by Ken Tazzman
When Jesus Came to Birmingham is a poem about indifference. When Bishop Spence read this poem during his sermon at St. George’s on the first Sunday of Lent, the bishop ended the poem by claiming the attitude of “that’s not my business” or indifference was the church’s problem in today’s secular world.
Every bishop should be a clever politician. When Bishop Spence was asked by the Hamilton Spectator for his comments on Mel Gibson’s movie that was released to North American theatres on Ash Wednesday, he gave a good quote. He “was thrilled that the newspapers were filled with stories about the Passion of the Lord.” This was a safe statement to make considering that he had not yet seen the movie. In his sermon, Spence noted that Mel Gibson recovered from his past drug and alcohol destroying days by making the Stations of the Cross his “Twelve Step Program.” Indifference is simply not an option this Easter because of the unusual dialogue that this movie generates.
Every good teacher tells stories to make a point and I have never known Bishop Spence to preach without telling a story. In summary, here is his story.
Jimmy stole comic books. One day his father found a pile of comic books on his bed. Jimmy claimed that he got them from the library. Forcing his son to return them and apologize to the librarian for not checking them out properly, his father thought that the experience would straighten out Jimmy. More comic books appeared. His father knew that Jimmy didn’t have the money to pay for them. This time, the father lectured his son about the evils of stealing and forced him to return the comics to the store with another apology. Surely, Jimmy had learned his lesson at last? On a rainy day at the cottage, Jimmy’s father caught him once again reading stolen comic books. Jimmy got a good spanking this time.
Years later, Jimmy, now an adult, was talking to his wife about the incidents. She said, “That spanking must have taught you not to steal.”
Jimmy replied, “It wasn’t the spanking that turned my life around. It was overhearing my father’s crying in the bathroom afterwards that did it.”
“This story,” said the bishop, “represents the point of Lent, God’s weeping over a sinful world. The journey through Lent is to take one to the foot of the cross.”
St. George’s would like to say thanks for visiting us and bringing this message.