"The Proof Of Faith"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - 8/3/1997

2 Samuel 11:26-12-9; John 6:24-35

     One of our most favorite images of Jesus is the one that communicates his compassion. We remember the Good Shepherd who looked for the lamb that had strayed from the flock. We remember what happened when Jesus was attempting to be alone for awhile. A demanding crowd had other plans and they followed him. When he saw them approaching, Jesus had compassion and invited them to sit down for another period of sharing.

     In our lesson today, Jesus presents us with another image as he confronts many of these same people. In essence he was telling them that they were curiosity seekers. Since many of them were present during the mass feeding, he told them that they only wanted to be fed again. He accused them of wanting to be entertained by seeing what to them appeared extraordinary. Yet, to their credit, they asked a far reaching question, "What can we do in order to do what God wants us to do?"

     Jesus' answer was swift, "What God wants you to do is to believe in the one he sent." Then at the end of the lesson, he tells them what their personalities will communicate when they do. "Those who come to me," Jesus said, "will never be hungry; those who believe in me will never be thirsty."

     Jesus was using the biological needs of hunger and thirst as a hook to present a verbal portrait of something else. People of all ages knew what it was like to be hungry and thirsty. What he was telling them with such images was this: "When you really understand what I have been teaching you, you will no longer have meeting your own needs as your primary focus of life."

     Our society has done a good job of teaching us just the opposite. It teaches us how important it is to enhance the attractiveness of our bodies. It teaches us how to equate our worth by our salary level or to link our importance to our vocational responsibilities. Study the commercials on television and you will see how they attempt to anchor such feelings to the products they are advertising.

     Many of us have responded to the world's market place by being driven with self-enhancing thought patterns. Consider what happens to us when we become motivated by just the opposite. When others become the focus of our goals and desires, the way we process life becomes dramatically transformed.

     How easily we forget that India's freedom from England was secured by Ghandi who sat quietly on a mat and fasted. How easily we forget that our society realigned its priorities by those who shared King's dream and sang, "We shall over come." How easily we forget that Jesus had no place to lay his head. And how easily we forget that the ones who brought these three into existence were women who carried them, gave them birth, and taught them.

     Now, we might easily say, "Ah, but they each had strong desires. They were hungry and thirsty." And we would be correct. But what a distinction there is between gratifying our personal needs and gratifying our personal desires for the well being of others.

     How will Jesus' thoughts translate meaningfully so that they stimulate our thinking about our own orientation in life? Keep in mind that such giants as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. did not materialize out of thin air. Just as it takes a support team of 68 people to put one person on Mt. Everest, so it takes many contributing people to assist in the creation of an awakened, alive, and contributing person. When it comes to sharing the proof of our faith, we should never underestimate the power of doing what may appear insignificant.

     I was sitting at my desk one morning when one of my halogen lamps burned out. It wasn't the bulb, it was the entire fixture. The office was too dark so I decided to drive over to Lowes and pick up another lamp. As I was driving back to the church, I noticed the pick-up truck in front of me had a large object in its bay that was rolling around. The truck had no tailgate. The driver was beginning his pattern on the clover leaf to enter Rt. 50.

     I could not imagine what might happen if that object rolled out of that truck while it was traveling 65 mph. Instantly, I wanted to warn the driver of that truck. When I looked in my side view mirror, I saw a State policeman coming along side of me. I lowered my window and pointed vigorously to the truck in front of me. The policeman responded and pulled him over. Was I at the right place at the right time to avert a terrible accident a few miles ahead? I will never know.

     Betty Daigle of our church saw a bunch of youth running across the roof of June Attics's house. It was dusk and they were trying to open June's windows. Betty came out of the house and pointed out to them, as only she can do, that the boys would be well advised to climb down because the police were on their way. In so doing, did she hold up a mirror reflecting consequences that influenced one of them to change his choices? She will never know.

     How about inviting a friend to come to church? Can we imagine the kind of enormous wave we might set in motion? Who can estimate what might happen when a person's life is exposed to an area within them that they have been ignoring for years? The Spirit that none of us sees can surmount or pierce barriers that appear impenetrable. This is one of the ways creation works.

     Over a year ago, I reminded you in a more lengthy account how the Berlin Wall fell. Seeds of influence were sown by Lech Walensa and the Solidarity Movement. He was influenced by Martin Luther King, Jr. King was influenced by a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama whose name was Rosa Lee Parks. And Parks was influenced by a 75 year old Sunday School teacher who told her girls' class, "never, ever allow anyone to take away your basic dignity as one of God's children." One day, Rosa Parks remembered and she refused to move to the back of a bus. That humble message from a long since forgotten Sunday School teacher pushed over a domino whose subsequent reactions did not stop until a major world barrier fell into rubble.

     When we are attempting to gratify areas within ourselves where we fear there is a lack, our lives will always generate results that reflect that. When we focus our energies on the welfare of our neighbors, we might just be influencing the one who will cure cancer, save a continent, end world hunger, or bring lasting peace to the world. When our energies are moved away from self-absorption and become redirected toward caring about others, all of creation can be changed.

     The proof of faith lies in the quality of what we are teaching others to do. Our energy levels are enormously enhanced by the sheer joy of giving and sharing. We will only make that discovery as Jesus indicated when that is how we choose to define ourselves. Are we like the crowd in our lesson today, looking to receive more? Or, have we recognized that already we have received and with gratitude we are now prepared to give?