Jesus, Light

Jesus Christ Superstar

I didn’t watch the live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar last night, did you?

I planned on watching it but when the time came I just wasn’t feeling it, watched a movie instead.  At one point I switched over, hoping to catch Sara Bareilles singing, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” because I LOVED that song as a young teenager back in the 70’s, when the album came out – sang it over and over again.

But Sara wasn’t singing, Alice was singing and the song sounded like a circus tune, so I switched back to the movie.

I’ve been thinking about the musical, though, about how it was banned in some places back in the 70’s, about how Christians protested it.

Because they didn’t get it.

They didn’t get that it wasn’t meant to be a Biblically accurate portrayal of the passion of Christ.

It was meant to be the passion told from Judas’s point of view.

And his view was skewed.

The hub and I were invited to watch a production of it in the home of one of his friends, back when we were first married.  The production was well done.

If you’ve never seen it, it ends with Jesus on the cross.  Dead.

During the discussion that followed I may have offended the host and hostess by commenting, “They left out the best part – they left out the resurrection.”

I didn’t get it back then either.

I didn’t get that from Judas’s point of view that’s how the story would have ended, had he been alive to see the end.

Scripture doesn’t tell us when Judas started following Jesus, but my guess is that he was among the great crowds who began to follow Him in response to the miracles He performed.

Judas saw the miracles, saw the opportunity and jumped on Jesus’s coattails, hoping to ride them all the way to the top.

Fame and fortune.

Perhaps Judas thought Jesus was a brilliant con man and he wanted in on the con.

But the con wasn’t playing out as one would expect.

Every time I look at you I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand?
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned…

… Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ Superstar,
Do you think you’re what they say you are?

Was Judas beginning to fear that the whole thing wasn’t a con, that Jesus actually believed His own press?

A con artist had coattails he could ride, but a lunatic who actually believed what He was selling?

That wasn’t going to get him anywhere.

Or perhaps the betrayal was as simple as money.  The love of money is, after all, the deep-seated root of every devious deed.

I started a ministry and asked a like-minded friend to serve on its board.

She did.  Happily, peacefully for several years.

And then the ministry received a large grant.

Little by little she no longer served happily, peacefully.

Discontent took root and grew.

While we had all been content to serve without compensation, she began saying, “You’ll have to pay me for that…”

I didn’t.

The grant wasn’t for salaries.

Her unrest hacked away at my strength, my soul, my faith in my fellow humans.

Or at least in my fellow Christians.

And then one day she resigned, to my great relief.

The chronology of Scripture puts Judas’s plot right after a scuffle about money:

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus told Judas to leave Mary alone.  She was doing the right thing.

So he left and sought out the chief priests.

He was going to make money one way or another.

But it turns out he had a conscience.

When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.

He hanged himself before the end of the story, before the resurrection.

The passion from his point of view ended with Jesus hanging dead, because he hung himself dead.

Had he waited a few days, had he wept bitterly – as Peter did – and then carried on, had he not been completely blinded by his own agenda and preconceived notions, he would have understood that Jesus was all about restoration and forgiveness.

Had he waited, he would have encountered Mercy.

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Tragically, restoration and forgiveness were too far off his radar.

We sang joyful songs in church yesterday:

Hear the bells ringing they’re singing that you can be
healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
Christ, He will reveal it now…

Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah, hallelujah

Jesus Christ Superstar ends with Jesus dead on a cross.

Such a shame, Judas leaving the theatre before the radiant final song.

#radiant

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faith, Jesus, Light

Low & Mighty on Passover Eve

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Exodus chapter 12 describes, well, the exodus, the mass departure of the Israelites from Egypt.  On the night they were to leave God instructed them to roast a lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were to eat in haste with their loins girded, sandals on their feet and staff in hand.

“This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

And so it is that the Passover is celebrated faithfully, year after year.

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John we learn that the Last Supper took place before the festival of the Passover.  It was Passover Eve.  Not Christmas dinner, but Christmas Eve dinner.  The rehearsal dinner, not the actual wedding banquet. The Last Supper was not the actual Passover Seder, it was the night before.

