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Hold the horses

Hold the horses

AM Psalm 63:1-8(9-11), 98; PM Psalm 103

Gen. 13:2-18; Gal. 2:1-10; Mark 7:31-37

Our Gospel reading today is an incredibly rich one, not only as a healing story, but it is also rich as a springboard to pondering all those other “deafnesses” in our own lives and in our lives as faith communities. We don’t know if the man in Mark’s account was born deaf, and was mute because he had never really been able to hear, or whether he once had the ability to speak, and, over years of deafness, could no longer remember what speech sounded like, and his own ability to verbalize became atrophied. Through the power of metaphor, this story becomes an excellent vehicle to ponder our own “deafnesses” or “speech impediments.”

It’s interesting how memory and habit, over time, plays into what we hear or don’t hear, what we say or don’t say, and how those habits developed long ago creep into our present day lives whether there is a reason for them to be there or not. It creates a means by which we can invite God to reveal what no longer works for us in our lives. Yet, as our story illustrates, when Jesus pokes his fingers in the man’s ears, it sometimes requires an outside agency to provide the solution. It reminded me of another story that depicts the power of habit:

During the First World War, the British Army intensively studied how to speed up the deployment of artillery so that the soldiers in the trenches could more quickly be protected by covering fire. One of the major pieces of light artillery they used was a venerable old field gun that had been a mainstay of theirs since the Boer War. It had been a simple thing to switch moving that piece with trucks instead of horses, and artillery crews had long been familiar with its operation. Yet, command personnel agreed that the rapidity of fire could somehow be increased, so they called in a time-motion expert.

The time-motion expert studied film after film of artillery soldiers actually using the weapon in battlefield conditions, both in real time and in slow motion. What he discovered was that two soldiers in the five-man gun crew, would be standing rock still, at attention, for three to five seconds every time the gun was discharged, and not really operationally involved in the firing of the weapon. This puzzled him–why were these two men not actively involved in the process?

He studied films from different artillery units, thinking it could be a training issue. No dice. All of them did it. He asked various artillery officers about it, with little success. Finally, he bumped into a very old retired colonel, showed him the films, and asked him the same question. The old veteran thought a bit, scratched his chin, and looked up at the expert with a smile. “Ah,” he replied. “They are holding the horses.”

When God opens our ears to the revealed truth, how many times do we discover we are holding horses that are no longer there? When God unties our tongues to that reality, who do we need to engage in the spirit of reconciliation because of habits we no longer need?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid


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Maria L. Evans

John: Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Leonardo: Yes, I think you are right on that one!

Leonardo Ricardo

Thank you. Old habits sometimes are deadly…but, sometimes, ¨holding my horses¨is a very good thing when asking God for HELP!

John Madison

I grew up in the south and attended grade school in the fifties; you can imagine what all I heard. One of the things I heard often was the defense of the southern cause by one of my teachers whose grandfather fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. I distinctly recall her standing tall and proclaiming, “The south did not lose the war; the south simply ran out of men and supplies”. I, like the other children in that class, would proudly repeat those words to anyone who would listen. Then, one day in my late teens, it hit me; running out of men and supplies is basically how you lose a war.

It was about that time that I started letting myself do something I had stubbornly refused to do in my earlier years: listen to the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther KIng. After all, according to family, teachers, preachers and Sunday School teachers, MLK was a Communist, bent on destroying the southern way of life that was held to be the closest to “true Christianity and righteousness” than any other way of life on this planet. So, why would I not believe them? But when Dr. King was assassinated and I began to hear, “Good riddance”, I was puzzled by the glee expressed for a man’s death. That was the beginning. My growth was slow, but it was a beginning. I remember my curiosity blooming in another direction, my reading material changing, feeling excited at how my listening and looking had no boundaries, only infinity. So thank you! Your post made me think of how Christ used the words and death of a man I once held as the enemy as “the poke in my ears”.

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