Today is Memorial Day where we choose think about those we have lost, soldiers who fought for this country, Dads, Moms, children, or grandparents. However, this year I am thinking about something I saw on TV the other night, and what my Pastor talked about Sunday in church. It was a very fruitful day yesterday, at least when it comes to pondering the subject of missing someone.
This thought process began with watching a television show titled “The Black Box.” This program stars Kelly Reilly and Vanessa Redgrave, and explores the functions of the nervous system. Reilly plays a world famous neurologist, who is also, and secretly, bipolar. In this particular episode the writers explore what is called the Jerusalem Syndrome.
This particular Syndrome occurs after someone visits Jerusalem and develops a psychopathological obsession with religion. I had no idea such a syndrome existed until I looked it up after watching this TV show. The story involves a non-practicing Jew who is wealthy, that visits the holy land with his family, and subsequently develops a new found obsession with God. He gives his apartment to the maid, and gives away $12 million to charity. Subsequently his wife is a little upset, and they put the man in the hospital to find out what is going on because obviously there is a malfunction of the nervous system with anyone becoming overly religious. Spirituality is reduced to a physical response to an external stimulus. In other words, life is materialistic. There is no spirituality.
The show ends with two significant events. First, Reilly’s character is inadvertently given a hallucinogenic drug, one that was used earlier in the show to help a man cope with dying, and because of the hallucinations enters a church to calm down. She is sitting in church and sees a stained glass window of Mary wink at her giving her a sense of comfort. The implication being that maybe there is something out there.
The second event is where I want to focus. When we were first introduced to the man suffering from the Jerusalem Syndrome he is loving, wearing a toga, and healing people. At the end of the program after the doctors figured out he was suffering from a brain disorder, which they were able to prescribe the appropriate drugs, we see the man how he really was, focused on wealth, business, and himself. But the character makes an amazing comment, “I miss God.” Wow, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Not that I miss God, but that someone could put themselves in a place to have once known and experienced God, but is now in a place where the presence of God is no longer there. I cannot think of anything worse.
This TV program helped me to remember a story about a man named Charles Templeton. I had to look up the story because I could not remember it all. In the article entitled “Pathetic Preacher Dies in Unbelief,” the detail of Templeton’s life is laid out for us. Charles Templeton was a young man who made a profession of faith at 19 in the Nazarene Church. “He did evangelistic work for three years in Canada, Michigan, Indiana, New York, and other northern states.” He eventually left the revival road and founded a church in Toronto. The church eventually grew, subsequently filling the building, around 1200 people.
Templeton was handsome, had many abilities, and what some would call unlimited potential. He was also a friend of Billy Graham. Some even said at the time Templeton superseded Graham as an evangelist. However, even during all of these wonderful events Templeton was having doubts about God. Templeton describe this problem, “I picked up Thomas Paine’s the Age of Reason. In a few hours, nearly everything I knew or believed about the Christian religion was challenged and in a large part demolished.” Over the next few days he read Voltaire, Russell, Ingersoll, Hume and Huxley thus solidifying his move away from God.
In order to mitigate the move away from God,Templeton decided that he was not trained enough. So he applied to Princeton Theological Seminary. His experience at Princeton was described by his son as an attempt to learn; but made his father an agnostic. The saddest part of this story is Templeton’s attempt to justify is move to agnosticism in his work entitled “Farewell to God.” The arguments in this book are not new, but as Lee Strobel found out, Templeton had no desire to return to the faith of his youth. The saddest words to come out of Templeton’s mouth, “I miss Jesus.”
The question then is how do you keep from missing Jesus? John 15: 1-13 gives us the answer. Jesus said, “ I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” He also said in this section “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” He adds I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”
This seems very clear to me. Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen. Se regardless of what is going on around me, I will trust Him. I think that is the first part of keeping connected. I also think that any attempt to isolate God from any part of our life is dangerous. Due to my lack of eloquence, I will use the old cliché of God wants to be on the throne of our lives. He wants to be central.
This means I am not a churchgoer on Sunday and a businessman on Monday. I am a follower of Christ, who practices his religion in all facets of his life. I am connected with the vine who in turn provides the life I need to bear fruit. It is as we maintain this connectedness that I will never feel the desire to say I miss God, or I miss Jesus. I really think these are sad words, ones that I hope I never say. So happy Memorial Day, and may this day always be one of remembering what you have and not what you have lost.
And that is my thought for the day!