Recognizing Kindred Spirits

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – May 7, 2017

Centenary United Methodist Church

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

    Have you noticed how fixated people are with their use of titles and labels?  Titles and labels cause people to lump others into specific categories.  For instance, the widely used word Millennials is used to define people born between 1982 and 2004. All of us are more familiar with the title of Baby Boomers. My age grouping was never assigned a name.

    This label of Millennials comes with stereotypes of behavior. They are young people who may be still living with their parents, who spend nearly every waking hour staring at their cell phones, who move from job to job to earn a few dollars more and who are liberal in their political choices.

    In spite of the fact that these judgments are both unfair and untrue, the same can be said for other categories of people as well.  Western societies generalize this way with titles and labels dealing with race, economic levels, sexual orientation, various levels of intelligence, athletic ability, and excelling in a talent when children have not yet reached adolescence.

    Several months ago I watched an eleven year old play the piano like Beethoven and he spoke to other adults with theconfidence of a seasoned speaker.

    A good number of people, however, find deep personal satisfaction and status coming from a title. Somehow the name Dick does not capture the same imagination and recognition that might be achieved by placing The Reverend Doctor in front of the name Richard.  Honestly, would such a title change the Dick Stetler you have come to know?  If so, that is your issue; I have never had a problem with my nickname as the only definition for my identity.

    We have a category in the United Methodist Church where a person can assume the role of a pastor even though he or she has not been ordained. Some of these people are appointed to fill positions in churches that financially are unable to support an ordained pastor. 

    Frequently what happens after the Annual Conference has successfully voted on these candidates, the next day a number of them can be seen wearing a clerical collar with a black blouse or shirt. They could hardly wait to adorn themselves with the symbols of a new identity.  To some people, titles mean a lot.

    In our lesson this morning, Jesus is teaching his disciples a lesson of life by telling them a simple children's story in the form of a parable.  Jesus called himself a gate and the good shepherd as well as one whose voice his sheep would instantly recognize. 

    Jesus also labeled seductive people as thieves or robbers, because of their ability to infiltrate and surround the sheep with distractions that might try to lead the sheep astray. His disciples knew the relationship that a shepherd has with his sheep. Sheep cannot be led astray.         

    A curious outcome after hearing this story is that the disciples did not understand what Jesus was teaching. They asked Jesus to explain.  Jesus knew that 200 sheep belonging to a half dozen shepherds could be put into the same gated community to graze.  Each shepherd knows that when it is time to return to their home, he calls his sheep.  In doing so, he will only capture the attention of his sheep.  The others will not even look up. Each shepherd's sheep will exit through a gate that has been opened for them.

    Was Jesus really talking about voice recognition?  Was he referring to his disciples as sheep?  No--none of the above.  Jesus was referencing spiritually aware people that have become Jesus' disciples.  They recognize each other as kindred spirits because of the spirit by which each has chosen to live. (John 13:35)  Their spirits represent and communicate a presence that could easily be given many titles and labels, none of which would be accurate.  There is evidence that the disciples finally understood the meaning of his parable.

    Recently, I listened to an interview with Robin Li, who is the 48-year old co-founder of a search engine internet company in mainland China named Baidu.  What became clear in the interview was that Robin is playing the same role among his people as Jesus did among his followers.

    Robin had a dream of serving the entire population of China with his search engine business.  He dreamed of inexpensively helping his people to connect with what is going on in the rest of the world.  His grandmother-friendly business has caused Google to leave China and relocate in Hong Kong.  The simplicity of Baidu is so good, Google could not compete.  Baidu has already captured sixty-three percent of the search market among 1.3 billion Chinese people.

    For years, other high tech companies have tried to lure Robin away from his China-dream, but because of his commitment to make his batch of dough to rise, he has paid no attention to these seductive voices.  He has remained focused on his purpose and goal.

    He also wants to excite young people to become as dedicated as he is to making their own dream to come true.  Even though his humble commitment has little to do with wealth, Robin has a net worth of ten billion dollars, making him the seventh wealthiest person in China.  

    He is so down-to-earth that if you were talking to him, it would be like talking to your next door neighbor.  His wealth has not distracted him from being a warm, caring and compassionate person who has a child-like enthusiasm for serving his people.  This and other qualities have made Robin a kindred spirit of Jesus.        

    Like Jesus, Robin has harnessed his inner energy to create a form by using his intuition and imagination. The forms that Jesus was creating came into being by his leading people to discover and develop a new life by helping individuals to harness their dormant potential. Such beings can be found everywhere in the world. They often do not appear with a religious tint to their glow so they may go unrecognized by those looking for a cookie-cutter mold.

    Many evening news programs continue to end their broadcasts with heart-warming stories. Last week, there was the story of a 14-year boy that founded a group called FROGS.  This group is made up of late elementary and junior high school students who serve food to indigent students their own age.

    His mother said that ever since he was a child, he became concerned about the number of children in poor families who were eating one meal a day because of their school's lunch program.  He is now living his dream.         

