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Loony Tunes

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage (Matthew 17:14-27) transports me to some of the more regretful episodes of my high school years, when I was part of a group of guys who invested all of our creative energy into making life miserable for our teachers through pranks and mischief. One particular teacher, Mrs. Jacobs, who taught civics, had to bear the brunt of most of our un-civic behavior. She retired early and moved to Mexico after having me, Mark Wall, and Jeff Bowen two years in a row. Drawing magic marker boundaries of a state of nirvana on her map of the world, passing out candy cigarettes for everybody to “smoke,” and prepping everyone to burst out laughing when the clock struck a certain time were some of the milder pranks. I’ll leave out the more destructive (and self-destructive) behaviors. The one prank the passage reminded me of, though, is particularly uncivilized and shameful. Every great once in a while one of us would fall to the floor in the middle of a lecture, and fake a seizure. It was lunacy to the nth degree. We spent a lot of time in the assistant principal’s office.

Jesus’ disciples, unlike Mrs. Jacobs, had to deal with lunacy of a different kind, a boy who suffered with genuine seizures (the KJV actually calls it lunacy, while later translations call it epilepsy or simply seizures). Whatever the cause, the boy was prone to self-destructive behavior, throwing himself into the fire or into the water. The boy’s father came to the disciples for help, but they couldn’t do a thing with him. Jesus had no problem, though. He recognized the evil spirit, cast it out, and gave the boy the chance at a free and full life. He proceeded to inspire his followers with talk about faith that could move mountains, depress them with talk of his death, and impress them with one of the more random miracles of scripture – producing his tax money from the mouth of a fish. I can almost picture this last feat on one of Penn and Teller’s Las Vegas shows, with Jesus on stage, putting a small shekel in the mouth of a sardine, throwing it into a pool of clear water, then getting an audience member to come up and bait a hook on  Zebco rod and reel, cast it into the pool, and voila! The audience member reels in a large St. Peter’s fish, reaches into the mouth and pulls out a large gold coin! How’d he do that?

When I read passages like this, I sometimes wonder where we are in the story. In the strange culture of American religion, I think we often play the part of the troubled boy. Our relationships and dialogues often seem marked by lunacy. For me, I am often “seized” by the seductive opportunity to engage in conversation with people on the extreme opposite end of theological and cultural divides, and I occasionally get burned, or feel like I’m about to drown in the sea of nonsense. While there’s a part of me that really believes in staying with these conversations, that it’s an important cross to bear in order to bear witness to a joyful grace that is welcoming and affirming of all kinds of people who are different from me, there’s another part that feels it is a precious waste of time at best and self-destructive at worst. Sometimes, when I’m removed from these conversations, I feel more like the disciples, observing the lunacy of the culture, but powerless to effect any healing or liberation. I long for the days when we can truly play the part of Jesus in the story, and have the faith to move mountains of obstinacy (our own as well as that of our sparring partners), to cast out destructive spirits, and to bring liberation to a world captive to craziness. Or at least pull some gold from the mouth of a rainbow trout and  bring a little levity to all the hand-wringing over high taxes.

How about you? Where does this passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.

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Comments

  • July 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I have not had a chance to talk to you since you have been traveling recently, but I have wondered about your feelings about some of the comments I have seen on facebook. I need you to know than seeing a sermon is so much more meaningful and evangelical than reading or hearing ones theology. I say to you brother, I know of no one who purposefully lives a lifestyle more Christlike than you (maybe Dad, but you are mighty close) and many lives have been changed with your ministry that is not in the limelight. I am proud of you and proud to be a brother and brother in Christ. (I think deep down you are getting a kick out of some of this).

    Comment by Jerry

  • July 4, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I agree with my brother Jerry that Stan lives his faith as well as speaks it in a manner not often found. I am thankful for that example. It is a crazy world indeed, when someone like Stan (and others) are villified for extending grace to others. Stan, take a break when you need to, but on the other hand I am glad you offer some salt and light to those in dire need of it.

    Comment by bro dave

  • July 4, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    What a great set of brothers to have! You both have taught and continue to teach me more than you’ll ever know.

