"When Vision Has A Blueprint"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - 9/20/1998
Luke 16:1-13; I Timothy 2:1-7
There are certain professions that have a bird's-eye view of the internal workings of our lives. When we are in the public eye, most of us allow others to see what we want them to see. But we all know there are occasions when our stage personality will no longer protect us.
For example, a physical examination by the doctor will reveal how faithfully we have taken care of our bodies. When a heating and air-conditioning specialist comes to service our home system, he will know how often we have changed the filters. He will also observe if we crowd storage items around our furnace. And, of course, when a real estate agent comes to help us prepare our home for its presentation to potential buyers, she can easily tell what kind of housekeepers we have been.
We all know people who believe that maintaining an automobile means only washing it occasionally. A friend of mine destroyed not one but two engines because he never checked the level of oil in the crank case. We often see people driving their cars on tires whose air pressure quite obviously has not been checked in months. Now that we pump our own gasoline, a lot more responsibility for automobile maintenance has come to us.
Do people choose deliberately to put themselves at risk? Of course not. What happens to most of us is that we become launched into life without a lot of knowledge about what makes everything work. When we were born, no one handed us a blueprint for how best to plan the unfolding of our destiny. Many of us were not trained in how to reason well, nor have we learned how to remain highly motivated to understand everything that has been designed to support us. We live our lives in such a hurry that the bombardment of information makes us numb.
Many people in their late teens or early twenties readily admit, "I don't know what I want to do with my life." While young people are trying to discover a fulfilling vocation toward which to commit their energy, they are also buying cars, town houses and looking for a mate.
Have we ever wondered why relationships can become so complicated? There are not many of us here this morning who during our years of formal education have taken courses on how to be successful in our personal relationships. Most of us believe that relationships just happen. People often take more time shopping when they purchase an automobile or a home than they do deciding on the person with whom they intend to spend the rest of their lives.
We assume that, if there is critical information that we will need to know, in time we will discover what it is. We think, "I love this person and part of the adventure is learning how to adjust and improve our chemistry together." We have the vision but getting there without a blueprint can fall shy of the exciting, romance-filled adventure we had hoped it would be.
When we look at issues like domestic violence, infidelity, and financial irresponsibility, it should become very clear that nothing "just happens" in our relationships. In fact, nothing just happens any place in our lives. Yet few people believe this.
What happens to us is that we begin making small, insignificant choices and placing them end to end. During this slow process we create everything that happens in our lives, i.e., our level of education, our level of motivation, our habits, attitudes and beliefs, our values, our current jobs, and even our salary levels. While our tendency is to assign responsibility elsewhere for who we are, the truth remains that there is nothing about our lives that on some level we did not create. Frequently people, who live with very few of the opportunities found in the Western cultures, have a joy, a peace and a simplicity to life that have escaped many of us.
This morning we are going to look at the words that Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy. By this time in his travels, Paul has had a great deal of time to think about everything he has observed. In the process, Paul came to the conclusion that God had supplied humanity with a blueprint for how human beings can make the most out of the circumstances of their lives.
Paul began his thoughts to Timothy by including people who occupy places of power. Paul wrote, ". . . all who are in authority, should live a quiet and peaceful life with all reverence toward God and with proper conduct. For there is one God, and there is one who brings God and human beings together, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself to redeem the whole human race." Paul then goes on to write how he has committed the rest of his life to spreading the message of faith and truth.
Since this information comes from the Bible and is discussed in faith communities, we easily relegate such thinking to the area of our religious beliefs. What Paul discovered had nothing to do with religious or any other kind of beliefs. It had to do with truth.
What Paul wrote was equally as valid as the findings by the scientific community that the sun was the center of our star system. The only difference between these two discoveries is that thus far the scientific community has not attributed their conclusions to God's creative process. As we have discovered with our earlier illustrations, there are blueprints that exist for everything. When they are followed, everything works. There should be no mystery to this.
Paul's insightful information is like all information. Truth does not care whether we believe in it or not. This is why his findings have nothing to do with religious beliefs. We have all heard the saying that "Knowledge is power." Such wisdom should be obvious, but it is not. Only the people who use truth will experience its benefits. The evidence of this is everywhere.
We often find people living under handicapping conditions who are far more enthusiastic about their lives than are those who are perfectly healthy. We find people displaced by the downsizing of their company who are able to find new jobs within weeks. We know people who never allow doubt and fear to take up residence in their mind even for a moment. How do they do it? They have discovered and used the blueprint Paul discovered.
