“Other Worldly”

Date: May 26, 2019/Speaker: Jon Hauerwas

Other Worldly

Psalm 67:1-7 and John 14:23-29

In 2012, brain cancer took the life of a 9-year-old boy from New Jersey named Christian Clopp. Two years after Christian’s death, “a town committee member suggested building an all-access playground in his name.” That vision ultimately became a reality, and the new park includes a memorial marker with a photograph of Christian, his dates of birth and death, and the following inscription, written by the boy’s parents, for:

[1] https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/father-of-late-boy-9-forgives-man-who-vandalized-memorial-221225335.html

Accessed May 26, 2019.

It has now been seven years following Christian’s death, but the Clopp family was recently and unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight once again to speak publicly about their son’s legacy. Unfortunately, the reason will cause your jaw to drop. Last week, a 23-year-old man visited the memorial park and playground and urinated on the boy’s plaque while the man’s male friend, also 23, recorded it for Snapchat. [2]

Following this act of vandalism, the boy’s father, a former police officer, wrote the following on Facebook: “I think this incident can be turned into a positive by becoming a learning experience for all… As for the two actors: I don’t know either of you. I have no idea what exists in your life to make you so indifferent to how others feel but I hope this serves as a wake-up call and you get the help you need.” [3]

He continued: “I admit, my initial reaction was to find you and beat you senseless in defense of my son’s honor and the distress you caused my family. I am better than that. I hope it doesn’t take the heartache my family has lived through to open your eyes. Something is wrong in your life and you need to fix it. You have done serious damage to your reputation; only you can fix it. How you respond to this dictates the direction your life will take.” [4]

Friends, you may recall that when Jesus was dying on the cross, there were criminals on each side of him suffering the same, unfortunate fate. In those agonizing moments, one of the men chose to speak, not in solidarity with Jesus, but by hurling additional words of insult and mockery in his direction. Then, in a powerful response to his tormentors on the ground and at his side, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Following the desecration of Christian Clopp’s memorial, a news outlet contacted the young man responsible. He said, “It was a big mistake I made. I was intoxicated. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time. When I came to my senses the next day, I realized I made a huge mistake. I wish I could take it all back and make things right.” That young man has now personally apologized to the boy’s father in a face-to-face meeting. In response, Mr. Clopp said, “I decided to heal and move on and forgive and forget… there’s no animosity.” [5]

In our second lesson today, Jesus “promises an Advocate. He gives his disciples the sad news that he is leaving them. The world that he came to save is attempting to push him out of the world. The darkness he came to enlighten will attempt to engulf him. He is being dragged away to a humiliating end.” [6]

“But before he goes, Jesus tells his disciples that this is not the end. He will continue on with them, though he is away from them. Though he will no longer teach them face-to-face, he will continue to teach them. Although they will no longer walk the roads of Judea together, he will walk with them. They think the door is about to close between them and Jesus, and yet Jesus says he is now opening another door for them. This is the end of the way, and yet he tells them that he is still the way. They are horrified at the prospect of his death, but Jesus tells them that in his death is life.” [7]

In response to the recent events in New Jersey, two local youth football coaches disinfected Christian’s memorial and helped promote an event for children “to blow bubbles over the boy’s plaque as cleansing symbolism.” [8] And as for Christian’s father, he is now raising funds to renovate the surrounding park. [9]

Both of the men in the memorial incident have been charged, and the one who desecrated the marker has been fired by his father from the family business. [10] There are, of course, real consequences for our actions. And yet, in our second lesson this morning, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Yes. While our lives may be disrupted by moments of hardship, and grief, and suffering – also known as “what the world gives” – Jesus’ promise to us is for peace. And his is a message that we can, indeed, learn to forgive and forget. So do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Amen.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Will Willimon’s Lectionary Sermon Resource, Year C, Part 1, (Abingdon Press, 2018), 307.

[7] Ibid, 307.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

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