14 Sunday B

From Father James Gilhooley  

The bishop asked the monsignor, "How was my homily?" The msgr: "You were brief." The bp: "I try never to be tiresome. The msgr: "You were tiresome too." 

The nineteenth century English poet, Alfred Tennyson, wrote: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." Was that a cute throwaway line or did Lord Tennyson know something we do not? The answer to our question is to be found in the prayer life of Jesus. 

During boyhood, Mary and Joseph annually took the Child to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in the Great Temple. It was a costly journey for this working class family. And don't forget exhaustion. We speak about a five day walk over ninety miles. The sun would blister them in the day and the nights would deep freeze them. But each year, faithful as the sunrise, they loaded the old donkey and moved south. When He became a Man, Jesus continued to go to Jerusalem for the solemn feast.

Furthermore, every Saturday in Nazareth the Master picked up His weekly contribution envelope and took Himself to His synagogue or parish. Like most Jews, He was tithing 10% of His income. Anything less He would consider a tip. There He  worshipped publicly and received instructions. This procedure He followed till He knocked the dust of Nazareth off His sandals for good at about age 30.

But the Gospel record shows He continued weekly public worship after leaving His home town. Today Mark explicitly mentions His presence in a synagogue. The next time you want to skip weekend Mass, you might want to dwell on this point. Perhaps a line from Saint Padre Pio might help: "If we understood the Eucharist, we would risk our life to get to Mass. 

With the above as evidence, one must conclude the Teacher has little patience with many self-deceived men and women. These are the folks who say that, while they do not go to Sunday Liturgy, they do worship God at home in their own way. If such worship was not kosher for the Christ, how can it be acceptable for any of us today?

Some wannabe intellectuals say, "If the homilies were better, I would go." The only answer for that is the response of the grizzled old pastor, "If it's laughs you want, catch a TV comic. If worship, I'm your man."  

Can you imagine the number of dull sermons Jesus of Nazareth must have been subjected to over thirty-three years? How many times must He have put His knuckle deep into His mouth to stifle laughter at some theological gaffe from a well-meaning rabbi?  Yet, He faithfully went each Saturday. 

"I don't go to church because there are so many hypocrites there." Do you really think there were no such deadbeats around the Teacher during His public worship days? Incidentally, we always have room for one more hypocrite. And, as Andrew Greeley puts it, "If you can find a perfect church, join it. But realize that as soon as you do, it ceases to be perfect." 

Deadly homilies and hypocrites notwithstanding, the Nazarene felt obliged to go to public worship. To paraphrase CS Lewis, he wanted to tune into the secret wireless of God. If Christ did all this, so of course should you and I. 

An even careless reading of the Gospels reveal that the Teacher invested His time in private prayer as well. It was a given that every Jewish family would have a schedule of daily private prayer. This would be particularly true at meals. This custom Jesus continued to the end as the Last Supper indicates. 

His public ministry had to be very busy. Yet, He put aside quality time for private prayer. Check it out in Luke. He writes: "Crowds pressed on Him. But He retired to a mountain and prayed." In Mark: "In the morning, He got up, left the house, and went off to a lonely place, and prayed there." 

If the Master had not spent so much time in public and private prayer, He could have cured so many more hundreds, if not thousands, of their physical ailments. 

One must thereby conclude He considered prayer not a luxury item but a necessity. It is a must-do for us. Matthew and John tell us the servant is not greater than the master and the pupil not greater than the teacher. Given the example of the Nazarene, why then do we assign prayer to the fringes of our lives? Why is it not one of the essentials of our brief existence? 

"To pray is," as Ralph Sockman wrote, "to expose the shore of the mind to the incoming tide of God."

