"Living With Distracted Angels"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - March 7, 2004
Philippians 3:17-21; Luke 13:31-35
Even though there were not many articles of national or international importance, few readers considered themselves less distracted because of news that never reached their senses. No matter where we are, there are just as many provincial distractions as those coming from the Presidential race or from speculation about when Iraq will be given the authority to govern itself.
talented enough to distill our distractions even further by dwelling on
what is currently impacting our individual lives. We may be facing
surgery. We may have recently had one of our parents diagnosed with a
terminal illness. Our marriage may be facing communication or financial
pressures. Depression may be "stalking" one of our children. The list
of life-issues that can hold our minds and spirits captive is nearly
came into the same kind of world that we live in today. The distractions
were different, of course, but the people were not. Not only did he
find it a challenge to hold people's attention with his message, but his
words frequently inflamed the passions of both the politicians and
religious leaders. Intensely curious people always gathered to see
Jesus perform miracles; it was his message of what they needed to do
with their lives that often went by the wayside.
listening to Jesus was a creation of God. Everyone listening had the
potential to discover happiness, peace and emotional stability within
themselves, but they had become distracted angels. Their hearing
filters quite often did not allow much of substance to nourish their
spirits unless Jesus' words reflected their own passions or provided
guidance to meet their perceived needs. Are we any different today?
suggested that people often resembled scattered sheep. He also knew
that people were drawn to life-issues that fed their self interest.
During their rich heritage, the Jews were frequently given guidance by
the prophets. When that guidance was opposed to the feelings and
thoughts to which they felt most entitled, the Jews frequently became
indignant, agitated and even violent.
empathize with the frustrations of Jesus when he said, "Jerusalem,
Jerusalem! You kill the prophets, you stone the messengers God has sent
you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people just
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let
me." Is spiritual blindness a unique condition that only visited
people who lived thousands of years ago? Do we have the right to
examine the lives of others under a microscope without also looking at
our own? I can tell you unequivocally that distractions are not
going away. Anyone who wishes to communicate their insights and
criticisms about life is going to do so. This is one of our freedoms,
the definition of which is debated almost annually in our nation's court
Arizona, we experienced an Overgaard family reunion. A number of us had
gathered in the home of Lois' 99-year old Uncle Sigurd. He has a house
keeper. From my observation she does a fine job for him. One
shortcoming, however, might be that she talks a lot. In fact, she talks
nonstop. She had opinions and observations about most things and did
not hesitate sharing them.
Two of Lois'
aunts were there -- both in their 90's. These women could easily run
circles around most of us. One of them, who obviously had heard enough
from Elaine, turned to her and said, "Will you shut up?!" Ninety
year-old women can get away with such outbursts, but even such an abrupt
directive did little to still the verbal volcano which continued to spew
forth her unsolicited commentary on everything and everyone.
Most of us
would enjoy turning off the sound on life's distractions, but it will
not happen. We can only manage such a feat by ourselves as we learn how
to sift through what is essential while discarding what is not. The
question comes, "If Jesus wanted to guide us, would we be still enough,
silent enough, calm enough, open enough, or tuned in enough to allow his
teachings to impact our lives?"
Do we take
enough time to center ourselves in order to represent God's
consciousness within the circumstances that are bound to come our way
during each new day? Or, are we destined to remain distracted angels?
The world does not need more lives who are governed by cross currents
and confused priorities. The world needs leadership.
not find God active in our lives until we begin behaving like God
ourselves. That may sound a bit presumptuous, but is it? Such
words communicate the same message we find coming from Jesus, "Take up
your cross and follow me." "Go into all the world and make disciples."
"Let your light so shine among others."
constantly call upon God to save us from what we fear the most. God
did not save Jesus from the cross nor will God rescue us from
distractions that appear to be absorbing most of our energy. That
response will always be ours to make. Being rescued was never the
message of Jesus nor was it the message we are sent forth to deliver.
Jesus taught his listeners how to allow love to radiate from them while in the midst of all their struggles. Are we ready to be such witnesses or are we too busy praying for deliverance? We must remember that creation will always unfold according to a design we are unable to discern. We are all angels in the flesh, but we do not have to define ourselves by what tries to distract us. Even a cross did not distract Jesus from his mission. Only his body was nailed there. His spirit still wants to gather us around himself as a mother hen her chicks. The big question for us is, "Will we let him?"
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
Each day, O God,
we can see everywhere a reflection of what we value. We can cherish and
develop friendships or choose to feel ignored. We can experience
generosity or create the insecurities of a miser. We can sense the
blessings that surround us or believe your world is reflected in the
headlines. We can become involved in our church family or wonder why no
one ever invites us to participate. Even though Jesus taught us that we
can change, we still cling to familiar ways of perceiving. Free us, O
God, from all that disempowers us. Lead us to take risks, in spite of
the cost to us, to make your Kingdom visible on earth. Amen.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
Lenten days, O God, allow our life experiences to penetrate the
protective shell we often build around ourselves. Lead us to moments
that cause us to reflect on our character. Give us confrontations with
enough rude people to keep our spirit of forgiveness highly energized
and easily accessible. Direct us through a number of unexpected
life-events, so that our spirit of trust can be tested again and again
and be found strong. Bless us with enough frustrating circumstances so
that we may learn how authentic the staying power is of our inner
peace. Enable us to reflect our discipleship as our strength remains
built on the rock of faith and trust in you that knows how to weather