A Sermon for August 10, 2014

 

Editor’s Note: I am not a preacher or pastor, nor am I ordained or have I been to seminary. As a Lay Leader I am called on from time to time to fill in at various churches. 

Good morning. This is the Eighth Sunday of Pentecost.

Scripture Lesson for today:

Matthew 19:23-26 (NIV)

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Title of Today’s Sermon: Doing the Impossible

 

Last night Donna and I participated in the Fujifilm Photo Finish 5K. I had been doing the Couch to 5K fitness program at work though meetings and other things often prevented me from going to the classes. And Donna, well, she had ran in a couple of months. But we both ran anyway. It was a night run which isn’t something we have done before. They had luminary bags all along the track. And we all put in glow in the dark paint to make it a very colorful event. The start and finish line (same spot) had black lights to make the glow in the dark stuff shine better. When we started off it was very colorful and luckily not very dark yet but by the time we got to the Finish line it was dark but the track was lit well and they had guides at strategic places just to make sure runners stayed on the right path. It may surprise you but Donna and I did not come in First place. But the goal for us was to finish and not to win. Speaking of runners and winning…

 

 

(Credit goes to Wikipedia for this information) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Cunningham_(athlete)

Glenn Cunningham was an American distance runner and athlete considered by many the greatest American miler of all time.

Born in Kansas, Cunningham was nicknamed the “Kansas Flyer”, the “Elkhart Express” and the “Iron Horse of Kansas”. The most amazing part is that none of this should have ever happened. Cunningham’s legs were very badly burned in an explosion caused when someone accidentally put gasoline instead of kerosene in the can at his schoolhouse when he was eight and his brother was thirteen. When the doctors recommended amputating Glenn’s legs, he was so distressed his parents would not allow it. The doctors predicted he might never walk normally again. He had lost all the flesh on his knees and shins and all the toes on his left foot. However, his great determination, coupled with hours upon hours of a new type of therapy, enabled him to gradually regain the ability to walk and to proceed to run. It was in the early summer of 1919 when he first tried to walk again, roughly two years after the accident. He had a positive attitude as well as a strong religious faith. His favorite Bible verse was Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

He competed in both the 1932 Summer Olympics as well as the 1936 Summer Olympics. While on the ship traveling from the U.S. to Germany, he was voted “Most Popular Athlete” by his fellow Olympians, finishing just ahead of Jesse Owens.[1] Cunningham and Owens would end up rooming together for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Through this experience Owens and Cunningham developed a lifelong friendship.[1]

In the 1932 Olympics he took 4th place in the 1500 m, and in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he took silver in the 1500 meters.

Cunningham won the Sullivan medal in 1933 which meant he was considered the best Amature Athelete in America.

In 1934, he set the world record for the mile run at 4:06.8, which stood for three years.

In 1936, he set the world record in the 800 m run.

In 1938, he set a world record in the indoor mile run of 4:04.4. He retired from competition in 1940

Of course, all of this was impossible. There isn’t any way he should have been able to do this. But through perseverance and the blessings from God, Glenn was able to do the impossible. He didn’t put any limitations on himself and he surely didn’t put any limitations on God.

 

Sometimes we put limitations on ourselves. These limitations make it impossible for us to reach our potential.

Do you know how to train fleas? I saw a story about fleas and I immediately wondered why would you want to train fleas, maybe for a flea circus? I always thought flea circus was kind of like Flea Market, even if you don’t buy anything you might catch fleas.

Supposedly…“You train fleas by putting them in a jar with a top on it. Fleas jump, so they will jump up and hit the top over and over again. As you watch them jump and hit the top, you will notice something interesting. The fleas continue to jump, but they are no longer jumping high enough to hit the top.”

“Then, and it’s a matter of record, you can take the top off and though the fleas continue to jump, they won’t jump out of the jar. I repeat, they won’t jump out because they can’t. The reason is simple. They have conditioned themselves to jump just so high. Once they have conditioned themselves to jump just so high, that’s all they can do.

Many times, people do the same thing. They restrict themselves and never reach their potential. Just like the fleas, they fail to jump higher, thinking they are doing all they can do.”