From the Connections:
‘To look my kids in the eye’
He was an accountant at a hospital run by a major health care corporation.  His employers had asked him to keep two sets of books, one to show the Medicare auditors for reimbursement and the other marked CONFIDENTIAL – Do Not Discuss or Release to Medicare Auditors.  He refused to go along with the fraud and was fired.  He sued the company for wrongful termination; in the process, he discovered that the company was doing the same thing at hundreds of hospitals.  He filed a “whistle-blower” complaint with the appropriate government authorities.  The case dragged through the courts for years, and during all that time he was unemployed and unemployable before he was finally vindicated, awarded a large financial settlement and an acknowledgment of the truth of his allegations.  The corporation had to pay out more than one billion dollars in fines, penalties and reimbursements.
What gave him the courage and determination to do what he did at great personal cost? 
He knew who he was working for. 
He was not working for the greedy, dishonest corporate executives who signed his paycheck.  He was working for his sick and injured neighbors who sought care at a hospital where they believed their well-being would be that hospital’s chief concern.  As an accountant, he was working for American taxpayers, keeping the health care provider accountable for the Medicare dollars entrusted to them. 
And he was working to maintain a sense of himself as an honest man.  He writes:
“There were many, many times when I had to ask myself:  Why am I doing this?  You don’t always know why, but you see your kids and you realize you may have lost your job, your career, most of your savings, everything you’ve worked for, but if you ever lose their respect, it’s something that cannot be replaced.  I knew that when it was over, no matter how it turned out, I wanted to be able to look my kids in the eye and tell them that truth and honesty really do matter.”
[Jim Alderson, writing in The Rotarian, January 2004.]
Authority is so much more than words; it is the lived commitment to one’s beliefs.  Authentic authority is not invested by virtue of office or title or economic power, but by the wisdom that comes from experience and a commitment to do what is right and just that transcends expectations.  Such is the “authority” of the Rabbi Jesus of the Gospels.  The source of Jesus’ “authority” is not the ability to manipulate his hearer’s suspicions, apathy or ignorance, but to call forth from them a commitment to mercy, justice and compassion.  Those who speak not to our emotions and wants but to our consciences, who speak not in catchy slogans and buzz words but in the convictions of their experience, who share with us from the wealth of their own hard work and study possess the “authority” that is of God, an authority that is worthy of our respect and attentiveness. 
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1: Rev. Deacon Prophet:  
There is the story about a bishop who   was  interviewing  a  senior  seminarian  before  his  ordination  as deacon, and   asked  him  where   he  would  like  to  be  assigned  as  a deacon for  pastoral  training.  The seminarian said,  somewhat boldly, "Oh,  my  bishop,  anywhere but  New  Canaan!" "Why  not  there,"  the bishop  asked?  "You know," the seminarian answered, "Thats my hometown -- and  we  all  know  that  a prophet  is  not  without honor except in his native place. The bishop replied, "Don't worry my friend! Nobody in your hometown is going to confuse you with a prophet." 

2:  Dont   allow   rejection  to   derail   your   dreams:   
Brilliant  British Theologian G.K. Chesterton could not read  until he was eight  years old. A teacher said  if his  head were  opened they  would  probably  find  a lump  of fat where  there  was supposed to be a brain.  That teacher was wrong.  Einsteins  parents  were  informed  by  a  teacher that  he  would never  amount to anything. For The Tale of Peter Rabbit,  Beatrix Potter received seven rejection slips before finding  a publisher. Richard Bach got  twenty rejection slips before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was published.  Dr. Seuss,  one  of the  most  popular  childrens authors of all time, got more  than  two  dozen  rejection slips before The Cat  in the Hat made it to print. Ruth Graham felt an uncontrollable urge to run out of the  meeting the  first  time  she  heard Billy preach. She  was  not  under conviction. She was put  off by his preaching style. Billy had  to improve his preaching before Ruth would become his wife.  Todays gospel  tells us how Jesus encountered rejection with prophetic courage. 

3: Good news to the poor!  But are we poor?  
Mother Teresa thinks so. There  was  a  beautiful  article  about her  in  Time  magazine.  She was asked  about the  materialism  of  the  West.  "The  more  you  have,   the more  you  are  occupied,"  she  contended, "but  the  less  you  have  the freer you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is a joyful freedom. There is no  television  here,  no  this,  no  that.  This  is  the  only  fan  in the  whole house...and  it is  for the  guests.  But we  are  happy.” She continued, "I find the rich poorer.  Sometimes they  are lonelier  inside...The hunger  for love  is much more  difficult  to  fill than  the  hunger  for bread...The  real poor  know  what is joy." When asked about her plans for the future,  she replied,  "I just take   one  day.   Yesterday   is  gone. Tomorrow  has  not come. We have  only today to love  Jesus." Is there  anyone in this room as rich as Mother Teresa?