    He is surrounded by lots of students who want to wear the FROGS t-shirts as they serve food to their peers.  This young boy is bright, articulate and his mission has attracted the attention of a number of corporate sponsors.  His entire county has a chapter of FROGS in schools that offer an early supper before students go home. To date, the program has served over a half million meals since its beginning.

    Taylor Rosenthal is another 14-year old who has acted on his dream.  He personally raised one hundred thousand dollars to create a prototype of a vending machine that dispenses medical supplies.  Taylor was offered thirty million dollars for his patent rights and he turned it down. 

    His comment was, "What would a 14-year old do with thirty million dollars?"  He would not listen to the seductive voices that could have easily distracted him and possibly ruined his life.  He was more interested in developing his potential by fulfilling his dream of placing his vending machines in parks, stadiums, schools and businesses.  At the moment, he has this market all to himself.   

    Stories like these are taking place everywhere.  There is a young man that has the attention of top drawer physicists because of his work on nuclear fusion, a technology that has to do with generating energy.  If this science is perfected, these units could supply an unlimited source of inexpensive energy.  We could say "good-bye" to our utility companies as well as to natural gas, oil and coal.

    There is a retired physician who was a world-renown surgeon as well as a Doctor of Internal Medicine. He set up a modest practice in a rural community in Wyoming.  His home and office are located on a picturesque lake, property he had purchased decades earlier.  

    The nearest medical facility is over an hour's drive from his town.  He charges $25 for an office visit.  Single-handedly, he has brought the cost of health care down to extremely reasonable levels in his community.  He has placed a large poster-size mission statement on the wall that says, "Enter at your own risk!  I no longer carry malpractice insurance and have passed on the savings to you."

    What do all these people have in common? Their dreams for serving humanity have grown from their imaginations.  These people have seen a need in society and each has acted on creating solutions.   It is not just solutions that they create; it is the spirit with which they deliver their solutions. There is no title, label or adjective that describes them.  Kindred spirits is a description that gets as close as we can to describing the presence they represent. (Matthew 7:16)

    The Apostle Paul once wrote, "It is not I who live but the Christ in me that does the work."  (Galatians 2:20).  Paul was describing the source of creative energy.  He was not making a reference to Jesus, a man he never met during his lifetime. 

    Civilization has advanced because of the work of kindred spirits. They have become society's visionaries, spiritual leaders, creators, artists, teachers and innovators. All of them have become artists in their own professions.

      There can be little doubt in the minds of those who recognize these people that God is silently and invisibly working through countless individuals that are charting the destiny of humanity by the solutions they create.  They are the entrepreneurs who are paving the highway that will take us into the future.

    What is most interesting is that most of us cannot see God working because the guardians of our news focus our attention day after day on images of a medical doctor being dragged off a United Airlines' flight or destructive young people fist fighting in Berkeley, California.

    The news commentators do not want any of us to miss something highly questionable that was said by a high profile personality. They gather their panels of experts that analyze and scrutinize everything by sharing their opinions. Even the Royal Gazette has gotten into the fray by borrowing political cartoons from various news organizations that feature politics in the United States. What is honestly gained by sharing opinions instead of news?

    In the midst of the world's tumultuous playground, where people engage in the same themes that have cycled historically for thousands of years, kindred spirits continue to create. Others are doing what they feel compelled to do from listening to other voices.

    Our world is better because of the presence of kindred spirits living among us.  We need to pause and examine what creates our spiritual blindness.  Instead of defining ourselves by the cues coming from the noise in the world, we need to focus on what the creators are giving to us by their results and solutions.  Better yet, we need to join their chorus and become creators of good news ourselves.



Eternal, faithful and ever present God, we confess that we have much to learn in understanding the art of living.  We would like to remove the pain our loved ones experience while knowing that we cannot.  We want to teach them how to escape the hurdles, tears and failures of life while neglecting to remember the skills we developed from our struggles. Inspire us to lead by example, to teach by a consistency of spirit, and to encourage others by our accepting them as they are.  May we find comfort and peace by knowing that your love allows our mistakes to dissolve on the sands of your understanding.   Amen.



Eternal God, thank you for the oasis of peace we have at Centenary while living in the midst of so much that stimulates our senses.  As we enter our house of worship, it seems as though we constantly need to be reminded who we are.  Everything around us attempts to define us a customer, a client, a consumer, a success or failure.  It is comforting to remember that we are your children when life’s reversals pull us into the valley of uncertainty.  It is comforting to sense your presence when we fear our beliefs and faith are not strong enough to still the storms that rage. 

Give us guidance, O God, to carry our energy with peace, to shoulder our perceived burdens with confidence and to enter moments of uncertainty with unwavering trust.  Thank you for your support when we enter fragile moments.  Give us an experience that will change our thinking when we give energy to the notion that we have a perfect right to hold on to painful memories and hurt feelings.   Help us to remember that, as your children, we do not need to be weighed down by issues in our past that we cannot change.   

As we move into our tomorrows, may we keep vigilant on where and how to be helpful to others. Inspire us to forget labels, judgments and differences.  Teach us how to extend ourselves so that the angel within us becomes visible.  Through us, inspire those around us to learn that we are all citizens of one world and loved equally by you.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, who taught us to say when we pray . . .