“Teaching Provides Lifesaving Options”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – June 18, 2017

Centenary United Methodist Church

Romans 5:1-5; Matthew 9:32-38

Father's Day

    The other day I was watching a show on television that inspired my imagination with products that are soon going to be available in our future.  Commentators were interviewing brilliant men and women who are developing technologies to make our lives more interesting.

    Among their creations are beautiful, comfortable fabrics that do not wear out.  In addition, they are bulletproof. Gun fire will knock people down and badly bruise them, but high powered gun fire will not penetrate the fabric. Can you imagine what this will mean for the safety of our military?

    A company will soon be able to grow replacement body parts from cellular tissue containing our own DNA. Imagine new kidneys, new livers or heart repair with no need for people to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. 

    Strides have been made to vastly improve computer cloud capabilities that have been miniaturized and require far less energy.   Seeds are available that will produce huge crop yields in areas with short growing seasons. Experimental incentive methods are being introduced that are expected to educate students in half the time.  Just wait until we see all the applications for technologies called Augmented Reality (AR) and 3-D Printing. 

    The problem with these new creations is that a number of them can be used for criminal and fraudulent purposes.  Facebook, Twitter and other social media venues have widely demonstrated this problem.  They can be used as recruitment tools to entice impressionable people to disrupt and destroy the very cultures that have given them the tools for communicating to masses of people. 

    One of the women who was being interviewed addressed this issue by stating the obvious, "There is no way to safeguard anything in our free society from being used by bad players whose desires are to spoil the game of progress for everyone else." 

    A couple of years ago, I was using my HSBC credit card in a Maryland restaurant.  The next time I used the card, it did not work.  When I called the bank, I was told that my card had been compromised. The bank closed my account and a new card was on its way to our home in Bermuda.

    Someone in that restaurant had skimmed my card and transmitted my account information to a friend in Brazil.  That friend had attempted to make several purchases within hours of our using it in the restaurant. The deeds of shady people are in the news every week.

    We might not expect to find some of them appearing in today's Gospel lesson, but there they are.  Jesus had just healed a person who was mute.  When witnesses heard the man speak for the first time, our lesson says, "Everyone was amazed. Those who witnessed Jesus' healing exclaimed, 'We have never seen anything like this in Israel!'" 

    Some Pharisees, who also witnessed this healing, stated a very different conclusion.  They began to spread fake news about Jesus.  These religious leaders said, "It is the chief of demons who gives Jesus the power to drive out demons." (Matthew 9:34)

    How we interpret our experiences is a direct result of our self-taught judgmental attitudes.  One person can see a magnificent sunset and marvel at its beauty.  Someone else, observing the same sunset, may conclude that what others are calling beautiful is actually an ugly demonstration of the effect of pollutants in our atmosphere.   

    The Gospel lesson that Darlene read for us this morning described the compassion of Jesus for people that were existing in their routines rather than thriving in their living:

As Jesus saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  He said to the disciples, 'The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out more workers to gather his harvest.' (Matthew 9:36f)

    When people are never taught how to live in our world, they easily become sidetracked by a maze of alternatives that can blight their growth for the rest of their lives.  They never learned how to thrive in our world filled with so many options that would open doors to opportunities.

    Most of the people mentioned in the beginning of my message have found an answer that worked for them.  They are creators that want to earn a living by giving the world's people new products that can improve the quality of their lives.

    In our first Scripture lesson, Paul was teaching people how to interpret life.  He wrote, "Be grateful for all your problems because they produce endurance and endurance will introduce you to many other skills of spirit that will help you to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel." (Romans 5:3f)  In other words, people need to learn that all life-experiences have a lifesaving lesson in them.

    Jesus was also teaching this understanding during his ministry when he described his own growth.  He told his listeners that God broke off every branch in him that did not bear fruit and severely pruned every branch that did bear fruit so that the branch would bare even more fruit. (John 15:2)  Jesus learned that the pain coming from being pruned gave him skills he may never have developed.

    Both Paul and Jesus were saying that when we accept life as it comes we are constantly teaching ourselves responses that will determine the quality of our future.  Learning this one lesson sets the tone for understanding how our futures are being fashioned. 

    We can spend time convincing ourselves that life is a river of misery, or we can exclaim, "My spiritual-musculature is increasing in strength because I have always chosen to understand every experience as my personal trainer that has been sent to me by God."

    There was a young unmarried woman who became pregnant.  The couple panicked and out of fear, they both decided that they did not want to take responsibility for the new life of their son at this stage of their life.  Soon after his birth, they put him in a wicker basket.  Under the cover of darkness, the couple placed the basket on the doorstep of Mabel Michener who lived in their community of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. 

