A Sermon for the Week
August 11, 2019
I don’t know about you but, I can’t even guess what is going to happen next in my life. I’ll get up expecting a nice quiet day of work and then a call comes in and I’m on the road to some emergency. Now, I’m not complaining, after all that is part of my job, emergencies. But, there are definitely surprises in our work life and in our everyday lives that happen all the time. I know you have them too, in your lives.
Carla and I took a vacation a few years ago and when we got home that night I was a good boy and unpacked my suitcase. Then I got lazy and rather than take the suitcase downstairs to put it away correctly, I threw it down the basement stairs. It splashed when it got down there. The basement had a about a foot of water in it. There was a spring under the house and the sump pump had stopped working.
I won’t bore you with the party that became, but I will tell you there was a man and his wife who made our emergency their emergency. They came and fought through all of the mess for three days with me. In the morning I was actually a little jealous of Carla going to her very hard job each morning. But, those folks helped me get through to the end of the cleanup.
Sometimes the emergencies in our lives are life threatening, like when I was stationed in Fort Douglas, Utah and I got a call that Mom is going to have open heart surgery tomorrow. I was told that she was in the hospital with major blockages and they have to fix them or she would die. Now, then I knew a lot less about open heart surgery than I do now, I hadn’t had my own. So, I went in to talk to my boss about Mom and he said, “Go.” Not put in a leave request, not, we’ll talk about it tomorrow, just, “Go.” He was a good man, who cared about his subordinates.
I remember a lady who was so proud of her children, she had a daughter and a son and she was so excited that next year her son would graduate from high school. She was so sure he would get a football scholarship and maybe even go to the NFL. Then she was diagnosed with cancer. In too short a time she was in a hospital bed dying with her family around her and she wouldn’t get to see all the wonderful things her son and daughter would do in their adult lives. She certainly would have loved the two children they have now.
The guy I replaced in our last tour in Alaska as he retired had a great plan. He and his wife were staying in Alaska, he had a job selling insurance at much better pay than his Army check had been. They loved fishing with their new twenty four foot, ocean ready boat was prepared for many halibut fishing trips. They were hunters and their living room looked like a natural history museum with all the mounted heads. Then about six months later the secretary buzzed me and told me I had a call. It was his wife and he had died of massive heart attack and was gone.
That's the trouble with trouble, it seldom warns us its coming, but we can rest assured, its will. Trouble doesn’t warn us and say, "Ready or not, here I come!" If it would we could at least get ready for it, or better yet, we could avoid it altogether. But, most of the time that’s just not how life works. In fact, we are all one of three people today; we are a person coming out of trouble, we are one who is in the middle of trouble, or we’re about to have some trouble and that's life.
It is because of this truth that our lives are often defined by how we respond to trouble. Think about it. Addicts who do not want to face real life, numb themselves to the world with drugs. Some people lash out in anger in response to trouble, breaking things and hurting others. Atheists blame the absence of God for trouble. The self-centered avoid all responsibility for their trouble, blaming everything on someone or something else. Look at many people and you will see people who responded to difficult situations in their lives in unhealthy and unwise ways.
At the bottom of all unhealthy responses to trouble is one bad word. This word is the enemy to all that brings life and joy and peace and hope to us. That word awful word is "panic." We panic, when we feel the world is out of control. Panic often causes us to grab onto something, anything that makes us feel like we are in control and it's often an unhealthy or poor choice.
Sound familiar? Maybe you are putting on a good show for others, but inside you can feel yourself coming apart at the seams. Maybe your business is failing. Maybe you can't find a job and the bills are piling up. Maybe your marriage is in trouble. Maybe you're just barely living between doctor appointments and you are scared to death about your own end. Often the trouble we are facing causes us to panic.
Well, we need to know one thing. There is another and a better choice than panic. We can find peace in the middle of our storms. We can calm the storm inside us, finding help and hope and all we only need one thing to do it.
Oh, I have known people who have this one thing. I walked into the hospital room and saw that lady I talked about earlier, in her 40's dying of cancer. Her family and friends were all there telling funny stories about her and her life. I remember thinking to myself, “What are they doing she is dying?” But, then I saw it in her eyes, she was loving every minute of her time with them and from conversation and prayers with her earlier I knew she had it.
My Dad had it. I could see it when he prayed. As a kid, I would open one eye as he prayed at church and watch him. My Dad had it.
John Wesley had it. It is what transformed his ministry. He found IT at Aldersgate in a Bible study with some Moravian Baptists.
Reed and Valerie Rolfs as she fights brain cancer have it. In the middle of Valerie’s fight with cancer they both find strength in it. Bill and Barbara have it, as they face dialysis for the rest of her life, they have it.
Many others have had it over the years, and it has made all the difference in their lives. It gave them strength to deal with trouble and with inspiration to do many amazing things even in difficult times. It goes all the way back to Abraham. Because he had it, all the rest of us can have it, too. He had it when God told him to leave everything he knew, and he had no idea where God was sending him and his wife. He had it when God told him and his wife Sarah they were going to have children, when they were way too old for that. Abraham had it. You know what it is? Well, I am sure you have guessed it, after all IT is the name of the sermon, it is Faith. In Hebrews, faith is defined as…”…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
You see, despite what some of us might think about ourselves, we Christians are not perfect. No matter what we might think, we are certainly not in control. We Christians just do not have all the answers. Christians are not folks that can give the perfect theological answer to every question.
But, Christians ARE those who have learned and know in their hearts, like Abraham, that God can be trusted. God can be trusted to give peace in the middle of the storm. God can be trusted to take what is evil and transform it into something worthwhile and good. God can be trusted to give us strength in the middle of trouble and if the trouble we are experiencing ends our life here, God can be depended on to catch us when we die through your faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, my God and your God can be trusted!
You all know I used to be a paratrooper. Sometimes it would be really easy to get a little scared and panic on parachute jumps. Like the time my main parachute had one of the risers over the canopy. It would have been easy to panic as that five hundred test parachute cord ate its way with friction through the nylon canopy of my parachute cutting it in half.
Or, the time I landed on another paratroopers open parachute and was wading thigh deep in all that nylon. I was supposed to jump off and hope my own parachute inflated. It would have been easy to panic. But, I often remembered a comment from one of the instructors in jump school. He was teaching a class on malfunctions of the parachute and he told us that day, “When all else fails, trust the equipment and your training. If you do that, you will make it through”. And, I had it, I had the Lord Jesus Christ in my heart.
But, in all these times of danger and in many others in different situations in my last career that was often a dangerous occupation, I always had my faith. At the door of the aircraft I always said a little prayer, “Here we go Lord, take care of me, please,” and I always knew I had my Lord God with me and I always knew he would catch me if I fell. It didn’t matter what happened my Lord God through my faith in Jesus Christ would and still will catch me. Like Abraham and so many before me, I had it, too!
When trouble comes, we often try to grab on to God. When we should have already been there. Try to open a relationship with the Lord when we should have already been walking and talking with him every day and every night. When we should have already asked him to be our Lord and Savior.
But, if you have never asked Christ to be your Lord, it’s not too late, please, do it today. He wants to be your safety net and all it takes is for you to come to him with a repentant heart and ask him to be your Lord and Savior. He is always there, ready to catch us.
If we are already in Christ we don’t need to start something new when trouble strikes. Thank God, He is there, he loves us, he’s ready to help us through the times of trouble, and he’s always ready to catch us when and if the trouble we are in, ends our life. Thank God, for our Lord Jesus Christ he WILL catch us.
Let us pray…
Lord, we are not giving up, but we are handing our trouble to you. We are letting go and allowing you to take over. For, it is in the One our faith is based in that we pray, in Christ's name. Amen.
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC, Healy, Kansas
“What’s Most Important?”
August 4, 2019
The scripture lesson is all about an inheritance, about who gets what after someone’s death? The loss of a loved one hurts us deeply and unfortunately we often get hurt again by the arguments over who gets what. So, to keep that from happening many folks make out wills, writing down in the will who gets what and we hope it will seem fair to all the recipients. We know death brings enough pain, so we try to ease some of it with a fair and equitable will.
Greed an old, old sin and often sneaks in quietly at these times and causes even more trouble. As people keeping score of who gets what, there sure can be some family problems at these times. Old conflicts and old jealousies that were almost forgotten, sometimes raise come up again.
For example, when my Mom died, there was a little money and it was split up evenly between us four kids. Each of us getting a fourth of it. So, far so good. Then we started dividing up the stuff in her apartment. I wanted a painting of a hobo that I had painted and sent to Mom and Dad, while I was in Germany. When I was moving back to the states and sent it to Mom and Dad’s house so it wouldn’t get damaged in shipment. My plan was to get it back when I got home. But, by the time I got home, Dad had already framed it and hung it on the wall. Evidently, he and Mom loved it. What could I do…I just chalked it up in my memory that someday when Mom and dad were gone I would get it back. But, on this day, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was beginning to think one of my sisters had taken it and I was getting angry.
I told Carla about it and she asked where the painting was and one of my sisters remembered that Mom had given it to my aunt, her sister. Man, of all the things that could happen that painting of mine, the one I loved the most, it seemed so unfair that I wouldn’t get it and I had a flash of anger at Mom and my Aunt. But, that day, we all seemed to have felt we had gotten our fair share. But, there were surely opportunities for someone to be hurt. All four of us knew about others having their problems with this chore and we didn’t want trouble among us over stuff so we were nice to each other. But, when someone passes it sure can bring out all kinds of greed in us. This is one time when maybe you are fortunate to not have a lot to divide up.
In our Bible lesson a man comes up to Jesus, the famous rabbi, and asks, “Jesus, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” As Scooby Do says, “Rutroh.” Let’s read between the lines and think about what is happening in this guy’s life. Well, we know the man’s father has died. It was a time of sadness and sorrow for him and we also see there are two boys in the family. Jewish law said the oldest boy got two thirds; the youngest got one third. Maybe there was a little jealousy and resentment over that, but it was the law. So, the younger son would only get a third no matter what happened.
