Year B Proper 20 Mark 9 2012
The Measure of Greatness
Some years ago St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City was seeking a new president. Over one hundred candidates applied for the position. The search committee narrowed the list to five eminently qualified persons. Then somebody came up with a brilliant idea: let's send a person to the institutions where each of the five finalists is currently employed, and let's interview the janitor at each place, asking him what he thinks of the man seeking to be our president. This was done and a janitor gave such a glowing appraisal of William MacElvaney that he was selected President of St. Paul's School of Theology.
Somebody on that search committee understood, in a flash of genius, that those who live close to Christ become so secure in his love that they no longer relate to other people according to rank or power or money or prestige. They treat janitors and governors with equal dignity. They regard everybody as a VIP. Children seem to do this intuitively; adult Christians have to relearn it.
It is a telling little piece of scripture in verse 32: "But they did not understand." That's a picture that can be hung in the halls of the museum of mankind. When confronted by true greatness, we simply do not see it...
The Problem with 'Hail Mary' Moments
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
The end of September means . . . [you might want to Go Live here and ask your congregation to fill in the blank] . . . we are hip deep in football season. So despite the crisp fall weather, and the fashion show of turning leaves, it is not time for weekend afternoon hikes. It is time for the weekend afternoon call of "Hike, Hike!"
That means every week for the next couple of months, along with tailgate food festivals and ritual chest painting, yet another "religious" ritual will be enacted by somebody, somewhere: the heaving of a "Hail Mary" pass.
A "Hail Mary" is of course a desperate, last second decision to jettison the ball down the field, as far away from the opponents scoring territory as possible, while praying that somebody from your team might be down there to catch it. Maybe even they will score a touchdown and save your team from defeat. There are always a few spectacular "Hail Mary" passes every season. But there are a lot more of those frantic flings that nose-dive into nowhere or — even worse — get intercepted and run back, giving the opposing team an even greater advantage. "Hail Mary’s" are unplanned, last-ditch, furtive efforts to "save the day." They are exciting, but rarely work...