Readings: 1 Peter 2:19-25; Acts 2:42-47
Story: How should we deal with a bully?
There is no one answer to this question as there are several kinds of bullies, and what helps with one kind makes things worse with another kind . Here is a story I told in January last year.
An old Care Bears story was about a boy named Ben going into Grade 4 and another boy I will call Roland. Ben was excited about going into Grade 4, but also worried. He heard that Roland, who bullied students last year was held back in Grade 4. When class started, he realized his fears had come true: Roland was in Ben’s class. Roland noticed the look on Ben’s face, and that made Ben his number 1 target. Roland bullied Ben to give him his lunch, pushed him around, and scared him everyday after school.
Ben was having trouble sleeping, and noticed a light in his room. It was one of the Care Bears who started talking with him. When Ben described his situation, the Care Bear told him to try to make friends with Roland. Ben refused, and every night the Care Bear visited Ben with the same message, and every day Roland bullied Ben. Finally Ben decided to do as he was told and, when he got to school the next day, went up to Roland with his had extended, asking Roland to be his friend. This shocked Roland, and he backed off for the day.
At the end of the day, he approached Ben and asked him if he really wanted to be his friend. Ben said yes, they shook hands, and started talking as they walked home. Ben heard how Roland had trouble with learning school stuff. Ben offered to help Roland with his homework, and gradually they became good friends.
Jesus asked his followers to serve others, and to look for peaceful ways of resolving problems. When we help others, we learn how strong we are and how much we can do, and this helps us feel more confident about ourselves and to like ourselves. Let us pray: Loving God, thank you for making us strong enough and wise enough to work for caring ways of solving our problems. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Message: Life on This Road
Josh bought a rabbit called Cocopuffs for his children, and for a house pet. The next day, Cocopuffs used his couch for a rest stop. Josh got a book on disciplining rabbits and learned that rabbits will do their best to repeat any action that gets them punished, just to get even. What to do? Being an electrician, he set up a litter box with a nylon mesh screen above a low voltage grid. He hooked up the grid to a device that dropped apple pieces when urine hit the grid. Once the rabbit learned about the food reward every time it used the litter box, it used the litter box all the time, leaving the couch alone.
I learned long ago that people tend to be like rabbits. Jesus calls us to a better way: getting better, not getting even.
Last Sunday I spoke about the new road with Jesus, in contrast to the old road. The reality is that most of us, myself included, live on the new road in some ways and the old road in others. It all depends on what we are prepared to give up, and what is happening in our lives at the time.
The reading from the letter by Peter challenges the readers to be like Christ, to give up their old ways. As an example, they were told to be good to even bad masters. The readers were challenged to look for helpful ways to deal with situations, and treating others as best as they could, regardless of their behaviour.
They were to manage their feelings in ways that improved relationships. This letter was to a community that existed later than the community in Acts. Our reading from Acts paints a picture of a group of people so enthusiastic about their participation in this new movement that they could share everything in harmony. While it becomes clear within a few chapters that this harmony did not last very long, it still points to what we believe life in the empire of God is like and will be like.
Life on the road with Jesus is clearly different, but possible for a community as shown by the Hutterites. It requires taking personal responsibility and commitment.
From our first reading, we are reminded that saying, “The devil made me do it,” does not excuse the decisions and actions we take. When we react harmfully to an event or a situation, we are still responsible for the decision to react in that way. Life on the Road with Jesus calls us to accept or choose or work at growing our capacity to follow him.
We need to nurture our spiritual selves including learning to listen to them as well as including connection time in our daily lives working on the connections we need at the time.
We need to be aware of how we function: what are the patterns for our behaviour? How are those patterns helpful? How are those patterns harmful? How did those patterns develop? How would we like to change them? We need to use metacognition to pay attention to how we think and make decisions
Life on the Road with Jesus means putting relationships ahead of other priorities including our relationships with our bodies, minds and spirits; relationships with others; relationships with creation; and relationship with God.
Important parts of our relationship web are the communities where we live. Our reading from Acts describes a particular community for a short period of time, but it had a key feature important for all communities: one heart. It also had one mind, but that term is open to different interpretations. Having one heart meant they all cared for each other. – everyone had a place of honour. They were of one mind in their determination to serve Jesus and share his good news. A thriving community needs a point of agreement that energizes the community.
Today is traditionally Mother’s Day, a day to celebrate the self-giving love of mothers. It has been borrowed by many churches to also celebrate Christian family. Not all mothers were or are helpful to their children or loving, but the ones who are provide others of some of the experiences they need for living their own lives of self-giving love as followers of Jesus. The stereotypes we hear about mothers this time of year reveal an inner recognition that we can all treat one another better than we often do.
Life on the road with Jesus is one in which we are glad for the love by God and others that we experience, and one in which we persist in trying to be better to reveal that love in the love we give to others.
May the Spirit guide and strengthen each of us for living more loving lives.