4: Rejection  resulting  in the resignation:  
There was a feud  between the Pastor and  the Choir Director of a Southern Baptist parish. The first hint of trouble came when  the Pastor preached on Dedicating oneself  to service and  the Choir Director chose to sing: "I Shall Not Be Moved". Trying to believe it was a coincidence, the Pastor put   the   incident   behind  him.  The   next   Sunday   he   preached   on giving. Afterwards, the choir squirmed as the director led them  in the hymn:  "Jesus Paid  It All" By this time,  the  Pastor was losing his temper. Sunday morning attendance swelled as the  tension  between the  two began public.  A large  crowd  showed  up  the  next  week  to  hear  his sermon on the sin of gossiping”. Would  you believe the Choir Director selected:  "I  Love  To Tell the  Story."  There  was  no  turning  back. The following   Sunday   the   Pastor   told    the   congregation   that    unless something changed he was considering resignation. The entire  church gasped  when   the  Choir  Director  led  them   in:  Why  Not  Tonight.” Truthfully, no one  was surprised when  the Pastor resigned a week  later, explaining  that  Jesus had  led  him  there  and  Jesus was  leading  him away. The Choir  Director  could not  resist singing:  "What  a  Friend We Have In Jesus." 

5: Rejection  at the Pearly Gate,  too:   
A cab driver reaches the  Pearly Gates and  announces his presence to St. Peter, who  looks him up in his Big Book. Upon reading the entry for the cabby, St. Peter invites him to grab  a  silk robe  and  a  golden staff  and  to  proceed into  Heaven. A preacher  is  next  in  line  behind the  cabby and  has  been watching these  proceedings  with  interest.  He  announces  himself  to  St.  Peter. Upon scanning the preacher's entry in the Big Book, St. Peter furrows his brow  and  says, "Okay,  we'll  let you  in, but  take  that  cotton robe  and wooden staff." The preacher is astonished and  replies, "But I am a man of  the  cloth.  You gave that  cab driver  a  gold  staff  and  a  silk robe. Surely, I  rate  higher  than   a  cabby." St. Peter  responded  matter-of- factly: "Here we  are  interested in results. When  you preached, people slept. When the cabby drove  his taxi, people prayed." L/12.
From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel who tries to call his people to repentance, but it is frustrating for him to prophesy because the people refuse to listen. We need to realize that every Christian is called to be a prophet, to confront and challenge by word and example, that which is not of God. At times we might be tempted to give up because we know that people will not listen, but that should not prevent us from fulfilling the mission. Ezekiel saw enough evil in the people to warrant giving up trying to help them, yet he continued his thankless mission. Jerusalem was destroyed and Ezekiel was vindicated.