Paul was teaching that Jesus came to bring God and all people back together. Whether we believe it or not, what Jesus came to do has already been completed. There is nothing more that needs to be added to it. The blueprint is here. For many people, that blueprint has become a standard operating procedure for their lives. They have been blessed by it over and over again.
As I mentioned last week, some of us have been eager followers in the race to see who will be the home run king of baseball. In recent weeks, we have learned a lot of about the backgrounds of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. By their own admittance, they were not always loveable personalities.
Both of them have willingly told reporters about their past. Even though they were both excellent baseball players, their preoccupation with their skills had taken them to levels of arrogance many people found offensive. The two of them initially lost their identity to baseball, something any of us can easily do in our professions. But both of them later found the blueprint and are currently trying to follow it.
Does this mean that Sammy and Mark found Christ? I do not know that, at least with the meaning that Christians usually give to such a personal decision. But I do know this -- Jesus taught that there is only one way to experience life and that one way is the blueprint. Any variation from that blueprint by any human being on our planet, will experience a life that will not work as effectively. What Paul had discovered was as accurate as any of the other discoveries about how God's creation works.
Did you notice in our lesson how Paul accents God's desire to redeem "the whole human race"? Most Christians could easily assume by his statement that we must convert everyone in the world to Christianity. We must remember that while Paul was writing to Timothy, there was no such thing as Christianity.
What Paul discovered was that through a Jewish carpenter, God had provided the human race with a blueprint -- a thought system based on love -- whose spiritual appeal was far more universal than Judaism or any of the thought systems that originated from the Greeks and Romans. And it will not matter who we are or who we think we are, Paul's discovery will systematically affect our lives as consistently as the orbiting planets around our sun.
We are no strangers to this. Everyone of us knows right now whether or not we are following the blueprint. The unpleasant consequences of our behavior are not there to punish us; they are there to guide us back into orbit around "the Son" so that life works again. As we watch the world's stage, we will see Paul's discovery made visible in every domestic and international drama.
Watch what eventually happens to the "new ordering of society" by the Afghanistan Islamic Fundamentalists. The women of that country have been ordered out of the work place and back into their homes.
Watch what happens to the world economy and the lives of people governing it. At the heart of the issue is greed. Too many people have not followed the blueprint. They have acted on the belief that having plenty is not enough. Greed by its nature knows no limits. It humbles major financial institutions and once prosperous businesses. Greed also offers a corrective to the lives of people who have not learned to value and be grateful for what they have.
If we Christians believe that the blueprint lacks universal application to all of humanity, continue to watch the chaos that occurs in the lives of nations and people who are not following it.
People who have the blueprint would never think of developing biological and chemical weapons. They would never think of removing the capacity of women to remain producers and contributors to society. They would never think that "more is better." People who use such logic will experience the results, results that are as final as not checking the motor oil level in our cars.
When we follow the blueprint, our lives are peaceful and resilient. When the life and teaching of Jesus Christ become the cornerstone of our lives, everything else falls into place. Paul was correct. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." The blueprint is in place. All we have to do is follow it. When we have harmony with God, everything works.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
We thank you, O God, for your mercy and patience. We confess that during much of our lives, we sense the limitations of our faith. We experience flashes of thoughtfulness alongside moments of insensitivity. We find ourselves enjoying the areas of our growth, while knowing how vulnerable we are to the tyranny of little things. We enjoy celebrating our faith during moments of confidence, while often hiding behind masks when our life's purpose seems lost. Lead us to the awareness that our faith journey is also a process of education. Help us to remain patient with ourselves, knowing that we are still students in the midst of all we have yet to learn. Heal our sense of incompleteness by helping us experience your love of us just as we are. Amen.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
Thank you, loving God, for enabling us to continue our search for your guidance above all else that would love to guide our thinking. There have been times when our frustration almost blocked our ability to be kind and understanding. There were times when our coming to you in prayer allowed us to find patience as we remembered that all things truly are in your hands. There have been moments when a great disappointment robbed us of hours of sleep as we worried about an issue that we had personalized.
What would we do, O God, if we really were alone and did not have you to inspire, guide and motivate us to be the disciples you have called us to be. When the evils of this world tempt us to respond with anger, how well our memory returns to save us -- as we listen again to the faint words from your Son, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."
In spite of all the things that attempt to remake us in their image, may we constantly stand forth in our faith and declare that we are in this world but we are not of this world. May the light of eternity radiate from our presence so that others will see your light shining through us.
Help us to remember those in the pews with us. Their interpretation of the world is every bit as valuable as our own. May we stand together as friends knowing that none of us is ever alone. Bring healing to any troubled and anxious hearts this day as we now pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to say. . .