“Suppose That You Create The Future”

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

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 90:1-6; Matthew 22:34-46

    Our lesson today is one of the most theologically intriguing and insightful passages that exists in the Gospels.  However, it is among the most obscure teachings of Jesus.  The passage that I want to discuss this morning is seldom studied because of where it is located. 

    Jesus was talking about The Great Commandments to love God and to love our neighbors.  The emphasis of Jesus on these two commandments draws the attention of most commentators and preachers, allowing casual readers of the Gospel to miss what comes next.

    After Jesus declared that these two commandments were the sum total of what his listeners had been taught by the Law and the Prophets, there are a few more verses where this mysterious and revolutionary nugget can be found. 

    Jesus was talking with a group of Pharisees on this occasion.  After his teaching about the two greatest commandments, Jesus casually asked them, "What do you Pharisees believe about the Messiah?  Whose descendent will he be?"  They responded, "He will be the Son of David." 

    Jesus immediately responded by quoting Psalm 110:1, a passage that tradition suggests was written by King David. "God said to my Lord, 'Sit here at my right side until I give you power over all your enemies." Jesus asked, "How could the Messiah be David's descendent if David referred to him as my Lord?" The Pharisees had no answer.  This interaction may mean very little to us, but it has a huge significance to what was happening historically.

    The point that Jesus was making was that the Messiah could not be a descendent of David, nor would he come as a military conqueror that would repeat the victories of King David. 

    Jesus distanced himself from all the notions that the Jews had about who the next Messiah would be and how his mission would unfold.  Jesus taught that the Messiah will be the spirit of God in human form who will bring clarity to the potential of how men and women could choose to live.

    This was a fitting conclusion to his teaching that people have the potential to love God with every quality of their body, mind and spirit and to love everyone else in the same manner that they care for themselves.

    Please notice the shift here.  The two great commandments demonstrate what happens when energy is flowing away from people to God and to their neighbors.  Having a military Messiah that brings a political change would be salvation through an event taking place in the external world, an event that has nothing to do with changes to the spirit by which people live.

    Do we have any idea what Jesus was teaching with this?  He was telling the Pharisees that their beliefs that had sustained the Jews for hundreds of years were incorrect. Jesus decided to tell them that no one was coming to save them by rearranging the material world politically to suit the Jews.  

    The one who was coming would teach his followers to be Messiahs themselves that would scatter throughout the world to teach men and women the enormous power that would come to them through what they think and the attitudes they develop when both are rooted in love.

    The thoughts and feelings of people have the potential to transform them from being held prisoners by the images of the material world. (Matthew 28:19) This idea had never been taught before this time.  This teaching was a break-through in how humans could understand themselves.

    Recently, I experienced a massive break-through that took me from one level to another in my computer skills.  The parsonage had what technicians call a DSL hook up to run computers.  It is so slow that it took hours for me to up-date my computer security software.  One picture from our son took over seven minutes to download.  I felt trapped by limiting circumstances. 

    After receiving information from Craig Thomas on what I could do, I called One Communications.  A technician was dispatched who helped me enter the 21st Century.  I cannot believe the difference that decision has made in my life.

    Jesus was sharing with the Pharisees a new frame of reference to understand the Messiah and I am sure most of them thought his words were utter nonsense.  After all, how could a belief that has survived for centuries be wrong?  Well, it was wrong, just as I had been putting my faith in an ancient technology.

    Christians have believed for a long time that a second coming was in our future, possibly as a way of excusing themselves from having to assume responsibility for becoming the leaven for the loaf or the light set on the hill.  

    I have always had trouble with a need for the second coming of Jesus because it means that change will come to the lives of people as a result of an external influence just as the Jews imagined.  Jesus was teaching something totally different. Jesus taught that an internal choice needed to be made by individuals just as he instructed Nicodemus.  (John 3:3)

    Perhaps the reason a number of Christians believe a second coming is necessary is because people in our modern times have not understood or cared what Jesus taught centuries ago.  He was literally teaching his listeners why it is essential to wake up to their true identities. 

    The empty pews give testimony to exactly why this is happening today.  People will remain blind and handicapped until someone awakens them by teaching them that within is a treasure trove of talents and abilities that remain unused. (Galatians 5: 22)

    If Jesus were to come again, what more could he do that would be different from what he has already given the world?  How many headlines do we need to read before people understand that today people are choosing to manage their own lives with insufficient information while sustained happiness and fulfillment continue to elude them?

    Our need for a second coming would imply that Jesus' life and teaching were not enough, that something more needs to be done to correct human thinking and attitudes.  Many of us feel that our need is greater today than at any other time in history. 

    The headline in yesterday's Royal Gazette may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how many people on our island are regular users of cocaine. Honestly, do we have a grasp on how many users of illicit drugs there are?

    Actually, we could generate a long list of how people are missing the mark with their choices.  The truth is that we only mess up in the outer world because we lack clarity about the power that exists in our inner world.  This is the greatest shame of our generation.  Very few are teaching anyone about their true identities, particularly the testimony that is coming from many pulpits today.

