Fear and Peace

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:32-35

1 John 1:1-2:2

John 20:19-31

handprint

I had a pretty odd job in high school. I was a tour guide at the Old Jail Museum in my hometown of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The Old Jail was a functioning county jail until 1995 and it has a very interesting history. Most notable, four of the Molly Maguires were hanged in this place. The Molly Maguires were a group of Irish coal miners who were accused of murdering coal mine bosses. As part of the tour, we told a couple of ghost stories. In cell 17, Alexander Campbell, on the eve before his execution rubbed his hand in the dirt of his cell and slapped his hand against the wall leaving a dirty handprint. He then declared, “This handprint will remain here for all time as a testament to the guilt of the people who would hang an innocent man!” The next day, he was hanged and died. The jail staff cleaned up his cell and wiped the hand print off of the wall. The next day, however, the handprint reappeared. Over the years, the wardens of the jail had tried to remove the handprint in various ways even going as far as removing the plaster several inches deep, but each time someone attempted to remove the handprint, it reappeared. The handprint is still there to this day.

…at least that was the story we were told to tell the people on the tour. After hearing this spooky story and leaving the main cell block complete with a life-sized replica of the gallows, we took the tour group to the basement where solitary confinement was. This cramped, dusty, dark, cold, stone set of cells was referred to as “the dungeon” by the staff. In the middle of one of my tours, as I was standing in the dungeon, I was suddenly interrupted by the sound of metal chains loudly clinking and echoing throughout the hall. At this the entire tour group fell completely silent. And then it happened again. And this time everyone yelled in fear. And everyone froze. Continue reading

Knowing the Happy Ending

Resurrection of Our Lord

Isaiah 25:6-9

I Corinthians 15:1-11

Mark 16:1-8

When I was three, maybe four years old, my favorite movie was Godzilla versus MechaGodzilla. The plot is pretty straightforward, MechaGodzilla is a giant robot lizard sent to earth by extraterrestrial beings with the intent on conquering the planet. The real giant lizard Godzilla fights with the robot and saves the earth. I watched that movie over and over again mostly because I didn’t understand how movies work. Even after 20 viewings,I did not understand that the movie plays out with the same conclusion at each viewing. I was really into robots at that time (and I still am) so at each viewing I hoped in my heart of hearts that MechaGodzilla would emerge triumphant. I apparently did not realize that MechaGodzilla was meant to be the villain. Viewing after viewing I was disappointed when Godzilla ultimately defeated his giant robot adversary. If I had known how the story was going to end, I might have viewed the movie differently. I probably would not have been so surprised each time MechaGodzilla was defeated and I might have even learned to root for Godzilla instead.

Fast-forward about ten years and to a different movie. My brother’s favorite movie was The Matrix. In this film much of humanity is trapped in a virtual reality simulation run by robots (maybe the love of robots is a family trait). Humanity’s only hope at escape is in the hands of a man named Neo, who can bend the rules of the simulation and fight back against the robots. My brother watched this action flick dozens and dozens of times, but unlike 4-year old me, he remembered how the story would end. Spoiler warning, Neo saves the day, defeats the robot programs, and sets the stage for a couple of sequels. Knowing the ending allowed my brother to experience the story in a new way. He knew which characters were going to triumph, which ones would be lost, and most importantly he knew that the heroes would win. Watching the movie again and again, my brother began to see hints of the heroes’ qualities of bravery and comradery in subtle ways, he saw the betrayals coming, but he knew that when things looked most bleak for the heroes, good would triumph over evil. Knowing the ending of the movie, allowed my brother to experience the movie with an expectant hope that would not have been present at first viewing. Continue reading

Not Loved at a Distance

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-14

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Have you ever had the experience of disillusionment? Have you ever had your hopes set so high, only to be extremely disappointed by the reality of a meal, a vacation, or an event? Sometimes it is easier to enjoy something from a distance, but when we get up close and experience it for ourselves, we find it much more difficult to enjoy or love.

Karole had a craving for some fast food and decided to go to Wendy’s for a burger. The commercials show delicious looking, pristine burgers and the folks eating them look like they are about the happiest people on the planet. According to the commercials, they have found a little bit of heaven in some cheap fast food. Karole made her way to the local Wendy’s and ordered her lunch. In the end she was pretty disappointed. When she returned home she left a review on TripAdvisor:

Sadly, it has really disappointed me with almost every visit. One of the main problems is that the food is usually cold or luke warm. In the mornings, the biscuits are really dry and I can barely eat them. When I told my husband about another luke warm hamburger I bought there yesterday (we both go by because it is so close to our house on the way to work) and we complain to each other all the time. He insisted I not ever go there again, and he won’t. He said not long ago he saw one of the assistant managers or manager kill a roach with his bare hands on a counter.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g54325-d4867816-r269479304-Wendy_s-Longs_South_Carolina.html#

A gentleman in Rome visited an American style bagel place (I don’t know why anyone would do this in Rome) and was disappointed as well.
Continue reading