“Remaining Healthy As A Minority”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – January 29, 2017

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 15; Matthew 5:1-12


    This morning, both of our Scripture lessons describe a small minority of the population that exists everywhere in the world.  People living in this minority have learned how to maintain control over their inner world.  They enjoy making someone's day better by being a part of it.  We have frequently referred to these individuals as angels that are living among us.  With a little commitment, we can become one of them.  Everyone has this potential.

    When Jesus taught the Beatitudes to his listeners, he knew that his declarations would be heard by people who could easily dismiss them as wishful thinking.  Not all people want to communicate such passive responses.  They really want more confidence to stand up and assert themselves. 

    Some people even wish that they had the skills of a verbal black belt and the authority to use their verbal abilities to be extremely firm with those who refuse to transform their toxic nature.  There have been books written  on assertiveness training.  Angels do not need this training nor do they feel this way.

    Lois and I were booked on a flight where the airline had to make special accommodations for us.  We had to make a last minute booking to fly. We were given fold-down seats that separated us from everyone else but the main flight attendant who sat in the front of the airplane. Our request to borrow her newspaper started a conversation with her.  She told us that she had worked thirty-eight years for the airline and was retiring at the end of the year.  

    During the course of our conversation, I asked, "What has been the greatest change that you have experienced through those years?"  That question was like pushing the dump button on her memory's storage closet.  She gave us her thoughts and said that they were shared by the majority of men and women in her profession. Her first statement set the stage for what was to follow:

The greatest change has been the quality of our passengers.  I remember the days when people had manners and were as courteous as flight attendants.  Today, if some people have a lengthy layover before their next flight, they will board the airplane intoxicated. There are often one or two that bring carry-on luggage the size of Gibraltar that is so heavy that other passengers have to assist them to get it into the overhead bin.  People have grown more rude and disrespectful.  A few will only turn off their electronic devices when warned a second  time.  We have had passengers that refuse to be seated next to mothers with babies, children or obese people. 


We have been trained to remain diplomatic and professional with everyone. You have no idea the emotional gymnastics we have to engage in just to remain civil with some people. We never had a single incident like these until about twenty-five years ago.  That's when the parade of unhappy people began.

    Try to imagine how this flight attendant might have received the words of Jesus, "Happy are those who are merciful. Happy are those who work for peace. Happy are those who are persecuted because they are compassionate, loving and forgiving, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them."  (Matthew 5:1f)

    I wanted to ask, "Did you ever think of changing professions and find a job that you could enthusiastically embrace as a way of life?" Since her retirement was only months away, I remained an active listener. 

    The minority population Jesus described is needed in societies everywhere. This is why he used the illustration of how this small minority of angels can become the leaven for the entire loaf.  (Matthew 13:33)   However, few of us are ever out of danger from allowing the world to pull us into its craziness.  (John 2:15) 

    A story-line is missing that once supported our emotional and spiritual health for centuries.  The Biblical narrative that nurtured our parents and grandparents is mostly non-existent today among the newer generations.  As children, many of these people were never exposed to lessons concerning their inner world. They have no idea of the power they could have over issues they face in life if they only had training in the skills of spirit they experience when they use them.

    These people are now adults and many of them feel alone, isolated and defenseless against the onslaught of the insane pressures of living.  The economic and political realities they face are the only guidance they have.  Very little is available to them other than what appears in the Lifestyle Section of their daily newspaper e.g., articles on yoga, dieting and how to realize their full potential.  Magazines are full of these venues of achieving emotional stability.

     Some years ago, a psychiatrist friend of mine told me how he stays sane in our insane world.  Jamie is a remarkable man that is one of the angels living among us. What is interesting about him is that he gained most of his insights into human nature just the way Jesus did -- his own experience of people. His training was from using his inner world rather than what he learned in medical school. As I recall our conversation in his office one morning, he said:

Every day is exciting for me. When a person is happy on the inside, it shows up in everything that they do.  Fueling a happy life is easy to do when we are intentional about it. I surround myself with quality music, like-minded friends, daily physical exercise, a healthy diet that I violate on numerous occasions and a love for people just as I find them. 


Today, too many people have no foundation, no place to anchor and no sanctuary from the craziness that surrounds them.  They are trying to cope with what life throws at them without knowing the first thing about managing their inner world. I have the belief that everyone in the world is insane but me. I listen to the fears of people that I meet and look at them as potential clients, because if they aren't, they need to be.

    In his practice, he observes how people are responding to life and then he gives them suggestions about changes each of them has the power to make. Jamie  does not prescribe medications for his patients.  He prefers that people first do their own inner-homework before he would even think of giving them what he calls chemical cheerleaders. He once wrote in an email:

The people that need my help have compromised their own mental health.  I can guide them to spiritual freedom if they follow-through with a program I have. Today, most people want pills without first trying to change what is making them crazy -- their own lifestyles, i.e., their habits, learned attitudes and their remaining a captive of issues coming from our insane world.


We medical authorities have bundled their symptoms into a host of syndromes with clinical sounding titles like Fibromyalgia, panic attacks and clinical depression. Our patients appear delighted that we can give a name to their condition.  Then they say, 'Oh, so this is my problem. Can you prescribe something?'  I won't give them pills.  Pills only enable them to go from one form of dependency to another without making the changes that they could make.  The sad part is that most of them need to grow up and no one has taught them how to do that.  Nothing is ever their fault and yet they can't tell me who else is in charge of their unhappiness.

    The world is what it is.  We have entered an insane world that gives us choices to make.  Do we try to fix the insanity of the world by putting our energy into correcting everything that we believe is wrong with it?   Or, do we harness the loving energy and use it from Jesus' orientation toward our world, "My Kingdom is not of this world."? (John 18:36)   Knowing this is what helps angels to understand their purpose for being in the physical world.  

    Life is exactly what each of us decides that it is and nothing more.  When we encounter people that are upset most of their lives and they have realized that they will never be happy until their world changes, bring them to Centenary.  Yes, bring them to church.  Their current attitude is a dead-end street.  These people need a healthy dose of what we experience in our congregation.  

    Our world is perfect just as it is.  We cannot change our responses until we are presented with a set of choices. We can rant and rave when life is not the way we want it. Or, we can hold on to our hats, watch the sideshow that others are providing and enjoy the ride.  Living with others is the greatest show on earth when we understand what is making everyone insane.

    Countless people have absolutely no control over their inner world.  It really helps to greet everything happening around us with a keen sense of humor instead of viewing life through the lenses that cause us to make harsh judgments. The truth is that we do not know what anything means or where it is leading us.  We are often governed by our fears and fear never leads anyone correctly.  They only reveal who we are at the moment. 

    The world is what it is.  All that we can do is bring to it our desire to practice being angels by detaching ourselves from the elements that try to control our emotional responses.  When we are happy and experience peace inside of ourselves, we have found the pearl of great price.           

    Angels offer suggestions to people instead of trying to be a messiah that wants to fix things because they know better.  Angels can never be defeated.  They have learned how to protect and strengthen their inner world.   No one else can do that for any of us.

    There are no causes in this insane world that are worth trading in our peace in order to secure a moment of victory.  (Matthew 7:6) When we do surrender our peace, the world has us in its grips.  Angels have learned how to bring a healing presence to others by giving them an example of what wholeness, fulfillment and light-heartedness looks like.  This is what angels do.  This is who we are when we allow our carefully maintained spirits to show up everyday.        



    We thank you, God, for creating us with the potential to leave our world a better place because we have lived.  Yet you remain a mystery to us. You might coach us on having more patience by coming as one who tries to anger us. You might come in the form of temptation that tests our character, an unanswered prayer or a chore that begs that we roll up our sleeves and become involved. Enable us to realize that every aspect of life has the ability to give us gifts that will help our spirits to mature.  Help us to recognize that there is a purpose for everything that comes up for us.   How blessed we are to have so many teachers.  Amen.


With humble and grateful hearts, O God, we have come into our church to celebrate life’s adventure and for the remarkable role that you play within each of us.  We have learned that we can extend our love through a vast number of venues -- a paintbrush and canvas, our choice of words, our smiles, our healing touch, our patient listening skills, our confidence in and support of each other and our willingness to take risks.

Thank you for our confidence to step into the rapid waters of life, knowing that we no longer need to fear the sounds of all that rushes by us or the pull of the currents. Thank you for teaching us how to release to you the outcome of a misunderstanding with a friend, a business decision, or the uncertainty caused by a seemingly endless chain of events.  When our fear is gone, our lives are transformed into a marvelous carefree adventure.

Help us to move beyond the thoughts of what should be so we can think of how best to serve in an environment of what is, how best to make a difference and how best to redefine our discipleship so that our lives represent your presence and not some image of what righteousness looks like to us.

Inspire us, O God, to play big, to wear more smiles, to experience more laughter and to spread more joy, as we breathe new life into all our relationships.  We pray these thoughts through the loving spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught his disciples to say when we prayed . . .