John’s gospel tells us a few more things about that evening:

  1. Jesus was aware that He would soon be returning to His Father.
  2. He was aware that each and every one of His dinner companions had been given into His hands.  That’s what the phrase, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” means.  “All things” is better translated as “each and every one.” Each and every one of them was gifted to Him, even Judas.
  3. He loved His charges with an agape  love. One aspect of agape is “to be full of good-will toward.”

And so it was with love and good will that Jesus sat down to His last human supper.

In Chinese culture, jade symbolizes nobility, perfection, constancy, and immortality. It is viewed as the most valuable of all precious stones.

A Chinese boy set out to learn all about it. He went to study with a talented old teacher.  The old gentleman put a piece of the stone into the youth’s hand and told him to hold it tight.  Then he began to talk of philosophy, men, women, the sun and almost everything under it.  After an hour the teacher took back the stone and sent the boy home.  This procedure was repeated for weeks. Finally the boy became frustrated – when would he be told about the heavenly properties of jade?! – but he was too polite to interrupt his venerable teacher.  So he held the stone and listened. Again and again. Then one day, when the old man began their lesson by pressing a stone in the boy’s hand, the boy cried out instantly, “Hey wait! That’s not jade!”

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (italics added)

It seems out of place, that third sentence, “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him,” since John doesn’t speak again of Judas until later in the chapter, but it isn’t out of place, it’s the reason Jesus got up from the table.

He knew He was about to be betrayed, He knew human nature full well. Perhaps at that moment He remembered back to the disciples’ argument about which of them was the greatest, perhaps He remembered all the way back to when Adam and Eve disobeyed so they could be like God, perhaps He remembered even further back to when Satan wanted to be greater than God. He may have also looked ahead to all the ways evil men would infiltrate the church and exploit Him for selfish gain.

It was His awareness of our propensity to competition, our desire to be “better than” that got Him up from that table.   It’s what caused Him to take off his outer robe, tie a towel around his waist, pour water into a basin and press a precious stone into His disciples’ hands one more time.

So they would remember what He feels like.

You know the foot washing story and you know Peter. When Jesus got to his ten piggies, Peter said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

In other words, “You’re too good to wash my feet!”

Jesus answered, “You don’t get it yet, but you will.”

Peter insisted, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

And so Peter, being Peter, said, “In that case, wash all of me!”

So Jesus laid it out for him. Again.

“One who has bathed does not need to wash.”

Wash and bathe in this passage are separate greek words.

“Wash” is nipto – to cleanse (especially the hands or the feet or the face); ceremonially.

It was customary back then – as it is now – to wash their hands before a meal.

“Bathe” is “louo,” it is a word used in the context of washing a dead person or cleaning blood from a wound.

Peter was already bathed as a dead person when he was baptized, when he was crucified with Christ and raised to new life.  He never needed to be bathed in that way again.  Just as a person doesn’t need to keep going forward at every altar call.  Once is enough.

All of the disciples had been bathed in the waters of baptism, except one. Scripture doesn’t tell us how and when Judas was called to follow Jesus, but it is telling us right here that he was never baptized, never raised to new life.  Even so,  Jesus loved each and every one of the 12 His Father had given Him.

“So Peter,” Jesus was saying, “zealous, enthusiastic Peter, you don’t need to be bathed, you only need to be washed.  Bathing is for souls, washing is for feet.  Feet that get dusty trodding through this sin-filled world.”

If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive them and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Our souls need to be bathed only once – through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit – it’s our bodies and minds that need daily cleansing from the stink of sin.

After Jesus washed their feet, put back on his robe and returned to the table, He asked:

“Do you get it?

I just pressed something important into the palms of your hands.

I’m not too good to wash feet and neither are you.

Peter had it backwards. It’s not a matter of being too good, too high and mighty; it’s a matter of being good enough, of being low and mighty.

Servants are not greater than their master, so if I’m good enough to wash feet, then you be good enough, too.

