One Christmas morning when I was young, I opened a present that had been advertised that year as “the wacky doctor game where you’re the doctor.” It was a brand new board game that had just been released by Hasbro, and was appropriately named Operation. You’d pick up a card from the pile, and it would tell you what surgical procedure to perform, saying something like: “Take out your patient’s broken heart for $100.” If you succeeded in taking out the patient’s heart, you got the money. The one who made the most money performing successful surgeries won the game. The catch was that you had to use a pair of metal tweezers that couldn’t touch the metal edges of the cavity in which the heart sat. If you did, it would create an electrical circuit, and that would make the patient’s nose light up and a speaker buzz. The game was all the rage that Christmas because the first successful heart transplant had been performed earlier that year.
The story is told of a woman who wanted to attend a senior citizen’s retreat at a church camp. But remembering the primitive church camp cabins of her youth, she worried that they would not have indoor plumbing. To quell her concerns, she wrote a letter to the camp director. But when she sat down to write, she decided not to use the word “toilet” in a letter to a stranger. Instead, she decided she would use the phrase “bathroom commode,” following up with the initials “BC” thereafter. After introducing herself to the camp director on most of the first page, she finally wrote the question “Do the cabins have bathroom commodes?” Then she wrote “If not, where is the closest BC?” But there was only enough room to write “If not,’ at the bottom of the first page, however, so she had to write the question “where is the closest BC?” at the top of page two. She then wrote a few more sentences, and signed the letter.
On Mother’s Day of 2014, Sandy and journeyed east from Jonestown to the Bensalem exit of the Turnpike. As we traveled up Route 1, I was taken back to the 1980’s when I was a student at Messiah College. I had a classmate who lived in Newtown, and I remembered going up Route 1 a number of times to visit. Shortly after we moved in, I learned that David Ryan had been one of your pastors. I knew David because I first knew his wife Jeanette. She was a friend of the person I had visited in Newtown. In talking with Pastor Ron, who was the visitation pastor here, I learned that he knew Norm Leavy. Norm had been the pastor of my college friend’s church. I leaned that a pastor I had known was Lynette Wray’s uncle. And I learned that Joanne Kalacinski had been a member here, and her parents had been members in one of my churches.
Last night people gathered here under the tent to watch a movie titled The Greatest Showman. It was loosely based on the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, and it took a few artistic liberties in telling a full and truthful story of his life. But one thing it did accurately portray was the fierce opposition he received from the people who viewed him as a nothing more than a con artist. When it comes to the central claim of the Christian faith, that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” many people today view such a claim as nothing more than a P.T. Barnum con job.
Two weeks ago, we began a worship series based on the three rules John Wesley gave his Methodist societies to help them live out Jesus’s instruction to “’love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “love your neighbor as yourself.’” In the first rule, “ Do No Harm,” Wesley taught that we must respond to the aggression and violence that is often directed at us in life in a loving way. For it is only in a response of love – which he labeled as “Do No Harm” – that everyone in an aggressive or violent situation (including the aggressor) can end up better off. That rule was not an original creation of Wesley, however, but his adaptation of Jesus’ teaching that “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also, and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat give, give them your cloak as well, and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”