“People Chase What They Want”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – July 22, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

Ephesians 2:11-16; Mark 6:30-34


    This morning we are going to discuss the consequences that come as a result of the drive of human beings to pursue what they want.  Many of our creature-comforts as well as our emotional-pitfalls come from our thirst for pursuing what we desire. Think of all the changes that have taken place during our lifetime that resulted from our imaginations. Sometimes our chase can become scary.

     Numerous states in the United States have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.   State governments have found a new source of revenue by taxing what was once illegal. There is a mad rush toward this new freedom.  Think about this.  From January to June of this year, the gross revenues gained from the sale of marijuana by the State of Colorado came to 131 million dollars.

     With that kind of fresh money coming into the government's coffers, it won't be long before all the states jump on the legalization bandwagon.  Today nine states have followed through in the process.  Thirty states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Who knows what the long-term consequences will be from such widespread usage?

     Years ago, Vincente Fox, the former President of Mexico, told President George W. Bush of the United States: 

I cannot stop the flow of drugs coming from Mexico into your country.  Dry up the market for these products and the flow of drugs will stop. The solution to your drug problem is that simple, Mr. President.  Stop your people from buying them.

    Obviously, this approach has not worked.  No one can stop people from chasing what they want.

     What we have in our Gospel lesson this morning is a near stampede of people wanting to hear what Jesus was teaching.  Why the rush?  The entire Hebrew culture had been in a state of arrest for over 400 years. Their religion was one of obedience to a lot of rules and the annual rehearsal of their past when God was remembered as being active in protecting and guiding their ancestors.

    When Jesus began teaching people that it was okay to abandon their outer practices in order to pursue their inner journey, they came running to him to hear more of the details.  Most of them had never heard such comments coming from any religious teacher.  (Matthew 7:29)

     Jesus was clearly rocking the boat of orthodox Judaism.  The religious authorities did not like his message.  They were in charge of teaching people how they should think, feel, and behave.  Jesus was teaching people that their choices determined the quality of their attitudes not their obedience to the Laws of Moses.

     The world's people today are in the midst of a massive collective rebellion against all the Thou Shalts.  They crave freedom and are expressing it in ways that appear insane, lacking in common sense, and their expression is completely outside the realm of normalcy and decency.

     By increasing numbers, people have lost contact with what once governed their decision-making.  Somehow, they have misplaced or never learned the lesson that they must first find healing for their inner world before they can change their attitudes toward events happening in the world. The consequence of looking to the external world for any clues for living will continue until people either regain their emotional stability or die trying to fix an environment that is impossible to fix.

     Religious institutions were once the guardians of the spiritual lives of people.  Jesus took the lead on giving people spiritual freedom.  He wanted people to achieve understanding from a heart-felt desire to deepen what they know and not because they need to conform their lives to a centuries old Law Code.  

     What people call spirituality today is often being defined by Yoga instructors, or by developing more physically fit bodies, eating organic foods, and keeping their bodies hydrated by drinking bottled water.  

     Lois and I were in Lindo's last week and there was an entire shelf dedicated to water in plastic bottles.  One-liter of a very exotically named bottle was over $6.  The bottles often create their mythology by making outlandish claims, e.g., "Our water was harvested from a secret, ancient source recently discovered called the Fountain of Youth."    When analyzed, most bottled water is nothing more than H2O with a mixture of mineral additives.

     In my former church, I used to see people sipping from these bottles during the service.  I do not remember and I doubt that any of you do that there was a time in our lives when we came to church in a state of dehydration.

     Jesus said, "Before you become concerned about anything else, seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be yours as well."  (Matthew 6:33) His words used a metaphor that guided the thinking of people thousands of years ago. 

     Today the priests and priestesses of spiritual health are everywhere.  This new crop of spiritual teachers is using the same understanding as Jesus, but they are using modern language to describe how to get in touch with what lies within each of us.  We are likely to read in the Health Section of our newspapers:

If you want a fulfilling lifestyle, be open and willing to change your attitudes!  Don’t look to the world, your government, or the leaders of your tribe to do for you what you must do for yourselves. This wisdom is not as self-serving as it sounds. This lifestyle is about survival for those who are paying attention to the truth that they are the only captain of their ship that they will ever have.  Nothing will change for anyone until their optics and judgements change.

