Dolphin Tempted

dolphins-by-robert-youngThis story may sound like one you’ve heard before. Perhaps it will be a little familiar, even though it’s not set on land like the original. This one takes place in the ocean.

Once there was a shark who decided to try to tempt a dolphin away from its pod.

(Do you know what a pod is? You do? Yes, that’s exactly right: a pod is a group or family of dolphins. Well done!)

So the shark found a pod, with one young dolphin swimming along near the side and toward the back. The water was rather murky, so the shark was able to get pretty close without being clearly visible as a shark.

I don’t really want to tell you what the shark had in mind. What? No, I’m afraid it wasn’t friendship. You’re thinking of the movie, Finding Nemo. No, this shark was not following the twelve steps toward seeing fish as friends, not food. Or, in this case, dolphins.

So, okay, the shark had his mind on lunch.

Well, from out there in the murk, he said to the young dolphin, “Hey, come over to the other side of this reef. I found this amazing place to catch fish. You’ll eat until you can’t eat any more.”

The young dolphin was pretty hungry himself, so this sounded pretty good, but his pod leader hadn’t said anything about going to the other side of the reef. “No,” he said eventually, “I think I’d better not. You might tell the pod leader about it, though.”

That was the last thing the shark wanted to do, so he tried something different.

“The pod leader would want you to learn leadership yourself,” he said. “Not to worry, of course. Other dolphins will come along to keep you safe if there should be any danger nearby.”

Though not enough, he thought, to make a difference when the dinner bell chimes.

That sounded even better to the young dolphin, who certainly aspired to become a pod leader. Maybe this would be a good time to experiment, and to take a risk.

“Well, no, I don’t think so,” he finally said. “I wouldn’t want to make the other members of the pod choose between me and our pod leader. No. Definitely not.”

Oh, come on, thought the shark. So close and yet so far…

“If you come now,” the shark murmured, “I’ll make you into a pod leader. You’ll be the pod leader. Just follow me.”

Oh, that sounded awfully good to the young dolphin. To be a pod leader, and not wait! Wow.

Wouldn’t you like to be a pod leader?

Yes? No?

Well, about half and half.

Our dolphin, though, he did want to be a pod leader someday. But he decided that he’d trust in his own pod leader’s wisdom about when that time would come, and not the sweet words of this rather murky figure.

“No,” he said firmly. “I’ll follow my pod leader until it’s time to lead myself.”

It was at about that time that the pod leader up at the front realized that there was a figure in the shadows behind them that didn’t belong. He darted back through the swimmers, joined by other dolphins as he went, and together they chased the shark far away from the pod, clear to the other side of the reef, where the fishing truthfully wasn’t any better than where they were.

So, did that story sound at all familiar?

A little?

The title of that other story?

Why, it’s “The Temptation of Jesus.”

Photo by Robert Young. Used by permission under Creative Commons license.

When the Tempter Quotes Scripture

tentaciones_de_cristo_botticelliThis poem was written as part of a sermon (of the same title) delivered at Church of the Holy Cross UCC in Hilo, Hawai’i, on March 5, 2017.

Did a quaking pulse accompany
You to the Temple’s zenith, Jesus?
With the Tempter?
Did your sandals slip or grip the cedar of the ridge?
Did your mortal soul take hold, just for a moment,
To protest:
“Tempter, you have lifted me too high”?

Ah, now you hear the words of sweet assurance:
“On their hands the messengers of God
Will bear you up,
No bruise will mar your angel-guarded feet
As gently they regain the comfort
Of the ground.”

Across the ages, words of Psalmist’s faith.
And did they challenge You to step, to leap,
To dive toward ground?
For just a moment, did you fail to see
The test it posed to God, and see instead a test
Of your own faith?

We know your story’s ending, Jesus,
How you deflected Tempter’s texts
And Tempter’s taunts
How you refused to put God to the test,
How you refused the bread and realms which were
In truth, your own.

We know this story’s end was the beginning,
Taking your unbruised feet to Galilee,
Jerusalem and Bethany and to the courts of Pilate
Where those feet were bruised and pierced by nails
For love