PROPER 19…Series B
Saint Andrew’s EC (September 15&16-2018)
Text: Mark 8:27-33
Title:The Theory of EVERYTHING!!
A stranger went running through the streets of the village, shouting at the top of his lungs, “My donkey is missing, my donkey is missing…whoever returns my donkey will receive the donkey as a reward!!” The people of the village were puzzled and perplexed…they shook their heads, “this makes no sense…no sense at all…the man must be a fool”. But the stranger defended his proposal…”If my donkey is returned and then I give my donkey away as a reward, I will experience two of the greatest joys that life affords…first, the joy of finding something that was lost and then the inexpressible joy of giving something away of enormous value”…
The title of my homily for this 17thSunday after Pentecost is The Theory of EVERYTHING. Now, in this interests of transparency, I must confess that I borrowed this title from the2014 Academy Award winning film which documented the life of Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist who died (at age 76) this past March.
At the heart and epicenter of not just today’s Gospel reading but of the entire Gospel of Grace is a simple/straightforward principle…a principle which is easy to understand, but incredibly difficult to live): Those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel of Grace, will save life! Friends this is a foundational principle of the spiritual life…this is absolutely central to the teaching of Jesus (Did you know that this principle appears no less than six times in the four NT Gospels…(twice in Matthew and Luke and once in John and Mark). It is…The Theory of EVERYTHING!
- Spend enormous amounts of time/energy/resources securing your future… climbing the ladder of success…building a tower of self-importance and sooner or later you will discover that your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
- Get out of your own way…stop worrying about your own needs…your own happiness…your own security and focus on the needs/happiness and security of others and you will discover that St. Francis of Assisi was correct…it is in giving that we receive…it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life!
Lose your life…give your life away and you will find Life…rich/full/abundant/eternal life…the Life God has always intended for you to live…the life God has always intended for you to enjoy!
A couple of years ago, I heard an amazing story on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric which illustrates, for me, the Theory of EVERYTHING. Tom Chappell was a simple man who lived a simple, unpretentious life…he lived in a mobile home and scratched out and existence driving a cab in Phoenix, Arizona. One day a cranky and disagreeable woman named Rita got into his cab and immediately began cursing him for being a few minutes late in picking her up. Over the next couple of months it seemed every time Rita called for a cab, Tom was dispatched. And Rita’s abrasive attitude and inappropriate behavior didn’t improve even when Tom was right on time. Now, most cab drivers I have met would never tolerate this kind of behavior from a passenger…they would have barked back at passengers like Rita (or ignored them…not given them the time of day)…but not Tom. Tom kept his mouth shut and just wondered about Rita…he wondered if her behavior and attitude had anything to do with the place where he took her-a kidney dialysis center in downtown Phoenix! Tom didn’t know much about dialysis so he did some research at the local library and learned that many dialysis patients experience dramatic changes in mood and behavior and most experience some degree of physical, emotional, psychological even spiritual trauma as they try to deal with the fact that they will be dependent upon a machine for the rest of their lives. Tom also learned that, without a kidney transplant, Rita would spend the rest of her life riding in a cab three times each week, to that dialysis center in downtown Phoenix…Tom also learned something about himself as well…he learned that, down deep, he had the capacity for empathy…the capacity to feel the pain of another human being…the capacity for compassion and generosity that he never dreamed was possible for him.. Tom said he had a talk with God about Rita and that God thought it would be good if he donated one of his healthy kidneys! When Tom told Rita of his plan, she was stunned “a cab driver wants to give one of his kidney’s to a passenger …it is unbelievable”. Rita was deeply touched by Tom’s offer, but she suspected that Tom, like several of her family and friends who had made a similar offer, would be incompatible as a donor. When the test results came back, they reported that Tom was a compatible donor and that if the match were any more perfect, Tom and Rita would be siblings! Successful transplant surgery was completed before Christmas and Rita had a new kidney and a new lease on life!. But that is not the end of this astonishing story. Tom said he never expected any reward…any compensation for his act of compassion and generosity…but he was wrong! Many years before, following an ugly divorce, Tom’s wife had taken their infant daughter and disappeared. It seems that Tom’s daughter was watching the CBS Evening News on the night Katie told Tom’s remarkable story. After not seeing or hearing from her in more than 30 years, father and daughter were reunited. And maybe the most ironic aspect of the story is that Tom offered his kidney to Rita in the first place because he figured he didn’t have a whole lot to live for anyway!
Lose your life…give your life away…(not for anything…but for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the Good News he came to proclaim)…Lose your life for others and you will experience two of life’s greatest joys… first the joy of giving away something of enormous value…but also the inexpressible joy of finding something that was lost (your true self…the person God created you to be)…(pause) it is the Theory of EVERYTHING!!