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Faithlife

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The Conference

Characters: Dr. Hobbs, school counselor

            Parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rosett

            Dirk, troubled student

Tone: Humorous, underlying serious

Setting/Props: Counselor's office, chairs

Approximate time: 5-6 minutes

(Troubled student and parents enter counselor's office)

Counselor: C'mon in, Mr. and Mrs. Rosett - you too-ah er ...

Parent 1: ... ah, Dirk ...

Counselor: Come in, Dirk.

(Dirk hops up on a chair with his feet on the seat, arms dangling

like an ape, mouth open. He is obviously misbehaving and acts as

though nothing is getting through.)

Counselor: My name is Dr. Hobbs and I'm the school counselor here

at __________ High School. (Looks at paper) I see you, Dirk, have

been referred to me by Principal Burns, ah, and by, ah, four of

your present teachers, the coach and, ah, by your pastor, Rev.

Gullickson, and, ah, let's see, also by the local police

department. Hmmmm. (Reading) "Behavior modification and

temperament adjustment needed. There are symptoms of an

underlying problem. Special attention is needed."

Parents: He (points to Dirk) doesn't have problems. He is a

problem!

Counselor: And how do you feel about that?

Parent 1: He is disrespectful, uncontrollable, defiant, lazy, and

...

Parent 2: ... distant, aloof, ever since we cracked down on him.

Counselor: And when was that Mr. (Mrs.) Rosett?

Parent 1: Just last month when he started eleventh grade.

Counselor: (Shocked) You just gave him rules last month?

Parent 1: Yes, we pretty much let him make his own choices while

he was growing up. After all, we both work -- in fact, I have two part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Parent 2: Well, we both wouldn't have to work ... I am doing

quite well ...

Parent 1: Nonsense. We need the money!

Counselor: Hmmm. Where are you at in all this, Dirk?

Dirk: (Role plays an ape) Ugh. Ugh. (Points to fruit basket) Ugh.

Ugh.

Counselor: (Role plays, too) Okay, okay, Corky Dorky, you want a

banana. I'll throw it into your cage. (Tosses banana)

(Dirk sweeps it up, peels it, throws peeling into the audience,

eats banana. Offers some to parents, who angrily reject it. Rubs

stomach with a contented look.)

Counselor: Hmmm -- most unusual behavior. Acts like an ape, eh?

Parent 1: Dirk! Cut the crap! We've got serious business here.

Parent 2: (To counselor) Yesterday he was a kangaroo.

Counselor: (Incredulously) A kangaroo?

(At the mention of "kangaroo" Dirk jumps down from his chair

perch and begins to hop around like a kangaroo.)

Parent 1: (Groans) We ignore him when he's like this. I suppose

he wants something from us. We give him everything he needs.

Counselor: Maybe he's trying to get your ... ah ... attention.

Parent 2: Attention? We feed him. We buy him clothes. We send him

on vacations. We gave him his own cell phone, TV in his room,

boom box, CDs, swimming pool in our back yard -- generous

allowance, his new sports car ... What more can we give this

parasite?

Counselor: (Astonished) Parasite? You call him a parasite?

Dirk: (Breaks kangaroo stance; stands erect. Recites

mechanically) A parasite is a living thing that nourishes itself

on another organism. A parasite is a beggar, cadger, sponger,

scrounger, freeloader, leech, bloodsucker, loafer, slacker,

shirker, deadbeat, goldbrick, moocher. (Resumes kangaroo stance)

Counselor: (Shocked, to parents) That's what you think of your

son?

Parent 2: (Sarcastically) You notice, he does talk.

Counselor: Do you parents have regular conversations with your

son?

Parent 1: Well, not really. We don't communicate except when

we're shouting and breaking dishes. (Scowls at Dirk)

Counselor: Sounds kind of violent. Maybe Dirk is needing

something very important.

(Dirk nods yes as he drops his kangaroo stance.)

Parent 2: Really important? What in blazes do you mean,

counselor?

Parent 1: I don't have a clue as to what you're talking about.

(Dirk assumes he is a clown by putting on a red nose and floppy

hat.)

Counselor: Now what is he?

Parent 2: Bozo the clown, I guess.

Parent 1: So it's attention, attention, attention he wants! We've

only got so much to give.

(Dirk acts out a brief scene in which he shows he wants love.)

Counselor: Hmm. (Pause) I believe I have a solution. My diagnosis

is this:

Parents: (Eagerly) Yes, yes.