Once you understand this concept, and do it, you will go through life blessed.

Isaiah said so, too: ‘take care of one another and then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;…

The Lord will guide you continually,

and satisfy your needs in parched places,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,’

Take care of one another and you will flourish.”

As someone who is chronically dehydrated and has osteoporosis, I like Isaiah’s wording – strong bones, well-watered….

Be low and mighty enough to serve others and you’ll like your life.

The lectionary for Maundy Thursday (you’re reading the homily I gave last night) skipped over the details of Judas’s departure, but you know how it went down. It picked up again at verse 31:

“When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.'”

Judas’s departure set Jesus’ finest hour in motion.

His finest hour as a man – enduring physical and emotional abuse, bearing false accusations silently, as a sheep before its shearer.

I watched a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber Wednesday night.  At the end of it,  John Legend, who will play Jesus in Sunday night’s live presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar, asked Andrew for advice on playing the role.

“It’s all about redemption after all,” Andrew replied.

John mentioned the angst and fear and doubt Jesus experienced as He faced the cross.

“And yet He went through with it,” Andrew replied.

“Yes,”  John smiled slightly, “He went through with it.”

He was glorified as the Son of Man by going through with it.  By laying down his life for his friends – there’s no love greater than that.

His finest hour as God was defeating sin and death, which no man can do.

His Father’s finest hour? Showing a restraint in the face of His Son’s suffering the strength of which no human father could match.

John didn’t mention the bread and the cup in his account of the Last Supper, but our epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 11 did.

“…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

The Passover feast was a perpetual ordinance for God’s people to remember their deliverance from the physical bondage of slavery.

And now a new perpetual ordinance has been instituted, to remember our spiritual deliverance from bondage to sin and death.

My body broken for you. My blood shed for you, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus, Our Passover Lamb.

Our gospel reading ends with a precious plea:

Little children, I am with you only a little longer.

At my church the children come forward and crowd in the aisle between the rows of pews for “The Lamb’s Liturgy.” The pastor gives a brief lesson and then touches each of their heads and blesses them before they head off to Sunday school. It’s my favorite part of the service. I love to see them walk back down the aisle, their little heads blessed, their faces Hopeful, expectant that the future has good things for them.

The tenderness with which the pastor blesses our children is the tenderness with which Jesus beheld those at the table, on the eve of His great suffering:   “Little children, dear ones, my charges, my responsibility, my baby chicks, my friends…

I’m leaving and you can’t come with me.

So just love one another.

By this everyone will know that I taught you well, if you love one another.

By this my Father and I will be glorified.

By this our strength will be shown.

Because no one can live low and mighty apart from us.”

Amen.

#betrayed

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Rejoice with those who wear jeans.

“I hope I’m not dressed too casually,” I remarked, as I pulled my black, three-tiered Minnetonkas up over my black skinny jeans.

I was heading to my daughter’s alma mater to speak.

“It is Friday, though,” I reasoned, “and the students probably have a jeans day today, what with basketball and all.”

“What with basketball and all” = the boys bball team won the state semi-final game last night and they’ll be back at the Breslin Center in East Lansing in the morning for the final.

So the kids would most likely have a jeans day.

“Yeah,” my daughter said, “they probably do have a jeans day.”

Nowadays the students at that school wear uniforms, but my daughter was a student there before uniforms, back when they had to follow a very strict dress code.

Back then jeans days were granted on select Fridays and they were a huge, happy deal.

“I remember earning a special jeans day once,” she mused. “I think I got to wear them on a Wednesday.

It was a glorious morning, as all jeans day mornings were, dressing without the pressure of the code and looking cute for a change.

So I went to school in my jeans and a t-shirt while everyone else didn’t.

And that’s the moment I discovered that happiness is only real when it’s shared.

“That’s such a touching little story,” I said, as I clasped my necklace, “I think I’ll jot it down.”

I love my girl’s heart.  I love that she couldn’t enjoy the privilege of jeans while her friends suffered in khakis and collared shirts.

