"Using Our Intuition And Imagination”

Sermon Delivered By Reverend Richard E. Stetler – September 25, 2011

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Matthew 21:23-32



    This morning we are going to consider what enabled Jesus to do and say the things that he did during his extraordinary ministry.  The Church has seldom explored this theme because for centuries, the standard teaching was that Jesus was the Son of God.  That answer has stood the test of time.  Few people among the faithful ever thought to probe deeper into other possibilities.


    The problem Christians face is that if being the Son of God provided the spiritual musculature for Jesus to perform his miracles and to teach his lessons, that fact alone separated Jesus from all humankind.  If there was such a wide separation, as many Christians believe, how could Jesus ask that we follow him?  How could we possibly love others as he did when we do not have Jesus’ DNA?  Think about these questions.


    When we read what Jesus taught, we learned that Jesus never thought about himself as being separated from us.  That distinction came much later historically when writers began to develop a theology that concentrated on who Jesus was rather than on what he taught. 


    For example, Jesus taught, “I am telling you the truth – those of you who believe what I am teaching will do even greater things than what you have seen me do.”  (John 14:12)  He said, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.”  (Mark 10:18)  He also said, “I assure you that if you believe and do not doubt, you will be able to tell the yonder mountain to throw itself into the sea and it will happen.”  (Matthew 21:21f).


    We have to ask ourselves, “Would Jesus have asked his followers to develop attitudes and wholesome habits that are impossible to achieve?  To his mind, he did not distance himself from his followers.  To his mind, he knew that when people deliberately chose to live in the Kingdom of God, miraculous events would happen all around them. 


    In our lesson today, Jesus went to the Temple and was approached by several chief priests and the elders that belonged to his worship center.  They said, “By what authority are you able to do these things?”  Jesus responded, “I will answer your question if you answer one of mine – “Where did John receive his right to baptize?  Was he doing it because of his human desire to do so or was he doing it as a representative of God?”


    Jesus’ question presented the professional staff of his Temple with a dilemma.  They reasoned that if they said “of God,” Jesus would say, “Why did you refuse to believe what John was teaching?”  If they said, “His right came from his human desire,” the crowd of listeners might become angry because they looked upon John as being a prophet.  They resolved the issue by admitting that they did not know. 


    Where did Jesus’ profound insights and the quality of his spiritual energy have their origin? More importantly, was what Jesus taught his followers and audiences a quality of life that can be achieved by anyone who chooses to follow him?  We have been taught a lot of theology during our lifetime, but suppose as Jesus implied -- The only thing that separated Jesus and his followers was the level of his skill?  Everyone has that potential. (Philippians 4:13)


    For example, what do we actually have when we obtain the pearl of great price? What are we capable of doing when our tiny mustard seed of faith grows into an enormous tree with branches where birds build their nests?  What wealth do we honestly possess once we buy the field that contains the hidden treasure?  (Matthew 13:31f)   Jesus had no doubt that we could achieve what he was teaching.  With this said, what enabled Jesus to develop such extraordinary abilities?


    When our children were young, Lois and I wanted to show them our country so we drove across the United States.  We were driving an old 1965 Mercury Montego and we pulled a secondhand pop-up Apache camper that we could easily set up in the evenings.  During our journey our car’s engine quit and would only start after a cooling off period.  When we reached Wichita, Kansas, we decided to find a Mercury dealership and have this intermittent problem fixed.


    A service agent told us that they would have the car running in no time because all of his mechanics loved working on the older model cars.  He suggested we get supper at the hotel restaurant across the street and by the time we were finished, we could be on our way.


    After supper we walked back to the dealership and saw that the hood of our car was still up.  What gave us one of those sinking feelings was the sight of eight mechanics conferring as they stared at our engine.  We were advised that it would be a good idea if we booked a room at the hotel.  We were told that one of their senior mechanics would be coming in the morning.   


    When morning arrived, 78-year old Jake was on the job and the car was ready to go. I asked Jake why he could solve the problem when eight other mechanics could not.  He said, “Mechanics today rely on diagnostic computers to isolate the trouble.  With the age of your car, it is not equipped with the terminal into which they could plug in their computer. The dealership keeps me around for these older cars because my computer is in my head.” 


    “My knowledge of car engines,” he said, “did not come from books or from taking classes.  I began to design and build engines after I quit school.  I guess my diagnostic skills came from my experience, intuition and imagination.  By the way, your Ford 302 is an excellent engine.  I would run your car until it rusts out.”   We did just that!  That car took us across the United States on five occasions.


    What does this story have to do with Jesus’ skills and energy?  The earlier question was, “Where did Jesus’ profound insights and the quality of his energy have their origin?”  We could say that they came from a revelation from God.  If so, how does revelation come to us?  Jake was a self-taught master mechanic who had studied car engines since he was a little boy.  He dreamed about engines.  He rebuilt engines.  He designed and created one-of-a-kind engines for race cars.  He could create what few others could because of his intuition and imagination.


