Body language can be a foreign tongue

I suppose it was inevitable. It happens when President Obama addresses a joint session of his nation’s Congress. It happens during the typical staff meeting.

I suppose it was inevitable.

It happens when President Obama addresses a joint session of his nation’s Congress.

It happens during the typical staff meeting.

So why shouldn’t it happen while I’m preaching.

A listener tunes out and sends a text message.

It might be an indictment that my preaching isn’t fresh and relevant. Yeah, right.

Or it could be that the human attention span has been reduced to the point where we can no longer focus on one thing only.

I’m gazing at my laptop but I’m checking Facebook instead of your spreadsheet. I’m not writing down your second salient point but my shopping list.

I’m not praying, I’m playing Blackberry Tetris.

Then again, body language has always been baffling.

Crowds are forever capricious. Look no further than the parade given to honour Jesus of Nazareth.

A spontaneous procession formed when those who had filled Jerusalem for the Passover festival heard that the alleged Messiah was riding into town.

They took branches of palm, symbols of victory, waving them high and laying them low as he swayed back and forth with his bare feet latched under a donkey’s belly enjoying, for the moment, this red carpet treatment from penniless peasants.

The clip-clop of hooves on stone was all but drowned out by the attempt of an inflamed crowed to politicize the moment with hip-hip-hoorays reminiscent of lines from the Psalms and the prophet Zechariah.

The only rain on this parade other than the religious party poopers who wanted Jesus to tell his groupies to tone it down a notch, is the knowledge than in a few short days, their body language would be a foreign tongue.

Cheers would morph into jeers. His triumphant ride would be His last ride.

One day people root for you and the next day they wish you were dead.

One minute your friend swears allegiance to you and the next moment he says, “Jesus who?”

The week that was launched with a show of support veered tragically into a valley reserved for executions.

Only God knew it would end up there.

That it had to end up there.

Once arrested, Jesus lost the election for liberation. Barabbas won by a landslide.

When push came to shove Jesus did not shove back.

He let them punch him and spit on him and crown him with a comedic crown of thorns.

He could have run away or fought back or started a riot.

He could have pulled out anything from his bag of tricks.

He didn’t.

The hero of a few days earlier was a Lamb for the Roman slaughterhouse.

Public opinion vacillates. Polls are unreliable.

Lovers can turn into looters.

A peace march can morph into an enraged mob.

Don’t even be fooled by those in attendance whether for a sermon or a parade.

Listeners and fans may fake interest and zone out into cyberspace

The proverbial ‘thumbs up’ may be a show of support.

It may also be an exercise to strengthen the digit used to text while you’re talking.

Rev. Bob Ripley, author and syndicated columnist, is the Senior Minister of Metropolitan United Church in London Ontario.

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