Sermon of the Week
Woe is a Potent Word
Keywords: Treasure, Blessings, Woe, Beatitudes, Sermon on the Plain, Where You Sit, Kazi Mannan
A rather bizarre thing happened this week
as I was reading and preparing for today’s sermon.
I came across a great little story that, apparently,
The Russian Rabbis used to tell.
It goes something like this:
In Krakov there lived a man named Isaac, son of Yekel.
Yekel was a very poor man whose family was often hungry.
One night in a dream, he saw the distant city of Prague,
and as he dreamt
he noticed that there was a certain bridge with a treasure buried beneath it.
The dream was so vivid that he could not forget it,
and that became even more true
when it kept recurring
every night for two weeks.
It bugged him.
Finally, in order to get rid of the dream,
he decided to walk from Krakov to Prague to see for himself.
After several days, he arrived in Prague,
found the bridge and went underneath to locate the treasure.
Well, suddenly a soldier grabbed him and started questioning him.
Who are you?
What are you doing prowling under the bridge?
Being an innocent man, Isaac, Son of Yekel told the truth.
“I am looking for a treasure I had dreamt was underneath the bridge.”
The soldier roared with laughter.
“You stupid man!
Don’t you know that you cannot trust what you see in dreams?
Why, for the last two weeks,
I myself dreamt that far away in Krakov
in the house of a Jew named Isaac, son of Yekel,
there is as treasure buried underneath the stove in his kitchen.
But wouldn’t it be the most idiotic thing in the world
if I were to go all the way there to look for it?
One could waste a lifetime looking for treasure that does not exist.”
Still laughing, the soldier gave Isaac a kick and let him go.
So Isaac, son of Yekel, walked back to Krakov,
to his own home,
where he moved the stove in his kitchen,
found the treasure buried there
and lived to a ripe old age as a rich man.
Great little story,
cited in a sermon that the Rev Sarah Jackson Shelton
once preached on this text.[i]
What was fascinating was when I dug a little deeper
and I saw the reference she cited when sharing that story.
Turns out that the story came from something that Belden Lane wrote.
Beldon was a professor at Saint Louis University
and a mentor for me when I was seeking to become a pastor.
(More than that, Beldon’s daughter Kate was a friend of mine.
We graduated high school the same year together.)
(Belden C. Lane, Christian Century, Dec. 16, 1981)
Sometimes searching through these amazingly rich stories from the bible
lead to revelations like that:
people you miss, you know
that you’d forgotten that you miss…
experiences from your past that shape and make you who you are today.
Stories that come to mind when you hear a story
and think about it deeply.
Those connections and experiences are important,
and they’re particular.
My stories are different from your stories,
and they can impact quite a bit how we read a story, and what it means to us.
This reading from Luke today is a good example
that we might use to explore that phenomenon.
Scholars call this the “Sermon on the Plain,”
because, as you heard, it starts by saying that,
Jesus came down and stood on a level place. [Read more…]