Not everyone is like that.

Go Eagles!

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Compassion is as compassion does.

Back in 2005 the hub loaded his table saw, planer and a bunch of other heavy woodworking equipment into a small u-haul.  We were headed to Vero Beach, Florida with a group from the church we attended to help repair a church that had been damaged by a hurricane.  Since the hub had major carpentry skills – and major equipment – he was in charge of that aspect of the trip.

I was in charge of activities for the church’s children.

While we were there we hosted nightly cookouts at a park near the Vero Beach church and invited its members to come, relax, eat and share their hurricane stories.

Because I thought sharing their stories might help.

Turns out it did.  Turns out listening to their stories, hearing what they had been through was the best, most restorative thing we did all week.

It helps to know someone cares.

It was hallowed ground in a Lansing courtroom when Larry Nassar faced his victims.  God bless Judge Aquilina for patiently giving each one of them the opportunity to tell their stories.  God bless her for giving us the opportunity to listen compassionately.

It helps to be heard.

The White House recently invited community members and victims from Parkland, Florida as well as victims from the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings to a listening session.

God bless our President for giving them a chance to speak and for giving us a chance to hear their hearts.

There are those who hate our President no matter what, who would refuse to give him a nod of credit for an act of compassion, who would refuse him the opportunity to speak and the opportunity to be heard with compassionate ears.

In their minds he is morally “less than” they and therefore he isn’t worthy of their compassion.  They just want to see him destroyed.

Actions speak louder than words.

If we want our country to heal, and it’s looking like the collective “we” don’t, we’ll have to put down our self-righteous hate and pick up an olive branch.  Or at least a hearing aid.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

#branch

 

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Hoard Your Pills

I’ve learned over the years that there are two types of physical therapists – those who gently stretch you back into shape over the course of many sessions and those who break adhesions in a brutal few.

The first time I needed PT – for a frozen shoulder – I was cranked on by the latter.

“Take a pain pill before you come next time,” he instructed.

“I’m afraid I’ll get addicted to them,” I replied.

“You won’t,” he said, completely sure of himself, “you don’t have an addictive personality.”

Maybe he’d seen enough people on them to know.

So I proactively took one before I came to the next few appointments.

And then one morning I arrived to do my exercises – brutal cranking on my shoulder no longer necessary – and was surprised to find that everything everyone said was REALLY funny.

I did my exercises alone for awhile, smiling and chuckling, when the PT came over and said, “You don’t need the pain pills anymore.”

So I stopped taking them.

I had quite a few left.

“You can get about $20/pill on the street,” he said.

“I can’t,” I said, “I don’t have a criminal personality.”

I’ve been prescribed narcotic painkillers several times in my life and each time I took one or two and had a bunch left over.

When they were prescribed last year, I refused them altogether, told the urgent care doc I’d call for the script if the pain became unbearable.

Now I wish I had taken it, filled it and hoarded the pills.

‘Cuz things have changed.

I fell taking Dixie for a walk last Saturday evening and knocked the wind out of myself.  I returned home barely able to breathe or talk.

Don’t ask me what happened ‘cuz I don’t know.  One minute I was walking, the next minute I was face down on the asphalt.

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Dixie and our friend Leo on a recent walk, but not the fateful walk.

“Sounds like you bruised your ribs,” said the hub as I described the pain, “I did that once playing racquetball.”

Sunday morning I woke up and couldn’t move. Literally. At all.

“Can someone help me?” I cried out in a raspy voice.

The hub was downstairs in the family room.

My daughter came rushing in.

“I can’t move. Put your hands behind my back and try to pull me forward into a sitting position.”

Horrendous pain.

“Okay now put your arms around me and try to lift me to my feet.

Horrendously horrendous pain.

The hub drove me to urgent care to make sure I hadn’t broken anything.

I braced myself for every excruciating bump in the road, every right turn and left turn, every acceleration.

The physician assistant questioned me: “On a scale of one to ten, where ten is the worst pain you can imagine, where would you rank your pain.”

