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Posts Tagged ‘high school’

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Every generation has a defining moment.  Everybody has days that will foever be ingrained in their memory.  While there are have been a number of those moments and days in my own life, there are few that I remember with such emotional clarity as April 20, 1999.

It was on this day 10 years ago that news quickly spread across the country of the horrific events at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.  Two armed students entered the school, opening fire and tossing homemade bombs killing 12 students and a teacher and then turning their guns on themselves.

I remember coming home from school that day (I was in 8th grade, which in my district is included at the high school) and being glued to the coverage on CNN.  Fear, grief and uncertainty overcame me as I watched the continuing reports.  There are images (like the one above) that will be forever ingrained in my memory from that day.  Students running for their lives out the door of their high school, a place that up until that point had always seemed to be a “safe” place.  No high school would ever again be considered “safe.”

Even more than the media coverage, though, I was shaken to the core by the stories that began emerging regarding the supposed martyrdom of Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall.  I had heard ancient stories of people who had been killed for their faith, but the emerging stories (whether fully true or not) of these girls being questioned about their faith in God or being targeted in the shooting for their Christian faith made such martyrdom a reality.  These girls were just like me – typical American teenagers who happened to be actively involved in their churches – and in an instant they were gone.

In light of this year’s 10th anniversary of the shooting, I have been re-reading some of the books on my shelf about the stories of these two girls: Rachel’s Tears and She Said Yes.  I first read these books in high school, and re-reading them has allowed me to revisit some of the emotions and challenges that I faced as a high schooler dealing with the nation wide impact of the events at Columbine.

Now, 10 years later, I choose to remember: not the violence and tragedy of that day, but rather the hope that I have seen rising up as a result.  The events that took place on April 20, 1999 will forever be etched on our minds and hearts – may we rise to the challenges, remember the lost, and embrace the hope of healing.

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For those of you who weren’t able to be there, here’s the manuscript from the sermon I preached on Sunday, December 28th:

For almost a year now the desktop wallpaper on my computer has read: “I want to change the world” in nice big, bold letters.  That’s a bold statement: “I want to change the world.” When I think of world-changers, a number of names come to mind: Erin Satterlee is not one of them.  I think of people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Mother Theresa.  I’m sure we could all create a list of names of people who have changed the world in great ways.  If we go back even further, we can find accounts of people throughout the Bible who changed the world–Elijah the prophet, John the Baptist, Paul the evangelist and missionary, and of course Jesus Christ, a man who, being God, changed the world more than any man in the course of history.  So, who are these people–these “world changers”?  Where do they come from?  What are their stories?  Who are the folks who change the folks who change the world?

In April 1885, a Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimble was just doing what he normally did.  He would go around neighborhoods and talk to them about Jesus.  He went into a shoe store one day and shared the gospel with Dwight L Moody, who obviously grew to become a great evangelist.  But it didn’t stop there.  In the 1800’s, Moody personally discipled J Wilbur Chapman, a great evangelist of his time, who discipled Billy Sunday who evangelized to more people during the 1900’s than anybody up to that point in history.  Then, in 1924, Billy Sunday evangelized to a group of business men, who decided to hold events in Charlotte, NC, that would host Mortiki Ham, who in 1934 would be a witness to a young man by the name of Billy Graham!  But if you do an internet search for the name Edward Kimble, he’s nowhere!  The only place this guy is found is in the story of Billy Graham, and yet he was the spiritual torch carrier for the salvation of millions of lives (Johnson Bowie).

We all know the stories of Moses, Noah, Paul and others who were the “world changers” of their day, but what about those people in the Bible who only appear once, in a single verse or paragraph?  Is there any significance to the “Edward Kimbles” of the Bible?

The gospel accounts found in the Bible give very little information about Jesus’ life between the time he was born and the time he began his ministry.  Today’s snapshot from Luke’s gospel is one of only two glimpses we have into what life was like for Jesus during his youth.  In fact, Luke is the only gospel writer that gives any account of Jesus’ childhood at all, and it is in this brief passage of scripture that we encounter Simeon and the prophetess Anna in the Lord’s temple.

Luke says that Simeon was a “just and devout man.”  God had revealed to Simeon through the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  It is in today’s gospel lesson that this promise from God is fulfilled, and Simeon, recognizing this fulfillment, praises God and speaks of the redemption that will ultimately come about through Jesus’ life.  He speaks truth and affirmation into the life of the boy Jesus.

