In a little book entitled, Living The Easter Faith, Donald Dotterer tells a story that reminded me a bit of the Easter morning homily that I preached this past April. I found it to be a wonderful story of hope and new life. I trust you will too.
There once was a schoolteacher who was assigned to visit children in a large city hospital who received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. The teacher took the boy’s name and room number, and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line: We’re studying nouns and adverbs in this class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework, so he doesn’t fall behind the others. It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized that it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain.
The teacher felt that she couldn’t just turn around and walk out. And so she stammered awkwardly, I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs. This boy was in so much pain that he barely responded. The young teacher stumbled through his English lesson, ashamed at putting him through such a senseless exercise.
The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her: What did you do to that boy? Before the teacher could finish her outburst of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him. But ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back; he’s responding to treatment. It’s as if he has decided to live. The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw the teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears, the boy said: They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a boy who was dying, would they?
This is a wonderful Pentecost story because it is a story of hope – a hope that leads to resurrection. You see this story invites us to celebrate the gift of life even when all we seem to see around us is pain and disappointment and brokenness. It shows us that on the other side of pain, there is resurrection. It reminds us of what is possible whenever there is hope. And hope is after all, at the center of the Pentecost story.
Like the little boy in the story I just shared, those first apostles had given up hope. Even after the resurrection appearances by Jesus they were still found huddled together in an upper room frightened and despairing. The story of Pentecost is a story about a feeling that this frightened band came to experience, a fire and Spirit within them that told them that God wasn’t finished with them yet. Pentecost is basically a story about God believing in frightened and broken people even when they couldn’t believe in themselves – a belief that gave them hope – a hope that lead to resurrection.
As Christians who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, aren’t we called to believe in people the way that God believes? Are we not called to be proclaimers of hope to people who have given up hope? Are we not called to be bearers of resurrection? Every day you and I meet co-workers, family and friends who are down and out – living in grief or fear, sad or depressed. Somehow, some way we have to find a way to tell them that we believe in them even when they have ceased believing in themselves. We must believe in others the way God believes in us! And there will be times when our children or grandchildren have experienced failure and want to quit and give up. Somehow, some way we must let them know that God isn’t finished with them yet. We must remind them that failure need not define us and our character is measured by our ability to get back up and begin again. We must be proclaimers of hope the way God proclaims hope! And finally, every day we have the opportunity to influence those around us by our attitudes and words and actions. We can face every day with toxic attitudes and negative words and lethargic actions or we can choose to live with joy and a positive outlook and steep our actions in energy and life. We must be bearers of resurrection the way God brings resurrection.
In this season of new life, this time of Pentecost let us re-commit ourselves to being people of hope – a hope that leads to resurrection.