Counselor: It is obvious at least to the trained mind that your

son is neither an ape, nor a kangaroo, nor a parasite, nor a

clown, but a son you have conceived and reared, rather poorly, I

might add, but nevertheless, your son, who deserves your love and

your attention. He is a human being made in God's image who needs

and expects to be appreciated and respected as a person. I am

writing a prescription for you, and it's really a family

prescription that will affect you all. I am confident, with new

health in your relationship, the problems which brought Dirk to

my office will be abated and ultimately eliminated. (Writes and

gives sheets to parents) See you in two weeks. My receptionist

will make the appointment. Thank you, Mr. Clown. And thanks to

you, Mr. and Mrs. Rosett.

Parent 1: (Looks at sheet, aghast) I can't believe this!

Parent 2: Believe what? (Pleasantly) Thank you, Dr. Hobbs.

(Exit)

Parent 1: (Looks at prescription) I can't believe this. This is

going to solve Dirk's behavior problem?

Parent 2: Well, what does it say?

Parent 1: (Reads) "For your son, Dirk, to modify his behavior

challenges, he will need to feel appreciated, respected, and

loved. In order for this to happen, you three will spend one hour per day together in quality mutual pursuits, giving and

receiving, working and playing in a reciprocal manner."

Impossible!

Parent 2: Impossible? I think this is not impossible. In fact,

this is possible. We are going to do it. (Thinks for a few

moments and then has an "aha" look. Reaches in Dirk's pocket and

pulls out two red clown noses and puts one on. Then gives the

second one to a reluctant Parent 1. They look at one another,

laugh and begin to exit arm in arm.)

(Dirk nods excitedly. All exit)          

The End


Prelude

Welcome

Drama       "The Conference." - Arley K. Fadness.

Synopsis: A strangely behaving student and his parents have a

conference with the school counselor about the student's behavior problems. Throughout the consultation, the student acts out strange antics in order to call attention to himself. The counselor shocks the parents with a surprising diagnosis and prescription at the end of the consultation.

Call to Worship                       

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul, Lead the humble and teach them your way.

Make me to know your  ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.

For you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness for those who keep your decrees.

*Hymn of Praise                       # 340               I Need Thee every Hour

Invocation        (the Lord’s Prayer)                  

In the shadows of our fears, in the sunlight of our joys, in whatever state you find us on this day, O God, make your Holy Spirit known among us that we may leave this place with your greater life added to ours.This we pray in Christ's name

Gloria Patri

Our  Offering to God                Come, let us honor God with our gifts.

Doxology         Prayer of Dedication     God is grateful for all our gifts and receives them

this day and every day. Bless them, O loving God, that we may share in your hope for the world.

*Hymn of Prayer                      # 392               Take Time to Be Holy

Pastoral Prayer         Father, If we hope that others will lead the way rather than us; if we imagine enacting our faith someday when we are stronger; if we tell ourselves that we don't know enough to have absolute clarity about your will for us and therefore choose to stand still instead of moving:  have mercy on us, O God. Take our hands and give us courage,JesusChrist. //  Thank you God for life, colored brightly with new possibilities that invite in us courage and faith. Thank you God for the Christ, encouraging and challenging, healing and lifting us up.  Thank you God for all things good, for all things that call us to trust in a better day and a better world.  There is no place on earth where your word is not needed, O Christ. We wait for enlightenment and a greater abundance of life - gifts of your Holy Spirit.   Light the flame of your faithfulness among us now, O God. Warm our hearts with a desire to follow you, Jesus Christ, and place in our humble hands the cross which tells the world in life-giving truth that we may walk toward all that we fear with you by our side.//Silent reflection//As we gather here today, we remember those who call to us in need and despair. We pray that we may be able to respond to this call. We begin by placing their lives, and ours, in your loving hands:  //The people pray//  Go with us now, loving Jesus. Never leave us nor forsake us, Holy Spirit. Hold us as we go,loving God.  This we pray in faith.  Amen.

*Hymn of Praise                       insert                Beloved

Scripture Reading                                 Mark 1:10-11

Message                                               "The Need To Be Appreciated And Respected."

     I tell you a tale of a little village in an isolated land where the people shared a boundless sense of happiness. The people in this village showed only one unusual feature about their life together. They had a custom - a delightful custom - of giving fuzzies to each other. Something about fuzzies felt good and made people happy.

     Then one day someone became upset over something petty and started a rumor of retaliation. "Have you heard about the shortage of fuzzies?" the disgruntled member of the community began asking.

     Before long, the people began hiding their fuzzies. They buried them in fields, hid them in out-of-the-way places, and locked them in vaults. Only on birthdays and anniversaries did they wrap up fuzzies as special presents. In time they quit giving them altogether.

     As you might expect, the little village developed into a miserable place to live. People became cranky and sad, gloomy and depressed. They began fighting, and strife broke out. Tension and suspicion replaced the former trust and good will.      Then one day, while some of the children were playing in a field, they stumbled onto a hidden cache of fuzzies. The tingle as they touched them felt wonderful. With delighted laughter they gave some to their friends. The more they gave away, the happier they felt. The adults soon noticed and remembered the good old

days.

