Bread – Helicopters

November 29, 2013


Readings for Friday, November 29, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 24:14-23; 1 Pet.3:13-4:6; Matt. 20:17-28; Psalms 140,141,142,143

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When I first heard the term “helicopter parents” some time ago, I didn’t know what was being talked about. In the last week there was an article in the newspaper about the problems colleges were having because parents were getting themselves directly involved with the professors. There was a great visual of a parent in a helicopter hovering over their child (the college student) in class. Sometimes visuals really bring it home.

Usually when people think of helicopter parents, they think of hovering. But, when you think about it, helicopters do more than hover. First, they make a lot of noise which generally calls attention to themselves. Who hasn’t looked up to the sky when a helicopter passes, wondering what it is doing there, where it has come from, and where it is going? A second thing that helicopters is kick up a lot of wind and dirt, which cause the people on the ground to turn away and cover their eyes. Helicopters make grand entries. The third thing that helicopters do is to scare the wits out the people who are in them. Some of the most dramatic real time video footage I have ever seen is the I-Max trip over a city and throughout the wild hills and valleys in a helicopter.

So the helicopter parent not only is scared out of their wits, but makes a lot of noise and a grand entry which drives people to hide their faces while they land. Not a good way to begin a conversation.

I wonder if, as Christians, we behave the same way with people who are not Christian. Do we act scared to death that they will die and go to hell? Do we clatter about in our noise-making machines (sometimes called proselytizing or witnessing) calling attention to ourselves? Do we create such a wind and a fury that we cause the people we are landing on top of to hide their faces against the onslaught?

In today’s Scripture reading, we have a great example of a helicopter parent. “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons…She said to Him, ‘Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left , in Your kingdom.’ … and when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus … said…’whoever would be great among you must be your servant…” Matt. 20:20-26

This is almost too funny to think about. You can imagine the conversation at home: “Well, sons, I think you must be the best disciples; why wouldn’t Jesus want you to be His two chief disciples? Well, if you won’t ask, I will.” So she gets in her helicopter, flies over to Jesus, and makes her “request.” Jesus, of course, knows when she is coming, why she is coming, what she is going to say, what the sons are going to say, and what He is going to say. He just lets it play out, probably so we can read about it later and He can make His point – seek not the top (which will only lead you to the bottom) but the bottom (which will lead you to the top).

But notice how Jesus handles this. He does not berate the mother or even her children. He does not tell her to get back into her helicopter and leave. He is not rude to the children. He is loving and He is plain and He is simple and He lovingly, plainly, and simply says “No.” And then He protects the mother and the sons when the other disciples complain about them – “Don’t worry about them because you are only upset because you wanted to be first — instead, deliberately be second and let those who want so badly to be first strive for first and fail.

See, when we deliberately are first a servant, we may accept first place but we don’t care about first place. And when we don’t care about first place, there is no need for helicopters, self-promotion, infighting, bruised egos, or anything else which goes with always trying to be first. When we don’t have to be first (but are ready, in the Holy Spirit, to be first if that is where God leads or where we find ourselves), then we are free.

In our reading from Peter today, he says that we should “…honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” 1 Pet. 3:15 This means that, when challenged in our faith, we don’t have to swoop into battle in our helicopter, but merely answer the question, Why?

Why do you have this hope? Is it because you want to be first or you are glad to be last? Or is it because that your hope is not grounded in your performance but God’s grace, His mercy, His promises, and His deliverance?

When you realize that our hope is in God’s control and not ours, our need for control disappears and our need for position, power, and wealth goes with it. And when our need for position, power, wealth and control fade into the background, we can let the helicopter rust.

And won’t that be really Independence Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving all rolled up into one!

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© 2013 GBF

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