WORD FROM THE PASTOR:

Looking Before You Leap

             A few weeks ago, three news stories broke almost simultaneously. All were very different, but had one thing in common–a high-profile organization produced something so absurdly outrageous that it had to be immediately recalled and suppressed.

             The first story was about a popular soft drink’s internet advertisements featuring a goat named Felicia (a male goat–so why Felicia?) Felicia violently assaulted a waitress in a restaurant, then threatened to further maul her if she identified him in a police lineup. The series of commercials was racist, misogynist, sexist, and...well...goatist! I don’t recall a major corporation ever issuing anything more revolting or disturbing. The soda company almost immediately pulled the ads...but one wonders: why were they approved in the first place?

             The second story concerned a Church of Scotland report on the Israel/Palestine controversy. Some statements in the report bordered on anti-Semitism, especially this: “The Jewish people have to repent of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians between 1947 and 1949. They must be challenged, too, to stop thinking of themselves as victims and special.” What’s horrifying about this statement is the idea that the Jewish people as a whole are guilty of expelling the Palestinians. Not just the Israelis, but the Jewish people (which I guess includes my dentist and several of my Rotary friends, as well as the great Texas singer Kinky Friedman). This notion of collective Jewish guilt encourages the terrorist idea that all Jews are acceptable targets (like the elderly, wheelchair bound American Leon Klinghoffer who was murdered in a famous incident a few decades ago). It also unpleasantly resembles the old slander that the Jewish people as a whole are guilty of killing Jesus. Shortly after the study was released, the Church of Scotland realized that they had issued a pretty vile document, and they immediately pulled it back. It’s now in the process of being “revised”.

             The third incident involved a production of Wagner’s Tannhauser at the Dusseldorf Opera in Germany. The production was of the ghastly type calledRegietheater by its proponents, and reviled as “Eurotrash” by almost every opera fan. In this production, the opening “ballet” was filled with Holocaust imagery, including a family being shot after having their heads shaved. What this has to do with Tannhauser is anybody’s guess! Apparently audience members were running from the theater in hysterics and passing out in their seats. The production was immediately shut down after one performance and never presented again.

             In each of these cases–all of which happened within a day or two of one another--one wonders: What were they thinking? How do rational people approve a racist and sexist goat ad, an anti-Semitic church document, an opera production full of nightmarish imagery?

             I think the message here is: “Look before you leap.” Before you do or say something, think it through. Had a little further thought been given to the goat ads, the church document, or the opera production, they certainly would have never seen the light of day.

             A few years back, a sign proclaimed that “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was going to be shown by a local municipality as its annual Halloween family film. Now “Rocky Horror” has some wonderful music, but it’s supremely raunchy. Every time I drove by that sign I wondered: “Are they really going to show that movie?” They didn’t look before they leaped--and ultimately they had to withdraw the movie and replace it with something that was truly family friendly

             Jesus actually told a parable about the importance of thinking something through before going ahead with it:

             Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the

             cost, to see whether he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a

             foundation, and is not able to finish , all who see it will begin to ridicule him,

             saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30).

In other words: think something through before you begin it. “Look before you leap.”

             St. Peter was often guilty of speaking and acting on the spur of the moment, without thinking things through. This happens again and again in the Gospels. When Jesus predicts his suffering, and tells His disciples that God’s plan of salvation includes the cross, Peter blurts out, “This must never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22 ). When Jesus says that all the disciples will forsake him, Peter confidently proclaims, “Even if everyone else forsakes you, I never will desert you!” (Matthew 26:33). When the Jewish leaders come to arrest Jesus, Peter slices off the ear of the High Priest’s servant (and Jesus admonishes him, “He who takes the sword will die by the sword”- Matthew 26:52) Despite Peter’s confident boasting, he isn’t able to see things through–when the pressure is on, he denies Jesus. “I don’t know the man!” he cries out. (Matthew 26:74). Ultimately, Peter was not able to live up to his blustery rhetoric. He made commitments that he couldn’t keep.

             And yet...Jesus forgave him. After the Resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And each time Peter replied, “Lord, you know I love you!” (John 21:15-17). Peter was restored. So Peter’s failure to look before he leaped was not fatal or unforgivable. This sin, too, is covered by the precious blood of Christ.

             But companies, and churches, and opera houses, and apostles, and me, and you would be spared a lot of embarrassment if we simply followed Christ’s advice: “sit down and estimate the cost, and see if you have enough to complete it.” Think it through! Look before you leap! God carefully planned out the world’s salvation before He sent Jesus to be our Saviour. And that’s a good model for us: think things through before we speak and act!

             God loves you and so do I!

Vol. 84 - No. 6
June 2013