Year B Epiphany 4 Mark 1 2012
Mark 1: 21-28
For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. Legend has it that in 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right.
I believe that this illustrates perfectly what is going on in the world today. You could show the terrible ravaging effects of AIDS and people will have promiscuous sex anyway. You can show someone a diseased liver and cancerous lungs and people are going to abuse alcohol and smoke regardless of the facts.
You know what I wish? I wish someone would just climb to the top of the tower and push off a ten-pound argument and a one-pound argument and let's just see if they reach the ground first. That would finally prove who is right and who is wrong. But then I am reminded that when Galileo did that no one believed him. Even with the authority of obvious visible proof, i.e. the two weights reached the ground at the same time, the professors did not believe. The problem here is obvious. Most people are going to believe what they have always believed regardless of the facts.
But something different occurred in the life of Jesus. Something persuasive. Mark records that when Jesus came to Capernaum, on the Sabbath day, and entered the synagogue and taught, the crowds were astounded. Why? One word: Authority. He taught, not as the scribes taught, but as one having authority.
What was it that convinced them? What did they hear and see in the life of Christ that made him stand above all other teachers. Why were they so drawn to him?
- His teaching was new.
- He taught with authority.
Better Angels of Our Nature
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
It is one of those mixed blessings of parenthood. You wake up on a weekend morning and detect the unmistakable singe of burnt toast in the air. There are clanging and banging sounds from the kitchen. Checking out the noise you discover your child busily preparing a "special breakfast" as a surprise for you.
But all too soon the fruits of your young one's labors will touch your stomach as well.
*Pancakes charred on the outside yet somehow still gooey in the middle.
*A "special" waffle topped with gummy bears, rainbow sprinkles, and soy sauce (oops, thought it was the chocolate syrup!).
*Muffins in which salt was mistakenly substituted for the sugar.
Parents know there is only one response to such culinary delights. Take a big bite, swallow, smile, and proclaim how it is all so wonderful.
You're telling the truth. It IS wonderful . . . just not exactly edible. But wonderful.
We offer praise instead of criticism because we know learning to cook, like anything else, takes practice and we trust that with a few helpful hints and little instruction, our young chef will get better at it. But before any big lessons or instructions the first thing our budding cooks need is a word of encouragement not judgment. Presented with those first messy masterpieces, it is time to let "the better angels of our nature" speak.
Abraham Lincoln urged that "better angels" attitude in his first inaugural speech, 04 March 1861. Lincoln's second inaugural is more famous, replete with its soaring phrases that roar like this one: "with malice towards none, with charity toward all." But the first inaugural is my favorite.
The country was already deeply divided. The "united" continuance of the United States barely hung by a thread. Yet rather than reciting a laundry list of evils that needed to be addressed, or demanding immediate actions that should be taken, Lincoln instead appealed to the common "bonds of affection" that the American people shared. It was these bonds, Lincoln hoped, that "will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
What a resonant phrase: "the better angels of our nature." Do we believe in "better angels" anymore?