Cross Words – August 2018

  The following article was written by my friend and colleague, The Reverend Doctor James C. Goodloe, IV. He is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Reformed Theology, and we serve together on the board of the publication Theology Matters.

Imagine a Church
 
  In 1988, in Demopolis, Alabama, a little boy named Rocky saved his mother’s life.  Rocky was five years old. His mother was driving them to town in their pickup truck when they had a wreck. They went over a forty-foot embankment, out of sight from the road. The mother couldn’t see, because of blood in her eyes. She could barely move, because her shoulders were both broken. And she sent Rocky away because she was afraid the truck would explode. At first he obeyed, but then he returned. Remember that Rocky was only five years old.  He weighed only fifty-five pounds.  Yet, he gradually pushed and carried his mother all the way up the forty-foot bank! He got her to the edge of the road. Someone found them there and took them to the hospital. Rocky saved his mother’s life!  What especially captures my attention is this: all the way up the bank, he repeated the lines, “I think I can. I think I can.” We recognize these from the child’s story, “The Little Engine that Could.” These words kept Rocky going! That story made it possible for him to save his mother’s life. We realize that this was not a story he had heard only once or twice. It was his all-time favorite. Rocky had insisted that his mother and father read it to him over and over. And so this story shaped him so much that he got his mother up the hill. It formed his character to such an extent that it focused his energies under pressure to save his mother’s life. I don’t even agree with the claim of the story that we can do anything we think we can. It’s simply not true. But the point that impresses me here is the power of this favorite, repeated story to mold a little boy’s life to heroic stature.
 
  If a simple child’s story can do that, what would happen to a church formed and reformed by the repeated reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word of God? Think about a church so confident in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ that no other loyalties distract it. Think of a church so shaped into the image of Christ’s ministry that all who see its works give glory to God. Think of a church so informed by the story of the cross that it accepts its own  suffering without complaint. Think of a church so shaped by the reality of the resurrection that eternal life becomes a quality of its present life. Think of a church so believing and trusting in Christ that it fears no earthly rulers. Think of a church that, having feasted on the bread of life, has so much left over that it takes twelve baskets full throughout the community, sharing the joyful Word with all. Think of a church that finds its way in Jesus Christ, cherishes His truth over all falsehoods, finds its very life in Christ and pours out that life for others. This is what we want for ministers and congregations, fed by the gospel of Christ.
 
*“A Holiday for Heroes: The Little Boy Who Could,” Newsweek, 4 July 1988, p 35.

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