When you realize you only have so many years on earth and you want to accomplish some great thing. Work is a necessary thing. I have found people who don’t feel that way and I am guessing they are not fans of eating or having a roof over your head. But I do like those things. And I have advanced at work, not seeking to do so, but it seems the punishment for doing your job well is that they will give you everybody else’s job to do in addition to your own. Last year I was promoted to management. I have decided this is how the company punishes people for something they may have done in the past. My previous jobs used my problem solving skills and my creative skills to accomplish things. Many times I accomplished things others said were impossible. I love challenges that seem impossible. If you want to challenge me, tell me something can’t be done that involved a computer. Every computer problem is a puzzle that must be solved.

There are things in life we seek to do that are impossible for us. Some of them are perhaps really impossible. But there are many things that are impossible because we did not set the bar high enough. To say I am going to walk from here to the mailbox by the road, well, that is nothing. What kind of goal is that? But if I told you I was going to hike from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, well, you might say, that is impossible. But I say if given enough time I can do it. Granted at the rate I am going I will be 110 before I make it there. But it doesn’t seem impossible.

Have you ever heard of the Infinite Monkeys Principal? It is the principal that if you had an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of typewriters, they could eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare. I often joke many challenges in life are like this, given enough time eventually I could accomplish something. It may not be time well spent, but I might eventually accomplish something. That probably falls under the category of time well wasted. But sometimes at work when we hit a problem that seems impossible, we try a lot of different approaches to solve the problem. And usually we eventually solve the problem.

What is this all building toward? It is building toward the impossible. With God anything is possible. Without God, everything is impossible. We can not save ourselves, but God can. We can not move mountains, but God can.

In Matthew 17 when the disciples tried to drive out a demon, they could not but Jesus could:

Matthew 17:19-20 (NIV)

19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

It is a challenge at times, with the world falling down around us to have that level of faith. It is like when someone says “Jump, I’ll catch you.” If you don’t know this person you don’t have faith they will do what they say, you are afraid to jump. But say you are in a burning building and it is a fireman with a ladder and he tells you to jump to the nets below. You would jump wouldn’t you? You might ask yourself why am I in a building this high up in the first place, but you would jump, right. But if you know this person and he has always been there for you, you are willing to jump and believe they will catch you. So it is with Jesus. Our Savior is always there. We so often, and I am so guilty of this, treat the Lord as a safety net. We only ask for his help when we are about to jump off a cliff or from a window in a burning building. Not on the day to day stuff. And then sometimes when we are putting faith into the Lord, it is a half hearted faith. I am such a control freak it is so hard to “let go and Let God” as they say. But then I try to remember all the times my faith has been rewarded. And it has rewarded on so many occasions.

And it is funny to me. We put our faith in the strangest of things. I am a paranoid person. This I would like to say is caused by my work with computers but I am not so sure. I tell my daughter, drive the car as if you don’t have breaks. While I am sure it will probably stop, you don’t know it will stop in time if you have a habit of riding on the bumper of the car in front of you. It reminds me of the story of two taxicab drivers. A guy gets into a taxi and tells the driver he is in a hurry to get to the airport so the driver is going so fast and keeps running red lights. The passenger says, you are scaring me. Why do you keep running red lights? The driver says me and my brother both drive taxis and we come from the school of thought that it is okay to run the red lights. Suddenly the light turns green and the cab driver slams on brakes. The passenger all shook up says, why did you stop it was green? The cab driver says, what, are you crazy, my brother is probably driving through here.

We put faith in man made objects that fail us. When do you need the flashlight, when the batteries are dead and the power is out. We put faith in the gas gauge. I don’t need to get gas until the light comes on and then I can wait until it is just past E. Then if the car runs out of gas, we are mad at the car and not at ourselves. The car tried to warn us.

Jesus doesn’t work this way. He is always on, always available, always around, we have but to just ask. Faith of a mustard seed. Maybe your problems aren’t the size of mountains or may be you are making mountains of molehills, but if you need the mountain moved, whatever it may be, the Lord will move it for you if you ask him in faith.

Let us pray.

Lord,

I put my trials and tribulations into your hands. Don’t let me take them back once I have given them to you Lord. Watch over me. Guide me Lord in my day to day travels. Have us seek you out.