Do you mean to say you are a priest?
In 1960 a religious persecution broke out in the territory of Sudan in Africa. A Christian black student named Taban fled the danger and went to Uganda. While in Uganda he studied for the priesthood and was ordained. When things settled down in Sudan, young Fr. Taban returned to his homeland. But his African congregation found it hard to believe that he was really a priest. Fr. Taban says: "The people looked hard at me and asked, 'Do you mean to say, black man, that you are a priest? We can't believe it.'" These people had never had a black priest before. They had always had white priests who gave them clothing and medicine. Young Fr. Taban was from the Madi tribe and had nothing to give them, as he was poor like them. To make matters worse, Fr. Taban had to introduce them to the changes of the second Vatican Council. These changes bothered the people greatly. They said to one another: "This young man turns our altar around and celebrates mass in our own language. He cannot be a real priest. Only after a great deal of difficulty did the people of Palotaka finally accept Fr. Taban.
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'
In the Gospel we see Jesus coming to his own home town of Nazareth to preach to his people. Not only did the people refuse to accept Jesus, but they were offended by him, and refused to listen. They thought he was not worth listening for two reasons. Firstly, he was a worker. "This is the carpenter, surely...". Some of them, like some of us, thought that people who worked with their hands are incapable of any level of intellectual capacity which could command their respect. The second reason for their rejection of Jesus was that they were so close to him. He was also related to many of the townsfolk having maybe extended family and cousins or other remote relatives. As good Jews the townsfolk were expecting the Messiah, but surely not one of their own, someone they grew up with, someone whose family was just like any other family in the village. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus was so distressed at this lack of faith that he could work no miracles there. It does not say that he chose to work no miracles there, but that because of their hardness of heart he couldn't work any there. How does Jesus react to the locals? He says to them: "A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house." In Mark's version of the Gospel, Jesus is rejected by his own relations and by those of his own house, they believed him to be out of his mind and now the rejection is complete. Jesus' experience of rejection in Nazareth renders him powerless to do any miracle among his own people and so he moves elsewhere, refusing to be enslaved by his failure to reach his own people. By coping thus with failure and rejection, Jesus points beyond himself in the power of the Father.
Strength is weakness and weakness is strength
Two paupers wandered from town to town, begging for alms. One was a giant who had never been sick in his life; the other was a cripple who had never known anything but sickness. The giant used to laugh at the cripple. At last the two paupers reached the capital city. They arrived just at the time when a great misfortune had taken place. Two of the kings' most trusted servants had died suddenly. One was his personal bodyguard, the strongest man in the land; the other was his personal physician, the most skillful in the entire realm. So the king sent his courtiers into his kingdom to gather all the strong men and doctors who wished to apply for the vacant posts. The king finally chose one strong man and one doctor from among all the applicants. He then asked them to furnish proof of their fitness for the posts. "Your majesty", said the strongman, "Bring me the strongest and biggest man in the city and I will kill him with one blow of my fist." The doctor said "Your majesty, bring me the most helpless cripple you can find and I will make him well in a week." The king sent his courtiers to bring the strongest man and the weakest cripple they could find. They soon came upon the two paupers and brought them before the king. With one blow of his fist the strong man killed the giant. Then the doctor examined the cripple and after a week's treatment he made him well. - The strength of the strong often proves to be their downfall, while the weakness of the weak often saves them.
Flor McCarthy, in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'
The medium is the message?
A traveling circus was staying on the outskirts of a village. One evening shortly before show time, a fire broke out in one of the tents. The manager sent the clown, who was already dressed up for his act, into the nearby village for help. There was danger that the fire would spread across the fields of dry stubble and burn the village itself. The clown hurried into the village. He asked the people to come out as quickly as possible to help quench the fire. But the people didn't take him seriously. They thought it was a brilliant piece of advertising on the part of the management. He tried his best to make them understand that there really was a fire. But the harder he tried the more they laughed at him. Finally the fire reached the village and burned it to the ground. -The main reason why the villagers didn't listen to the man was that they looked upon him as a clown. This made it virtually impossible for them to examine the truth of what he was saying to them. Something similar happened to Jesus when he returned to his native village of Nazareth. His message never had a chance because they refused to listen to the messenger.
Flor McCarthy, in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'
God next door!
God calls us too, not by extraordinary people, but by very ordinary beings in whom we have to recognize the unpredictable presence of the one sent by God. The guest, the neighbour, the sick person, the stranger, the one at my side, are so many channels of grace, if we guard in our hearts this dynamism of expectancy which calls for and brings about miracles. Yes God has need of men in order to manifest himself.
Glenstal Missal
God wishes to reach out to us
I remember being profoundly moved by the unfolding of events in Romania some years ago, at the fall of a tyrannical dictatorship. When the country was opened up, the horror stories began to emerge about the living conditions in orphanages, psychiatric hospitals, etc. Many young people went out from this country to help transform the living conditions of these unfortunate people. I knew one such girl. The first time she entered an orphanage, the two things that struck her most were the stench and the silence. When babies cry and are not attended to, they stop crying. The babies were living in conditions that would be unacceptable in the animal kingdom. Matters of toilet were totally neglected, and the children had no experience whatever of being held, of being nursed. At the approach of an adult the babies were seen to tremble, like frightened rabbits. Mary's job was to sit for hours on end beside one such baby, until the baby got used to her presence. She then, over a long period, worked at drawing closer to the baby, and eventually touching it, without frightening it. It often took several weeks before Mary's big day came. When she approached the baby, and it held up its arms to be lifted, she felt that was one the greatest moments in her life. She shed many a tear while she worked with those babies. Jesus really wants to touch us, he wants to embrace us, he wants to be free from all the evil, sin, and the human degradation.
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth!'
Be encouraged!
A group of frogs were travelling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead. The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all of their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He gave up and died. The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs said, "Did you not hear us?" The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time. This story teaches two lessons: Firstly, there is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day. Secondly, a destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. We need to be careful of what we say. Let us speak life-giving words to those who cross our path.
In spite of rejections, may we be prophets of hope in the world today!

