As teachers and students head back to school, we could all use an extra measure of bravery. I wonder who makes you brave?

 

Over the Summer months the new Toy Story movie had me thinking about what it means to be brave.

 

The first Toy Story movie came out when I was twelve years old. When the fourth Toy Story movie came out this Summer I was excited to bring my kids, each of whom have loved the three previous movies.

 

The movie picks up not long after Toy Story 3 left off. You know the scene that still makes me cry, Andy is on his way to college and he stops by a young friend named Bonnie’s house to deliver his old toys, entrusting them to her care.

 

Toy Story 4 brings back most of your favorites: Woody, Buzz, Slink, Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead, RC, and Jessie. There are a few new characters: Forky and Duke Kaboom.

And Toy Story 4 brings back a familiar face: Bo Peep.

 

As Bonnie gets ready to head to kindergarten, Woody is anxious about helping Bonnie with the transition. He is also struggling to make sense of his place at Bonnie’s house. Woody is no longer the favorite toy and he’s uncertain about his purpose.

 

As the adventure unfolds, Woody runs into some old friend: Bo Peep and her sheep. The story is that Bo Peep and the sheep were Andy’s sister’s toys and they were sold a yard sale in between Toy Story 2 and 3. So Bo and the sheep have been on their own, they’ve made new friends, and they are happy.

 

As Woody tries to help Bonnie and deal with his own uncertainty, it’s Bo who helps Woody to be brave. Her own experience of life after Andy’s room gives Woody courage to make a leap and take a chance. It’s Bo’s encouragement that helps Woody be brave and to leave what is comfortable and familiar, to trust that others can also help Bonnie. When we see others being brave it helps us to be brave too.

 

I’ve been trying to keep a list of people and stories over the summer that give me hope, courage, and make me feel brave.

 

Here’s a quick list in no particular order:

-My kids make me brave. When my oldest was a baby it dawned on me that one day she would hear my sermons and knowing that has always made me more courageous as a preacher. Any moment of thinking someone might take offense at something is quickly dispelled by remembering my kids are going to hear this and I want them to be clear about what is good, just, moral, and graceful.

 

-Teachers heading back to school make me brave. The teachers who know they are going into a difficult year. The teachers coming off a hard summer. The teachers who get up every day and head to school not sure if they are making a difference.

 

-Kids heading back to school give me courage. School can be the best and worst place for kids and the kids who show up even though they’ve been bullied or told they aren’t good enough, they are brave and I hope you take every opportunity to tell them.

 

-In Maine, there is a school that learned sign language to welcome a deaf kindergartner (link).

 

-Confirmation students in Nebraska had the courage to refuse to be confirmed after the United Methodist denomination renewed it’s ban on LGBTQ ordination and marriage (link).

 

-This summer the 10th Religions for Peace World Assembly met in Germany. The focus was on how people of different of faiths could work together on the biggest global issues (link).

 

-Maybe you remember the photo from a couple of years ago, a man in a cowboy hat holding up a sign outside of a mosque that said, “You belong. Stay strong. Be blessed. We are one America.” He said he did it to put his Presbyterian faith in action (link). 

 

-There is Pia Klemp who has rescued thousands of stranded migrants, risking jail time, but also was recognized for her bravery but she refused the award saying no gets to decide “who is a ‘hero’ and who is ‘illegal’ because we are all equal” (link). 

 

-In the midst of so much violence, we do well to remember how powerful nonviolence truly is. “The most striking finding is that between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts,” according to scholars Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan (link). 

 

-A garbage man, José Alberto Gutiérrez, who collected 25,000 books and created a library for his community in Bogota. “I grew up, here and I can tell you it got me a Ph.D. in marginalization and poverty,” Gutiérrez said. “Kids here don’t have a place to study; instead, they have to start working early” (link). 

 

-The 13 year old in Lousianna who started a clothes closet to help his classmates in need (link). 

 

-A computer coder in Maryland organizing supplies for “Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Laredo, which will distribute them to individuals and families released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facilities.” All in the name of helping other humans to “feel human again” (link). 

 

-People in Ethiopia planting 350 million trees in 12 hours to confront climate collapse. The goal is to plant 4 billion or about 12 per citizen (link). 

 

-“If I am guilty of anything, I am guilty of living the Gospel.” People of faith providing humanitarian aid at the border and facing federal charges (link). 

-16 year old Greta Thunberg, who has been challenging inaction on the collapsing climate since she was 11 (link). 

All of these people see a need and they are doing what they can to help by stepping out and making a difference. Their courage inspires me and gives me hope not only for our world, but that I too might be brave to address the needs of those around me. 

Saint Augustine wrote, “Hope has two beautiful daughters, their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

So when you see others being brave, tell them. Even when they fall down or fail, they’ll have the courage to try again. 

 

Pat yourself on the back when you show courage, be gentle with yourself when you don’t.

 

So who makes you brave?

 

Pastor Mike

 

“Hold fast to what is good. Have courage!”