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Perks / Of Pens and Principalities

Stories
Contents
“Perks” by C. David McKirachan
“Of Pens and Principalities” by Keith Hewitt


Perks
by C. David McKirachan
1 John 1:1--2:2

The other day I took my computer down to one of the major appliance stores. It had been acting strangely. I blamed it on me. My wife told me to take it to get fixed. We walked over to a counter with a very large sign above it. GEEK SQUAD. I was jealous. I had a lot of experience with Geekdom. All the way through school, and that’s a lot of years, the cool kids had informed me, in a plethora of ways that my category, my species was Geek, and they treated me as such.

Geeks exist with a constant sense of being inadequate. That inadequacy is the source of their exclusion from conversations, parties, dates, and makes them targets for jokes, pranks, and looks that articulate the distance between the looker and the lookie. Distance that could never be bridged.

Geeks, in my experience, never had a squad. We only had the Astronomy Club. I think we never had a squad because we despised ourselves as much as the aristocracy did. We didn’t want to be hanging out with us. We wanted to be hanging out with them. So we were isolated, afraid, alone.

I remember when that began to change. There were so many incremental movements, shifts, moments that brought me to a new place. Volunteering to be the mascot for the football team. Making state choir. Learning how to play the guitar. Joining the fencing team. I began to enjoy my life. I began to value my days. Going to school seemed less of a torture than it had for too long.

It had a side effect. One day when one of the aristocrats started abusing me, in his usual verbal merging to physical manner, laughing the whole time, I stood up to him. It surprised me more than him. It had nothing to do with my prowess, physical or verbal. I got a black eye. But I felt like a million dollars.

I’ve never been to a church that didn’t define itself as ‘warm.’ The litmus I use to determine if such a self-evaluation is correct is the shape of the groups at coffee hour. Are they closed or open? A closed group is just that. A closed group divides itself from the rest of the world. Fellowship is the reason the Christian church happened and grew and became what it did. Fellowship is usually relegated to the back burner, ‘The Tea and Crumpets Committee.’ But fellowship is the beating heart of what we claim to be, ‘The Body of Christ.’ It is not about parties and events. Those are perks, benefits that work in a church with a heartbeat because people find inclusion to be the rule rather than a momentary experience.

There’s a line in the old Worship Book, a prayer for a bride and groom, ‘May these two build a home where no one is a stranger.’ That’s fellowship. Fellowship is a discipline, as intentional as prayer or stewardship.

Our culture is really bad at fellowship. People don’t have conversations anymore, they make entries on their Facebook page, they text, they tweet. We run from job to job without moments for relationships to build. We treat ourselves and others as lonely, unlovable people. Sound familiar?

This scripture says we’re all geeks. We’re all sinners, and if we deny it we’re liars. In our rough and tumble existence there are a million things that would pull us apart and that do. We Christians, if we mean business, need to build a home where no one is a stranger. A place where all are valued and appreciated, not only in principle, not only in rule, not only in language, but in practice, with care, with time, with a willingness to join with others in their loneliness, whether it’s convenient or not.

So where do we get the time and energy to pull off something like that? Center it on the love of the risen Lord. Remember how much he went through for all of us, even for the ones outside the walls we build to remain aristocrats. Because of his love, clear in his cross, we’re all cool kids. Because of him we are the GEEK SQUAD. And we’re working with him to fix a broken world.

I never stopped being a Geek. I enjoyed the Astronomy Club too much.

* * *

Of Pens and Principalities
by Keith Hewitt
Acts 4:32-35

The 12 o'clock news was just ending when the waitress brought over the check and set it on the table with a smile. John Randall caught her eye and smiled as well, and said, “Thanks, Laurie.” He turned it over and scanned it, making sure that everything was correct while world problems segued into The Twist, in the background.

“You know what surprises me?” the man sitting across the booth from him said quietly.

John looked up from what he was doing, raised an eyebrow. “That someone named Chubby Checker has been able to make it big on radio?”

“Please -- I’ve liked Dizzy Gillespie since I was in high school. No, what surprises me is that considering how much Kruschev and his buddies hate God, you’re willing to preach Communism.”

“I what?” Randall’s mind raced, but it was a short track. “Oh, the Acts Four passage. Right. Well, you know, sometimes the lectionary just brings around the things we’re supposed to talk about.”

Randall reached into his inner coat pocket, pulled out his checkbook and laid it on the table, patted his pocket again, then started to pat his other pockets. After a few moments his guest grunted and reached into his own pocket, pulled out a fountain pen and passed it over to Randall.  “Here you go, Reverend.”

 Randall nodded curtly, began writing out a check to cover their lunch bill. “You know,” he said, “I understand why you might think the passage reads that way, but it really isn’t the same thing.”

“Really? ‘No one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they shared everything they had.’ Sound like ‘from each according to their abilities,’ etc.”

“I can see why you might think that, but there’s a difference.” He held out the pen. “Take this pen. Why did you give it to me?”

“I loaned it to you because you needed it.”

“Right. But why did you care?”

The man shrugged.

“The line just before the line you quoted is, ‘All the believers were one in heart and mind,’ which I understand to mean that they all felt for one another -- they could sympathize with each other, put themselves in the others’ shoes. You did that for me because I needed it, and because you sympathized with me on some level.”

“Maybe I just wanted to make sure we got out of here in time for me to get back to the office.”

“Maybe,” Randall admitted with a smile, “but I think you acted automatically because you saw that I had a need, and you could fill it. Here, by the way.” His guest took his pen back, put it into a pocket. “I think that’s what Luke is writing about, here. And it’s what Jesus did, so many times. He saw a need that he could address, and he took care of it. It’s the natural end of a servant way of looking at the world -- just as he did. It’s a world away from being forced to share because you have something someone else needs.”

“Which is what Communism is.”

“Exactly. Or any system of forced redistribution of resources. The disciples didn’t force anyone to share -- it just happened because they cared about each other. They actually learned from Jesus, and you know that Jesus has nothing to do with forcing anyone to do anything -- he can’t even force us to be saved. It’s a choice we make -- that whole free will thing. And he can’t -- or won’t -- force us to share with one another, but he does encourage it. And his followers knew that. It’s what he lived out on the cross.”

The man on the other side of the booth nodded, then, and said, “Maybe you aren’t a Communist, then.”

“Nope -- just someone who’s trying his best to live like Jesus.” Randall hesitated, then shrugged mentally and reached into his inner coat pocket, took out a pen and showed it to his guest. “By the way -- you totally bought into my pen illustration.”

The man sighed. “You tricked me.”

Randall put the pen back and nodded. “Yep. Jesus didn’t say anything about being sneaky, did he?”


*****************************************

StoryShare, April 8, 2018, issue.

Copyright 2017 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to the StoryShare service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons, in worship and classroom settings, in brief devotions, in radio spots, and as newsletter fillers. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to permissions@csspub.com or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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