Picture yourself starting a brand new project. You might want to call it mission. In a parish where most of the communicants were government workers, civilian and military, I was always hearing the word, mission. I had understood mission in a religious context. I learned that mission could have a broader meaning. Life is mission. Business is mission. Career is mission. Mission is a good word. It suggests vision that is supported by good planning. Define your mission clearly. State its purpose briefly. Write the rules for implementing it. That will be your business plan. That makes you mission ready.

The Gospel is about mission. St. Mark has a way of zeroing in on the basics. He's very brief and to the point. Let's get the picture. Jesus sets up a "pilot test" project. He wants to test how well his brand new on-the-job trainees can take instructions and make them work. In this Gospel we see him giving them a lesson on some very basic matters. I will use three key words to highlight his work plan: Excess, Time and Respond. In the simplest terms, the basics are: avoid Excesses, use Time wisely, and Respond, don't react, to each new challenge.

I suggest that these basics will work for you too, any time and any place...
There are two types of travelers. There are those that travel light; and, there are those who pack for self-preservation.
Do you take a small bag with the basic essentials and figure you'll pick stuff up as you go?

Or do you cram everything you can into every corner of an extra-large expandable bag, making sure that whatever comes your way on your trip, you are prepared?

Parents traveling with small children embody both extremes. They bring enough "kid gear," emergency medicines, food and drink boxes, stuffed animals, and beloved story-books to keep the children satisfied for weeks. But they're lucky if they get a toothbrush and a change of socks for themselves.

It is the Boy Scouts' motto of "Be Prepared" vs. the new airline mantra of "you pay for every pound." Once you are beyond the "traveling with small children" phase of your life, it is tempting to look at all the "stuff" parents bring along as just so much junk. But, ironically, it is those protective parents who might best embody the supplications of Jesus and the spartan traveling supplies of Jesus' disciples. No, the twelve apostles did not bring "Dora, the Explorer" downloads. No, there were no fruit snacks and water bottles. But . . . Yes, like parents, they did set out to travel without focusing on their own needs and provisions.

In today's text we learn how the disciples, in accordance with Jesus' own directives, took basically nothing as a "back-up" for themselves...

Pridefulness - Not Needing God

Atlas was condemned to carry the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. That was as harsh a punishment as the ancient Greek mind could conjure up. Today, it seems, we have volunteered to play the role of Atlas. We have not offended God, we have dismissed him, told him we were grown up enough not to need his help any more, and offered to carry the weight of the entire world on our shoulders. The question is, when it gets too heavy for us, when there are questions too hard for human knowledge to answer and problems that take more time to solve than any of us have, will we be too proud to admit that we have made a mistake in wanting to carry this world alone?

