"Our Silent Communicator"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - March 10, 2002
Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14
Paul was describing the
evolving identity of his readers who had become new followers of
Jesus' teachings. He was telling them of the importance of
communicating through their new awareness. He told them that when
they do, there is an incredible harvest of everything any human
being could ever want. All of us have been witnesses to what Paul
described either in our own experience or from someone else.
Late last Saturday afternoon
I went to Starbucks at Freestate mall to buy a pound of breakfast
blend coffee to give as a gift. Behind the counter was a woman who
was radiating this beautiful spirit with every customer. She was
using everything she had to touch people, i.e., her eyes, her body
language, her words and smiles. Each person could not help but feel
good as they turned to leave the store.
When it was my turn, I
commented about her skill and ability to do this. I said, "Here it
is 4:30 in the afternoon and you are as energetic and engaging as
you probably were at 10:00 this morning." She said, "Oh, thank
you! I drink a lot of Starbucks' coffee." Hearing this exchange
was a young man who also was working behind the counter. He
commented, "Don't believe her! She comes to work like that and she
leaves work like that everyday!" What a gift!
As I considered my
conversation with her, none of her customers could have possibly
known any of the details of what she believes. They would not know
if she attends church. They could not tell how many of life's
unfortunate circumstances may currently be swirling around her. All
they understood is that her magnetism was contagious and brought
them close to her so they could experience her friendship. She was
an absolute delight.
Every one of us enjoys being engaged by such a person, even if we are shy and reserve. Even if we want to sit in the back pew and do not wish to be greeted by anyone. Some people come here on Sunday mornings just to check us out and they fear that if someone gets their name, they might come calling. Even those of us who think like that enjoy when others enable us to feel comfortable in a new setting.
This spirit is what Paul was describing when he wrote, ". . . it is this spirit that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness and truth." It is contagious and spreads to others. And sometimes we do not need to speak for our spirit to be understood. A loving spirit does not need a lot of words to communicate. It shows.
When Lois and I were flying back and forth to Arizona a couple of weeks ago, American West was charging $5.00 for its headsets. We never pay for this service and yet sometimes those in-flight movies capture our attention. We find ourselves watching them. What we have discovered is that we do not have to hear the sound track to know the mood of the actors and what is happening in the story.
If we spoke to members of the deaf community about this ability, no doubt they would inform us that there is very little about life that they miss because they cannot hear. They are able to understand nuances of spirit that most of us cannot. They have sensitivities many of us do not have.
Each of us has a spirit that
communicates loud and clear even though we may not make a sound. How do
we become the kind of people that Paul described?
Many of us are carrying emotional
baggage. We know of teenagers who feel unloved, under appreciated and
misunderstood. We have spouses who never developed quality
communication skills. We have retirees who begin to worry about health
issues. We have people who fear no one would like them if others knew
"who they really are." The Apostle Paul guides us through every venue of
our experience with the same invitation.
Paul told his readers to bring
these feelings and thought patterns out into the light. In other words,
own them. Declare them as yours. Stop imagining the worst-case
scenario of what might happen when we do this. Share this emotional
baggage with others. Bring it all out into the light so that its true
nature can be seen for what it is. Paul added these words, ". . . for
anything that is clearly revealed becomes light. That is why it is
said, 'Wake up, sleeper, rise from death and Christ will shine on
you.'" What do these words mean?
When I was a little boy, I
remember very vividly an incident that cured me forever of my fear of
darkness and the fears associated with being alone. One night I was
home by myself. I had been sick and my parents would not allow me to
attend an event that involved the rest of the family. I decided that I
wanted to be rid of such fears even if I died during the process. This
event seems so petty now, but at the time what I did became a life and
death moment of truth for me.
After turning out all the lights,
my game plan was to walk through the house that was now in total
darkness. I planned to begin my journey from my upstairs bedroom and
walk to the basement, touch the back of the toilet and then find my way
back to my room. I remember being extremely apprehensive as I started;
fully believing that something unknown lurking in the darkness was going
to get me. I prepared myself for death.
As I made my way down the stairs,
all the creaking sounds in the house were amplified. My heart was
pounding. My breathing became irregular. I was doing fine until I
arrived at the bottom of the basement stairs. As I walked toward the
bathroom, something slimy slapped me in the face. Instinctively I
brought my arm up and knocked whatever it was out of the way. I froze
as my mind created all kinds of images of what that was. I waited for
what seemed an eternity, immobilized by fear. After regaining my
composure, I ventured forward to complete my task.