The oldest son also has control over the property. He can do what he wants, when he wants. People usually resent it when someone else has control of what you feel is yours. I’ll bet, the younger son has already asked for his part of the inheritance and the big brother hasn’t given it to him. Maybe the older son couldn’t afford to buy his younger brother out; maybe he is afraid his younger brother will take the inheritance and waste it. Who knows? But, the youngest brother must have believed that Jesus would support him in getting his share or he wouldn’t have asked. So, what does Jesus do? Well, first off, we need to remember Jesus is God on earth, all-knowing and all-seeing, so he can read this young man’s heart and understand his motives.
Jesus, knowing the heart of this young brother, said to him, “Be careful, watch out for greed, the good in a person’s life is not having the most stuff”. Then he says, “Let me tell you a story: a rich man had so much didn’t know what to do with it”. The man thought to himself, “I’ll tear down my old barns and build bigger ones, I’ll store all my grain and all my goods and all my toys.” I added the toys in there. So he did all that. Then he said to himself, “I have plenty for years to come. Take it easy. Just eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him: “Fool, tonight your soul will be required of you, and then what will happen to all your grain and all your stuff?” What was Jesus trying to tell the young man who wanted his part of his inheritance now? What did Jesus know about his heart and his motives? It seems to me, reading between the lines; we see he has made three mistakes about the inheritance.
The first mistake is thinking the purpose of money is to have a life of “eat, drink and be merry.” Maybe, Jesus could see that he was planning to use it to eat, drink, and be merry. Maybe that is why the oldest brother wasn’t going to give him his part of the estate. In our culture we hear, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die,” all the time. That attitude has become a part of our culture, a part of our American philosophy of life. Many people believe, we should not worry about the future, that we should just live for today, as if there was no tomorrow. They act as if there is no God and no accounting to him for our lives after this life. They never think about others and their needs. Many in our society says we should, eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
But, for the man in the parable, God answers him with, “You fool, tonight your soul will be required of you.” He is telling this young man and us that there is more to life than our time here on earth. He tells him there is a God, there is a judgment by God, and there is an eternity. To just eat, drink and be merry is a dangerous way to live if we are to meet God face to face tonight. It is a dangerous because each and every one of us will meet God when we die. We learn in this story, that there is more to life than just taking care of ourselves. That it is wrong to allow our wants to take precedence over everything else.
So, why is it foolish to live like this? Why is it foolish to live life, eating, drinking and being merry? Why is it foolish, to live only for ourselves and our own pleasure? Unfortunately, for many people the primary purpose of their lives is the pursuit of their own pleasures. It is in all of our advertising; it is in all of our movies and TV; it totally saturates our culture. We are constantly told by the media that the primary purpose of life is the pursuit of personal pleasure. You know, it is tough being a committed Christian in a culture like this. So, Jesus tells us so, “Be on guard, be careful about all kinds of greed, for life does not only consist in the abundance of possessions”.
A second mistake of the young man was making and many of us make, is accumulation of lots of stuff makes us happy. For some, the more we have, the happier we are. But, Jesus said, “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Maybe this man thought the purpose of life was to accumulate as much stuff as possible. It is a common mistake. Many think lots of stuff brings greater happiness and pleasure to their lives. Yes, we can have short term fun with some of that stuff, but it does not prepare us for eternity.
We hear people say, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” I think deep down inside of us, we all know that the most valuable things in life aren’t things. When my Mom and my Dad died; they didn’t have a lot of toys; but they were the richest persons I knew and it had nothing to do with money. They didn’t leave a lot of money and not many possessions. But, I do have an amazing inheritance from them. I didn’t get a lot of toys but I got the best possible things from them.
But, I have their love in me, their joy for life, their values, their work ethic, and most important of all, my faith in Jesus Christ, that they led me too. I inherited the good stuff; but not a lot of toys. I think that is what all parents should strive for! Teaching our kids the best things in life are not material; they are not physical; they are spiritual, emotional, and invisible as we lead our families to faith in Christ are the most important thing we can ever do.
The third mistake with money that Jesus saw in the young man’s heart? He believed financial wealth would give him security for the future. But, all that stuff gives a false sense of security. Jesus said, “The rich farmer had a great year with a bumper crop, and so he built bigger barns, saying to himself, ‘I have stored up many goods for years to come. My, my, how secure I am.’” Many people find security in their financial nest eggs. But, I can’t count the times I have seen those who are best prepared for retirement die before they have enjoyed a single moment of it. God warns us not to find our security in money, wealth or bank accounts. Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. If God takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, won’t God take care of you?” I am not saying that we shouldn’t prepare ourselves for retirement but please don’t put all our trust in our financial nest eggs, in money, in bank accounts. Let’s place our trust in our faith in Jesus Christ.
If you haven’t yet come to Christ with a repentant heart and asked him to be your Lord and Savior, please, do it right now, do it today. Put you trust in Jesus Christ for eternity is a long, long time and faith in Christ is the ONLY way to prepare for it.
