious cycle without my really getting the point.

That’s how God works.

He draws us near and expands our vision using whatever He can, but it will always be our choice.  God’s ways look more like a kid playing with a puppy than two tough guys slugging it out.

King David is dead, but Jesus isn’t.  And the invitation is still there for everyone with ears to hear.

So save yourselves from this corrupt generation that thrives on bloodshed and violence.  As Paul writes to the Ephesians, “put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Amen

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