I made this trip three times that
night and was cured. Of course, my curiosity got the best of me. I had
to discover what had struck me in the face. I turned on the basement
light to investigate. The fierce, human-devouring creature I had
imagined, turned out to be a wet spaghetti string mop my mother had hung
over the basement clothesline to dry. When I brought the focus of
my fear into the light, it lost its power. The Apostle Paul
indicated this was possible for all the baggage we carry.
This teaching must have been in
circulation in the early Church because Paul wrote, "That is why it is
said, 'Wake up, sleeper, and rise from death, and Christ will shine on
you.'" The quote Paul used is most interesting. He must have heard it
repeatedly among the early followers of Jesus.
The secret to our success in this
area of life is to step forward and place what distresses us into the
light. When our growth stops, quite often we are the ones who have done
that. No one else has such power over us. What is so intriguing is that
generally it is our beliefs that cause this condition. Drag such
beliefs into the light and examine them.
Take the aging process as a prime
example. We look at these older bodies of ours and say, "I cannot
contribute anymore," or, "I've paid my dues. Now it is someone else's
turn." The reason people grow old has more to do with this belief
than the age of their bodies. A truth that many of us find difficult to
understand is that our spirits never age.
Galileo was still publishing his
writings at the age of 74. Michelangelo was 71 when he was appointed as
the Supervising architect of St. Peter's church. Grandma Moses did not
start painting until she was 76. Susan B. Anthony was head of the
Suffragettes at the age of 80. George Bernard Shaw fractured his leg at
96. He fell out of a tree he was pruning. Duke Ellington was passed
over by the Pulitzer Prize Advisory Committee at the age of 66. When he
heard what they had done he said, "God does not want me to become too
famous too early."
When we are too tired to
contribute anymore -- then say that. But do not assign inactivity to
age. This is a myth. It simply is not true. When we stop
growing fruit, Jesus mentioned that trees are cut down and thrown into
the fire. This was not a threat. His words described what happens to
us when we decide to stop living. We do this to ourselves. We cannot
blame age or anything else.
Baggage wears us down. Our
inner world is always on display. It is our silent communicator. If
we are honest with ourselves, every one of us wants a rich harvest of
all the good things of life. This is not for ourselves; it is for the
world that we sing. Can we have this experience if we are less than
authentic in how we present ourselves? Can we radiate Christ's spirit
in us if we have baggage we feel compelled to hide? Of course the
answer is, "No." Our spirit communicates everything whether we like it
or not. We cannot hide who we are even though many of us believe we
Jesus never judged anyone for
their mistakes. He loved sinners. He ate with sinners. The people who
gave him indigestion on a regular basis were the righteous. When it came
to people who were stumbling in the darkness, Jesus made every effort to
encourage them, he applauded their abilities and in essence said, "Sail
on, sail on! Grow, multiply, spread your wings. Grow up! Take my words
to the ends of the earth. Teach others how to love one another."
It is not who others are that
matters. It does not matter what others think about us. What matters is
who we have become. When we live like children of the light, our arms
are open, and our affirming spirits allow others to stand in our circle
Paul said, "So you must live like people who belong to the light, for it is this spirit that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness and truth." Never forget that our loving spirit becomes the vehicle that makes everything else possible. When we are at peace with who we are, we enable others to be at peace as well. This is what Jesus sent us into the world to do.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
We thank you, O God, for your mercy and
love. Each week we feel strained by the limitations of our faith. We
have flashes of brilliance alongside moments that humble us. Little
things often bother us. People disappoint us. We find it a challenge
to choose the high road from among all the available paths. We often
allow discouragement to overcome the joy of how blessed we are. How
often we think of ourselves as self-sufficient when we are not. Nurture
us with the splendor of springtime, the laughter and innocence of
children and the fellowship of friends who unfailingly support us. May
we learn to be at peace with others and ourselves. Amen.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
There are so many times, O God, when our
lives are touched deeply by what happens to us. We sense the renewal of
life as nature emerges from its dormancy. We have recognized that the
cold winds and the frosty mornings are slowly surrendering to the
changing of the seasons.
Likewise, we are reminded how our lives are
forever changing and that so often our Good Fridays give birth to Easter
mornings. How grateful we are for hindsight which reinforces a
wonderful perspective, one that affirms us for holding on when the
storms raged, one that strengthens us for maintaining trust in you, and
one that teaches us the great truth that all things, both good and evil,
will in time pass from us.
We pray this morning that our lives will be touched in a healing way because we have come together to celebrate our faith. As we evaluate the quality of our lives and sense the distance we have yet to grow, teach us to be gentle with ourselves. Teach us that those who search must be patient as well as open. Teach us that harmony with you can be achieved when we learn the uselessness of struggle and the beauty of stillness. Direct us today to carry your love into the world and give it away. We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus as we now listen to the singing of his beautiful prayer . . .