    Jesus knew that people have a stage presence when they are in public as well as having quite different thoughts that would embarrass them if those thoughts ever got into the mainstream of public knowledge.  Jesus said:

Not everyone who refers to me as, 'Lord, Lord,' will experience the happiness that comes from having loving energy govern their inner worlds. Those who experience what I am describing are those who are expressing the very nature of God's spirit.  (Matthew 7:21)

    All of us know that the Golden Rule has been part of every culture since the dawn of civilization.  (Matthew 7:12) Actually, this Rule is the grandfather of the two greatest Commandments that Jesus cited earlier in our lesson.

    What more does God need to do to convince us that all our pain and suffering are the result of our attachments to issues found only in the physical world?  So many feel lost today while living in a sea of plenty and opportunity.

    One afternoon I got off the Metro train in Washington, D.C. on my way to making a pastoral call.  All alone on the platform was a woman sobbing uncontrollably.  She had a wild look on her face of utter terror as I approached her. This was not an occasion of simply saying, "Good afternoon."  I had to do more. 

    After she calmed down, I assured her that I meant her no harm.  I learned that she was a Russian whose English was extremely limited. She was totally lost but she was open to being helped.  Her problem was easily solved.  She had gone too far on the Metro and fear had taken over her emotions.  She needed to cross the tracks and board a train going in the opposite direction.  She needed to get off at Metro Center.

    I walked with her to the other side.  We both looked at the map. We counted 3 stops on our fingers.  She understood to get off at Metro Center.  Actually, we had no problem communicating.  I waited with her until she boarded the next train.  She gave me a grateful, million dollar smile and said, "Good bye" in English as she boarded the train.

    Compassion radiates a specific energy in our body language, our smiles, our choice of words, the quality of judgments, and our daily forgiveness of all the behavior and attitudes that others display.  How can anyone believe anything we try to teach if our beliefs do not appear to be working in our own lives? 

    John Chapman (1774-1845) was an American pioneer nurseryman who planted apple trees in parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and West Virginia. Everywhere he went, he left orchards in his path.  His love of apples and his willingness to share his passion earned him the name of Johnny Appleseed.  I am sure most of you have heard of him.

    The other day I was in the Shelly Bay Market Place holding a large apple that carried a price tag of $1.99 each.  I thought to myself, "I wonder what Johnny Appleseed would think if he knew that apples one day could cost two dollars a piece in a grocery store."

    This is what we are doing when we pay an enormous amount of money to mental health specialists to help us cope with living.  Jesus told everyone the answer and millions of us have chosen to follow our own idea of what we think works for us.

    Jesus was teaching, "Understand and create from your inner world and you will rise above your need to escape from the confusion and stress that living can generate." 

    We purchase prescription drugs to help us to remain emotionally stabilized.  Some of us find relaxation through our use of controlled substances like cocaine, marijuana and opioids.  Jesus would tell us that everything we need was neatly packaged inside of us when we were born.   He told Nicodemus that finding it and activating it is like being born again.

    For many people, however, that part of them remains undeveloped.  People are doing exactly what they want to do with their lives and thus we are experiencing so many lives that are out of control.  No supernatural being is coming to save anyone.  Jesus sent us to teach and offer guidance. 

    The future of the human race has always been in our hands regardless of what people believe otherwise.  Jesus planted seeds with his teachings that help people embrace all of life with open arms filled with instant forgiveness, radiant enthusiasm and compassionate understanding.  Jesus taught us to manifest the quality of angels.   Now it is our turn to plant seeds that will allow future generations to benefit from what we share with each other today.  



Loving and always present God, if we visualized the number of blessings we have received since birth, we would cease to see all else.  We have grown wiser.  We have experienced you in our lives.  We have learned that we reap what we sow.  We have learned not to define ourselves by our perceived failures. Our life experiences have often taught us to pursue health, happiness and prosperity as sources of guidance.  Yet, only our trust in you for the outcome of all things will give us the peace we desire. Help us to accept the invitation of Jesus to change the quality of our thoughts and attitudes that will enable us to be instruments of your peace.   Amen.



Loving God, this morning as we gather, we are humbled by our remembrance of all that Jesus invited us to become.   We recognize that even though we have not always risen to the level Jesus knew we could reach, you love us just as we are. We thank you for the vast number of opportunities that you place before us the moment we awaken each morning.  As we look at each new day, we can choose patience over frustration. We can engage in random acts of kindness without seeking recognition or approval. We can offer a lifestyle that is framed around forgiveness rather than seeking apologies.

How thankful we are for your guidance. We are grateful that Jesus not only called us to follow him, but also invited us to make disciples of those who have fallen in love with the gods of this world.  Inspire and motivate us to stand forth in our desire to give expression to our faith.   Help us to make visible the truth we have found so that we can continue to guide others to live inspired lives.

Enable us to recall the Sunday school teachers who focused our thinking on matters of substance when we wanted to be elsewhere. Help us to recall the prayers that were offered for us when we felt vulnerable. Help us to recall the miracle of your forgiving presence when we were convinced that we had lost our way.  Please accept all our forms of love, O God, as signs of our gratitude to you for all that your guidance has meant to us. We pray these thoughts through the loving, patient spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . .