Junior high dances are hard enough without a sucker punch!
I was thirteen in the spring of 8th grade with size thirteen shoes and complexion problems ahead of my peers. It was my first year in a new school district. Awkward, yes! I was one of the taller boys in my grade and an easy target for a high school junior, smaller in stature, drunk, and looking to pick a fight to prove something. I’m still not sure what. As soon as I left the dance and the school building, he was on the sidewalk with a group of his toughs. I had never seen him before, but he singled me out for taunting. I did as I’d been taught by parents, teachers, and coaches: turn and walk away. The next thing I knew he pulled to spin me in his direction while taking a full-strength punch at my face, glasses and all.
In the instant that followed, all I could see was red from the bleeding gash under my eye. The broken frame of my eyeglasses had gouged a chunk of my upper cheek. Initially I was afraid I had lost my right eye. Friends grabbed me and guided me back inside the school, as teachers and chaperones rushed out to ward off any further threats. One of my heroes was my track coach, who made sure I was safe and getting first aid; then he sprinted off after the group of hellions trying to get away. He collared the one with the bloody fist and brought him back to await the arrival of the police.
I survived that night, obviously, and the follow-up experience as a complainant in juvenile court, in spite of some intimidation from a rough element in the high school. It was a growing season in my life. Today the scar is completely gone. I can’t even find it. But I’ll never forget the young coach, a dozen years older than I, who came to my rescue. His reassuring voice, his hand on my shoulder, his resolve to track down my assailant, his support through the weeks that followed … yes, I will always remember the way he responded when I was so vulnerable.
Our God is a master of rescues. The scriptures are full of them. In Acts 7:34 Stephen describes the call of Moses. The Lord said: “I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.” God often uses people as the agents of his rescue missions. Moses is one example. Esther in Persia is another. At some point, in some fashion, we are all called to be part of God’s rescue squad.
Let’s consider our calling as we worship our God-to-the-rescue. This week we’ll also share the Lord’s Supper on World Communion Sunday. Remember “God so loved the world” that he sent his Son on a life-saving rescue mission. He is there when we need him most!
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey A. Hosmer