Michael’s Sermons

 

Whatever Happened to Sportsmanship?

Vacation Bible School Sunday July 22, 2018 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 How many of you like to play sports?  How many of you like to watch other people play sports? When you play a game, what is the goal of the game? The goal is to win.  The goal is to do your best and hope you are better than your opponent. Just to make sure I am right about this, is there anyone here that likes to lose? I didn’t think so.  We all hate losing. But we are not going to win all the time.  All of us that play sports or games are going to experience losing. Here’s a good question.  When you win a game, and you have played well and defeated your opponent, how do you want your opponent to act toward you? A.    Do you want your opponent to say, “You won, but I was really better than you?  You just got lucky.  Next time I’ll beat you so bad you’ll be calling for your mama.” B.    Would you want your opponent to be so mad about losing that he or she just walked away without shaking your hand or saying anything to you? C.    Would you want your opponent to accuse you of cheating or say that you didn’t play fair and that’s the only reason you won? D.    Would you want your opponent to shake your hand and say, “Good game,  congratulations/” We want people to have good sportsmanship and congratulate us for winning, so that’s how we should act when we win. Sometimes when we win, we...

Whatever Happened to Fairness?

Whatever Happened to Fairness? July 15, 2018 Exodus 22:1-14 My parents have a neighbor that has a bull that gets out of its pasture.  It jumps a fence, walks through the woods, past their fish pond and jumps another fence and then helps itself to their garden. So far, the owner of the bull has not offered any restitution for the bull’s appetite nor has he kept the bull from repeating his bad behavior. As the Hebrew people came out of Egypt and formed a communal lifestyle, Moses had the task of creating laws to help them sort through their differences.  A lot of these disputes involved animals. What if someone borrowed an ox and returned it with a hurt leg?  What if someone asked you to keep care of your donkeys while you went away and when you came back the donkeys were dead because they had not been watered?  What was fair when someone had been wronged like that? Sometimes it was difficult to know whose animal had misbehaved if all the grapes in your vineyard had been eaten.  Once discovered, it was sometimes difficult for people to resolve their disputes and differences and know what was fair so everyone could get along. As much as he tried, it was impossible for Moses to come up with laws to deal with every possible scenario.  What these laws show us is that we must live with some boundaries.  Without boundaries, life would be chaotic and in constant disarray. But we also see what was considered fair in Moses’ day may not be fair today. Our understanding of God...

What Ever Happened to Moderation? 

July 8, 2018 Philippians 4:4-8 When I was a junior at Samford University, I saw a student riding a unicycle across the campus.  I was instantly hooked.  Before long I had one and I was learning to ride down the long hallway of the dorm where I was a resident assistant. It was a perfect place to learn to ride because I could reach out and touch two walls and balance myself from side-to-side.  If I got off-balance from front to back I just let the unicycle fall to the floor.  Falling off was never hard.  Learning to get on it was the challenge. The first time my grandfather watched me ride a unicycle I though he was going to brag on my abilities.  Instead, he responded in his typical humorous way, “Son, if I were you I’d start a family before I rode one of those things.” I later found a 6-foot unicycle and I rode it from my house to downtown Louisville, just a few blocks away. I didn’t ride a six-foot unicycle again until I bought one when I was the pastor of Clarkesville Baptist Church. I had my picture on the front page of the Northeast Georgian Newspaper riding my unicycle in the Mountain Laurel Parade in full clown costume so I thought I’d impress everyone the next year by riding a 6-foot unicycle.  And I did—for about half the parade. Remember, I told you that falling off was never the hard part.  Well, that day it was.  When I got off-balance that day, I fell sideways and I when I braced my fall I...

Whatever Happened to Respect?

July 1, 2018 Watch how people treat each other on Black Friday as we try to purchase presents for Christmas.  Go to a ball game and listen to the trash talk from opposing fans, and I’m talking about Little League and children’s soccer games as well as high school. Wherever there is an intersection of people that are different from one another in color, language, culture, beliefs, religion, social status, or wealth, there is loss of respect and it is noticeable in how the people treat each other.  If we would just use the Golden Rule. Our national leaders have failed to set the tone and the example for the rest of us in how those that are different from us and those we disagree with us should be treated. Our religious leaders need to set the tone for us, too, but so many of them mirror the actions and sound bites of the national leaders that they have not helped much either. I have noticed in the last year more and more examples of athletes, and politicians refusing to respect their counterparts by extending a traditional handshake. “According to one anthropologist, the handshake evolved in medieval Europe, during the times of knights. It seems not all the knights were virtuous. More than a few would approach opponents with concealed weapons and when within striking distance pull out a dagger or a sword and plunge it into the unsuspecting opponent.”  https://virtuefirst.org/virtues/respect/ That is not a fair fight. “To fend off the fear of this kind of nasty business, knights took to offering their open and visibly empty hand to each...

Are Women Finding Their Voices?

Ephesians 5:21-33 The conviction of comedian Bill Cosby and the arrest of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein have shaken Hollywood.   We’ve seen the worst fears of any parent come true with the abuse of dozens of gymnasts and the arrest and conviction of their sexual abuser, Dr. Larry Nassar, former U.S.A. Olympic Gymnastics doctor.   Unfortunately, the cover-up by Michigan State University of Dr. Nassar’s actions shows how unwilling our society is to hold people like him accountable for their actions. We are learning that these are not isolated incidences.  What these and other cases are showing us is that there is a pattern of female sexual abuse by men in this country and an unwillingness by the rest of us to acknowledge it.    Women have felt powerless because they cannot get justice.  They bare afraid to speak up because they are afraid if they xtell their story no one will believe them.  They might even be made out to be the ones responsible.   Sometimes women are made to believe that if they speak out, their lives will get worse rather than better.  Too many times this has proven to be true.  Women, teenage girls, and sometimes children have felt trapped in a man’s world.   Other times, women are made to feel that they caused or deserved the abuse, or that it was somehow normal, or that it didn’t even happen.  We do not live in Saudi Arabia but our country has not come nearly as far as it needs to come in how we treat women. But women have begun to feel empowered, just as they did when they campaigned...

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?

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?

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

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...