"Everyone Needs Guidance”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – May 11, 2014

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 25:1-10; John 10:1-10

Mother’s Day

    Today, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I would like for us to consider that no mother has ever had any guarantees that they will make a difference in the lives of her children. Even though everyone needs guidance, many people seek it only when they want it.  If they have a new smart phone filled with applications or a new I-Pod, they are most eager to learn all the benefits. When it comes to life itself, a good number of people think to themselves, “I got this.”  However, the runways of life are filled with the wreckage of people who never sought any guidance.

    This morning let us engage our imaginations.  I want you to pretend that you are a single parent that is absolutely brilliant, creative and intensely loving.  You have at your command an infinite number of resources both financial and practical.  You have been blessed with a universe of friends in the most influential positions of society.  Your talents and abilities are without parallel.  

    The major challenge you face is that you must guide the growth of your children without them being able to see you.  They will never be able to hear your spoken words, nor will they ever be able to feel your arms around them.  As a matter of fact, your children will never have any objective evidence that you exist aside from a vast array of insights and commentary that others have provided about you from their pre-conceived notions.   

    Even under such severe handicapping conditions, your greatest desire is to guide your children so that they grow up to become well-balanced, loving and responsible men and women.  To accomplish this, you use everything at your command to guide them to understand that they have many of the same qualities that you possess.    How would you proceed?  What methods would you use as you attempt to communicate to them?   

    By now some of you may have recognized that I am talking about the circumstances that God faces with each of us. Even for God, as with our parents, there are no guarantees that during our lifetimes we will make any substantial connection with our single parent

    This use of our imaginations is not as far fetched as we might imagine.  In 1880, Arthur and Kate Keller enjoyed the new arrival of their infant daughter.  For eighteen months Helen was a delightful, normal child.  However, shortly thereafter, a rare illness robbed her of the ability to see and hear.  The devastated parents found themselves in a similar place as God.  Both Arthur and Kate had become invisible and silent to Helen.  

    They hired the services of Annie Sullivan who through patience and perseverance, established meaningful contact with Helen in a short period of time.  The relationship between the two grew as the young girl became increasing curious about a world that she could no longer hear or see.  Annie offered guidance by teaching finger spelling to Helen that eventually blossomed into a mastery of sign language that was created by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.

    Through Annie’s guidance, Helen developed some very unique skills. She became a mystic.  She learned to accept what happened to her as a unique gift.  Helen learned to speak in several languages.  She could identify accurately various varieties of trees by touching their bark. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Radcliffe College.

    Perhaps the most intriguing skill Helen developed was her ability to sense the vibration of a person’s presence.  For example, if a person entered the room, Helen could call that person by name even if she had not been in their presence for years.  Helen became an inspiration by teaching others that it is possible to sense God’s presence even though such a loving presence came from a source that was invisible to their senses. 

    Helen Keller’s mission statement was, “To help the blind to see and the deaf to hear” as she had learned to do.  Helen also became keenly aware that countless people have normal eyes and cannot see and have perfectly functioning ears and cannot hear.  Even when guidance is constantly streaming in their direction, they continue to miss all the cues.   

    For example, parents were attempting to rear two daughters that were half-sisters.  When the girls were teenagers they wanted no part of the boundaries and guidance that their parents attempted to provide. One developed a dependency on drugs and alcohol and the other had a baby at the age of 14.  The infant died shortly after it was delivered.  As the one sister continued to deteriorate with her addictions, the other one had grown to accept the loss of her baby and became a news-reporter.

    During her broadcasts, her ratings plummeted and she grew increasingly despondent.  She was fearful that her contract would not be renewed.  She visited a pastor whom she had known for years and told him, “I’m done.  It’s all over for me.  I’m a failure at everything I try.  I couldn’t even deliver a baby that lived.”  

    Sensing her despair, Pastor Wintley Phipps put his arms around her and gave her some timely guidance.  He said,

Do you know what?  I don’t believe God is finished with you.  You might lose your job, but I believe God is preparing you for something else even though your current experiences are telling you otherwise.  It will be something wonderful, well beyond your imagination’s ability to anticipate.  Give yourself a chance. Give God a chance. Be open to what you cannot see. 

    Pastor Phipps used the same guidance that Annie Sullivan used that allowed Helen Keller to help her to break free from her darkness and silence.  “I don’t believe God is finished with you yet.”

    As she had predicted, the pink slip arrived and the young reporter lost her job.  She spent many long hours crying as her fears moved from being phantoms in her mind to becoming real.  Even though her reversals in life came one after the other, nothing was powerful enough to wipe away the seed of guidance sown by Pastor Phipps’ words.

    Because of a very strange set of circumstances, another opportunity became available.  As she walked through the opened door, she remembered the words of simple, practical guidance from her pastor.  Her imagination soared with hope she never had.  That woman’s name is Oprah Winfrey who has become one of the great business personalities in the entertainment field and a woman who has never forgotten her roots.   

    We never know how much our single parent wants to break through and set us free from the clutter that our minds and emotions frequently generate. 

    In our lesson today, Jesus was teaching that the world offers guidance but it frequently comes in the form of thieves and robbers that try to steal our happiness, to kill our spirits and to diminish the quality of our lives.  Jesus then added, “I have come that you might have life – life in all its abundance and fullness.”  (John 10:10)  When a mother understands this reality, she can become a creative and assertive force in her guidance.

    A man was killed by a hit and run driver a number of years ago.  He left behind a widow and five children.  Since her husband had been the bread winner, she had to become very frugal and resourceful with the proceeds from his two life insurance policies.   Her purpose was to launch their five children into the world so that each would become a contributor to society.

    She never once felt sorry for herself or lamented even for a moment that her skin was not the same color as the successful people with whom she was surrounded.  She took in the laundry of her neighbors including the ironing of shirts, blouses, skirts and dresses.  She became a skilled seamstress and learned how to work on the family car.

    Routinely, she took her three boys and two girls to experience art galleries, museums, concerts, opera and baseball games.  She gave each child their own individual moments with mom as she used to call them.  The television was on one hour after supper if all of them had completed their homework.  They watched the news and international commentary which they discussed.  Television was never used as an escape or for entertainment.

    What she accomplished was impossible by most human standards.  However, with God as her co-pilot, one of her children became a surgeon, one established an architectural firm, another became a machinist and another became the regional manager for a network of Home Depots.  The last one became the director of a pre-school for an industrial complex with 460 children and 52 staff. 

    She ended the Mother’s Day article that she wrote with these words:

I suspect that I ignored every barrier that tried its best to discourage me from being the impressionable mother that I wanted to be. I was determined to awaken within each of my children the awe, mystery and beauty that our wonderful world can inspire in us.  Each of them developed the desire to learn everything they could from study, reading and using their imaginations. They also learned that attitude toward life makes a big difference to the quality of their personal journey.  I am very proud of them.

    What did Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey and Bertha Weaver’s five children have in common?  What all of us have is the potential to have everything we could possibly want in life because it was pre-wired inside of us when we were born.  All we have to do is accept the guidance on how to access it.  God is never finished with any of us until we draw our last breath.

    It is amazing the number of people that are standing on a whale while fishing for minnows.  God has equipped us with the potential ingredients to become a powerhouse of creativity.  As the Good Shepherd and a marvelous Guidance Counselor, Jesus entered our world and pointed the way for us to be creative, imaginative, productive and compassionate.  The rest is up to us.