Adapted from a previous sermon series at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas
and inspired and using ideas and content from the Rev. Chris B. Herring
preached at Westminster Presbyterian Church of Saint Louis. Original citation lost.
During difficult times I turn to stories,
and I’ve learned a lot in my life from the stories of Tony Campolo.
This one in particular stuck with me this week,
as I’ve been thinking about how particularly vulnerable I have felt
and how fragile I think much of our nation is feeling.
Here’s Campolo’s little story:
There was a schoolteacher.
She taught students in several grades
in a small, one-room schoolhouse in upstate New York,
including one particular child
who was euphemistically referred to as “special [needs]”.
That particular boy was what [some called] “slow.”
That’s how Campolo put it.
When Christmas came,
the teacher decided to put on a Christmas pageant,
and the … [kid] wanted to have a part in it.
He didn’t want to just stand around on the stage;
he wanted to have a SPEAKING part.
Now, they all knew that he could not remember lines very well,
but they came up with what seemed like a viable solution.
They told him he could be the innkeeper.
When Mary and Joseph knocked at the door of the inn,
he was to open it and say, “NO ROOM!”
That’s it. “No Room!”
Mary would then say something,
and when she finished her lines
he was to say again, “NO ROOM!”
They thought he could handle this,
but just to make sure,
they appointed someone to stand near him, you see
and to poke him at the proper time,
and whisper just the right words:
in his ear, in case he forgot them. “No Room!”
The night of the Christmas pageant, all seemed to be going well…
UNTIL, that is, Mary and Joseph got to the inn door.
Our little friend opened the door,
and he said what was expected of him: “NO ROOM!”
Mary responded: “But sir, its cold!
Have you no place at all where we can stay?
Its freezing and I’m sick.
I’m going to have a baby, and unless you help us,
my baby will be born in the cold, cold night.”
The boy just stood there, and said nothing.
The prompter nudged him and whispered, “No room! Say ‘No room!’”
The boy turned to the prompter and blurted out,
“I KNOW what I’m supposed to say!
But she can have MY room!”
Campolo concludes this little tale this way:
“To some, loving comes easily and almost without thinking.
The rest of us must be more deliberate,
and it is to that end that the Holy Spirit comes…”
What a good little boy!
That he would be so concerned with the needs of the people in front of him
that he can’t help but try to respond to them, to help.
Would that we all be filled with that kind of…goodness!
“And the fruit of the spirit…
is love, joy, peace,
That’s what the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Galatians
as he describes the Fruit of the Spirit,
how God dwells within us, as we seek to dwell in the world.
Dear friends, this has been such a hard, hard week.
Maybe we’ve all been praying a bit more fervently
a bit more urgently
for the Holy Spirit to come and parcel
out some of that goodness.