Sunday, September 26, 2004

What I Learned at Vacation Bible School Part 2

“And now ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce someone you all know very well, Jesus’ greatest enemy, the prince of darkness, Belzeebub, the devil himself… SATAN!!!” The spotlight swings stage left.

About a hundred kids jump and shriek when Satan, dressed in a black leather jacket, red cape, horns and pointy ears springs from a red, back-lit, fog shrouded rock. But they are soon entranced, Satan is a very smooth talking character. Satan tells how he tried to tempt Jesus into changing stones into free Happy Meals for himself and all the kids. He tells how he tried to get him to fly like Superman off the top of the church building to REALLY make VBS cool, but all to no avail. Then Satan takes out a handful of candy, red cinnamon “fire balls”, and starts tossing it around to all the kids in the audience. They all grab and catch and scramble on the floor to pick it up. “Have some candy kids! You’ll be my friends won’t you? See, they love me!!”

Satan sneers at the kids, “I may not be able to get Jesus to do what I want but I bet I can get YOU to! If you do what I say I’ll give you candy and sodas and you can stay up as late as you want… and then YOU’LL be my friends…. AHHH..HAHAHAHAHA!!!”

Jesus jumps up from his seat nearby and shouts, “Satan, you leave God’s children alone!" Jesus strides over to Satan and gets right in his face and pokes a finger in his chest.

"You mess with them, you answer to ME! You got that??” The kids go silent. Jesus and Satan are standing inches from each other, toe to toe, nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball. There is not a breath. Satan slowly backs down, cowering, and slinks back to his cave. “I’ll be back!” he shouts. The kids go wild. “Yaaaayyyyy Jesus!” And it’s off to the learning centers for more Bible times experiences.

One of the children is crying. Daniel. He’s almost four. Maybe Satan scared him. I look at his mouth and it is all red, he is drooling red slime. Maybe he bumped his mouth on a song book rack and cut his lip ….again.

I stoop down and hold his tiny face. “Daniel, are you hurt sweetheart?” Tears roll, he shakes his head side to side. His mouth is working overtime, puckering, drooling, sucking, biting his lips. It is not blood. I hear clicking inside his mouth.

“What’s in your mouth, Daniel… here, let me see.”

“It’s candy from the devil,” he says, drooling and sniffling.

“Well, what’s the matter Daniel? Why are you crying?”

“Cuz it’s ho-oooo-oot!” he says in a quivering voice.

“Well, Daniel, if it’s hot, why don’t you spit it out?”

“Cuz it’s caa-aaandy!” he wails.

Oh child, you said a mouthful. At three and a half you stated more clearly than any theologian the warfare within us.

Oh child, at three and a half the warfare already rages within you.

And what candy from the devil are you holding onto, O "grown up" child of God?

A lifestyle? Dinner parties or beer parties, Mercedes or pickups, Georgio Armani or Levis, mansions or cheap motels, or somewhere in between?

An image? Footloose and free, competent and invulnerable, sharing and caring, rich and powerful, martyred and self sacrificing, spiritual and righteous, angry and rebellious, non-conformist or on the edge, in the know and on the inside track of everything?

A relationship? Illicit, destructive, hopeless, imaginary, ego gratifying, degrading or questionable?

And what is it costing you O child, what is it hurting?

Your peace, your wife, your sincerity, your children, your honesty, your ideals, your self respect, your dreams, your hopes, your reputation, your ability to feel true joy, to see the world with a clear eye, to delight in the world with a pure heart, to look in the mirror with a clear conscience?

And, child, if you hurt so much, why don’t you let it go?

Because it’s candy.

Yes little children, we like the look, we love the feeling, we love the pleasure, we revel in the admiration and ego boost. So we eat the apple and then try to fix or drown out the bitter consequence. Sometimes we fast and pray, seek spiritual counsel and we still have a stash of candy hidden in the closet. When every word on overcoming sin has been spoken, when every encouragement has been uttered and every step of every program has been applied and you lose the battle, you still fall, you still hurt, you know you are dying, there is still yet one last word. It is the only word that really matters in the end to the wretched dying losers of the battle with temptation.

“No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

O, the sweet love of God. Taste and see that the Lord is Good. Rejoice O child of God, and eat the Body and Blood of your Savior. Taste the heavenly gift, laugh and be exceedingly glad you sinners, His Body is True Food and His Blood, True Drink. Rejoice you who have tasted the bitterness of sin, Jesus is the Snickers of God.

1 comment:

Fr. John McCuen said...

"...because it's candy."

Wow! Talk about hitting the nail on the head!

Thanks, Steve.