Run the Bootleg – A Sermon About Vulnerability

Run the Bootleg – A Sermon About Vulnerability

Luke 10:2-9 If you have had your heart-broken, you know how painful that is. Somewhere in the midst of that pain, heartache, self-pity, and distress, you might have vowed that you would never love anyone or anything that much again. So how do you keep your heart from being broken? It’s very simple.  Don’t ever love.  Don’t love anyone.  Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.   Don’t have any hopes or dreams.  Don’t risk or plan or become entangled in the hopes, dreams, or plans of others. Then, you will never have your heart broken—but then you will never know the joy of loving another person, or anything, and it’s not likely that you will ever be loved by many either. If you do not find either of these two scenarios very appealing, then let me suggest that you become more comfortable being vulnerable. People don’t like that very much because people associate being vulnerable with being  weak–and with good reason. When you look up the word “vulnerable” in the dictionary, you will find words like unprotected, defenseless, susceptible, unsafe, and unguarded.  These words are negative. However, since we need to be vulnerable to experience love, we need to think of being vulnerable in a different way. Being “vulnerable” does have some kinship to being placed in a weakened position, but that does not mean it is not a healthy thing to do. At first look, there doesn’t seem to be any advantage to putting ourselves in situations where we appear to be in a weakened, defenseless, or unguarded position. But there can be some advantages.   I’d like to try to convince you of this with...
Does Your Walk Match Your Talk?

Does Your Walk Match Your Talk?

May 27 Matthew 7:24-29 To be successful in almost anything, you need commitment and sweat equity. When we sign up to be a part of an athletic team as children or teenagers, we discover there are demands we must meet. Not only do children and teenagers discover demands, but so do parents. Sometimes it seems parents must put in as much time and sweat equity as their children, taking them to practice, watching them practice, picking them up, sitting through their games, washing their uniforms, and paying for it all. When our boys were on the Moss Farms Diving Team, we would go to diving competitions around the state and across the country.  Even after John stopped, diving, it didn’t reduce our time we had to commit to the program as parents. We would sit for hours to watch Ryan make about 18 dives that would take just a few seconds each.  We did this for over ten years. We have empathy for all sports parents and grandparents, especially all of you wrestling and swimming parents and siblings. Once I figured that Ryan had done about 200,000 dives in his career to have a chance at competing for a championship in college and a chance at going to the Olympics. Good athletes believe in hard work.  Most will tell you that you they believe in taking care of their bodies through proper diet and rest, a detailed exercise regimen, and excellent mental preparation before competitions. However, not all athletes live by what they tell you they believe.  Some take shortcuts and use performance enhancing drugs.  Others never measure up...
Which Road Will You Take?

Which Road Will You Take?

May 20, 2018 Matthew 7:13-14 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;   Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them about the same,   And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.   I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.  (“The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost)   These, of course, are the beautiful and timeless words of Robert Frost. He doesn’t tell us in his poem why one road was less traveled than the other.  That is left to our imagination. What we do know is that the author believes that he made the right choice in taking the less traveled road.  He said that choice made all the difference. All of us are faced with decisions like this through life.  Shall I go this way or that way?  Life presents us with diverging roads all the time. Some of our decisions are reversible; others not so much. All of us hate living with regret.  None of us...
Making the Golden Rule Central to Our Lives

Making the Golden Rule Central to Our Lives

May 13, 2018 Matthew 7:12 For many years of his life, John Newton was the captain of a British slave ship. During these years he kept detailed notes of his voyages, which later became published in his 1788 book, “Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade.” Newton wrote that the environment of the slave trading “gradually brings a numbness upon the heart and renders those who are engaged in it too indifferent to the sufferings of their fellow creatures.” As an example, he told the story of a slave woman on the ship who had a child about a year old that would not stop crying. As the child cried in the night, she was warned by a sailor as he rose in anger that if the child did not stop making a noise, he would silence it. When the child continued to cry, he rose for a second time, tore the child from the mother’s arms, and threw the child into the sea. For the rest of the voyage, the sailor had to contend with a lamenting mother, who was too valuable to throw into the sea. Newton describes the passage over the ocean as a hellacious experience where slaves were stacked below deck in two rows of five-foot sections, like books on a shelf, each shackled by a hand and a foot, where they stayed sometimes for an entire week before being brought up on deck, where they were then chained to an eye bolt for some exercise. A passage across the ocean could take up to ten months. (p. 185-186) Imagine the stench. Imagine the pain. Imagine...
Ask, Seek, Knock, Open

Ask, Seek, Knock, Open

Ask, Seek, Knock, Open Matthew 7:7-11 May 6, 2018 I was watching Kirsten Charles feed her son George not long ago.  She and Kevin are teaching him how to sign.  It’s amazing that children can learn how to sign before they can learn how to talk. As early as six months of age, a child can ask for things by signing. Last Christmas a video of a child having his first experience with Santa Claus went viral.  As soon as his parents placed this very young child on Santa’s lap, the child’s eyes and face showed signs of fear and he began to give the sign for help. One of the more common signs children learn is the sign for more.  You place your thumb and your fingers together and then bump both hands together. Asking is a way of life.  It says, “I’m not self-sufficient.  I need others to help me through this world.”  It says, “You have something I need or want.” Children become experts at asking.  A child quickly learns who to ask and when to ask.   It’s an art form.  A child knows if it’s better to ask Mom or Dad.  Grandparents are easy prey. Children will usually ask until they hear the word “No.” They know that one “no” doesn’t always mean “no foreve.” Children are not the best at policing themselves or being judges about limits.   Neither are a lot of adults. We all know that children don’t turn out very well if they always get what they ask for or never have to work for what they get. Such children turn...
When We Face Judge Jesus

When We Face Judge Jesus

April 15, 2018 Matthew 7:1-6 Jesus sometimes seems confusing and ambiguous. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to judge, but is that possible? Aren’t we in a constantly judging what is right and wrong, good or bad? Don’t we have to make some judgments about whether we think people are a threat to our safety? Don’t we read body language and listen to the tone of one’s voice and make judgments about a person’s mood, friendliness, or intentions? Don’t we have some responsibility to judge the actions of other people and call them out if they are crossing the line, especially if they are treating people unjustly? Isn’t that what Jesus did when he turned over the money changer’s tables in the temple and chased out the animals as the traders cheated the poor by charging them high prices for sacrificial animals? Whenever we go to the polls and vote, aren’t we judging the candidates’ positions on issues and to some extent the moral and philosophical positions they hold? Don’t we make judgments about who we want to be our close friends, who we want to be our acquaintances, and who we don’t want to befriend at all? Jesus says, “Don’t judge, or you too will be judged.” Jesus might been having a little fun with his audience because he continues by saying, “In the same way you judge others, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (7:2) He tells us not to judge but then he concedes that we cannot help judging.  Then he gives us an important guideline to...