    Mabel discovered the child in the morning and decided to raise him as her own.   People could do that in those days. Moses' mother, Jochebed, had done the same thing with her infant son.  Just as Moses became a Prince of Egypt, James A. Michener became an author of more than forty novels over his lifespan of 90 years.  By 1996, it was estimated that he had given away over one hundred million dollars to various charities.  

    That baby boy was given guidance by Mabel who inspired his imagination, his love of storytelling and his attraction to history.  She helped him to cultivate a desire to write.  The more James wrote, the more skilled he became at creating vivid images in the minds of his readers.  

    This kind of teacher is what Jesus wanted from all his followers.  People tend to wander when there is no one to encourage them to develop their potential.  An ancient writer once said, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18)

    In commemoration of our National Heroes Day tomorrow, Monday's edition of the Royal Gazette featured eight people in Bermuda's history that have been an example for others to follow. What we celebrate is not what they did.  What we celebrate was their desire to use their life-energies to make a difference in the lives of Bermudians.  More than being heroes, they were people with a mission.

    Teaching others how to understand life, how to process life-reversals and how to let go of the painful responses from others is what the world needs.  This verbal battling that goes on today does not move civilized people into tomorrow as a community.  This is what Jesus recognized in our Gospel lesson.

    Even though it is Father's Day, one of the most disturbing revelations from recent studies is that today's Dads spend less than 5-minutes a day talking with their children. What does it take for parents to understand that one of our primary functions is that of a teacher?  Teaching is not gender-specific.   

    If there is one lesson that Father's could instill in their children, what might that be?  Think of the implications of teaching children that they have the Spirit of God inside of them.  Each was born with divinity already inside of them. They can literally replicate many qualities of our Creator's spirit as they evolve in a world filled with many options.

    Think how children could extend this understanding by learning how to interpret creatively all their relationships as teachable moments.  They will meet people like Mabel Michener who will always represent people that become their cheerleaders during their lives. The Mabels in their lives will always be the supporters to help them bring out their best attitudes, dreams and goals.

    Fathers can also teach their children how to understand other people whose values are different. Rather than judging others, children can be trained to judge the value of their own responses to such people.  Children can be taught to think of themselves as having the same skills as oysters that can spin a substance around irritations that get into their shells. 

    Children can create the pearls of forgiveness, patience and tolerance that will shield their initial vulnerabilities.  Children can be trained not to respond to attitudes and remarks that have nothing to do with them.  Such behavior is only revealing what is inside of such people.  Many remarkable virtues can be given birth from our experiences with people whose values are different.   Think what would happen if children were prepared ahead of time before they are confronted by people that never learned how to be kind, considerate and courteous.  

    What Jesus had in mind was to turn loose in the world generations of teachers that would cause the entire batch of dough to rise.  Fathers that take their role as teachers seriously could change the world. When fathers are able to reveal the loving energy of God, the world will become a brighter and more wholesome place to live. All of us can do this.  All it takes is our commitment to making it happen. Everything we give away here we can take with us when we leave this life. As we glance back at the footprints we left behind, we will see the value of our being born.



We thank you, God, that life is a classroom without walls.  We thank you that we have the privilege of defining and refining ourselves each day.  We have learned that struggling helps us to establish our lasting values. We have learned how our choices create consequences.  We have learned to be patient with ourselves because growth is an infinite process.  Guide us to outgrow our need to hold thoughts that create fear and frustration. A time will come when we will bloom in your Kingdom and that experience will have made all the stages of our growth worthwhile.  




Eternal God, we enter our sanctuary this morning realizing that worship is one of the most refreshing and nourishing ways to begin our week.  Until we arrive here, we are seldom aware of the accumulation of distractions that have blocked our awareness of your presence.  Thank you for loving us even when we do not respond, when our vision is fixed on issues of self-interest or when we slip into pleasures that we hope will neutralize the tensions and stress that are part of each week. 

This morning, we celebrate the presence in our lives of our fathers.  Often our dad’s words stood between us and a mistake we were about to make.  We accused him of not understanding us, while he was protecting us from dangers we could not see.  Thank you for all our dads who took their responsibilities very seriously even though they often felt they were never quite good enough to take even partial credit for what we have become.

Often dad could fix our broken toys and mend our aching hearts.  He instilled confidence by helping us to confront our demons.  As the years passed and our understanding grew, he became a real person, an advisor and a friend.  We now know that many of the values we see in ourselves sprouted from seeds he sowed in our inner garden when we were not looking.  Thank you for this marvelous source from which we have learned a number of values upon which we have built our character and integrity.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . . .