In the Name of Jesus Stop! Telemachus’ Story.


In the Name of Jesus Stop!

The Story of Telemachus

January 31, 2010

 

There is a story that I would like to share with you this morning.   Some of you might have heard it before,…occasionally the tale makes its way to Christian Radio, or to a sermon now and again.   In 1984, Ronald Reagan told it to the crowd at the Annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC.   Famed Christian Speaker Tony Campolo also told the story at a Peace Rally about a year ago.   It seems that once every few years the story gets retold in some new and exciting way.    I would like to share that story with you this morning.  Mind you, that portions of this story have made many a sermon prior to this;

The story is the story of Saint Telemachus, who lived on or about 400 AD.   As is the case with all saints, Telemachus wasn’t born a saint.    What we know about him was recorded about 50 years after his death by Bishop Theodoret of Cyprus.   Some legends have him as 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 converted to Christianity.    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.

It was from within such a monastery that Telemachus would have lived, studied, prayed and served.    It wasn’t solitary, but quite the opposite.   All different types of people would have made their way through the monastery’s doors, and accompanying them would be the stories of the world outside their doors.    Historians have said that Telemachus was a young man that could never stop imagining the mysteries and treasures of what the world offered.   This was most certainly fueled by the stories of strangers who stopped for a respite.

It is said that in the year 402 AD, the young monk felt called to leave the monastery and head out into the pagan 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.    If monastery’s were the hub of a local community’s society, Rome was considered the hub of the world.   This was the center of society during this time.    Not sure what he would find, or why God had called him on his mission he headed from the monastery and began his trek.

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.   Asking those around him, he learned that the Romans had just defeated the Goths, and the emperor had commanded a circus to be held for the celebrating crowd.   As he took his seat, he couldn’t have missed the emperor sitting in his seat of honor.   He most certainly would not have missed the arrival of the gladiators into the coliseum.

As the gladiators lined up below the emperors seat, together they stood and yelled out:  “We, who are about to die, salute you”.   It was the traditional greeting of the gladiators to their emperors, and in that instant he knew exactly what he had stumbled upon.   The Bishops and leaders of the church had spoken out about the gladiator games in Rome, yet most believed it legend.   In that moment, Telemachus realized it all was true.

Soon the gladiators pulled their weapons and the bloody brawl began just a few hundred yards away from him.    The grotesque nature of the sport appalled him.   Worse yet, was the reactions of those around him.   The spectators where 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…  But no one heard.

Without thinking he 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!” 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;   For the love of Christ, Stop!…  He ran, jumped, dodged and ducked, and with each passing moment his words grew clearer and louder;   In the name of Jesus, Stop.   In the name of Jesus Stop.    IN THE NAME OF JESUS STOP!

Eventually the gladiators surged and when the dust cleared, there laid Telemachus on the ground with a sword in the center of his chest.  There was silence in the crowd.   It was said in that moment, that his words still echoed in the coliseum;   In the name of Christ Stop.

After what seemed like an eternity, one man got up from his seat, and left in silence.    Then another…  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 claims that this was the very last gladiator game at the coliseum.    The memory of that man screaming to the crowd, and the image of the blood thirsty lust of the crowd had changed the hearts and the minds of the Romans in that instant.  Within the hour the emperor issued an edict forbidding any future games of war within the Roman Empire.

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 said “In the Name of Jesus Stop!”.

The message that is retold regularly in the story of Telemachus is one that we need to hear.    Truth be told, this place is many things to many people…yet in the end, it serves a singular purpose.    The purpose of our faith, the purpose of all of this, the purpose of Asbury Church, is to form us into the very people who stand up, look out at the world, and scream out:

“IN THE NAME OF JESUS STOP!”

We need to be the people, who no longer let the culture and the ways of the world influence us, and instead us 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!

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.

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.

In the very first moment of the public ministry of Jesus, Jesus declared his mission statement.   He declared his very purpose of all that was to transpire over the next three years.   In that moment, he declared the fullness of who he was and his purpose among us:

God has anointed him to bring good news to the poor.

He was sent to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.

He was sent to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

In that moment, recorded in our scripture for all of history:   Jesus stood up and said,  IN MY NAME STOP.

It truly breaks my heart, that the faithful has evolved from being Jesus Followers to merely being Christians.    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 Sunday, and we assume that 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.

I look out at all of you, and I know that we are different.   There is something different about this small little church.   There is a blessing and a miracle that is found within these walls.    I have seen the strength and the desire to make a difference, to change things one person, one child, or one family at a time.  Knowing that its real and authentic in this family, makes all that we put into it,…all the time, energy, and effort…It makes it all worth it.

But we need to be on our guard.   All of this could disappear in a moment.   If we lose that spark,…if we lose are willingness to trust when the world says not too…  If we lose our ability to love those that world deems unlovable…. If we lose our desire to be reckless and risky in our faith,…then the world wins.

There is only one way to insure that this doesn’t happen here.

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 little white church to make a real change in our community, If you want this place to be here when the littlest among us have children of their own….If you want this community to have a face of faith all their own….

It begins with bringing the good news to the poor,….proclaiming release to the captives…and bringing sight to the blind….  But it doesn’t end there….

It also means we must be willing to look at the world and not be afraid to grab their hands, and say:   In the Name of Jesus, Stop.

Thanks be to God, Amen.


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