"We Must Pass The Torch"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - October 6, 2002
Exodus 33:7-11; John 7:10-24
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
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.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
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
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
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
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 . . .