This weekend an old grief returned to haunt me. My faith felt weak and limited in the presence of this old foe. So, I reached back into a sermon I preached August 19, 2012 and rediscovered the simple faith of a widow and her gift of two small copper coins and remembered a prayer that can help you when you feel you’ve run out of your resources to cope.
How to follow the will of God when faced with life’s uncertainty. The Apostle Paul under house arrest in Rome discovered the will of God working through him in the midst of a difficult time. St. Brendan, the Irish Monk of the 5th and 6th century reminds us how the Celtic Christians practiced pilgrimage in seeking God’s will by floating in a rudderless, hide covered boat, a coracle, until it came to rest at “the place of their resurrection.” Where is your pilgrimage taking you in God’s will? Can you rest in God’s assurance that He will unfold his plan through you?
PRAYER OF ST. BRENDAN
“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,and somehow,
make my obedience count for You.”
At a church in Sedona, the pastor preached that when he drives, he needs Jesus to take over behind the wheel. Because when he drives his anger and frustration emerge. He encouraged the congregation to turn their motor vehicles over to Jesus. In essence, you would become a passenger with Jesus as the divine Cruise Control.
As I listened to him, I thought if Jesus were born today, would he ever get a speeding ticket? While driving on Dove Valley Parkway in Phoenix, would he drive the legal limit while raging drivers tailgated him and flashed lights to pass? Here is how it would have played out …
“And the 12 interns of Jesus followed him in his crimson sparkle red Kia Soul (custom plate “4GIVE”) as he traveled the Dove Valley Parkway in moderate traffic. Jesus, late for a speaking engagement at a Scottsdale synagogue, drove ten miles over the limit on the road that ran through pristine desert.
While at the lunch, one of the interns clicked on his phone video and interviewed Jesus on why he drove over the speed limit. “Was it a sin?”
Jesus smiled and said, “The speed limit was made for people and not people for the speed limit. Put some Soul in your drive!”
The Sedona pastor lacked “SOUL” in his message. Attempting to transform human activities into a mindless, soulless default to the Creator, he forgot that “Soul” living means both the upward connection with the Divine and the horizontal relationship with our fellow travelers.
Too many followers seek an “automatic” spiritual life when Jesus drives a 5-speed.
Postscript: For extra credit study the Early Church at its struggle against Gnostic Dualism – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism?fbclid=IwAR3eqnVsznSUawB7yU5BiwALJAW0ktamEkKPUFagytAlaK9tSxo0b7yer7U
A bed by the window!
There were once two men seriously ill in the same small room of a great hospital. Just large enough for the pair of them, with two beds, two bedside dressers, and a door opening on the hall, and one window looked out into the world!
One of the men as part of treatment was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each day, for therapy to drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the window which he was able to look out, during an hour in the afternoon.
But the other man spent all his time flat on his back. Both of them had to be quiet and still, which is why they were in the small room. And they were grateful for peace and privacy. None of the bustle, and clatter, and prying eyes of other wards for them. Of course because of their condition they could not do much — no reading, no radio, no television. They just lay still.
So they talked together, hours and hours. About wives, children, homes, jobs, hobbies, what they did during the war, etc. Every day during the hours of the afternoon, the man who was propped up near the window passed the time by describing what he could see outside! The other man began to live for those hours!
The window apparently overlooked a scenic park with a lake, skirted with evergreens. Ducks of every variety and swans drifted across to whatever children were throwing bread. The afternoon sun turned the lake into a mirror upon which paddle boats, lazily crisscrossed with lovers pressed together.
And there were rows of flowers. Games of softball … fast pitch and slow pitch. People taking their ease on checkered blankets, and picnic baskets swelled with chicken, cheese, and iced tea. And above the trees there was a magnificent view of the city skyline.
The other man would listen to all of this, enjoying every minute. The exciting ballgames. A child playing alone with his puppy. Then one day a child fell into the lake … barely saved by a heroic rescue!
The other man could almost see what was going on outside the window. He began to think, “ Why should he get to look out the window, while I am stuck in this bed, to look at the ceiling?”
He tried not to think like that. He brooded, and sunk in thoughts and grew more seriously ill. “He should be by the window! The doctor did not understand it!”
One night, the man by the window awoke struggling! Fluid in his chest choking him. He struggled to find the nurse’s button on his bedside.
The other man watched! . . . and DID NOTHING!!!
The coughing continued on and on. But the man stared at the ceiling. Soon the coughing turned to a soft wheeze … and then silence.
The nurse came in the morning for their baths and found the other man dead.
They removed the body quietly and, as soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be moved next to the window! They moved him, tucked in quiet and still.
As soon as alone, he laboriously propped himself up on one elbow to look out on the park . . .
THE WINDOW FACED . . . A BRICK WALL!!!!!!
In the story the man near the window – is the man who lives by faith with a pure heart. He is able to see a better life through eyes of faith. He is able to look beyond the barriers and see HOPE! He gives hope and joy to others around him.
The other man – is one who lacks pure motives and eyes of faith. He only envies the one who sees with faith! He secretly wishes the man of faith would fail! So they both could be miserable as he!
John 1:35-39 (NKJV)
35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.
36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”
39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw …
I used this story, shared widely by clergy, in a sermon preached January 4, 1987 at Laveen Baptist Church, Arizona, where I was ordained in 1984.
My Ordination Council, a memorable day of examination in 1984 by these fine men. Time has faded a few names, but what I can remember:
Back Row (Left to right): Rev. R.G. Whitehead, area Missionary, Deacons Ralph Spotts, Dick DeShazo and Armon D Cheatham.
Front Row (Left to Right): First two were fellow clergy from the Association, Deacons Dan Cain (third in) and “Bud” Graham.” My former pastor and Chair of the Ordaining Council, Rev. Jim Harvey. On the end was a fellow pastor who served in Ajo, Arizona.
Because of the faith and vision of these men and women (not shown), the church was able to grow and become what God wanted it to be, building first a new parsonage, converting the old to an office, a new Sanctuary and further education space. Many people since have captured a new vision of Jesus Christ.
Looking back, vision takes more than just eyes of one person. Jesus called more than one disciple. “John stood with two of his disciples.” Andrew had vision and brought his brother, Simon Peter to Jesus. And that was the beginning of the story of the Apostles who followed Jesus.