Thursday, October 16, 2008

An Unbearable Ministry


A Roman Catholic priest, a Pentecostal minister, and a Rabbi all served as chaplains to the students of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. They got together 2-3 times a week for coffee and conversation. One day, one of them said to the other two that preaching and serving the sacraments to human beings wasn't all that difficult. A real challenge would be to preach to a bear!

One thing led to another and the three of them agreed to do an experiment. They would go up in the Smokie mountains, find a bear, and attempt to convert him through preaching or the sacraments. They agreed to get back together seven days later and discuss how it went.

When they assembled a week hence, Father Flannery had his arm in a sling, was on crutches and had various bandages on his hands and legs. He shared his adventure first: "Well I went into the woods and found a bear alright, and when I found him I began to read him the RC Catechism, but that bear wanted nothing to do with that and began to slap me around. So, quickly I grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him, and doggone if he didn't become gentle as a lamb. The bishop will join me next week and we will give him first communion and start the process of confirmation."

The Pentecostal, the Rev. Billy Bob Bible spoke up next. He was in a wheelchair, with his arms and legs in casts, and with an IV drip. In his best fire and brimstone voice, he claimed "Well brothers, you know that we don't believe in sprinklin'. I commenced to reading the Bible to the bear, but the bear wanted nothing to do with that, or me. So I grabbed him before he left and we began to wrassle, and fell down a hill into a creek. Quick-like I jumped up and dunked his hairy soul, and doggone if he didn't become gentle as a lamb in an instant. We spent the rest of the day praisin' Jesus."

The rabbi had been silent all this time, and in fact was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and in traction with all sorts of monitors hooked up to him. He was in bad shape, but was able to look at the other two and say "Looking back on it, I should have started by reciting the ten commandments to him. Circumcision may not have been the best way to start."


Crowm said...

Good stuff Ben!


Terry Hamblin said...

I believe that the Prebyterian justification for infant baptism is that it is a continuation of the Covenantal rite of circumcision. No doubt the Methodist would have been offering the bear a casserole.

Patrick Lacaire said...

Hi Ben
sorry to just belch this out (so to speak), but living in Massachusetts I have to ask you


By the Way - have you ever been at Fenway when there is a walk off victory, and the song "Boston You're My Home" comes on. Is is utter madness. I was there last week when the Sox won the ALDS against the Angels as Drew slid into home!

Thank you for letting me use good theological space for less meaningful things.

Pat in Holland

Ben Witherington said...

Indeed the Methodist would have offered the bear honey right off the bat!

Hi Patrick: Yes I love those Sox and yes I have been there for many memorable games, including the famous one in the 70s when Billy Martin yanked Reggie off the field during an inning because he dogged it on a fly ball. We have however two more large mountains to climb to get into the World Series, so we shall see.


Corpus Christi Outreach Ministries said...

The poor bear makes a good picture of the average american spectator of the religious scene. He gets messed with by everybodies ideas on whats best for him, and he sends the poor clergy away in bandadges!

Brett R said...

I'm Presbyterian.

We would simply form a committee, study him, and then have a denominational split over the issue.