The second encounter in today’s gospel text is with the prophetess Anna.  At 84 years old, Anna is described as a faithful woman who has spent many years of her life fasting and praying in the temple.  When Mary and Joseph enter to present the baby Jesus in the temple, Anna sees something in him that causes her, like Simeon to break out in praise to God.  She then speaks about the child to all who are looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  She, like Simeon, speaks truth and affirmation into the life of the boy Jesus.

And then, it seems as though Luke hits the fast-forward button in his account of Jesus’ life.  He writes, “and the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”

So, is that it?  Nearly three decades of Jesus’ life pass between his birth and the start of his ministry and all we have to read about it are these two brief encounters in the temple.  Not only that, but this is the only place in the entire gospel narrative in which either Simeon or Anna are mentioned.  This is their role in the life of Christ, and apparently it’s enough.  And not only is it enough, but it’s significant enough to be the only event in Jesus’ childhood that is recorded in scripture.

What, then, can we draw from this passage?  There are two main points from the story of Simeon and Anna with Jesus in the temple that I’d like us to focus on:  First, each of these people spoke truth and affirmation into the life of a young Jesus, revealing his significance early on in his life.  Second, it seems that these two brief encounters are what propel Jesus to grow and become strong with the Grace of God upon him.

So, what does this have to do with being a “world changer”?  What do Jesus in the temple, Simeon and Anna have to do with you and me?  The story of Simeon and Anna in today’s gospel lesson reminds me of the affirmation from people and from God that has spurred growth in my own faith and ministry.

See, God has perfectly orchestrated a series of people in my own life who have affirmed and encouraged me in my calling to youth ministry.  Just this week, in the midst of my preparation for today’s sermon I was reminded of Ernie, a man from my church growing up who constantly encouraged me and nurtured me in my walk with God.  Whether it was a simple hug or handshake on Sunday morning or a challenge to try something new, Ernie constantly pushed me and encouraged me to grow stronger in my faith as a follower of Christ.  Through his faithfulness to the church and the truth and affirmation he spoke into my life, he left an impact that has lasted far beyond his death on Christmas Eve in 1998.  He may not have been Billy Graham, but he was certainly one of many who have been like Simeon and Anna in my life.

The truth and affirmation that Ernie and other significant adults spoke into my life during my youth and childhood has served as a constant and faithful companion to God’s call on my life to minister to young people in the church.  I can recall at a young age feeling that God had some sort of “special purpose” for my life.  During my early teenage years I can remember knowing with some level of certainty that God was calling me into some sort of ministry, specifically with young people.  This often led me into confusion since I was raised in a church that had very little visible evidence of “traditional” youth ministry – so I often felt as though the only true confirmation I had in my sense of calling came from the affirmation of significant adults who supported me and encouraged me along that path – the Simeons and Annas in my own life.  During high school and my freshman year of college I passively avoided answering God’s call to ministry by pursuing other vocations – I tried my hand at marketing, teaching and even web site design.  It wasn’t until I began working as a counselor at Camp Mowana that I began to answer God’s call to ministry.  In the years since then, the affirmation and truth spoken into my life by Godly men and women has grown increasingly important in my understanding and answering of God’s call.  Just as Jesus had people speaking truth and affirmation into his life during his youth, my own life and ministry have been greatly influenced by the truth and affirmation spoken to me by the Simeons and Annas in my own life.

When it comes down to us, each of us has been created, with our own talents and calling to fulfill our purpose in Christ.  That purpose comes in a variety of forms: teaching Sunday School, managing a business, working in a factory, or serving as a minister – our own “ministries” can manifest themselves in a variety of different ways.  So, maybe God isn’t calling you or I to be the next Paul or billy Graham, but I believe that he is calling us all to be world changers.  Perhaps you will be the Simeon, or the Anna or the Edward Kimble in the life of someone else.  So, next time you’re asking yourself those haunting questions: What am I doing in life?  How can I contribute to the Kingdom of God? be reminded that Jesus, who changed the world more than any other person is alive in you!  To God, it doesn’t matter what we achieve on our own or apart from him.  The truth is, “the folks who change the folks who change the world are still changing the world!”  So, maybe that nice big “I want to change the world” on my computer’s desktop isn’t such a bold statement after all.  Amen.

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