     Soon they joined the fun and brought out their fuzzies from hiding. And, as you might expect, the village became a wonderful

place to live again.

     What are these fuzzies? Nothing more than honest compliments and true appreciation. Not flattery. Not kind words and deeds as a setup in order to manipulate - but true affirmations that build up another person's morale and self-esteem.1

     I tell you this tale to introduce the topic for today.

     This is a series of six sermons based on the six spiritual needs of Americans. The third need that George Gallup, Jr., identified in his survey is the need to be appreciated and respected.

     George Gallup discovered that one-third of the American people have a low sense of self-worth and self-esteem. However, he also discovered that the closer people feel to God, the better they feel about themselves. An active faith can repair damage done by others.2

     Susan Pickle, Human Development Specialist with the University of Missouri-Columbia Extension, discovered in her research these findings:

     -- Adults receive about 60 put-downs a day and most are given by themselves. -- 75 percent of adult thinking is negative. -- By age 4, the average child has had 25,000 put-downs. -- By fifth grade, only 20 percent of youth feel good about themselves. -- By high school graduation, only 5 percent feel good about themselves.3

     It's like a great societal vacuum, a great black hole, a cosmic magnet that sucks away our good feelings and perceptions about ourselves, making us forget we are created in the image of God.

     Marilee Zdenek has written a tender little book of poems titled Splinters In My Pride. She tells, "Once, I knew a little girl who spent her own money to buy a box of gold stars and stuck every one of them on a piece of paper that had her name on the top. I thought what an enormous need for a child to be loved - to buy enough stars so that the need for self-esteem is quenched."4

     The text for this morning is a refreshing breeze. It's a

text from Mark's gospel, Mark gave no genealogy because he presented Jesus as the servant. A servant needs no pedigree, but demonstrates his validity by the worth of the service he provides. The book portrays Jesus as a man who backed up his words with actions that proved he was the Son of God. Because Mark wrote the Gospel for Christians in Rome, where many gods were worshiped, he wanted his readers to know that Jesus was the one true Son of God. He is coeternal with God--and is himself God. He alone was fully man ( Jesus), God's Anointed One (the Messiah), and fully divine (Son of God). Mark's Gospel fully develops Jesus' claims to be the Christ and the Son of God by showing how he was anointed by God's Spirit to carry out the divine plan of salvation. ///

     Let me take you back to the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. Let me take you back in time to the Jordan River, to Jesus' baptism. Look closely at what happened.

Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on Him, and a Voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased."

The action of the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove was a sign for John that Jesus was the Messiah. The "splitting" of the heavens presents God's intervention into humanity in the human presence of God in Jesus Christ. It was as if the heavens rolled back to reveal the invisible throne of God (Isaiah 63:19–64:2).

The dove is used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. However, it is not the bird itself that was important, but the descent of the Spirit like a dove to emphasize the way the Holy Spirit related to Jesus. The Spirit descending portrays a gentle, peaceful, but active presence coming to indwell Jesus. In the same way, since Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit, he is available to us as well.

     What an affirmation, especially at this point, because Jesus has yet to do anything. He has not healed anyone. He has not preached a sermon. He hasn't told any parables or calmed any seas. And yet there is this affirming word from heaven: "With you I am well pleased. You are my beloved."5

The Spirit descended and a voice came from heaven proclaiming the Father's approval of Jesus as his divine Son. That Jesus is God's divine Son is the foundation for all we read about Jesus in the Gospels. This voice came from the heavenly realm that had been briefly "split open" (1:10).

The voice said, "You are my beloved Son." Jesus Christ has a unique relationship with God because he is God's one and only Son. The phrase "I am fully pleased with you," means that the Father takes great delight, pleasure, and satisfaction in the Son. Jesus did not become the Son or the Messiah at this baptism. Jesus already had his divinity from eternity past. The opened heavens, the dove, and the voice revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was God's Son, come to earth as the promised Messiah to fulfill prophecy and bring salvation to those who believe.

     What do these words tell us about God? What do they teach us about ourselves? Ten times you see these affirming words in the New Testament. And they remind us that God's acceptance has nothing to do with our performance. God loves us for who we are - not what we have done. Christ dies for us while we were yet sinners. Why? Because you and I matter to God. God speaks, not only to the Son, "You are my Beloved," but also to you and to me.

     Henri Nouwen puts God's words this way:

I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother's womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child ... you belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover, and your spouse ... nothing will ever separate us. We are one.6

     It is very hard to accept this "Beloved" stance - this "most favored position." One's immediate response is to fight it.

We can fight it or believe it and/or practice it.

     Coming out of our low self-esteem we naturally fight it.

