"The Source Of Sanity"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - May 19, 2004

Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 10:38-42

     The other morning I was watching the early morning news when they broke for a commercial. A mini drama was taking place within an advertisement for an SUV. The setting looked to be like one of those old silver diners. 

     The drama began when a very distracted waitress poured hot coffee into a man's lap.  In pain, he stood up and accidentally bumped into a waitress who was carrying a loaded tray of food.  She fell down.  He slipped on the food that had scattered, stumbled out of the restaurant and fell down on the sidewalk.  He stood up undaunted as a passing vehicle hit a puddle of water thoroughly drenching him.  The series of mishaps continued until he climbed into his SUV and began driving.  There, as Madison Avenue would have us believe, he found total serenity. 

     There are times when we feel that what is happening to us mirrors the message found in that commercial.  There might be issues with our spouse, the children, amplified mishaps at work and clusters of bills that must be paid by the end of the month.  The grass needs mowing.  Weeds are taking over the flower beds.  Our bird feeders have been empty for days.  These are just the obvious  life patterns that need our attention.  

     Most of us readily recognize these moments when they arrive.  The news from the greatest reality show on earth is that none of life's hills and valleys are going away any time soon.  This litany of experiences or a very different listing that may appear highly personalized, come with the territory of being born.  There are moments when such things cause us to question our sanity or, at least, wonder where our lives are headed.     

     We begin listening to some of our own responses and cringe because our tongue was engaged long before our mind.  We experience the results of a number of ill-advised, uninformed decisions.  Our minds cannot remember as they did years ago because of sensory overload.  The treadmill appears to be running faster and faster as though some mortal enemy were sitting at the switch grinning from ear to ear, thrilled at the prospect of our eventual failure.   

     In the midst of such a whirlwind comes our two Scripture lessons today.  The passage from the Hebrew Bible describes the call of Isaiah to a life in God's service.  The second lesson describes that well known episode when Jesus dined at the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany.  Martha was frantically trying to get the meal prepared and Mary, ignoring her sister's plea to help her, chose to listen to what Jesus had to say.   

     This morning as we honor Patti Fenske's retirement from 13-years of service at St. Matthew's, we will sense as our service and celebration continue that her ministry began with a number of choices.  Those  choices placed her in the middle of the tornados life brings to all of us.  She heard a call to help others explore the spiritual side of life.  Secondly, she chose to listen to the Master who, nearly 2,000 years ago, shared with humanity how to remain sane in a world which often appears to support the disintegration of our spirit and personality.   

     Not everyone is called to make the same choices Patti made.  We need our bank examiners, our news reporters and those who have mastered the trades.  We need our teachers, therapists, physicians, attorneys, store clerks and the respected members of our armed services.  Without all of us making our contribution little would happen that makes life in America second to none.  

     As with others who find themselves in the service of God, the call to the priesthood is unique.   We are called to be in every conceivable circumstance imaginable at any hour of the day or night.  We are there when babies are born and during moments when some babies die.  We are there when teenagers leave their bodies because of an automobile accident.  There are moments when baptisms and weddings bring joy.   

     Frequently we are looked upon as individuals who have a more direct pipeline to God than other people.  Others turn to us hoping that we can make sense out of the chaos, uncertainty and  fears that God may have abandoned them.  There are times when we are emotionally spent, when answers that others could understand are few and we simply close the door to our offices and weep. 

     The one single piece of information that saves us from feeling that we must have all the answers for everyone is our knowledge of how God made us.  Everyone of us is equipped with everything we need to live creatively within our life patterns.  Jesus tried to teach people how to access their power, strength and ability to rise above experiences that make no sense.   

     He could encourage, teach and guide but the real homework had to be done by his listeners.  He could point to the treasure trove that lies within people, but he could not make anyone go beside the still waters so that their souls might be restored.  When the frustrations come with the tasks of a minister, frequently this is the source.  We can point to the same things as did Jesus but we cannot put anyone in possession of them.   

     Patti always knew that she could not fix people, but her presence often took the venom out of the sting.  On numerous occasions she helped me focus on my role in any number of specific incidents when countless alternatives beckoned for me to go elsewhere.  I am going to miss my coach.  

     The two aspects of life that are in sharp focus today are that Patti honored a call and, like Mary, she sat at the Master's feet.  These choices helped her point to the same source of sanity to which Jesus was guiding Mary in our lesson today. 

     Patti would be quick to say that such a door is opened to anyone willing to heed the call and remain a student of Jesus' teachings. She would be correct.  Most of us will not be ordained in the United Methodist Church, but certainly we have the ability to bring peace, stillness and light to those who fear that for them the sun will never shine again.  The truth is that the sun will always shine. One simply has to have faith that each new day brings more of the adventure. 

    One of Patti's favorite sayings is this, "God is good!  God is good all the time."  If you could stand on the summit of her mountain and see what she has been looking at for most of her life, you would come to realize that she is right.  God is good all the time.