“I took 4 Advil before I came, so I’d put it at a 9 now, but before the Advil it was a twelve.” Because it was worse than I ever imagined pain could be.

While we waited for a radiologist to read the x-rays, I sighed to the hub, “They’re probably not going to want to prescribe anything due to the opioid crackdown.”  But even as I said it, I expected they would. Given the amount of pain I was in.

The hub got up and read a poster on the exam room wall.  It was all about their new controlled-substance prescribing policy and how they would check a registry to see how often they had been prescribed for a patient.

The nurse came in and gave me a shot of toradol.

The PA came back in: “I’m going to send you home with 2 prescriptions, one for Motrin 800 and one for Tylenol 650. You can alternate taking them.”

My face surely said, “Really? Motrin 800? When I just told you that 4 Advil only brought the pain down to a 9?”

I think she heard my face because she said, annoyingly cheerfully, “Just imagine how much pain the people who break their ribs are in.”

“You’re an idiot,” I thought, but not loud enough for her to hear me.

When she left the room I turned to the hub, “I’ve broken bones and I’ve bruised bones and I know from experience that bruised bones hurt more.”

“AND they take longer to heal.”

I should have told her what my PT said about me not having an addictive personality.

I should have told her to check my record and see that I refused Norco last time I was there.

I should have told her about all the unused Vicodin and oxycontin and hydrocodone I’ve turned in at various community toxic waste disposal events over the years.

I wished I hadn’t turned them in.

But instead of saying anything I just mustered a smile and left with the two lame scripts.

The Tylenol 650 is worthless – didn’t even come close to touching the pain.

“Tylenol never does,” my daughter said.

After four days of taking Motrin 800 around the clock my feet and ankles swelled.

They haven’t swelled since I was pregnant 28 years ago.

I called the urgent care clinic, “My feet and ankles are swollen and they never swell, should I quit taking the Motrin?”

“I don’t think so,” the voice on the other end said.

“Are you a medical person?”

“I’m a medical assistant.”

“Well I googled it and learned that some medications – NSAIDS among them – can cause swelling.”

She didn’t know that.

“You guys prescribe drugs without knowing the possible side effects?”

This is why I hate the medical profession the way some people hate lawyers.

So I quit taking the Motrin and I’m toughing it out with tart cherry juice.

Because I remember Dr. Oz saying something about it a long time ago.

And I’m wondering why the pendulum has to always swing to the extremes.

Why not start addressing the opioid epidemic by actually checking the database and refusing opioids to those who have been flagged?

Why not prescribe 2 or 3 days worth of a narcotic to a newly injured patient just to get her through the worst of it and then switch her to Motrin?

I suppose I should have insisted on stronger pain meds but insisting would have likely put a red flag in my file.

“Oh yeah, she was here looking for drugs,” I can imagine her saying to a head-shaking staff when I left.

It’s been a painful, miserable week.

When my mom fractured her spine last Spring, her doc prescribed 100 hydrocodone.

“Why did he prescribe me 100?,” she asked when I came to spend the night, “I don’t need 100!”

“I don’t know, kickbacks?,” I thought then.

“To share,” is what I’m thinking now.

#justanothermesswe’vemade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guns & Young Brains

I’m proud of President Trump for taking steps to address the growing epidemic of teen and young adult violence in our country. I’m proud of him for gathering a variety of law enforcement, mental health and education experts to give input.

Hertz, National and Enterprise might have something to say about it, too.

When I talk to kids, I tell them that the human brain is not fully developed until around age 25. The last portion to develop is the frontal cortex, which is associated with planning, reasoning, problem solving and thinking-before-acting.

That’s why they need the guidance of their parents, teachers, pastors, etc.

The frontal cortex also affects the amygdala, which regulates emotions.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a teen’s “actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. Research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments.

Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:

  • act on impulse
  • misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
  • get into accidents of all kinds
  • get involved in fights
  • engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:

  • think before they act
  • pause to consider the consequences of their actions
  • change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

These brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions or tell the difference between right and wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. However, an awareness of these differences can help parents, teachers, advocates, and policy makers understand, anticipate, and manage the behavior of adolescents.”

Adolescence, according to research in brain development, does not end until 25.

Most car rental agencies have been requiring a minimum age of 25 even before research and MRI studies showed that renting to a pre-twenty-five year old is risky.  They knew based on experience.

Perhaps the problem is not solely mental illness, perhaps the problem is mental illness and/or an immature brain.

Perhaps we should set a minimum age of 25 to purchase a gun.

As a general rule.

If a 23 year old woman has left an abusive relationship and is in fear of her life, she can seek an exception from the courts.

If an 18 year old wants to go hunting with his dad, his dad can purchase the gun in his name, and be held responsible as he would if he were co-signing a loan.

Given the research, can you think of a single good reason to put a semi-automatic weapon into the hands of an impulsive, not-yet-fully-developed, more-emotional-than-logical brain? Can you think of a good reason to put any gun into those hands?

I can think of at least 17 good reasons why we shouldn’t.

As I said in my last post, I am not for guns and I’m not against guns but I am for a bit of gun control.

Given the research.

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Click here for the text of an interesting May 10, 2004 Time Magazine article on Giedd’s research.

Giedd, J. N. (1999). “Development of the human corpus callosum during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology
& Biological Psychiatry 23: 571-588.

Giedd, J. N. (2004). “Structural magnetic resonance imaging of the adolescent brain.”

Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities: 77 – 85. Giedd, J. N., J. Blumenthal, et al. (1999). “Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Nature Neuroscience 2(10): 861-863.

 

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life, Michigan

It was the worst school massacre in history.

Classes began as usual at 8:30 a.m. at the Bath Consolidated School.

At 8:45 a.m. an explosion tore through half the school.

First-grade teacher Bernice Sterling described the explosion as being like an earthquake: “It seemed as though the floor went up several feet”, she said. “… the air seemed to be full of children and flying desks and books. Children were tossed high in the air; some were catapulted out of the building.”

The north wing of the school collapsed. Parts of the walls crumbled, and the edge of the roof fell to the ground.

A rescue worker recounted: There was a pile of children of about five or six under the roof and some of them had arms sticking out, some had legs, and some just their heads sticking out. They were unrecognizable because they were covered with dust, plaster, and blood. There were not enough of us to move the roof.

It was the worst school massacre in history.

The Bath School massacre was a series of violent attacks perpetrated by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927, in Bath Township, Michigan, which killed 38 elementary schoolchildren and six adults and injured at least 58 others. Kehoe killed his wife and firebombed his farm, then detonated an explosion in the Bath Consolidated School before committing suicide by detonating a final device in his truck.

The 55-year-old school board treasurer was angered by increased taxes and his defeat in the Spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his “murderous revenge” after that public defeat.

An eyewitness described the aftermath of the explosion: Mother after mother came running into the school yard, and demanded information about her child and, on seeing the lifeless form lying on the lawn, sobbed and swooned…In no time more than 100 men were at work tearing away the debris of the school, and nearly as many women were frantically pawing over the timber and broken bricks for traces of their children.

Another witness painted a portrait of personal despair: A mother, Mrs. Eugene Hart, sat on the bank a short distance from the school with a dead little daughter on each side of her. She was holding her little boy, Percy, who died a short time after they got him to the hospital. As she sat there in despair, waiting for help for her son, Kehoe blew his truck up, severely wounding Perry, her oldest child. How does a mother survive that?

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As you can see, several parents lost multiple children that May day.

Hundreds of people worked in the wreckage of the north wing all day and into the night in an effort to find and rescue any children pinned underneath.

During the search, rescuers found an additional 500 pounds of dynamite and an alarm clock timed to go off at 8:45 a.m. in the south wing. He had intended to blow up the whole school.  Investigators speculated that the initial explosion may have caused a short circuit in the second set of bombs, preventing them from detonating.

 

What set off the man who set off the bombs?