As we read this story and listen to the advice Jesus gave this man, we see that Jesus felt the young man was making three mistakes. First off, for him the purpose of money was to make it easy to live a life of eat, drink and be merry. He may also have believed that whoever dies with the most toys wins. Just know, that a life of placing possessions above our relationship with Jesus is the most important thing for each and every one of us, and a life will not be ruined because Mom gave her sister a painting. Know that financial wealth does not and never will give us security for the future, for eternity! Than is found only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC Healy, Kansas
July 28, 2019
How many times have you finally given in and bought what your kids were begging for, when they begged for so long it felt like forever? I guess I was ten or twelve and we lost Laddie, our old Collie dog. He was my buddie, followed me everywhere I went and I often slept with my head on him. Mom didn’t like him in the bed, he kind of got them dirty and smelly. But, I didn’t mind. Laddie and I were buddies. He died after an incident with a porcupine. Evidently Dad and I missed a quill and it went to his brain.
I immediately started begging and praying for a puppy. Mom kept saying, “No”. I think a good part of the reason was that she was heartbroken over the loss of Laddie. But, it didn’t stop me from begging. I was also complaining about me being dogless to my grandpa. He always agreed with me, that it was a darn shame a boy didn’t have a dog.
One day after begging Mom for a dog, I went the half mile north to Grandpa’s house to tell him about how mean my Mom was. When I walked in his house, a little cream and white ball of fluff ran to me, entire body shaking with its wagging tail. I was thrilled and Grandpa said that since my Mom wouldn’t let me have a pup he decided to get himself one. He told me that if I wanted, I could come and see her. That puppy and I had a great time and then Mom called and told me to come home it was almost time for super. Grandpa told me I should take the pup up to the house and let my Mom see what she was missing by not letting me have a puppy.
So, I put her under my arm and walked the half mile home. When I walked in, I hollered, “Look at Grandpa’s new puppy.” Mom took her and hugged her and fell in love. Finally, I told mom that I thought I had probably better get her back to Grandpa’s before dark. I think in those days, I had issues with the dark. She looked at me for a moment and then at the puppy and said, “That old man won’t take care of a puppy, we’re keeping her here.” She always did have a soft spot for animals. Then, she called Grandpa and told him we were going to keep her here at our house so she would be safe and well cared for. Grandpa didn’t argue, I wonder if this was his plan from the start.
You know I think we bug and bother the people we are closest to, like I did Mom about a puppy. We don’t bother and bug those who are not close, for things we want and we don’t beg and bother neighbors who are not close friends. Maybe it is only because those people won’t tolerate us bugging and begging them like a friend. In our scripture lesson for today a friend is begging and bugging his neighbor. And, I believe that this parable from Jesus illustrates that we are to bug and bother God in our prayer life.
So, what happened that night Jesus is telling us about? The neighbors had a friend show up after midnight to visit. They had nothing in the house to give the friend to eat or drink. Guess they didn’t have a refrigerator and cabinet like Carla and I have? Can you imagine Carla and I going over to Shay’s or Taldo’s, banging on the door asking for food, after midnight? So, this man goes over to the neighbors and bangs on their door. He keeps knocking until finally the home owner finally yells, “I’m asleep, and so are my kids, you are going to wake everybody up, quit banging on my door!” Knowing he is a good, good friend and neighbor, he just keeps on knocking until the whole family is up.
Jesus tells us the neighbor will get up and give him wine and the bread, not just because of their friendship, but also because he wants to the guy to quit banging on his door. And, that’s how it should be in our prayer life, we are to bug and bother God until our prayers are answered. Jesus then told us these wonderful words, “…so I say to you. Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be open to you.” Asking, seeking and knocking are all examples of bugging, and begging in our prayer lives.
We are not to be reasonable and rational and proper in what we ask God for, we are to be persistent beggars. We are to pray as our children do…asking for the moon and believing God will answer their prayers. Many American Christians don’t pray like this very often. Many of us might, at most, knock on God’s door once or twice a day. Maybe at bed time or at supper? Jesus taught us to knock often and long. But, not many of us pray that way and I think there are four main reasons why many American Christians don’t pray like that.
First is, American Christians are just so darn busy. The richer a culture is, the less time it has for prayer. The statistics are awful, that the average American Christian prays four minutes a day and the average pastor prays seven minutes a day. I felt a little better as I was writing this and saw these statistics, because I do pray more than the average pastor if the statistics are right. But, I know, I don’t pray nearly enough. When we are busy one of the first thing to go in our lives is our prayer life.
Another reason American Christians don’t pray very much is that many of us don’t believe prayer does much good. For many Americans, prayer is essentially talking to yourself; a positive pep talk; psychological motivation to do better. Instead of what it should be…a conversation with our Lord God and friend. Too often I think for many, prayer is just a formality, where we check off on an imaginary list, “Yep, I prayed about that” and we think we have done our duty. Often we pray as if once is enough for the most important things in our lives and it just isn’t.
A third reason that many American Christians don’t pray very much is many believe God should protect them from all the disasters of life without a prayer asking him to do it. And, if they do pray…once about something, then when something horrible happens. Some begin to believe there must not be a God and that prayer does no good. According to this logic, the Apostle Paul should have been protected from all the trouble he experienced. But, he wasn’t, remember I talked about it last week. Or, that God should have protected Job from the disasters of his life. Some believe that since God didn’t’ protect Job, it proves prayer doesn’t really do any good. God didn’t even protect his own son from the dangers on this earth. I’m afraid many American Christians don’t pray enough because they really don’t believe God will protect us from the disasters of life.
