Have you ever heard of something called, the Jerusalem Syndrome? It’s a kind of temporary psychosis that strikes a few dozen tourists, mostly Christian, who visit the city of Jerusalem every year. These are usually perfectly normal people who go on holiday to see the sites, and then, as a surprise to everyone and themselves as well, they have a psychotic break. Here are a list of possible symptoms put together to help tour guides and hotel personnel recognize the behavior ...
Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, says that whenever you and I draw a line in the sand, so to speak, Jesus is on the other side of that line. That is to say that when you and I draw a line or build a wall in order to exclude someone, for whatever reason, Jesus is on the other side of that line – Jesus is with the other person we are attempting to exclude, every time. Well, Paul understands this. Paul is asking Philemon to do some stretching when it comes to boundaries. Paul himself had done some stretching himself. A lot in fact. Paul was once a Pharisee, part of the reformed party of Judaism.
Like you, I imagine, I have this soft spot in my heart for individuals who are their own person – who speak truth even when it doesn’t serve them. We’re all thinking this weekend of John McCain. I will never forget that town hall when he was running for president in 2008 and a woman stood up and claimed Barack Obama was an Arab and McCain said, “No ma’am. He’s not. He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” As we all know now, it might have helped him to agree with that deluded woman, but John McCain, God bless him, was not willing to base his presidential campaign on a lie.
Between Heaven and Earth, a Sermon by Luana Uluave
Brother Columban Mary Hall is a Catholic Dominican Friar that I’m working with this summer in a training program for chaplains at St Mark’s hospital. Though he is 32 years old, he was not long ago asked for ID to prove his age - for a PG-13 movie. He wears a cream colored habit that makes him look like a Jedi. So as you might imagine, I was immediately fascinated when I met him.
Now, David “was ruddy with beautiful eyes.” He was the Johnny Depp of his day. Both his power and his good looks worked a number on the everyone. In the first book of Kings in the Bible, you can read how he is remembered by history: “David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” (I Kings 15:5)
You might have seen the cartoon: two cavemen are sitting outside their cave making stone tools. One says to the other: “Something’s just not right – our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, and look … nobody lives past 30.”
It would be like someone from Delta, Utah coming up here to Salt Lake and addressing people in the foyer of the Main Library. He’d stand there yelling, taking the leadership of Salt Lake apart verbally and the patrons would just ignore him, write him off as one of the homeless rabble. One of the staff there would call the police to come and quietly take him away as they do there pretty often, I’m sure.
Well, prayer, real prayer, as someone has said, is “becoming weak toward God.” Anyone who has prayed long and hard in the face of something immovable comes to understand this. Paul certainly did. So do many others.
I think of how desperate I was once when my daughter, at the age of four, was suffering what seemed to be simple ankle sprains. Both ankles at once. We liked her pediatrician a lot, but all she could recommend was wrapping the ankles and waiting.
Well my daughter started feeling very very sick one night and we took her to the children’s hospital in Portland and the doctor we saw there, after midnight, looked her over and unwrapped one of her ankles, and nothing prepared me to see the mass of purple bubbles of skin her ankle had become.
All at once I thought this must mean she was deathly ill, but for this specialist it was proof, without the need of a blood test, that she had an auto-immune condition that could be serious but that, for most, was just a stage of development that should pass in a period of a couple of months. It was like going from a sentence of death to new life in a matter of moments for me, the desperate dad.
A week ago Hilary and I provided our children a three day Vacation Church School experience. One of the Bible stories we unpacked with them was the story of Noah and his ark. I asked the kids what an ark was and they said it was a boat, and they were correct – but I also let them know that the Hebrew word for ark also has a value meaning to it. An ark is, in fact, a treasure box. It is a place God told Noah to construct that was meant to hold the things that God deemed most precious – in this case it was the remnant of all the living creatures of the earth.
Now, all that is preamble to this morning’s story.
Jesus is asking the disciples (read: you and me) to give him all we have. He knows we are going to say, as we always do – “Hey we are inadequate. First let me go to graduate school. First let me poll my friends about this problem. Give me time to find some resources.” No, Jesus is saying, offer up the little you have; empty yourself.
Eli and his sons have become strangers to one another, if not actually, then at least morally. Now, most times when I have spoken about this passage Samuel and his calling has been my principle focus, but the incredible pathos that the judgment of God on Eli evokes here looms so large in this text. To ignore it would do such a disservice to the story. Besides, I wonder if there aren't a lot more Elis than there are Samuels in the world.
What is interesting is what occurs to Isaiah when his world comes crashing down. Look carefully at the text here and you can see that though Isaiah is crushed by the loss of his benefactor king, Isaiah, in that terrifying vacuum, finds out who the REAL King of the Universe is — He puts it this way: "In the year King Uzziah died, I SAW THE LORD.” Isaiah had a God-sized blind spot when it came to the foundation his life was built upon, and he was just finding that out.
There you have it: Attestations from the young to the meaning and value of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, what it means to be Presbyterian, what it means that we are a judgment free community of faith committed to growing in that faith together.
Some years ago, when she knew her time was short, the wonderful Nora Ephron made two lists: What I will miss - & - What I won’t miss.
Here is some of what is on her What I Won’t Miss list … Dry skin, E-mail, washing my hair, bras, polls that show that 32% of the American people believe in creationism, Clarence Thomas, Mammograms, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, E-mail – I know I already said it, but I want to emphasize it, taking off make-up every night.
Here is some of what is on her What I will miss list ...
Way back in 1907, two scholars, a British scholar named William Mitchell Ramsay and a German scholar named Gustav Adolph Deissmann, got on a couple of trains and then a couple of boats and finally two horses and went around visiting sites of the early church in the northern Mediterranean – places where the apostle Paul had planted an early form of Christianity, and they saw some ancient stone inscriptions on monuments in those towns that said that Caesar Augustus was divine. They saw inscriptions that showed that he was called the son of god, and lord, and redeemer, and savior of the world and they said, “Hmm? Those are familiar titles.” They saw all that and they said, as it were: “Oh, my God! So that’s what these titles in the Bible are all about!”
One thing that must mean is that if there is fear in a relationship, something other than love is going on. It doesn’t mean there isn’t any love in the relationship; but if there’s fear, love isn’t the only thing there.
Well, Jonah went down to the bottom of the ship and went to sleep. But God wasn’t through with Jonah. God hurled a storm, a strong wind like we had here last Monday afternoon, against that ship and it says that all on board were afraid. And so, in a panic, they began to throw things overboard. And then in their superstitious way, they thought: “Maybe there’s a guilty-critter on board this ship who made this happen.”
When I was a kid, way before digital photography, we would hurry to the drug store with rolls of film as soon as we’d return from a trip, and then, in a day or two, we’d hurry back to get our pictures and eagerly open them, right there on the counter, to see what just happened to us a few days earlier, so as to begin the process of sealing and celebrating the experience by remembering it.
I Googled the words “most monumental anti-climax in history” and I got, Y2K – remember that one? And the Mayan Calendar prediction of the end of the world in 2012. Yes, and someone online also suggested, The Big Bang.