I absolutely LOVE our Vacation Bible School and I’m grateful that Mr. Mark invites me to be a part of the skits that support the theme each year.
Two years ago I was “Paddles McTalksalot” (Rolling River Rampage) and last year I was “TTTHPT” (To Mars & Beyond). That second name is more of a raspberry sound effect, and I admit that I delivered it with enthusiasm and immaturity each time it came up in our scripts.
This summer the theme of our virtual VBS was “Knights of North Castle.” I knew that I would be cast as one of three knights, and the other two knights were brave and wise. I was excited… until I learned that I was Sir Mike, THE PARTICIPANT. Really? I was the one who was receiving the dreaded Participation Trophy? Surely Mark had temporarily lost his mind and miscast me!
Actually, after our 20+ years of friendship, Mark knows me very well. Once again, he gave me the best comedic lines that played on my strengths of silliness-with-a-healthy-dose-of-cluelessness. And more importantly, he saw something in me that I honestly am proud to embrace. It is a role that God created for me and I am honored to play it every day.
Our English word “participant” comes from the Latin “participem” — which means contributing, partnering, and being a shareholder. That’s who I am: a clergy person who has been blessed with the dream appointment, with an ongoing excitement to serve and encourage people whom I admire and like and truly want to walk alongside to be a participant in their lives.
Two of my “participants” were my parents, who attended every high school basketball game I played in small town gymnasiums between the Mississippi and Fox rivers in northwest Illinois. It didn’t matter how busy their jobs were — they always had time to be present for me and my brothers in the activities we loved.
Another “participant” was the chaplain of a hospital in Denver, during my seminary years. As a class requirement, I watched him give the devastating news to a mother that her son was brain-dead from a motorcycle accident. I sat in the corner and wondered what he would possibly say to help her? In reality, he sat quietly with her for a couple of hours, gave her space to grieve, and then offered to help her with concrete tasks like contacting her loved ones.
I can’t imagine a better time than RIGHT NOW for each of us to embrace the partner, shareholder, and participant in each of us! We know the ways that we have been supported and loved and blessed… and we have the wonderful and desperately-needed opportunity to do the same for others.
Huzzah, O Participants!
Dr. Mike Marshall
Associate Pastor of Leadership Development