A fourth reason that American Christians don’t pray very much is many of us don’t walk very closely with God. To have any close relationship, we need to talk often with God, about everything in our lives. You can’t have a close relationship with anyone without persistent intimate conversation. Would any of us say, four minutes a day, is enough for an intimate relationship with God.
So, if you add it all up, if you add up all these reasons, many American Christians have perhaps decided prayer is a waste of their time and does nothing to change their lives. I think one of the reasons our society has so many problems is we just don’t pray enough…none of us! Our society is so filled with broken down marriages and broken down families. We have more people in prison than anyone in the industrial world. In many cities it is dangerous to walk down the streets. Many churches are literally disappearing and I think part of the problem is we Christians don’t pray enough.
If we ask an American Christian who prays four minutes a day, “Does prayer work?” Many American Christians, if they are honest will say, “Well, I don’t know, but I doubt it.” But, if you ask Christians in South America, Asia and Africa about the effectiveness of prayer, they answer, “O yes. Prayer works enormously well.” They thank God that they have that lifeline because it is dangerous to be a Christian in many of those places. They know they need the Lord’s help to make it through. You don’t ask a person who has played baseball once how to play and you probably shouldn’t ask many American Christians for advice about prayer, they don’t do it enough.
Jesus our example setter, prayed. All through his life, Jesus had a strong prayer life. Today we read about the disciples, who after watching him pray, asked him to teach them how. Jesus prayed first thing in the morning to thank God for the night. Do we? He prayed at noon time, to thank God for the day. Do we? He prayed to God before he fell asleep, thanking God for the day and asking God to keep him safe. Do we? He also prayed at every meal even when he was out in public. That seems to be a problem for some of us, but not for Jesus. Do we?
Jesus’ prayer life was real and showed us how he believed prayer was important and that it had an effect on his life. He prayed at times of trouble, like during the temptation in the desert, he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, and he even prayed on the cross before he died. Jesus also prayed at blessed times of life such as the wedding Cana and when he healed. I can see in my mind’s eye him praying for a friend’s new baby or at a marriage, blessing it. He prayed during good times and bad, he prayed at all times.
Jesus wanted his disciples to be people of prayer and prayer was the first thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them. Before they asked for the power to preach or to heal, they asked to learn to pray. Do you think they thought it was powerful and important? Well, Jesus’ disciples have been asking that same question ever since.
Christians are to continue praying for what we think we need until we get it or are given an answer. Jesus tells us, “Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.” But, there is something we need to remember, the answer to our prayers may not always be what we thought we needed.
I had a personal reminder of that recently as I prayed for my friend DD Howard. He had gone to the hospital that morning because he was having trouble breathing. When I got there, I prayed with him for God to heal him and make him whole and well. Now, in my heart I was praying for him to go home from the hospital and continue being my friend. But, he died that afternoon and my prayers were answered in heaven. The joy in my answered prayer, was that he was made whole and well in heaven, I have no doubt of that when he went to be with his Savior in heaven. Not the whole and well I had imagined and had been asking for, but he truly was healed and made whole and well in paradise. We Christians are to be persistent in our knocking on God’s door and persistent in our prayers. Knowing God will decide the right answer.
Have any of us ever kept track of who and what we have prayed for and then were amazed at how faithfully God has answered our prayers, just not always in the ways we had asked. I saw that with my prayers for DD and his prayers were answered too. Just a few weeks before he asked me to sing “I Want to Walk Over Heaven With You” for him and Ruth at their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I didn’t know his prayer from that song, to walk through heaven, would be answered so quickly for him, but it was, and someday Ruth, his wife, will be there too.
The disciples saw Jesus finish his prayers that day and they asked him to teach them to pray. Now, I believe that is one of the reasons you are in church today. We too have asked Jesus to teach you to pray and that prayer has been answered and is continually be answered if we will only listen. Let’s be prayers, like Jesus.
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
Healy UMC - Healy, Kansas
July 14, 2019
We have all heard the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is attacked along the road, is robbed, and left for dead, they even took his clothes. Then along came a Priest, a so-called Holy man. I don’t know, maybe he was on his way to do something holy? But, he saw the man, lying naked in the ditch, all beat to a pulp and maybe he was afraid the bad guys hadn’t left? Besides, he couldn’t mess with a bloody body, it would make him sacrificially unclean and he wouldn’t be able to worship in the Temple. So he crossed to the other side of the road and tried very hard to ignore the man lying in the ditch. He had important things to do and didn’t have time for someone who had been stupid enough to allow himself to be assaulted. Isn’t it sad, he missed his chance to do something holy right there beside the road?
Then along came a Levite. Levites were assistants in the Temple. He couldn’t be late…what would the priest do if the altar wasn’t sat up and the candles weren’t lit. But, he too was probably afraid the robbers might not be gone. He sure didn’t want to be there if they came back. Why, he’d wind up in the ditch with that guy. Lying there naked with everything he owned stolen. So, he hurried and crossed the road, trying not to see this poor, innocent man in the ditch. He thought he had much more important work to do, than helping someone he didn’t know, lying in a ditch.