Rabbi Harold Kushner
Switching Tracks

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to move on to another field. Paul Harvey tells the story of Joe, who was born into a family of Sicilian immigrants, a family who had a 300-year history as fishermen. Joe's dad was a fisherman. His brothers were fishermen. But Joe was made sick by the smell of raw fish and the motion of a rocking boat. In a family where the only acceptable way to earn a living was by fishing, Joe was a failure. His dad used to refer to his son as "good for nothing." Joe believed his dad. He believed that his attempts at other types of work were an admission of failure, but he just couldn't stand the smell of the fishing business. One thing that Joe could do was to play baseball. Giving up a field where he could not succeed, Joe DiMaggio moved to another field and became one of the great successes of baseball.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost

Call to Repentance and Change

Erwin M. Soukup has compiled what he terms "The Seven Steps to Stagnation":

1. We've never done it that way before.
2. We're not ready for that.
3. We are doing all right without trying that.
4. We tried it once before.
5. We don't have money for that.
6. That's not our job.
7. Something like that can't work.

Soukup admits that "there's probably an eighth step, but we've never looked it up before."

Martin E. Marty, "Context," April 15, 1985, p. 5.

Ignoring the Play

When I was in elementary school, I remember when all the kids in the neighborhood got together and put on a show. We rigged up a curtain of sorts by hanging an old bedspread in a screened porch, and arranged folding chairs for the audience. Then we practiced a small play, and added in a few musical solos, for which I played the piano. (Because we couldn't move the piano closer to the play, I had to play it very loud, and even then it was barely audible.) As I remember it, it was a prodigious feat for little kids like us.

We invited all our mothers to come to our performance. (That was back in the days when housewives were not an endangered species and most mothers were home all day.) Although we did not charge admission, we went through the motions of collecting tickets and ushering our guests to their seats. Our audience was charmed by how cute that was. Then we put on our play.

We put a lot of work into our play. We had to invent everything from scratch and improvise sets and costumes from things our mothers reluctantly loaned us, and yet they didn't pay attention! They sat there and gossiped with each other, commenting on whether this kid was a natural singer or that kid was terminally shy. At the end, they retained nothing of the plot or the story of our play; they just told us how cute we were. Cute! The word stung! We wanted them to take us seriously, as if we were adults putting on a play. But they were so well acquainted with us that all they saw were cute little kids, and no play at all.

Well, that is pretty much what happened to Jesus in today's reading.

Ken Collins, No Honor in His Own Country
The Object of Envy Is Trapped
In his story "Abel Sanchez," writer Miguel de Unamuno nicely highlights the nature of envy and why it that the envied person is often trapped. In this retelling of the Cain and Abel story from Genesis 4, the Cain character is played by a skilled surgeon who has for years secretly envied his friend, Abel Sanchez, a skilled artist. At one point in the story, the doctor is scrutinizing one of Abel's paintings. This particular painting is a depiction of the Cain and Abel story itself from the Bible. At first, the doctor is convinced that the face of Cain in the painting is modeled on his own face. And he becomes furious! How dare Abel Sanchez use HIM as a model for envy? The gall! The nerve! The implied accusation! But then, upon closer inspection, the doctor decides it's not his face after all. Does this defuse his anger, however? By no means! Instead the surgeon becomes irate that Abel Sanchez did NOT deign to use him in one of his famous paintings! How dare Abel NOT use his face!

De Unamuno's point is clear: when you are the object of envy, you cannot do a blessed thing to make the situation any better. Try to be extra kind to the one who envies you, and this kindness will get written off as condescension and charity. Try to rise above things by ignoring the one torn up with envy and you will be written off as arrogant and rude, thereby merely confirming the envier's low opinion of you. Neither approach nor avoidance can help the envied one.

It's difficult to know how much of a role envy plays in Mark 6 but surely the sneering attitude of Jesus' fellow townsfolk revealed at least a smidgen of envy-driven sentiments. Maybe this had something to do with his inability/unwillingness to do miracles there. He was doomed no matter what he did. Do more miracles, and the people write him off as a showboat (and/or as someone drawing off power from dubious sources). If he refused to do miracles, maybe a few would say, "What now?! We're not good enough for you, not WORTHY of your wonder-working power!?"

Perhaps the only thing left to do was leave town and go to other villages, from which Jesus sent forth his disciples-cum-apostles to do wonderful work in places where it could be unalloyedly appreciated.

