David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Easter, Education

Easter

• On Easter, worshippers at McMasters United Methodist Church in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, saw two large red letters — M and T — behind the altar. Of course, the letters stood for the good news about Jesus’ tomb — that it was eMpTy. The pastor, Reverend Jeffrey D. Sterling, wanted to quiz the children about the meaning of the letters during the children’s lesson, so after all the children had gathered at the front of the church, he asked them, “What’s different about the church today, kids?” His own daughter answered the question. Ignoring the large red letters, she said, “It’s full, Dad!”

• Country comedian Jerry Clower is a devout Christian who attends Baptist church each Sunday, and sometimes he gets a little upset at Christians who attend church only on Easter. One year, while driving to Easter services, he told his wife, Homerline, “Darling, if there’s a lost man sitting in the pew where I usually sit this morning, on Easter Sunday, I’ll kneel by him and pray or stand outside in the rain. He can have my seat. But if a Baptist is in my seat that ain’t been there since last Easter, he’s getting up.”

Education

• When the scholar Rabbi Bun died at an early age, Rabbi Zera spoke highly of his scholarly labors, comparing him to a worker in a king’s vineyard who worked hard for two or three hours. The king called the worker to him, and they walked together. At the end of the day, the king paid all his laborers, including the man who had worked for only a few hours, the same wage. The other workers complained, saying that they had worked for the entire day, and they asked, “Is it right that he should receive the same wages we do?” The king responded, “Why are you angry? This man has done as much work in two or three hours as the rest of you have done in a whole day.” And so, Rabbi Zera said, “Thus, too, Rabbi Bun has accomplished more in the realm of the Torah during his 28 years than a diligent student could ordinarily accomplish in 100 years.”

• A university professor visited Japanese Zen master Nan-in. The professor was supposed to be there to learn about Zen from Nan-in, but it quickly became apparent from the professor’s comments that he believed that he was already an expert in Zen. Therefore, when Nan-in served the professor tea, he filled the professor’s teacup full and then continued pouring so that the tea ran to the ground. The professor cried out, “Stop! It is already full! No more will go in!” Nan-in replied, “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

• A Buddhist teacher from India visited the United States. When he was asked what he thought of Buddhist practices in America, he said that they reminded him of a person in a rowboat rowing and rowing, yet getting nowhere because the rowboat is tied to the dock. Many people in the United States devote much time and effort to meditation about lovingkindness, he said, but they forget to practice lovingkindness toward other people in the course of their daily activities.

• Peter Cartwright was a pioneer circuit-riding preacher who was suspicious of educated preachers. He met an educated preacher who addressed him in Greek in order to humiliate him. Not to be outdone, Mr. Cartwright spoke to him in German. The educated preacher, who did not know Hebrew, concluded that Mr. Cartwright had replied to him in that language, and he said that Mr. Cartwright was the first educated Methodist preacher that he had ever seen.

• Governor Wang questioned the teaching methods of Zen master Rinzai. Governor Wang asked if the monks read sutras. Rinzai said they did not. Governor Wang asked if the monks learned meditation. Rinzai said they did not. Governor Wang then asked, “If they don’t read sutras or learn meditation, what are on earth are they doing here?” Rinzai replied, “All I do is make them become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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