Then along comes the Samaritan man. He sees the man, but, he really sees the man, he forgets all about where he was going and what he was going to do when he got there. He does not worry if the robbers are still there. He sees only a hurting person, a person in need of help from him personally, and for him that takes precedence over everything else. He dresses the man’s wounds and puts some clothes on him. He takes him to an inn and pays for the man’s care and only then continues his trip. Leaving the man in the care of the Inn owner, but fully intending to return to see how this man is doing and to make sure he has received good care. So, that’s the parable of the Good Samaritan in a nutshell.
Now, we have all been in situations when someone needed help and we did the right thing and helped in every way we could. I often think of an old alcoholic man Carla and I kind of adopted in one of our churches. He had leukemia and we took him to doctor appointments, we gave him food, both things we cooked and groceries. I think Carla even did some washing for him. He thanked us by attending church and by trying, not always successfully to stay out of the bottle. It was such a joy to get to know him and to listen to his amazing stories. I later did his funeral and what a joy it was to tell how he loved Jesus Christ even though he had that bottle on his back.
I think for all of us, there have been others who had something we knew they had done or we suspected them of doing that seemed to put them below our level of caring. People we believed were just too awful, too sinful, or too worthless to deserve our help or our time. I also think we have all been in situations where we have done the right thing, the Good Samaritan” thing. And, we have all checked people out who needed help and decided they were undeserving, or maybe too scary to help. I also think we all know what our correct response is in those times? We do know what we should do, don’t we?
As I was studying this passage, I was wondering about what this wounded guy in the ditch was thinking. What was going through his mind and heart when people walked by trying very hard not to see him? Did he call out to them and they pretended not to hear?
What was he thinking when the Priest walked by on the other side of the road? Did he see him cross to the other side of the road so he wouldn’t have to be near him? I wonder was he a man who had no faith in God and when the priest ignored him…was his lack of faith made even stronger? I imagine him thinking, “Just like one of those Temple people, ignoring those who need their help, while getting fat and sassy in the Temple on the backs of the poor people who give”? Did he think, “That big shot thinks he is better than me, because he isn’t in the ditch half beaten to death”?
Did he think the same things when the Levite walked by? Did he notice that the Levite crossed the road, to not be near him? Was he permanently turned off on God and faith by these so-called holy men? I wonder if he is spending eternity in hell, because two people who were supposed to have faith in a good and loving God, walked right by him when he was in terrible need?
And, I wonder when you and I walk right by someone in need? Do those thoughts go through those people’s mind when we cross the road to avoid those in need? Maybe we don’t literally cross the road, but we do go through some pretty wild contortions to avoid being involved in the lives of those who need help. You know, eyes straight ahead, so that we do not meet the eyes of a needy person we want nothing to do with. Or, the phone calls we ignore, because we recognize the number and do not want to hear the same old sad stories from this person we know is in need. Or, the times we do not answer the door because we know who is there and we tell ourselves we have no time for their troubles or maybe we just don’t care?
Yeah, I know we hear people talking about how they never give money to people who ask for help because they do not want to we become an enabler. First off, do you think maybe we’re a little too quick to worry about being an enabler? Are we sometimes using it as an excuse not to help? Isn’t that a little like crossing to the other side of the road like the Priest and the Levite? I have done it, stopped helping folks because it became obvious I was enabling them. But, we should all think long and hard before cutting back on helping others for these reasons. I think I have told you about the guy and his kids that I gave fifty dollars to and then saw him going in a liquor store. I was angry, but when it all comes down to it…I had done the right thing and my heart had been in the right place. But, Satan had a hold on that man and maybe some of that money got to his children? Maybe we all should be a little quicker to help and a lot slower to judge the needy?
As I wrote this sermon, I also thought about times when I was literally the man in the ditch. Like the time on a very hot day, I had a heat stroke and died. A combat medic stepped up and did what so many emergency people do every day. He checked my pulse, I will never forget when he said, “He’s gone!” I wanted to tell them, “No, I’m not,” as I was watching them carefully a few feet away. I’m not sure if I knew all they were supposed to do, but I guess they did it all or God just wasn’t finished with me here on this earth. He got my heart beating again and they evacuated me to a hospital. Physically I needed help and, “Thank the Lord,” I got it from a combat medic that knew his business, wasn’t afraid to do it, and didn’t look away and pretend nothing was going on. I was, and still am, thankful for his help.
Then there are the times when I was in the ditch mentally and spiritually. Like the time I was partying one Saturday night, trying to forget my problems and met a person who invited me to church the next morning. Or, the time I was hating someone and a friend told me I needed to get rid of the hate and told me how to do it. Or, the time when I was so lonely, I would virtually go anywhere to just not be alone. So, I went to a line dancing class on a Thursday night. Believe it or not, I wasn’t very good at it? I met a beautiful young woman there, who had some of the same problems I had but was willing for us to work them out together. We’re still together after all these years and are still working out our problems and life’s battles together.