These things we ask in your name,

Amen

 

 

the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

From my talk on 10-27-2013

Read Luke 18:9-14

https://www.bible.com/bible/111/luk.18.9-14.niv

 

Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Baptist Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.”

The boy replied, “I don’t think I’ll be there… You don’t even know your way to the post office.”

I used to watch a show called the Mac Davis Show. Some of you may remember it. The amazing thing about Mac Davis to me is he had a portion of the show where people would give him topics and he would write a song on the spot to the topic. Mac Davis had this song called, “It’s Hard to be Humble”. The chorus goes something like this:

“Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble

When you’re perfect in every way.

I can’t wait to look in the mirror

‘Cos I get better looking each day”

And what the song was about was about his fame going to his head and he thinking he was so much better than he was. At the height of his popularity people became star struck around him and assumed he could do no wrong.

 

We get like that sometimes. We believe we are so much better than we are. Or worse so much better than others. There is nothing wrong with being good or even great at things and perhaps patting ourselves on the back because we are doing so good. But did you ever think, why am I doing so good? Or why do I have this talent? Do you ever thank God for what you have?

 

In the Parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Pharisee thinks he is something special. He seems to think his is a gift to God himself. And he certainly thinks he is so much more special than the tax collector. The tax collector on the other hand is humble. He knows that he is a sinner and is asking for God’s forgiveness.

For you see, during that time period, Jews hated Publicans (workers for the Romans). And many publicans collected taxes and fees so the Jews called them tax collectors. Some greedy tax collectors would add on additional amounts to taxes and fees, which they would pocket for themselves. So tax collectors had a bad reputation. So perhaps we can see why the Pharisee thought he was so much better than the tax collector. Maybe the Pharisee wasn’t cheating or stealing from anyone. The Pharisee gave more than the Law of Moses required. Therefore he felt he was more religious than anyone. He felt he was doing so well he needed for nothing. When you ask God for nothing, you will get nothing. But you see, both of these men were sinners. Sadly only one of them would admit it.

As Joel B. Green, New Testament Scholar and Theologian says, the tax collector “recognizes his state of unworthiness before God and confesses his need for reconciliation”.

 

Have you been blinded by your own greatness? Have you been selfish with your talents and gifts?  I have. Recently my wife and I discussed in great length Christian Action. What should we be doing? I realize I have been selfish with my time. You know, it is funny but sometimes helping at church or helping others pulls us away from God. We get so busy with the action part that we no longer think about why we do it. We are to do things to the Glory of God. Not to punch the clock somewhere and say, yep, I helped a bunch of people. I am pretty awesome. That should get me brownie points into Heaven. Why did you help anyone? What lead you to do this in the first place? Are you like me? Sometimes you are so busy doing so much you don’t remember when you woke up or when you went to sleep?

Ernest Hemingway said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”

But if before we act we pray that our actions are a blessing to the Lord, and we humble ourselves before the Lord, our actions will be blessed and not only that, our loads will be lighter.

Last weeks parable about the unjust Judge was about praying. This week’s parable is also about praying but it is about praying humbly. Last week we were to pray without ceasing. This week as we pray without ceasing we are to pray humbly. We have nothing without God. The tax collector was at the altar praying humbly to God. ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I don’t want to be like the Pharisee. I do not want to think I am something I am not. I don’t want to think I am so special or better than anyone. Sometimes we judge others so fast. We are not to judge. That is in God’s dominion to do. A Judge is able to pass down judgement and if need be, pass down punishment. If you are worthy to judge others, are you worthy to pass down punishment? Again, we are not. Only a perfect being is worthy to do so and the only perfect being who has walked on this earth is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

I hope I am getting the point across I am supposed to be making.

One Sunday a man told the Preacher, “You are smarter than Einstein.” The Preacher was taken aback and said, well, thank you. But it bothered him all week. What did he mean I am smarter than Einstein? So the next Sunday after church he asked the man, what did you mean last week when you said I was smarter than Einstein.”

The man replies, “well, they said Einstein was so smart that only 10 people in the world understood him. Every Sunday in this church nobody understands you.”

 

I hope that wasn’t me today. Thank you for being here this Sunday.