Ready, Let’s Jump, Together
Remembering James Carroll Harlow, Sr
September 16, 1915—April 23, 2016
Bonnie A. Perry
April 10, 2016
I propose to show that what we promise in baptism is to hold each other’s hands, in the beginning, the end and the middle, so that the people hearing the sermon will discern ways to extend ourselves—being there—comfortable with one another’s reality—even though it may not be our reality –bearing witness not walking away.
Saul breathing fire and persecuting the Christians, has a letter from the high priests giving him authority to arrest anyone who claims to be following the Way of Jesus. He is traveling to Damascus when a light flashes all around and throws him to the ground. While he is on the ground a voice from Heaven asks him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Saul says, “Who are you?”
The voice replies, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city and there you will be told what to do.”
The men with him were astonished, speechless, confused. As they helped him up they realized that though his eyes were open he could not see, so they led him, by his hands…..to his destiny.
Where Saul becomes Paul, one of the greatest earliest Evangelists… the scales fall from his eyes. Now no longer blind, but a visionary, (true with maybe one or two blind spots remaining…) no longer being led by the hand but leading….
But not without the help of his friends, taking his hand, leading him, though they may not understand—they stay with him—hand in hand.
Last week, when I went to Baja, to co-lead my Kayak surf camp, (that’s a sermon for another day) Susan took our two dogs and drove home to see her mom and pop. Her mom is 94, her pop is a hundred and a half. I feel like saying half years is valid at both ends of life.
Her mom still lives in the 19th farmhouse in rural Virginia that Susan grew up in by Lake Anna, Louisa County. Her pop is now in an assisted living facility: The Gordon House, where for the last two years he has been thriving. But now he is failing. He’s mostly blind in his left eye, is mostly in a wheel chair and has limited use of his arms. More and more these days he is less and less in touch with the world as we know it.
On her last day visiting, her father was particularly removed from the world. He told Susan he’d been on this journey, and he’d found himself at this new place where the owner gave him three meals a day at considerable expense but he didn’t like it there and very much wanted to get back the Gordon house. So he’d started walking back—he’d found a horse along the way—followed the horse for a while but still he hadn’t found his way back.
That was where he was when Susan visited him. And as much as she tried to tell him that he was at the Gordon house she could not convince him. His reality was not hers. She desperately wanted to visit with her lucid pop and not have him dwell in this dream world. She wanted him to be the pop she enjoyed visiting and talking to and playing checkers with. He was still regularly beating her at the game in December.
But her logical explanations weren’t working. Now he said he was on a metal contraption that was sliding rapidly down a hill and he couldn’t stop it or even slow it down. Maybe he said if he had a board—he could stick that out and slow it down. But no he had nothing and it was out of control. He was scared.
Susan was really a bit beside herself at this point so she went to find one of his nursing aids, (they all just love him) to see if she could help. Elinore came in and listened to Susan’s pop talking with him. And at one point he looked at Elinore and he said, “How did you get on this metal contraption with me.?”
She said, “Well, Mr Harlow—I just jumped.”
Then Susan convinced him that she too had jumped on.
But Mr. Harlow continued to get more and more agitated. At one point convinced that it was out of control moving so fast—he yelled out, “Somebody help me—How can we get this thing to stop.”
Then the nurses aid, said, “It’s a beautiful day Susan—why don’t you take your dad on outside.”
So they went out—and her pop was able to take in his surroundings a bit more.
He remarked to Susan that neither the building across the street nor the big tree in the front yard was moving very much.
To which she said, well you know pop---maybe if they aren’t moving too much, maybe this metal contraption is slowing down enough for us to jump off.
He thought about that for a minute and then he said, “Ok—will you jump with me?”
He reached out his hand for Susan to take.
She took his hand and at the count of three they each jumped. Susan in the air, her pop with his arms from his wheel chair. And together holding each other’s hands they got off that out of control metal contraption.
He then knew where he was—at the Gordon House and he asked Susan to wheel him back to his room. “Room number 1 please.”
Isn’t that what we are doing today, as we baptize these seven little ones? Isn’t that what they did for Saul, promising to hold each other’s hands: At the beginning, the end and the middle.