"We Must Pass The Torch"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - October 6, 2002

Exodus 33:7-11; John 7:10-24

     Have you ever wondered what happened in the lives of people who were in Jesus' audiences?  One tradition has him preaching to 5,000 people, another has him addressing 10,000. All he could do was sow his educational seeds into the various gardens represented by the minds of his listeners, hoping that his words might serve to encourage people to grow by changing their thinking.  Did his efforts benefit many people?  Probably not.  Why would that be so? 

     In the lead article of Tuesday's Health section of the Washington Post there are these words,

If a pill could significantly lower the risk of heart attack, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and breast and colon cancer while reducing weight, cholesterol levels, constipation, depression and impotence and also increase muscle mass, flatten the belly and reshape the thighs even as it reduced the risk of age-related dementia and made you better looking -- and had no negative side effects -- there would be a panic in the streets. The military would have to be called in to secure supplies of the medication.  (October 1)

     The article goes on to tell us that all of this is available to us right now.  What is even more impressive is that it is free!  It is called walking.  If we would start walking just a little each day, many of these wonderful, energizing side effects would occur within our bodies.  However, the author goes on to say, "What's difficult to figure is why so many people -- including several of the individuals who have labored to produce this special issue of the Health section (!) -- do not bother to do it."

     People, including those in Jesus' day, who have been exposed to volumes of truth, can lack the inspiration, motivation and stimulus to follow through and live it. They simply procrastinate, invent numerous excuses or refuse to participate.  The decision not to use what we know has massive consequences that will produce years of missed opportunities, pain and suffering, loneliness and boredom much of which could have been avoided.  We cannot use skills we never spent any time developing during the early years of our lives.

     If truth has been handled so irresponsibly by the masses for thousands of years, what has caused it to survive?  The answer is found in our Gospel lesson today.  John wrote these words,  "The festival was nearly half over when Jesus went to the Temple and began teaching." 

     Jesus could preach to thousands of diffused, disconnected listeners and have few willing to change their lives.  What would preserve his message by retelling his story generation after generation was the gathered community of faith.  "Jesus went to the Temple and began teaching."  The 5,000 and the 10,000 went back to their homes with little or no continuing support system in place.  It was the message of the gathered community that influenced history.

     As much as we do not care for the concept of the institutional church, without it the mechanism for teaching is left to parents who may not be as informed and who may not know how to pass on the torch of understanding to their children.  For all its problems and cross-current issues, the Church is all we have.

     Just as walking stimulates every major energetic system in our physical bodies, so does learning the skills of the spirit enhance the quality of how we think, feel and respond to life.  So many people do not grasp this.  They do not understand the importance of nourishing the source of their creativity.  They would prefer to believe that faith is out there for lesser evolved minds and is a fairy tale belief system filled with mythologies and superstitions.  One day they will discover that their pride was akin to pouring herbicide on their root systems.  

     The teachings of the Church are needed more than at any other time in our history. Just read the headlines.  It appears that we never run out of finding new ways to hurt each other.  If we care about our neighbors and friends, we will invite them to come here and let the Holy Spirit encourage them with hope.  If we are struggling ourselves, this is the place where fresh starts can begin.  Without the Church, the torch of this unique information cannot be passed on to future generations.

     We count on the unrestricted flow of our creative energy to cope, solve problems and excel at what each day brings.  When we build and maintain barriers, we clog our spiritual immune system People need to be taught how to evict people, events and hurts which have taken up residence inside of  them.  It is only in this light that the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount make any sense.  Jesus did not give us another discipline to be mastered; he taught a creative way to think and live.

     Jesus taught spiritual freedom, but like trying to find the time to walk each day, not everyone was or is paying attention.  If the Church were not here, where would we turn?  Who would teach us how to use what we have been given at birth?  Who would instruct us on how to reframe the experiences we cannot understand?     

     When we really stop to think about it, the Church is the only consistent place in our society where people can be taught how to abandon their insanity and fears while embracing and developing life patterns and skills that serve them and their neighbors.  Jesus went to the Temple and began teaching.  What he taught can still be found there.   Will we continue to support that Temple?  The quality of tomorrow may depend on it.     


     Loving and merciful God, we do not come to your table believing that further growth is no longer necessary.   We come knowing that self-reliance can forsake us and that our health and wealth can change.  We realize that our decision-making is flawed and frequently uninformed.  The countless tools you have given us too often become dull from lack of use.  We yield to the temptation to use our strengths, while our weaknesses remain energized in their demand for attention.  Thank you, God, for being our teacher, even when we become distracted by the dramas of the physical world.  Open our minds and hearts, that your spirit might bring healing to our lives.  Amen


     Gracious God, creator of all that is, we are so grateful that in our blindness you know every answer, and invite us to seek until we find them for ourselves.  We are grateful that in our fears, you are aware that there is nothing of which we ever need to be afraid.  We are grateful that when our minds are tormented by many of life's unanswered riddles, you have never lost control of even the slightest aspect of anything you have made.  Such understanding gives us enormous confidence to face our past, present and tomorrow without flinching. 

     In our troubled world, how reassuring it is to know that today is World Communion Sunday. We may look different, have different colored skin, worship in a style that we would not consider meaningful, and yet we are all one in your eyes.  We struggle with each other yet confess we cannot fathom the depth of your love and passion for each one of us.  We are your children and so many times we forget that when we hurt each other.  Help us assemble the components of love within us so that it pours forth from every pore of our physical bodies.

     In ways that we cannot foresee, enable us to become instruments that hasten the coming of your Kingdom here on earth.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus who taught us to say when we pray . . .