I say today, “Let’s all be Samaritans who help others out of the ditches they find themselves in”. Let’s all be the one who helps the person who has found themselves in a ditch of some kind. Let’s be the one, who gives the one in the ditch material and emotional help. Let’s all be the one who does not judge but just tries to help. And, then let’s also be the one who offers to help the person in the ditch to come to Jesus Christ. Because, through our faith in him we know Christ is the answer to all of their problems and ours.
We have all been in a ditch of some sort in our lives. Every one of us sometimes need help getting out of the ditch. We all have those times when fellow human beings guided by God, whether they know they are working for God or not, help us out of our ditch. That ditch may be physical, mental, or spiritual, but after we have helped them we need to tell them about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For, there are no problems more important than being without Christ. We all need him and we need to always remember, “The ditches of this world are only temporary, but being without Jesus Christ in our hearts when we die is forever!”
Let’s never be the Christian who doesn’t try, at least try, after we have helped them out of the ditch, to lead those who are hurting to Jesus Christ for it is after all, the best and only preparation for forever.
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
Healy United Methodist Church
Luke 8: 26-39
July 7, 2019
As I read this passage I was thinking of a visitor to our house when I was a boy. My Mom’s Mom came to stay with us until her house was finished in town. Her house was in the way of I-70 and was bulldozed to make way for it. Well, one morning we all got up and Grammy, that’s what we called her, was cooking. We had eaten a lot of her food and it was great, we were so excited. But, then someone asked what was for breakfast and Grammy said with a big old smile, “Scrambled pig brains and eggs.” We immediately began to wonder if this visit from Grammy was going to be nearly as good as we thought.
Then Dad walked in, I think he had smelled breakfast cooking and it didn’t smell all that good. He looked in that old twelve inch cast iron frying pan that was heaping full and asked, not as nicely as us, “What is that?” Grammy smiled, she was really pulling out her best stuff for us, and said again, “Scrambled pig brains and eggs.” Dad didn’t say a word, he just picked the pan off the stove and threw it out the door. He was our hero, we didn’t have to try scrambled pig brains and eggs. Then Dad looked out the back door and said, “Look, the dogs won’t even eat it.” I think the dogs wouldn’t eat it because it was hot, but Dad maybe shouldn’t have said that? It wasn’t the best environment around our house for the few weeks it took for Grammy’s house to be ready in town. You might say it was a little frosty and Dad and we kids worked every moment on it, when Dad wasn’t working at his regular job.
Now, you might say that visit didn’t really come out too well. But, what about the visit of Jesus and his followers to the Gerasenes’ land, it depended on who you asked. With Grammy, there were some good things, she was a great cook and she was normally fun to be around. But, none of us would ever forget that time she tried to feed us scrambled pig brains and eggs. It kind of worried a feller a little, that she might try it again when Dad wasn’t home. Because, at our house you ate what was served.
You know, different visits can be so different, some visits are wonderful and some are absolutely awful. Many of the Gerasene people probably weren’t thrilled by Jesus’ visit. I’ll bet those farmers who lost their hogs weren’t all that happy about Jesus’ visit? Would you be?
So, what if Jesus came to visit here? What would we do? How would we feel? Would we be excited and honored and do all we could to make his visit wonderful? Would we be comforted and uplifted by a visit from Jesus? Or, would we be nervous and worry, hurrying to do some extra cleaning and straightening of the house? What would we cook? I’m guessing it wouldn’t be pig brains and eggs? So, what would we do if Jesus came to visit?
Today, Jesus visits the country of the Gerasenes, a Gentile region on the east coast of the Sea of Galilee. No matter where Jesus went when he came to visit, things were no longer normal. For, where ever Jesus is, everything is changed and transformed. This visit to the Gerasenes caused quite an uproar.
Almost before he could get off the boat, Jesus is met by a very sick man. This man is naked and obviously mentally ill. He comes at Jesus from his home in the cemetery, and he is shouting at Jesus to leave him alone, not to torment him. We find out later, it is not the man who is speaking to Jesus, but the demons who are in him who are afraid of Jesus. The demons have good reason to be afraid of Jesus. Jesus later destroyed them and restored the man to health. This is the transforming power of God in Jesus Christ at work.
The reactions to the visit of Jesus are different. The demons realize they are in the presence of God. They are some of the forces of Satan and are still active in all our lives and in this world, and are always afraid when they come into the presence of the Lord. But, the reaction of the Gerasenes to the healing of their neighbor surprises me. You would think they would be happy that this man is now sane and whole. You would think they would throw a party to celebrate this miracle and bring others who need healing. But, there is none of that. Luke says they are afraid and ask Jesus to leave.
It seems like an odd response to those of us who aren’t afraid of Jesus. Why are they scared? But, think about it. Maybe they're afraid if Jesus stays around they won't be able to make a living. After all, Jesus has just sent someone’s hogs to death in the lake. Wed all know the power of Jesus extends to pocketbooks and we all know that how often causes trouble. But, the fear of these people may be more than the possibility of no longer having a way to make a living. If Jesus has power over the forces of the world that oppress and bind, if Jesus can heal somebody like this suffering man, while destroying a hog farm, what will he do next? They probably wondered, “Who is safe from this amazing power?” What if I like my life just the way it is and prefer living my life of sin? Would I be thrilled to see someone who will upset the apple cart and change it forever?
I was once talking to a man about church membership and giving his heart to Christ. He wanted to know about asking Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. He was very interested in the idea, that through his salvation in Christ he could spend eternity in heaven and not in hell. But, he wanted to know all that was required of a follower of Jesus, so he asked, “What about church, does the Lord expect me to be in church every Sunday, once I’m saved?” When I told him, “Yes, we should be in church, somewhere every Sunday,” he thought long and hard. But, he finally decided He could live with that. He then said, “I’ve heard I’m supposed to give ten percent of my earnings to the church.” I told him, “Yes,” and he said, “Man that’s a lot of money to just give away.” But, he finally decided he could live with that, too.
Some might say I made a mistake then. And, if I had it to do over again I might not have said what I did. He could have learned what is required of a person who is in Christ, later as he grew in his faith. He could have grown into all those things we are supposed to do as Christians. I don’t know why, but I then told him we also owe ten percent of our time to Jesus after we have accepted salvation in him. As a kid in confirmation reminded me long ago, “That’s two point four hours a day, sixteen point eight hours a week, and 6,132 hours a year!” I am sure he was doing the same calculations in his head when as he started shaking his head, “You know, I had better think about this,” and left, never coming back. I felt awful, but what I told him is the truth. We are supposed to give of our time to God. Now, there are many ways to do that…with church attendance and Bible studies, serving and helping others, but we are supposed to give BACK ten percent of the time God has given us.
The Gerasenes, felt it was just too much of a risk to have Jesus around, so they asked him to leave. We often fear something new in our lives too. We see it in churches and individuals that cling to the old ways of doing everything. Holding on to the old ways, even when it is clear that some of those old ministries are not producing fruit. If Jesus came to visit, we just might ask him to leave like the Gerasenes did. Because, he might want to shake things up a little. We might be afraid of what he would do to how we want to live our lives?
In fact we are already doing this, when we ignore chances for new ministries. When we see places and people in our society that are not in Christ and then ignore ways we can reach them, we are running from new ministries in Christ when we avoid or ignore opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our neighbors and friends.
Years ago I took our two oldest girls to the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, because they had the lion there and were taking pictures of people with him. It took some serious talking, especially with Cori, but we went up and stood beside him as they took our picture. But, as we got close to him we could see his eyes were cloudy, he could barely see. He opened his mouth once when we were close and we could see he barely had a tooth in his head. This was a walking dead, tame lion, not the scary thing we had imagined. Scaredy cat Cori, decided we should take him home and love him. He wasn’t a fearsome lion anymore, he was just a kind of sad, old kitty cat.
One of the ways we get Jesus to leave us alone with his demands on our time, our money, and our lifestyle is by trying to tame him. We make Jesus stop with his constant calls for ministry by turning him into someone who is only kind and gentle, never gets too upset, and who never threatens anyone. We try to make him boring and safe. But, no one ever accused Jesus Christ of being boring. Many of the people who met him thought he was too powerful and controversial to be safe. And, nowadays many of us try to think only of Jesus as the meek and mild, helpless little baby Jesus, not the all-powerful Lord God on earth. Many of us prefer the toothless and clawless lion of the MGM Grand to the real and powerful Jesus Christ. For, that Christ is a lot less scary than the Christ that cleared the Temple in anger. He’s less challenging than the Christ who faced all the powerful people fearlessly, while doing what He was sent to do on the cross.
Well, the weak and sweet Jesus many of us want will leave us unhealed and unchanged by our faith. Sure, it will protect our senses and our hearts from the awesome power of God and that’s exactly the Jesus many of us want. Many of us w Jesus who only comes around when we need some help or when we want to get dewy eyed over the manger. We want a Jesus who will protect us and not ask too much of us.
But, there are other reactions to Jesus and one of them is the man who was healed and it is the reaction we should all be showing. Jesus has given this man back his mind and his life. From a naked, tormented man who lived in the graveyard, he had been changed to one who sits at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. This healed man is so grateful that he asks to go with Jesus back to Galilee. But, Jesus tells him, “No,” stay here and be a disciple in your hometown and he does what he was told, overflowing with the good news of what Jesus has done for him. Did you get that? He stayed in his hometown and witnessed to everyone about the life changing power and love of Jesus Christ He was changed in ways his neighbors could see by his faith in Jesus Christ. Just as we are to be changed by our faith in Him. If we fear the power of Jesus, if we are afraid of the possibility of a new and changed life in him, with all of its responsibilities I think this man would say to us, "I understand your fear, but don't send Jesus away so quickly. I wouldn't go back to who I was before Jesus came to me for anything. Let Jesus make the best of your life.”
Now, we never know when or where Jesus is going to turn up and call us to Christian ministry. But, if we aren’t feeling a call once in the while or we never have felt one, it is probably because we aren’t listening. He just might come to visit us with an offer of healing and new life. He will always call us to lead others to faith in him and if we are honest with ourselves, we know he has the power to do this. I pray we are all open and listening to what Jesus wants to do through us.
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC Healy, Kansas