There is an old story that tells us when the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hasidic faith, was on his deathbed, his disciples began gathering around him. For days, disciples and disciple-hopefuls came to the small house at the edge of the village. Finally, after several days of gathering, so many had arrived that a line of disciples and friends led out of the house and down the street.
Inside, those closest to the Rebbe circled around his bed and then spilled out of the room and down the hall to the front door. An older, wise disciple leaned in close to the Master and said, “Rebbe, Master, we are all here. What would you have us know?”
The Baal Shem Tov, clearly clinging to his final moments, slowly opened his eyes and whispered gently, “Tell them, life is like a river.”
And then, smiling, the Master let out a gentle sigh and closed his eyes.
The disciples stood silent, and then pondering the profound final words, with some exuberance, began to pass the phrase about, sending it down the hall with reverence and careful attention to the wording, “Life is like a river. Tell the others. Life is like a river.”
But as is the case with storytelling and theology, the words traveled down the hall and out the door, from mind to mind and mouth to mouth, and clearly began to change some, the meanings . . . debated, reconsidered . . .
“Of course, life is like a raging river and yet, sometimes, a gentle brook.”
“Life is meandering. Life is rocky. “
Soon, the statements became questions (eventually, someone always asks a question).
“Life flows . . . Yes, of course . . . until it gets dammed up. Rocks and mud — all life’s obstacles. But then where does it go? What do we do then?”
By the end of the line people were asking, “Is life just like a river? Is life only like a river? Or does life flow from the river?”
And in a short time the question was coming back up the street and into the house, “Tell the Rebbe, we don’t understand. Ask him, ‘How is life like a river?’”
The closest disciple gently tapped the silent Rebbe’s shoulder.
The Baal Shem Tov struggled to open an eye and murmured in frustration, “What do you want?”
“I am sorry, Master,” the disciple pleaded, “but there seems to be some confusion. What do you mean, ‘Life is like a river?’”
And with his last gasping breath, the Master said, “So who knows, maybe it’s not.”
This Sunday, Rev. DeAndrea Dare and I will offer a dialogue sermon, a curious Point-Counterpoint, as we continue our series about what we talk about when we’re talking about God.
This is curious territory, and maybe a little challenging. We hope so. As Rob Bell says, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but the sure sign that your faith has a pulse.” So, we’re going to dive a bit deeper into the pilgrim territory of doubt and faith and meaning and push each other to a wider, richer place of faith.
Sunday, July 10
The 5W’s of God (and an H): Who is God/Who are You?
A Point-Counterpoint Sermon with
Rev.’s Tom McDermott & DeAndrea Dare
And new music from Paul Simon and Marti Walker with Brad Thompson and eleven:eleven revolution.