First Congregational Church UCC
220 West Lyon Avenue
Lake City, Minnesota 55041
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 SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2022
 
Good Morning!  

Kids like toys.  
  
Kids don't like toys.

Kids are hard to please.

So are adults.

Jesus tells a story about kids.

But it's the adults he's talking to.

Jesus wants us to behave better.


-Pastor David
 

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First Congregational Church UCC
114 North Oak Street
Lake City, MN  55041
Here Is Today's Message

"The Parable Of Batman On A Stick"
A message from
Rev. David S. Badgley

 June 26, 2022

     Today at 2 p.m. the 50th annual Water Ski Days parade will be held in Lake City.  
     The parade takes place each year on the last full weekend of June, when Lake City celebrates its title as the birthplace of water skiing.
     The parade typically lasts about 2 hours, including the usual lag times between parade units, which I think adds up to about 15 minutes of looking at an empty street. 
     But that’s when the really seasoned parade goer will watch people.
     That’s what I was doing one year as I sat along the boulevard of High Street with hundreds of other spectators.  
     I was observing a family that was sitting just a few chairs away from me. The parents were with their two boys who looked to be about 6 to 9 years of age.  The four of them were sitting in those folding beach chairs that are low to ground.
     During one of the breaks in the parade when we were all looking at an empty street, one of those street vendors came our way.   
     He was pushing his shopping cart full of the usual carnival novelties like plastic inflatable cartoon characters, and plastic swords and plastic guns and plastic things.  
     It’s an assortment of junky toys but because the stuff is being pushed around in a shopping cart in the parade, and because it’s being sold by a street vendor during Water Ski Days, and because the aroma of plastic toys being heated by the outdoor sun makes children hallucinate, the junk takes on magical quality.  
     It also takes on a magical price.  Six dollars was the price for an inflatable character on a stick.
     The vendor walked down the street directly in front of the crowds who were sitting on the curb.  The two boys asked their Dad if they could have something from the cart.  The Dad told them, “No.”  
     The vendor man must know child behavior because just a while later he circled back a second time.  Faced with temptation again, the boys made the same request to buy something from the cart.  
     Dad, who was well trained in parenting skills and knew the value of being consistent with his children said, “Okay.”
     The two boys each picked out an inflatable character on a stick.  One was Batman and the other was a cartoon character from a video game.  
     I am not exaggerating when I tell you that no more than 20 seconds passed, and Batman was jammed on the ground underneath mom’s chair where he wouldn’t blow away.  
     The kid was pleased with the new toy for a grand total of 20 seconds!  At $6.00, that’s 30 cents a second.  
     The kids watched the parade for a few minutes.  Then the kid looked at Batman but he didn’t want to play with Batman. He wanted to play with the stick attached to Batman.  
     So, Dad removed the thin 18” long dowel and the boy started to whip the stick through the air in similar fashion to a Star Wars light saber.  The boy was up on the sidewalk, and in the grass, fighting off imaginary foes.  
     Poor Batman was motionless and stick-less on the ground under mom’s chair.   
     For a while, I didn’t pay attention to the family. But the next time I looked in their direction, Dad apparently had made another transaction with a vendor man. 
     Since son only had been playing with the stick, Dad and son had traded the boy’s inflatable Batman and stick for a plastic sword.  
     When the brother showed surprise at the new toy, the boy proudly bragged about the trade.    
   
     It wasn’t long after that when Dad and Mom had a discussion.  Dad turned to Mom (a little late in the game, I think) and he asked her, “Are you upset with me for doing that?”  
     By “that” I think he was referring to the whole toy story.  
     Mom answered in an irritated tone. “Well, I wish you would consult me before you do these things.” 
     Kids are fickle.  They need to have a new toy.  Twenty seconds later they don’t want it anymore.  They want something new, which may be 180 degrees from what they wanted in the first place.  
     I think that parents want to have faith in their children.  They want to believe that their children really know what it is they want and won’t change their minds.  But experience proves repeatedly that children are not like that.  
     “I didn’t want a Batman.  I wanted a sword.”  “No, you said you wanted a Batman.  You even picked it out.”  “Well, I want a sword now.”  
     Kids like to spin around.  They like the feeling of vertigo it gives them and their parents.  Adults don’t appreciate feeling dizzy with demands.
     Even as I describe the behavior of children, you and I know plenty of adults who act like that.  Even the dad went 180 degrees from first saying, “No” and then saying, “Yes,” and then negotiating a trade to appease his son’s displeasure.  
     Sometimes, like children, we adults aren’t exactly sure what it is that pleases us.  We say we want one thing and when we get it we claim that we want just the opposite. 
     This human behavior has been going on for thousands of years, and Jesus addresses it back in about the year 30.  
     In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is talking to adults and rhetorically asks, “With what can I compare this generation?”  Then he gives his answer, “It is like children sitting at the parade and saying, ‘Can I have a toy?  I want a Batman.  No, I don’t want this toy, anymore.  I want a sword.”  
     Jesus doesn’t say it in exactly those terms, but the meaning is the same. Jesus says, 
     To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,
 
"We played wedding songs,
    and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs,
    and you didn’t mourn."

