Never ask rhetorical questions. That’s a tease because you the asker know the answer in advance. In one parish I heard about a minister asking ‘When Jesus was deserted by his disciples, where were you?’ To which one enthusiastic congregant replied, ‘In the men’s room.’ It seems like Pontius Pilate hadn’t gotten the message about rhetorical questions.
Have you ever had the experience of prearranging a meeting with someone and arriving only to find that they are nowhere around. But then you realize that there is an upstairs to the restaurant and upon going up a set of stairs, there they are waiting for you on the upper level.
You might look at each other as if you’ve seen a ghost. But then realize what must have happened. It never occurred to you, that while one was downstairs, the other was waiting upstairs.
At a crucial moment in the film 101 Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita and their 15 Dalmatian puppies are all watching TV, waiting for the right moment to escape from the wicked Cruella DeVil. One of the puppies, Rolly, despite being captivated by the film, says, ‘I'm hungry, Mother. I'm hungry.’ Perdita, ‘Now Rolly, you’ve just had your dinner.’ Rolly insists, ‘But I am, just the same. I'm so hungry I could eat a… a whole elephant.’
Erik Erikson suggested that trust verses mistrust is an indicator for very young children as to whether or not we will flourish as people. Some forces have eroded trust in our time. In the face of the onslaught of critical historical and scientific analyses in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, Christianity turned inward. The test of truth became not so much Did this happen? or Can it be proven? but Has it changed my life? and Does it make me feel close to God?
Matthew took an experience that the disciples had with Jesus and made it into a sermon.
This story begins somewhat with an unusual setting; Jesus compelled his followers to get into the boat. My question is why did he force them into the boat?
Why force, what’s the problem? We are told the reason as to why Jesus went to the other side was to have some alone time. So maybe he had had enough conversation, and just wanted them away.
Susan Retik and Patti Quigley were each seven months pregnant, picking out the color of their babys’ nurseries when their husbands were each killed on the 11th of September, 2001. Suddenly Susan and Patti found themselves widows, plunged into loneliness and tragedy, trying to answer the unanswerable questions of their other grieving children.
On the morning new shows, these two widows watched the unfolding fight in Afghanistan, and learned about the plight of women there.
In Luke we get the sermon on the plane. In Matthew it’s the sermon on the mount because Matthew wants Jesus to look like a new Moses as he was writing to Jews living up North and so Jesus almost had to appear as a new Moses, bringing the law from on high down to earth.
But in Luke, Jesus is on a plane as he gathers people around him and says if you love people who love you big deal, if you do good to those who do good to you tit for tat anyone can do that.
I remember as a kid playing with friends. In the summer months I remember dividing up into good guys and bad guys. The problem always happened. When you shot someone with your cap gun, a dispute usually followed, as to whether you friend was dead, or wounded, or Paul, my next door neighbor, would say, you missed me.
Do you know of folks, for whom getting a gift is a problem? My brother prides himself on still having unopened Christmas presents from 20 years ago. That picture of leaving the gift in the box. Does it hold the same kind of sadness for you as it does for me?
Maybe you’ve got a similar resistance to being given gifts. Perhaps you recognize in someone you care about a gift that remains profoundly unopened, a skill that’s remained a hidden hobby, a talent that never blossomed into a professional calling, but could have been a blessing to the whole world.
This is Pentecost, the birthday of the church. Before being a Christian celebration, Pentecost was a Jewish holiday celebrating the giving of the Ten Commandments, knowing Gods’ character through knowing the law.