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SIMON BIRCH: A PURPOSE IN LIFE
How many of you remember a movie by the name of Simon Birch that came out in 1998?
It tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy named Simon Birch who, despite his physical disabilities, believes that God has a plan for his life. "Simon was born tiny and with an abnormally small heart. He was expected to die within the first twenty-four hours of his life. He surprises everyone, though, when he lives to be an adolescent.
"A disappointment to his parents and the target of many childhood pranks because of his miniature size and odd-sounding voice, Simon has every reason to question his self-worth and purpose for living. But he embraces his condition and believes that God will use him in a unique, possibly even heroic, way.
"Joe, Simon's best friend, doesn't believe in God, and he is not the only one who doubts that God has a plan for Simon. Simon's schoolmates mock him relentlessly, believing his assertions to be one more indication of his strangeness. On one occasion his Sunday school teacher hurriedly tries to hush him so he won't 'frighten' the other children with his musings.
"The small town's forlorn minister also doubts that God could have a plan for small Simon Birch. In a poignant conversation between Simon and the minister, Simon asks, 'Does God have a plan for us?'
"The minister hesitantly replies, 'I'd like to think he does.'
"Simon enthusiastically says, 'Me too. I think God made me the way I am for a reason.'
"The minister coolly states, 'I'm glad that, um, that your faith, uh, helps you deal with your, um, you know, your condition.'
"'That's not what I mean,' Simon states. 'I think I'm God's instrument. He's going to use me to carry out his plan.'
"Dumbfounded by Simon's confidence, the pastor says, 'It's wonderful to have faith, son, but let's not overdo it.' With that he waves for Simon to leave, shakes his head in disbelief, and whispers with an air of cynicism, 'God's instrument.'
"A short time later Simon is riding with his classmates in a school bus traveling down an icy road. Suddenly the bus driver veers to avoid a deer, loses control, and the bus plunges into an icy lake. Everyone in the front of the upright bus quickly evacuates out the door, but Simon and a handful of other students in the back of the bus are trapped as the bus begins to sink.
"Simon takes charge. He opens a window and commands his classmates to climb out. Last of all, Simon escapes through the window.
"In the hospital following the accident, Joe assures Simon that all the kids are all right. Simon asks, 'Did you see how the children listened to me because of the way I looked?'
"Joe, with tears in his eyes, replies, 'Yeah.'
"With satisfaction, Simon says, 'That window was just my size.'
"'Extra small,' Joe utters with a smile.
"A few seconds later, Simon dies, knowing that God used him. But what Simon doesn't know before he dies is that because of his unwavering faith, his friend Joe now believes in God.
"Some twenty years later, standing at Simon's gravestone, Joe says, 'I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice, not because of his voice or because he was the smallest person I ever met... but because he is the reason I believe in God. What faith I have, I owe to Simon Birch -- it is Simon who made me a believer'"
(Craig Brian Larson & Andre Zahn, Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003), 160-161. From a sermon by Eric Lenhart, Sunday -- "Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem" 8/13/2010)
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The Triumphal Entry represents Jesus' offer to be our King and Saviour both as a nation and individually. The response is mixed. Our nation barely recognizes Christianity as a viable choice and in its efforts to be inclusive has all but denounced Christianity as an option. Sure there are politicians and leaders who are Christians and on a personal level carefully admit so. But as a recognized official, national position, Christianity doesn't appear to be among the top five. Every national initiative issues in the Native American spiritual belief system while rejecting Christian's rights to be heard.
Rob Parker, a representative of Ottawa's National House of Prayer, was cited in an article by Meghan Wood at the time 9-11. I quote, "Parker said he realized Canada was 'becoming godless' when the thousands of Canadians who gathered in a show of solidarity on Parliament Hill following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were not allowed to use the name 'God' or 'Jesus Christ' in their prayers."
JUST TO BE NOTICED
Every spring, hundreds of Hollywood “stars” gather for the Academy Awards. Very few “slip in the back door:” instead, they make an entrance. They walk down the long red carpet, smiling at the cameras and waving to the people in the stands (who, by the way, all had to apply and go through extensive background checks), showing off their clothing (and undoubtedly a bit more), chatting with the reporters. Some will go to great, great lengths just to be noticed.
Contrast that with Jesus: to the man healed of leprosy in Matt. 8, He said: “See that you don’t tell anyone.” To the two blind men He healed in Matt. 9, He, “warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’” And in Mark 1, a demon possessed man in Capernaum yelled out “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”, to which Jesus replied “Be quiet!”
Jesus often chose not to be in the limelight. In fact, most of Jesus ministry happened outside of the capital city of Jerusalem, away from the big pomp and ceremony of the Temple, in small towns and villages along the way.
Until today. Until the e...
The triumphal entry has about it an aura of ambivalence, and as I read all the accounts together, what stands out to me now is the slapstick nature of the affair. I imagine a Roman officer galloping up to check on the disturbance. He has attended processions in Rome, where they do it right. The conquering general sits in a chariot of gold, with stallions straining at the reins and wheel spikes flashing in the sunlight. Behind him officers in polished armor display banners captured from vanquished armies. At the rear comes a ragtag procession of slaves and prisoners in chains, living proof of what happens to those who defy Rome.
In Jesus’ triumphal entry, the adoring crowd makes up the ragtag procession: the lame, the blind, the children, the peasants from Galilee and Bethany. When the officer looks for the object ...
FROM CROWD TO MOB
Have you ever seen a mob on TV or movies? They are dangerous, and can become murderous in an instant.
People in mobs are like cattle before a stampede. Ever see that? In the movie Red River, John Wayne and his men are moving cattle along the Chisolm trail, and the cattle are spooked by howling coyotes and such.
Then one of the men, trying to get some sugar, knocks down all the pans off the chuckwagon, and the cattle stampede, killing one of the wranglers watching over them.
Just before they stampeded, the cattle were tense, and the men knew it wouldn’t take much to set them off.
Mobs are like that.
They’re tense, waiting for the slightest provocation to begin destroying whatever and whoever they want.
A crowd might be defined as a “pre-mob” bunch. They may never turn into a mob, but...