     I have a friend who, if you give her a warm fuzzie, a gold star, a true compliment, will fight it. I say, "I like your house." Her response is, "Oh, but the color is painted wrong; the steps are sagging; the hot water heater is going out," and she will discount and neutralize the compliment.

     We do that. We recycle affirmations. Sometimes we are afraid that if we don't put ourselves down, someone else will, and that will be much more painful.

     We need to be appreciated and respected. We need to hear, "You are my beloved," from God. You do matter to God. And we need it from one another. "You have worth in my eyes; you have value; you are gifted with gifts and potential; I like who you are; I admire you and I respect you and I appreciate you. I grow from you." ///

     A letter to Dear Abby signed, "Spotted in Long Island," bemoaned the fact that a young lady saw herself practically ruined because she had freckles. Abby answered by suggesting she cover up her freckles if they bothered her. But the suggestion brought on a storm of responses, prompting this letter: Dear Abby: Please tell "Spotted in Long Island" -the young woman with freckles - not to worry.

     I am a 68-year old woman with freckles and red hair, and I have felt her pain. I used buttermilk, stump-water, lemon juice, all kinds of bleaching creams and anything else that was suggested to make my freckles disappear. I still have freckles!      When anyone dared to tell me I was pretty, I refused to believe him. I overheard someone say (about me), "She's beautiful, and the most beautiful part of it is that she doesn't believe it."

     Not until I was 60 years old did I realize that I had been pretty all my life. I meet people I haven't seen in 35 or 40 years, and they recognize me immediately and even remember my name. Becoming gray hasn't changed me from "that redhead from Arkansas."

     Our gift from God is who we are; our gift TO God is what we become. Make the most of what you have and be happy. Life is too short to be wasted. Sign me ... The Girl Who Swallowed A $20 Gold Piece and Broke Out in Pennies.7

     Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

     Rather than fight it -- believe it.

     God said in your baptism, "You are My Beloved." Brothers and Sisters who care say, "I think you're great"; "I think you're

wonderful"; "I love you."

     It won't be easy to believe it if you have had a lifetime of

negativity and have been plagued with self-doubt and low self-esteem. But just think of where who you are starts. It starts in your baptism.

     William Willimon says, "In Baptism we are initiated, crowned, chosen, embraced, washed, adopted, gifted, reborn, killed, and thereby redeemed. We are identified as one of God's own, then assigned our place and our job within the kingdom of God. The way for a Christian to find out who he or she is, is not to jump on the rear of a Honda and head west, but rather to come to the bapistry and look into those graceful waters. The reflection of yourself which you see there is who you really are."8

     Believe it. For God says to you - "You are my Beloved!"

     Don't fight it. Believe it. And then practice it, one to

another.

     Say, "You are my beloved. You are my beloved friend. You are

my beloved neighbor. You are my beloved son, daughter, spouse,

significant other. You are my beloved employee, student, teacher."

     And if you can't do it at first with words - begin with deeds. Acts of love and kindness have no bounds. They'll know - they'll know they are from one who is loved and changed by Christ.

     Joan Benny remembers Sunday mornings as being her "special

time" with her father, Jack Benny: Daddy would wake me up for breakfast about 7:30. Then we'd head outside to go for a drive. Daddy would get into the car and turn the ignition key. Inevitably, nothing would happen. He would push and pull every button on the dashboard, twist all the knobs and pump the accelerator, but the motor still wouldn't start. At length he would sigh and say to me, "Honey, the car just won't

start until you give me a kiss."

     So I did, and it did - and off we went. For a long time I

believed there was some kind of scientific connection between kissing and car-starting.9

     The warm fuzzies are waiting. A thousand gold stars, too.

     A kiss, a hug, a word, a deed - you are my beloved. I appreciate you. I respect you. Amen. ____________

1. Story by Charles Mylander, source unknown.

2. Faith at Work, Volume 106, No. 3, p. 2.

3. Susan Pickle, Research at University of Missouri-Columbia

Extension.

4. Marilee Zdenek, Splinters In My Pride.

5. Faith at Work, Volume 106, No. 3, p. 3.

6. FAW, Volume 106, No. 3, pp. 2, 10. From Henri Nouwen's Life of

the Beloved.

7. As seen in a Dear Abby column by Abigail Van Buren. c

Universal Press Syndicate, Reprinted by Permission. All rights

reserved.

8. Quote from William Willimon used by permission.

9. Reprinted from Sunday Nights at Seven: The Jack Benny Story c

1991, Warner Books, New York.

*Hymn of Response                 insert                This is My Commandment

*Sending forth                Let us leave this place with the commission of the Christ in our hearts. That we may love one another.

May the cross of Christ be lifted high in hope where there is none,

the love of God stream forth toward those who live in longing,

and the Holy Spirit rise in power in unexpected places in all the earth.

Amen.

*Postlude

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