    Comment by Stan

  • July 4, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Wow! So much for the meek… It amazes me how often “people” think they are never wrong. I wonder if anyone stops to listen to themselves. Everyone should spend more time reading the words in red, and a little less time putting down the beliefs of others and then patting each other on the back. Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong and you are right. In fact, the ONLY one I know who was/is ALWAYS right is the one who speaks the red letter words in my Bible. I personally have done a lot of soul searching lately, and have decided not to get involved with the “debates”. Not because my beliefs have changed in any way. I still profess Jesus as my Saviour, and I know my belief in him makes me “covered by the blood”. The reason I have decided to obstain from the arguments is because NO ONE listens. Everyone spends so much time trying to “prove” they are right that the whole message of Christianity is getting lost. Christ is getting lost within the religion of Christianity, and NO MATTER your beliefs, that is just wrong on so many levels. Let’s all try to be a little more meek…a little more humble…a little more Christ like. BTW…I know for a fact that some of the ones on the receiving end of some of those threads try their best to be what Christ would have them be. Be VERY careful about ridiculing those who are also “living the sermon”. Just because you disagree, doesn’t mean you are the only one doing the work of the Cross.

    Comment by Shannon

  • July 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Hey Shannon, glad to hear from you – it gives me hope that you’re stilling reading the Daily Passage posts! On your critique of the lack of meekness – were you referring to the comments or to the post itself? If you are talking about the comments, I feel that those are kind expressions of brotherly love, encouragement, and edification. I am so grateful for my family and the depth of love we share for each other, so I’m not at all worried that their show of support somehow shows an absence of meekness. If you’re referring to the post itself, let me clarify – I can identify with the lunatic boy who was gripped by seizures and kept falling into the fire or water – does that sound like I think I’m always right? I wish I had the faith of a mustard seed to move the mountains of stubbornness all along the spectrum of our cultural and ideological divides – which means my own obstinacy as well! Does that sound like I think I’m always right? I do feel called to share the good news and the hope that I experience as a follower of Jesus, and sometimes that calling leads me to plant seeds of hope and joy on rocky ground of rejection. For me, that sometimes gives me a sense of failure, not a triumphant “I’m always right” feeling. I wholeheartedly agree with you that “Everyone spends so much time trying to “prove” they are right that the whole message of Christianity is getting lost.” I appreciate the inclusive sweep of your judgment there. We would all do well to quit trying to disprove others, and to forge relationships of love. With that in mind, I do hope you and Daryl and Kate will start coming back to the mountain on Sunday afternoons and enjoy some of that great family love we have enjoyed in the past.

    Comment by Stan

  • July 5, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Hey Stanley! More or less I was referring to the threads that went on and on and were teeming with arrogance from both sides. I do not want to be quitly of that again therefore I am giving my witness in the meekness of Christ and to those who wish to hear it. I have no problem at all with brotherly love! Just saying that we should never call anyone ignorant, or stupid, or a lunatic, because those things are said to make ourselves feel superior than others and are not in any way showing the meekness of Christ. Lesson in humility (for myself as well).

    Comment by Shannon

  • July 6, 2011 at 5:52 am

    I have the same dilemma, Stan. I still am not sure whether to keep quiet or continue to challenge notions which I find troublesome. Is it not more in line with the way of peace to keep quiet (live and let live)? Or does it serve peace better to challenge divisive and hostile notions? I’m not sure. This is a constant dilemma for me. Like you, I feel compelled to light a candle in the darkness. I just have to be careful not to catch the energy of “I’m right and you’re wrong, and let me prove it in inflammatory ways”. These dialogues might be okay if we can somehow stay above that nonsense, and I think you generally do a mighty fine job of it!

    Comment by Jessica Hoefer

  • July 6, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Also, Shannon, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the Spirit getting lost in the religion and debate. I struggle with how to make the world a better place. Sometimes, it might be better to just live that Spirit of which you speak and not challenge others. I am imperfect and tend to fall into water and fire, as well.

    Comment by Jessica Hoefer


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