The Rabbi in the Woods

I'll be using this story in my sermon this week on The Early Church. The story is interesting, and I have used it once years ago.

It seems that a monastery had fallen onto hard times. No more novices came seeking admission, the industries by which the monks sustained themselves were not attracting customers...the monastery was dying.

The Abbot knew of one resource. He undertook a journey deep into the nearby woods to see an old man who was the last surviving Jew from a persecuted group. He was known simply as "The Rabbi Who Walks In The Woods."

The abbot came to the rabbi's house, and was invited in. Between them on a table sat the Bible. Both contemplated it, and the abbot, overwhelmed with sadness at the demise of his monastery, began to weep. The rabbi wept with him.

Finally, the rabbi reached across the table and touched the abbot's hand. "I have something to tell you," he said, "but you must repeat it only once...then no more."

Then the rabbi simply said, "The messiah walks among you." Then he dismissed the abbot.

The abbot returned, gathered the monks together and repeated the statement with the warning that the statement was never to be spoken again.

From that day, the monastery changed. Monks began to ask themselves, "Who among us can it be?" And, they began to act differently toward one another.

As the monks changed toward one another, visitors noticed something new about the monastery...something appealing. The atmosphere of love there became palpable. People wanted to be a part of it.

Today, you can go to that monastery and find a thriving community which attracts people from all the world. The sense of love is such that you feel its touch the moment you enter that place. The Rabbi Who Walks In The Wood is long gone, only a small sign denotes the place where his hut once stood. The abbot has been succeeded by new generations of leaders. The result of their conversation, however, is alive with the vibrancy that only love can bring.

Let him who has ears hear.

Curtis Rivers


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