25 06 2012


There is a story that I would like to share with you.  Some of you might have heard it before because occasionally this inspirational tale makes its way to Christian Radio, or to a sermon. I first heard it back in 1984, when then President Ronald Reagan told it to the crowd at the Annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC.  I last heard it told when famed Christian Speaker Tony Campolo also told the story at a Peace Rally about a year ago.

The story is the historic behavior of Saint Telemachus, who lived about 400 AD.  As is the case with all saints, Telemachus wasn’t born all that holy.  What we know about him was recorded about 50 years after his death by Bishop Theodoret of Cyprus.  We are told that Telemachus was an unruly young man, caught up in the pleasures of the day.  After studying all over Asia Minor, Telemachus found himself sucked into the world of pleasure and indulgence. After wandering around aimlessly for many years, trying to find meaning in fun and excitement, he eventually had his epiphany and surrendered his heart and life over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Immediately following his conversion he entered a monastery and became a monk.  When we think of monastery’s today, we think of quiet remote outposts, out of the way, and far from the temptations of society. Nothing could be further from the truth. At that time, and really through most of history, monasteries formed the backbone of the communities they existed in.  It was monasteries that served as the business, political, and education centers of the communities in which the resided.  They would have been some of the busiest places of ancient life.  Our churches today should be more like the monasteries of old.  Rather than looking to be isolated from society- we should look to be the insulation for our culture-looking for constant opportunities to be the salt and light and hope and love for the hungering world around us!  It was from within such a monastery that Telemachus would have lived, studied, prayed and served. It wasn’t solitary, but quite the opposite.

It is said that in the year 402 AD, the young monk felt called to leave the monastery and head out into the world to not only learn what the world had to offer, but to spread the message of Christ to all who would listen.  One day in prayer, Telemachus felt called by God to leave immediately and head to Rome.  Upon arriving in Rome, he was immediately caught up in the crowd.  The crowd was immense and excited.  Soon Telemachus found himself giddy with the contagious excitement of those around him.  He wasn’t sure where he was headed but he knew whatever it was, it had to be great, and there was no way he was going to miss out on it.

Within a few moments he found himself deep in the seating area of the Roman Coliseum.  As the gladiators lined up below the emperors seat, together they stood and yelled out: “We, who are about to die, salute you.”  Soon the gladiators pulled their weapons and the bloody brawl began just a few hundred yards away from Telemachus.  The grotesque nature of the sport appalled him. Worse yet, was the reactions of those around him.  The spectators were in a blood thirsty ecstasy over what they were seeing.  Telemachus was sickened and shocked. In that instant he realized that it must stop. From his seat, he yelled out to the warriors: In the Name of Jesus Stop this Thing!!!  But no one heard.

Without thinking Telemachus jumped over the wall and into the battle arena of the fighters.  The gladiators surprised by the unexpected guests momentarily stopped their fights and stared at the monk. “IN THE NAME OF JESUS STOP THIS THING!” he yelled over and over again.  After a few moments, the silence turned to chuckles and outright laughter. One of the gladiators, with a sick enjoyment, took a swing at Telemachus with his sword, just barely missing him. With that the others began to draw their swords.  Soon they were chasing this man, across the field of battle to the laughter of the crowd. Most who witnessed the spectacle thought he was a clown or there for comic relief.  That was until they heard what he was yelling; In The Name of Jesus- Stop this Thing! Telemachus ran, jumped, dodged and ducked, and with each passing moment his words grew clearer and louder; “In the Name of Jesus, Stop this Thing!”  Eventually the gladiators surged and when the dust cleared, there laid Telemachus on the ground with a sword in the center of his chest.

All of a sudden there was a holy silence in the crowd. It was said in that moment, that his words still echoed in the coliseum; In the Name of Jesus Stop this Thing!  After what seemed like an eternity, one man got up from his seat, and left in silence. Another followed and then another until everyone got up from their seat and left in silence and disbelief.  The site of the dead monk in the center of the coliseum, and the reaction of the crowd, also led the emperor and his guests to silently stand, turn and leave the coliseum.  After a few minutes, the Gladiators put their swords down and they too left. All that remained in that giant coliseum was the scrawny lifeless body of the young monk. History reports that this was the very last gladiator game at the coliseum.  There was no more killing in the Coliseum. There were no more gladiator matches in Rome. There was no more killing as sport. All because one man, stood up and boldly said “In the Name of Jesus Stop this Thing!”

Church Family, we need to be the people, who no longer let the culture and the ways of the world influence us, and instead us start to influence them. We need to look at all the ways of the world that lead to pain, bitterness, anger, hate, and injustice and scream out: “IN THE NAME OF JESUS STOP THIS THING SO YOU CAN START A NEW LIFE!”  When we see the oppression of our neighbors, when we see the greed of our leaders, when we see the system failing those who need the system the most, we need to stand up and say; IN THE NAME OF JESUS STOP THIS THING!” When our daughters are told that beauty is a measure of the skin they expose, or when our sons are told that power is shown in a clenched fist, or when the world is told that we have to care about us and me first, we need to be the ones who say: “IN THE NAME OF JESUS STOP THIS THING!”

It truly breaks my heart, that the faithful body of Christ has evolved from being Jesus Followers to merely being church gatherers! Somewhere along the way, the radically revolutionary and world changing message was replaced with something else. We turned the church from a hospital for sinners into a sanctuary for us to hide out, and to pretend that we have one upped the world. We come to this place on weekends, and we assume that just by our mere presence indicates that we are different. Yet we leave here and we allow the world to continue forward on its broken path. We have exchanged what was miraculous and wonderful about that early church, for a place that serves as our escape. Instead of finding the place that we come to recharge from standing face to face with the world, we have created a place where we go and pretend that we are different.

We need to be willing to see through the crowd, and let our voice be heard.  We need to be willing to jump over the wall and into the heart of the battle.  We need to be willing to look straight onto the laughs of ridicule of the world.  If you want this place, this church to make a real change in our community then it all begins with bringing the good news to the poor and proclaiming release to the captives and bringing sight to the blind and going into all the world to show and shine with the love of Jesus!  We must be willing to look at the world and not be afraid to grab their hands, and with true passion and sincere love say: “In the Name of Jesus- Stop this Thing!”



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