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October 15, 2001
by Myron Madden
A friend of mine, Pastor of First United Methodist Church in New Orleans, asked on a Friday if I could fill his pulpit on Sunday, two days hence. Since he did not follow the lectionary, that left me free to use a text I was working on in Mark where the whole village came together as good neighbors to get the deaf and dumb man to Jesus for a healing. So Good Neighbors was the chosen subject for the sermon.
In the early hours of Sunday morning I awakened with heart fibrillation, an irregular heart. I took a Lanoxin tablet, a thing that usually corrects the heart rhythm. It didnít work. I waited and waited. Now it was too late for me to find someone to take my place at the church. So irregular rhythm and all, I headed out to New Orleans (about 40 miles).
I made the wrong exit off the Interstate, one that took me alongside a housing project. There was practically no traffic, and everything was quiet, like they had just finished Saturday Night Live. I stopped for a traffic light. The only person in sight walked up to my little pick-up truck and tried to open the door on the passenger side. Locked, thank God! I didnít notice, but as I pulled away, he got in the bed of the truck and began beating on the cab. I pulled over, not realizing my left door was unlocked. As quick as a flash, he opened and pushed himself into my lap and seized the steering wheel. No words were spoken. Of course he intended for me to surrender the reins and let him take control.
My thoughts were, to borrow a New Testament phrase: ďMy face is set for First United Methodist. I have not allowed heart irregularity to stop me, so Iím not allowing this big burly bull to interrupt my mission.Ē Since he was sitting in my lap, this gave me the advantage. Somehow the adrenalin kicked in and with that I bounced him right out onto the street. Of course this story would have another ending if this man had had a handgun.
As I moved on toward the church I recalled how on my way from New Orleans I had worried if I would be able to climb the steps up to the pulpit. Then came a reminder from Kierkegaard: ďThe best way to solve a problem is to get a bigger one.Ē
Iím not sure I had been a good neighbor as I went to deal with that subject.
Myron Madden, PhD is a CPSP Diplomate in Pastoral Psychotherapy and Supervision, ACPE Supervisor, AAPC Diplomate and is the author of many books. He is the Chaplain to the CPSP Community.
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