The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Today’s Gospel: Mark 8:11-21
So, you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ.
Prove to me that you’re no fool; walk across my swimming pool.
If you do that for me, then I’ll let you go free.
Come on, King of the Jews.
These words, sung by Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar, brought me up short the first time I heard them. In the musical they were sung with a sneer, offered as an insult from a powerful man seeking to humiliate a humble man. I was just a kid the first time I saw the musical and although I knew Herod was mocking Jesus, I couldn’t help but sympathize with Herod’s request. Like the Pharisees in our lesson for today, I too wanted a sign, proof that all this Jesus stuff my family had been feeding me since I could walk and talk wasn’t just a load of nonsense, a fairy tale, wishful thinking. Even at that young age, I realized that like Herod, I too needed convincing.
And so began for me a spiritual journey, a quest of sorts, to find the truth, to figure out what was worth giving one’s life to. As a teenager, I read a lot of theology and philosophy – Tillich, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, Sartre, C.S. Lewis and others. I was too young to understand most of what I was reading, but I was drawn to this kind of writing and thinking. I will never forget the day in 10th grade, walking out of a classroom holding a book of theology in one hand and my book bag in the other, when my chaplain stopped me, put his hand on my shoulder and said – “Randy, reading all this stuff is great, but you can’t find faith by reading about someone else’s.”
At the time, I wasn’t sure what he meant. His words bothered me, annoyed me, they even disturbed me. My grandfather would say that his words stuck in my craw. It took me a long time to understand that there are no proofs, no theological guarantees, no swimming pool walks, when it comes to faith. Like love, faith requires trust and hope and the willingness to risk your doubts on the possibility that Jesus is who he says he is, and that love does indeed win in the end.
Our Father who art in Heaven
Why are You so far away?
Cuz I’d trade all my daily bread
For just a chance to hear You explain
What it is You meant when You said it will be
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Father, please forgive me
For doubting the words that You say
It’s just that I’ve never felt much of anything
Whenever I’ve tried to pray
Were You being honest when You said You would lead me
Out of temptation?
Father, Yours be the glory
If You even have the strength
To use such a crooked person like me
To do more than damage Your name
Your kingdom’s really coming in the end
(let me be with You)
No I don’t deserve to
Forever and ever