Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage* (Acts 27:13-26) transports me to one of my favorite recurring Hee Haw sketches – Archie Campbell as the barber, giving Roy Clark a haircut. There’s actually never any hair-cutting done; it’s just a set-up for some cornball humor. One of the routines I remember from the barbershop banter is the good news/bad news scenario. Roy sits in the chair, ready for the trim, and Archie says, Hey I guess you heard about my terrible misfortune. Roy: No, what happened? Archie: Yeah, my great uncle died. Roy: Oh that’s bad! Archie: No that’s good! Roy: How come? Archie: Well, when he died, he left me 50,000 dollars. Roy: Oh that’s good! Archie: No that’s bad! Roy: How come? Archie: When the Internal Revenue got thru with it, all I had left was 25,000 dollars. Roy: Oh that’s bad. Archie: No that’s good. Roy: How come? Archie: Well I bought me an airplane and learned to fly. Roy: Well that’s good. Archie: No that’s bad. Roy: How come? Archie: Well I was flying upside down the other day and I fell outta the dern thing. Roy: Well that’s bad. Archie: No that’s good. Roy: How come? Roy: Well when I looked down under me and there was a great big ole haystack. Roy: Well that’s good. Archie: No that’s bad. Roy: How come? Archie: Well I got a little closer and I saw a pitchfork aimed right at me. Roy: Well that’s bad. Archie: No that’s good. Roy: How come? Archie: I missed the pitchfork. Roy: Well that’s good. Archie: No that’s bad. Roy: How come? Archie: I missed the haystack too. . . It goes on and on, I won’t spoil the eventual punch line for you, in case you ever catch a re-run of Hee Haw on cable.
The Apostle Paul hardly strikes me as a cornball humor kind of guy. So while he doesn’t stretch out his good news/bad news sketch, the back and forth irony is there nonetheless. It starts out with a major storm as he is on a ship that gets battered by a hurricane force nor’easter, and the crew gives up all hope of being saved. That’s bad. Au contraire, Paul would say, that’s good. We scratch our heads and ask, how come? And he explains, I had a visit from an angel last night, and he assured me that no one is going to perish from this storm, we’re all going to make it to land. We breathe a sigh of relief, Well that’s good. It actually is good for the crew, but for Paul, it’s bad. The reason the angel gave Paul for the divine intervention that would save their lives, was that it was somehow important in the whole scheme of things for him to make it to Rome, where he would be tried by Caesar. As a Roman citizen innocent of any wrong-doing, we might be tempted to say That’s good. But as it turns out, the justice system was not good to Paul, he was found guilty, and after two years on death row, he lost his head. Literally. That’s bad. Maybe, on the surface, but after the fact it added to his prestige and reputation. Being a martyr means more people will read your letters.
It occurs to me that the walk of faith is something of a good news/bad news story for followers of Jesus. We, like Paul, inevitably will experience some kind of storm in life, some kind of crisis that threatens us to the core. And some angel comes along with some good news – God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life – Jesus saves! That’s good! And then we hear Jesus promising his followers they will be persecuted and hated by the world. This world system of violence and greed just doesn’t want to co-exist alongside a faith community based on loving enemies and having all things in common. That’s bad. But then we hear Jesus say that there’s a blessing reserved just for the persecuted. It’s apparently part of the abundant life. That’s good. Lest I channel too much Archie Campbell and go on too long, let’s just leave it at that.
How about you? Where does this Pastoral Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.