Ordinary 20 C – August 18, 2019

Luke 12:49-56

 

One day a mathematician decides that he is sick of math. So, he walks down to the fire department and announces that he wants to become a fireman.

The fire chief says, “Well, you look like a good guy. I’d be glad to hire you, but first I have to give you a little test.”

The fire chief takes the mathematician to the alley behind the fire department which contains a dumpster, a spigot, and a hose. The chief then says, “OK, you’re walking in the alley and you see the dumpster here is on fire. What do you do?”

The mathematician replies, “Well, I hook up the hose to the spigot, turn the water on, and put out the fire.”

The chief says, “That’s great… perfect. Now I have to ask you just one more question. What do you do if you’re walking down the alley and you see the dumpster is not on fire?”

The mathematician puzzles over the question for a while and he finally says, “I light the dumpster on fire.”

The chief yells, “What? That’s horrible! Why would you light the dumpster on fire?”

The mathematician replies, “Well, that way I reduce the problem to one I’ve already solved.” from jokelabs.com

A problem that I never solved was how to preach this text, so I usually reduced it to a problem that I had solved: division is a bad, bad thing. Hopefully, you can make sense of it. I always stressed out when I found this kind of tension in the readings.

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and in life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups and were eyeing each other’s cups. 

Now consider this: Life is the coffee, and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and do not change the quality of Life. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided.”

So, don’t let the cups drive you … enjoy the coffee instead.

The subject of division did allow me to trot my favorite math joke:

There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can do math, and those who can’t.

And I can see why it was time for me to retire. As I reread my old sermons, the most appealling illustration I found was original. It is also so old that almost nobody in the congregation will have a clue what TV show I am referencing:

I am reminded of the great American folk hero, Jethro Bodine. For those of you who do not know the cultural reference, Jethro is a 30-year-old, multi million, 5th grader, whose uncle Jed found oil on his property and moved the family to Beverly, Hills that is.

Jethro is taking math in school. He calls division guzinda. You know, 2 guzinda 8, 4 times, 2 guzinda 4, 2, 2 guzinda 2, 1. It is they way the church seems to interpret Luke 12. This question guzinda the church 8, that question guzinda the church 4, the next question guzinda the church 2. Before you know it. Nobody guzinda the church. The thing is: the questions that divide us are the cups, not the coffee. We are here for Jesus.

Hope that you have a great week, and enjoy the coffee – Laurin

Author: lectionaryamusing

I am a retired Presbyterian minister who served a very small New Jersey church. My hope is to provide humor and story for the lectionary preacher. If any of my humor or stories are proprietary to you, this is unintentional, so please advise.

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