The Wikipedia article, from which I took this information, listed the motives as revenge for defeat in a local election and personal and financial stress.

Lots of people lose elections and lots of people undergo personal and financial stress without killing anyone.

But Kehoe did.

He methodically planned his revenge – which is not even the right word because revenge is “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.”

Kehoe didn’t suffer injury or wrong at the hands of the 38 children and 6 adults he killed or at the hands of the 58 he wounded.

The children didn’t have a vote in his lost election.

But he killed them anyway.

Misguided revenge may have been the motive, but it wasn’t the reason.

He was mad because things weren’t going his way – property taxes, elections.

Investigators found a wooden sign wired to the farm’s fence with Kehoe’s last message stenciled on it: “Criminals are made, not born.”

Back when I was a social worker, I attended a foster care event.  The keynote speaker was a man named Glenn Hester, who had written a book entitled, Child of Rage. I read the book and learned that Mr. Hester had grown up in the foster care system.  A childhood full of abuse gave him ample reason for rage, rage which landed him in correctional institutions and  psychiatric hospitals. His rage was about to explode in a massacre when God intervened. At the time I heard Glenn speak he was working in a Christian program helping urban teenagers and educating foster care workers like me about what it’s like to be a kid in the system.

Glenn was a criminal who was made, but Kehoe was a criminal who was born.

He killed a neighbor’s dog for wandering onto his property barking. He beat his horse to death because it wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do.  It was suspected that he caused the gas stove explosion that killed his stepmother.

Killer’s gonna’ kill.

I’m not for guns and I’m not against guns and perhaps that’s how we’re all going to have to be if we want to stop this epidemic of school violence.

I’m not against guns because the worst school massacre in history was carried out without them.

I’m not against guns because guns don’t kill people, a murderous belief that one has been wronged, whether or not it’s true, kills people.

I’m not against guns because the right to bear arms protects us from would-be fascist dictators.

I’m not against guns because those who are hell bent on destroying life are going to destroy life – guns or no guns, legally obtained or illegally obtained.

I’m not for guns when they are automatic weapons in the hands of a 19 year old.

No civilian 19 year old should ever be sold an automatic weapon, but gun control would not have saved the 38 children and 6 adults in Michigan in 1927.

Banning the sale of automatic weapons to civilians might have saved the 14 children and 3 adults who were killed in Florida in 2018.

Murder as old as Cain and Abel.

Cain felt wronged because God accepted his brother’s sacrifice but not his.

No matter that his brother gave God his best and Cain gave God whatever.

Cain pouted and plotted because he thought God liked Abel better.

But He didn’t.

God found Cain pouting and plotting and intervened.

“Don’t do this thing you’re plotting,” God warned, “do the right thing, let go of your anger.”

But Cain went and killed his brother anyway.

I wonder whether God urged Andrew Kehoe to do the right thing.  I wonder whether he pointed out to Andrew that he hadn’t actually been wronged, that it was wrong of him to kill the dog, beat the horse, murder his stepmother.  I wonder whether He tried more than once. A year is a long time to maintain rage.

I wonder whether God urged Nikolas Cruz to put down his anger, to do what is right, to think straight.

Perhaps He did, but like Cain, he didn’t.

I saw a post on Facebook this morning saying that the solution is to let God back into the schools.

Yes, let’s let Him in – not so we can shove Him down anyone’s throat or make anyone feel bad about having differing beliefs – let’s let Him in to be available; to give rest to those who are weary, downtrodden, angry and hopeless.

What else might help?

It would help if people spoke up when they saw somewhat unusual behavior – like carrying things into a school at night – and blatant behavior like describing oneself on Facebook as a school shooter.

It would certainly help if “see something, say something” was followed up by the FBI with “do something.”

It would help if both staunch and stubborn gun camps would admit that the other side has some good points.

It would help if we would admit that it’s less about guns and more about the enraged hearts, souls and twisted minds of those who murderously wield them.

The Lord bless you and keep you, dear families and loved ones of Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup and Peter Wang. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. Deep and abiding peace.

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