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations

A Reputation Is Hard to Shake

Do you remember the stupid stuff you did when you were a kid? I'm not talking about wetting the bed or spilling your milk; I mean the things that you did in public, the things that were known in the community and, perhaps, even gave you a reputation. Maybe you were arrested for some prank, or you were kicked off the football team for drinking, or maybe, on a dare, you streaked the high school lunchroom. Whatever.

The point is, a reputation is a hard thing to shake. Even as a fully grown adult, when you go back home, the people still whisper: "There's Bill Smith, he got busted for 'dining and dashing' back in '72." No wonder so many people move away from their hometown when they grow up! It's less humbling that way.

In high school, I was known as "The Class Clown." Now there's a shock! I was forever cutting up in class, telling jokes, making smart comments. When I arrived in biology class on the first day, the teacher took role, and when she came to my name, she said "Steve, I've heard about you, and you've got one chance. If you smart off in my class, you're out of here." Well, I lasted about a week. When Mrs. McMartin asked if someone could define the word "dilute" I said that it was a city on the shore of Lake Superior. Hello, study hall!

But as my life began to change, some people wouldn't let me change. I came to faith in Christ and got serious about ministry, but people still saw me as a clown. I decided to go to seminary and they whispered "That's Steve Molin, he was tossed off the college hockey team in '68." When I got ordained, some supposed that I would show up as Guido Sarducci of the Saturday Night Live skit. Is it any wonder then that my first ministry job was in Rochester, some 70 miles from home? Or that my next call was to Sioux Falls, 250 miles from here. Or that next, I traveled 1600 miles away to serve in Salem, Oregon. In Salem, they loved me. In Sioux Falls, they took me seriously. But seven years ago, I came back home, and I can't tell you how many times I have run into people from my high school who have said "Really? Steve Molin? A Lutheran pastor?" As I said, it's hard to shake a reputation.

Steven Molin, An Expert Is Someone 300 Miles Away From Home!

Glued to Our Faults

James S. Hewett once gave an apt example of people not getting the respect they deserve. Especially young people. He tells about his son, who was using one of those super-adhesive glues on a model airplane he was building. "In less than three minutes," says James Hewett, "his right index finger was bonded to a shiny blue wing of his DC-10. He tried to free it. He tugged it, pulled it, waved it frantically, but he couldn't budge his finger free." Soon, they located a solvent that did the job and ended their moment of crisis. Then James Hewitt writes this: "Last night I remembered that scene when I visited a new family in our neighborhood. The father of the family introduced his children: 'This is Pete. He's the clumsy one of the lot.' 'That's Kathy coming in with mud on her shoes. She's the sloppy one.' 'As always, Mike is last. He'll be late for his own funeral, I promise you.'"

James Hewett goes on to say, "The dad did a thorough job of gluing his children to their faults and mistakes. People do it to us all the time. They remind us of our failures, our errors, our sins, and they won't let us live them down. Like my son trying frantically to free his finger from the plane, there are people who try, sometimes desperately, to free themselves from their past. They would love a chance to begin again. When we don't let people forget their past, when we don't forgive, we glue them to their mistakes and refuse to see them as more than something they have done. However, when we forgive, we gently pry the doer of the hurtful deed from the deed itself, and we say that the past is just that--the past--over and done with . . ."

King Duncan,

Real Evangelism

If we are going to be effective in reaching people for Christ we are going to have to start showing people that we really care. Evangelism and missions must be relational in nature. There is no record of Jesus walking up to someone out of the clear blue sky and saying: I am the Messiah and then him beginning to show his care for them. No, he showed his care for them first and then he revealed himself to them.

A story is told about a man who was on a luxury liner and suddenly he falls overboard. He can't swim and in desperation he begins calling for help. Now it just so happens that there several would be rescuers on deck who witnessed the incident. The first man was a MORALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately reached into his briefcase and pulled out a book on how to swim. He now tossed it to him and he yelled: Now brother, you read that and just follow the instructions and you will be all right.

The man next to him happened to be an IDEALIST...