Thursday, June 02, 2005

Chapel with Bobby

The following selection comes from Gary E. Weedman
Provost, Palm Beach Atlantic College

Every small college seems to have at least one student like Bobby. He was, to be kind, socially challenged. He came from the hills of north Georgia and from an unfortunate family background. He had spent a considerable part of his life in an orphanage. He dressed funny- in striped shirts and checked pants. He looked funny, often having a quizzical grin. He talked funny, at times with a slight stutter and basic articulation problems.

Human nature being what it is, even on a Christian campus, Bobby became the convenient butt of many campus jokes and pranks by the more sophisticated on campus. He always received this mischief with more good nature than any of the perpetrators would have done. There was the famous cat- food incident when some of his friends made some sandwiches, allegedly from ham salad but actually cat food, and shared them with the unsuspecting, trusting Bobby. The joke was all the more humorous when he back for more. He was the kind of student everyone remembers.

What was the most memorable about Bobby for me, however, was not his eccentricities or ever the way that he responded to cruelty masked as practical jokes. What he did during a chapel service during my sophomore year is what stands out in my mind. The scheduled speaker did not appear and the person presiding asked the student body if anyone had anything to say. Bobby readily volunteered. He approached the pulpit of the chapel, dressed in his normal, cast- off clothes. The audience reacted typically, with muffled giggles, wondering what entertaining strangeness would follow.

Bobby stood on the platform with his characteristically vacant grin and looked around the audience for many minutes without saying a word. Finally, the giggling stopped and he began: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3)

After quoting Psalm 1 in its entirety from memory, he explained, in his tortured way, that the great desire of his life was to be the kind of person described in the psalm. He wanted to delight in the law of the Lord, not to be a deceitful person or a scornful man. He said he was a blessed man because of his friends at the college, and he thanked us all for being his friends.

I remember no other chapel sermon from that school year besides Bobby's. I remember well his simple eloquence and the pain of my own remorse. After the benediction, we filed quietly out of the chapel. My friends and I saw Bobby in a different light. He had not changed, but we had been changed by the power of the Word that we heard through him. I am not able to rejoice in the variety, the eccentricities, of God's people. I cannot read Psalm without the power of that sermon touching me anew.

Excerpt from College Faith (2002)

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