    Think of Jesus being alone for much of his adult life.  He was one of the very few people who could read and write.  He had time to think about the problems with the religion of his heritage, a belief system that had not changed for hundreds of years.  Just as Jake had focused on engines everyday, Jesus thought about God every morning, noon and night as he was working alone in his dad’s carpentry shop. 


     The vehicle for inspiration came through those same two invisible streams of consciousness -- intuition and imagination.  Jesus began to think, “Since I have developed patience, how much greater must be God’s patience?  Since I have learned to love my neighbors, how much greater must be God’s love for all of us?  Since I have been taught how to create well-made products in my shop, how much greater was God’s precision when he created the world?  Since we are created in God’s image, what pieces of this puzzle are we missing that prevent God’s spirit from being visible in our own lives?”  Suddenly, the concept of living in The Kingdom of God, that invisible source of all motivation and decision-making, burst into Jesus’ consciousness.


    What had to be shocking to the officials from Jesus’ Temple was when he said to them, “Tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you.  John the Baptist preached about the right path for people to follow and you did not believe him.  Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him and their lives changed dramatically.  You have seen these changes in their lives and still you did not believe John!  (Matthew 21:31f). 


    The priests and elders were only being faithful to what they had been taught – compliance and obedience to the Laws of Moses.  Jesus, however, became adventurous and moved beyond the traditional definitions of God’s nature.  His accusers called Jesus blasphemous because he suggested we could become intimately connected to God’s spirit when we learned to love like God.  Jesus succeeded in doing that and he invited his followers to do the same.  (I John 2:5f)


    We can use our intuition and imagination and excel in any profession.For example, in 1741, George Frideric Handel created the musical work known as Messiah.   Through his intuition and imagination he created this remarkable work in just 24 days.  The material just poured through him as he described the phenomenon.


    Are the one-of-a-kind artists, builders, architects, designers, inventors, business people, musicians and medical specialists, just lucky people that have been singled out by God to develop creative insights, designs and products? No!  What happens to such people is the result of becoming so passionate about what they love doing that they create better results than anyone else.


    These people shatter the old molds.  They climb every mountain and ford every stream. They have dreams that break into our world because of their intuition and imagination.  Today we call this process, “Learning to think outside the box,” “Learning to paint outside the lines,” or “Learning to build a better mouse trap.”  We know how to define the process.


    With so many people following what has been done before, change in how societies order their collective lives has been very slow to evolve until recently.  We can imagine someone working somewhere in a suitcase factory yelling to everyone else, “Hey! Why don’t we build these things with a set of wheels?”   This is how quantum leaps in our thinking happen.


    For Jesus, he knew what was humanly possible when people chose to live in The Kingdom of God with every thought, every attitude and every deed.  When we radiate loving energy patterns, we become one with the Creator of the universe.  Our energy is flowing away from us just like the flow of God’s energy.  This is why only a few people find the narrow gate that leads to a fulfilling life.  (Matthew 7:13f)


    Years ago there was a man who knew how to use his intuition and imagination to acquire financial wealth. At the age of 23, he became the world’s first millionaire.  By the age of 50, he had become the world’s first billionaire.  Every decision, attitude, and relationship was strategically used to reach his goal of being the wealthiest man in the world.  And yet, something was wrong.  At the age of 53 he became seriously ill. His failing health forced him into retirement at 58.    


    He lost all his hair, including his eyebrows and eyelashes. Every nerve ending in his body appeared to be inflamed.  Pain never left him.  The world's only billionaire could buy anything he wanted, but he could only digest milk and crackers.  At the close of business one afternoon, an associate wrote, "He could not sleep, would not smile and nothing in life meant anything to him." His personal, highly skilled physicians predicted he would soon die.     


    One morning he awakened with the vague remembrance of the dream he had during the night. He told people that he had become like a sponge absorbing assets none of which would serve him now.  Those thoughts triggered a new choice that set in motion different values.


    He summoned his attorneys, accountants and managers.  With what little strength he had left he insisted on being propped up on his pillows so that he could communicate by looking in the faces of his staff.  Using a level of speech that was barely audible, he announced that he wanted to give his assets to hospitals, research and mission projects.  That day he established a foundation that bore his name. 


    When John David Rockefeller changed his desire from one of acquiring to one of channeling his energy and assets away from him, that very moment he significantly altered his body's chemistry.  This change led to the discovery of penicillin and cures for malaria, tuberculosis, diphtheria, infantile paralysis and scores of other diseases.  He built the University of Chicago.  John’s purpose for living was now about serving others with his wealth.  Because of this energy reversal from all about me to living for others, John went on to live to be 98.  There is a message here for everyone.


    Think about what each of us can do by using our intuition and imagination.  Jesus focused on God, and his break-through grabbed hold of the mountain that had defined the nature of God for his people for hundreds of years and cast it into the sea.  Jesus created a new day for all humankind.  What break-through is waiting for us to decide to expand our awareness?