 
Matthew 11:16-17 (NLT)
     This scripture passage is known as “The Parable of The Children In The Market Place.” Some have called it “The Parable of The Brats” (as in bratty kids).  And it goes right along with my parade story, which I call “The Parable of Batman On A Stick.”  
     The theme is kids not being happy with one choice or the other.  Yet, Jesus says that this behavior applies to adults. 
     Jesus is talking to adults who are not happy with two spiritual choices.  Jesus says,   
     For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’”
Matthew 11:18-19 (NLT)
     Jesus is referring to his cousin John who we call John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer. 
     John was the guy down by the Jordan River who was baptizing people and calling them to turn back to God and amend their lives and their behaviors to more fully reflect God’s purpose.  
     John came across as strange and eccentric, wearing camel’s hair clothing and eating locusts and wild honey.  John came across as sullen and serious.  He was harsh and loud, holding people accountable for their individual sins and emphasizing that there was no free ride with God’s love.  
     Many people, including Jesus, tax collectors and soldiers were drawn to John’s message of personal accountability.  They asked John, “What should we do?” and he said, “Share with those who have nothing, don’t cheat and steal, and don’t extort money and make threats or false accusations.”(Luke 3:10-14, NRSV).
     Many religious leaders, who were really the cultural leaders of the day, were offended by John’s message because he gave them no preferential treatment. 
     John lumped them into the same category as every other sinner without regard to their pedigree or upper status in society. They were just as crooked and corrupt and in need of repentance as everyone else.  
     John told them, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruit worthy of repentance.  Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor.’”(Matthew 3:7-8, NRSV)
     John was eventually arrested and put into prison because he spoke out harshly against the corruption and injustice of the government. (Luke 3:19-20, NRSV)
     Jesus was profoundly influenced by John and emphasized personal accountability and justice in his ministry.  Jesus also brought a unique sense of forgiveness, compassion and love to people, as though they were sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus came across as warm and joyful in God.  
     Jesus built a sense of community between all people, especially those who were marginal in society, such as prostitutes and lepers, as well as tax collectors and foreigners.   Jesus ate with them and celebrated God’s friendship with them.  
     Jesus healed people, restored them to wholeness, and put a priority on his followers showing humility and service and sacrificial giving to others.   
     Jesus celebrated life and God’s love in our lives.  His tone was very different from John’s.  Crowds of people flocked to Jesus and his message, yet the religious leaders were critical of Jesus because he did not uphold the cultural exclusions of people.  
     Here is one famous incident, 
     Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”  
Matthew 9:10-13 (NLT)
     The fact that the religious leaders will choose neither the way of Jesus nor the way of John is what prompts Jesus to compare them to children who cannot make up their mind what they want.   
     They don’t like John and they don’t like Jesus.  What do they like?  
     That’s obvious.  They like themselves. They like their status in society above any personal accountability for sin against God or others. They like their exclusivity from people they don’t like.   
     Jesus tells them to go learn what it says in the scriptures, specifically in the prophet of Micah who says, 
What can we bring to the Lord?
    Should we bring him burnt offerings?
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:6, 8 (NLT)
     Ultimately, this is what it comes down to as we live our lives for God.  God requires (notice the strength of that word)…God requires that we do what is right and just, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with our God.  
     Our culture is in such a state right now that we are tested on every front to live as Micah requires us to live.  
     On every front we are tested to live as John the Baptist required us to live with personal accountability for our wrongdoings, and not to lie, cheat, steal and get our own way.  
     On every front we are tested to live as Jesus required us to live with forgiveness, justice, non-violence, and excluding no one.  
     Many of our cultural leaders are not modeling this behavior in the midst of political corruption, and cultural wars, and the response to mass shootings. 
     In the words of Jesus, "With what do we compare this generation?" We are like children who cannot choose the spiritual way to God from the plain choices that God has given to us: John, Jesus and Micah.
     If Jesus compares us to children, then maybe that's where we need to start.
     There’s a man in the Twin Cities named Bryan Skavnak.  He’s 43 years old and a father of two tweens.  He was once a pro-golfer but now is a motivational speaker for kids around the country.
     Skavnak is the founder of “Be The Nice Kid,” a business venture that engages students in storytelling and activities designed to build character, courage and compassion.    
     “Be The Nice Kid” launched about 10 years ago, but Skavnak says his message is more urgent now after the pandemic, which created social isolation from one another. 
     One of Skavnak’s quotes exploded on social media and was turned into posters hanging in thousands of school gyms and classrooms.  
     The quote pretty much sums up what we need to do to follow the way of John, Jesus, and Micah. 
     So, I close with Skavnak’s quote, “Be the nice kid.”  He says,
      - Pastor David
Click here for previous Sunday Morning Reflections
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