Thursday, September 11, 2014

Miracle on Fifth Avenue

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” These words from one of mid-century America’s best-known preachers, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, still resonate.  Peale’s practical philosophy is still evident at his pastoral home, Manhattan’s Marble Collegiate Church, which sits in the shadow of the Empire State Building, on Fifth Avenue at 29th Street. The church’s facade dates to 1854 and is an important Manhattan landmark. The interior features striking stained-glass windows and a historic organ.
One Sunday morning in October, 1973, I strolled down Fifth Avenue planning to window-shop instead of worship, until I saw a long line of people on the sidewalk outside Marble Collegiate. I got in line and eventually was seated in the balcony. Television cameras were mounted near me, and kleig lights bathed the rostrum in brilliance. Why the crowd? Today the church's famous pastor, Norman Vincent Peale, would give the sermon. As he entered from a side door and stood in the center of the platform, I watched and listened.
He told us the story of Jesus stilling the storm. (Mark 4: 35-40) To help us understand the violence of the sea, he began swaying slowly from side to side. Then, to steady himself, he wrapped his right arm around an invisible mast, as if he were on the deck of a sailing ship! Hearing him quote the disciples, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" we all felt their fear. Then Dr. Peale suddenly stopped swaying. Looking out thoughtfully, he asked, "And where do you believe the storm really was? Was it in the water? Or in the minds of the disciples?

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