Over fifty years ago on January 9, John Fitzgerald Kennedy gave his farewell speech to the Massachusetts legislature before departing to Washington DC to prepare for his presidency. Kennedy opened his speech with these words: "We shall be as a city upon a hill." Kennedy was quoting John Winthrop, who used that phrase in his speech abroad the ship Arbella in 1630 as the Puritans were preparing to land in the New World. Kennedy was implying that the eyes of the world would be upon the new administration, and in so doing his presidency must be like a city upon a hill.
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Oscar Wilde penned a powerful story about behaviors and definitions and justice called The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian was a handsome young man, a model of physical beauty and moral virtue. People complimented him on his good graces. Parents pointed to him as an example to their youth. One artist even painted an exquisite portrait of him.
"Have you seen it?" whispered the Barbie doll to her next door neighbour.
The next Barbie doll in line was instantly alert. There were five different Barbie dolls, who lived jumbled together in the toy cupboard but who were so jealous of each other that they rarely spoke. "Seen what?" asked the second Barbie doll, blue eyes darting all round the room.
"The Princess," replied the first Barbie with glee. "Caitlin's done her hair and it looks terrible!"
These verses from Mark's gospel are a call to commitment, a call to sacrifice, and a call to give up everything of earthly value in life. To say these are difficult verses is truly an understatement. It is pretty clear that the disciples are not at all ready for what Jesus is saying. They are not ready for Jesus to die and they certainly are not ready to die themselves.