    As in Jesus' day, today there are billions of people that will never encounter this teaching. They have never been trained to realize that they, and they alone, are responsible for the quality of their lives.  As long as people continue to scream at each other, blame and clamor about what is happening in their environment, they will remain frustrated and angry until they get the message that it is their attitude and behavior that needs fine tuning.   

     The entire population of the world had to die over and over again before Jesus' message spread from its birthplace in the Middle East.  Jesus' message of mastering our inner world would take thousands of years before the people of the world gave his words any serious consideration.

     Today new innovations and ideas spread like a wild fire.  Nothing that consistently works for people is off limits. We are living in the age that humanity hoped would one day come.  That glorious day has arrived and all of our creature-comforts will continue to be enhanced beyond our wildest imaginations.  Technology will lead the way into tomorrow in almost every field. What people need is to learn are the skills of spirit to live successfully in the world that they have created.  

     It may be that the greatest guardian of truth will come in the form of consequences that will happen to people as each continues to choose from the gigantic menu of available choices.

     However, the signs are everywhere that people need to proceed with extreme caution.  The rapid means of spreading information has helped people to witness that the runways of life are filled with the wreckage of lives who had everything that life offers. 

     How does one deal with life being lived in the most fabulous environment ever created by humankind when the results are feelings of emptiness, isolation, loneliness, and a loss of one's identity?

    What is missing in the lives of many people is the rudder that helps them to navigate their individual ships around the hidden rocky-shallows that have destroyed other vessels.  Jesus taught, "What good is it to have mastered the entire world if in the process, people have ignored the development of their inner world?"  (Matthew 16:26)   We are seeing the results of this lack of development everywhere.  How are we to understand what is happening? Is there an answer?

     Jesus discovered that his teaching could not prevent Peter from bringing a sword to the prayer meeting and using it while in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus could not give to Peter the confidence for the moments when, on three occasions, he could not recall having ever met Jesus.  The Master could not change the mind of Judas whom he had personally selected to be one of his disciples.

     All that Jesus could do was to point with his teaching to the inward journey that would enable people to live more fulfilled lives in their countless professions.  He could not give them anything but his verbal guidance.

     What may come as a total surprise is that it is perfectly acceptable to God for people to continue having their lives controlled by what is happening in their external world.  How can this be?  Why would God not bring swift judgment toward people who have wasted their lives?

     This is where many people are on their personal spiritual learning curve. God is in no rush waiting for people to grow up.  This was true in Jesus' day and it is true in our day.  As was mentioned earlier, consequences can be a great teacher.

     Our experience of living in these temporary physical bodies is not God's adventure.  Living in our physical forms is our adventure. The magic of being a human being is that if we do not like what we have made of ourselves, we can change how we think and feel. 

     We can put on a different mask.  We can experiment with different attitudes.  We can replace our anger with love and forgiveness. We can create with increasing the activity of our imaginations. We can change where we are looking to meet our needs for responding to life with more creativity.

     All that our responses to our experiences are doing is publicly announcing where we are on our journey and nothing more. Sometimes we need to chase something like justice and fairness in life, until our failure teaches us that such a universal state-of-mind is impossible to achieve. We must remember Father forgive them. They have no idea what they are doing.  Jesus was not trying to fix the world.  He was teaching people the best way to live in it.

     We have to trust God with the positive outcome of everyone's life.  Why should we have such trust?  The answer is that there is nothing powerful enough that can prevent God's love of all of us from being expressed.  Our failure to understand how God works does not translate into anyone being denied to return to the world of their origin.  THIS is the good news and a thought that we can take home with us today.



Loving God, we are so grateful that Jesus came into our world to provide a clearer window through which we can understand your nature.  We search for the riches that can be found in his lessons on life.  We frequently find our own thoughts and attitudes in the stories he told.  Are we as generous as the widow that gave away her copper coins?  Can we forgive 70 times 7?  Can we pray for those who hurt us?  Are we able to maintain our peace while being among those whose values are different from ours? Help us to mature in spirit so that we might become the people you have created us to be.  Amen. 



With humble and grateful hearts, O God, we have come into our sanctuary this morning to celebrate life’s countless adventures and for the remarkable role that you play in each of our lives. From you, we have learned that we can extend our love through a number of ways – our choice of words, our smiles, our healing touch, and our ability to be creative and thoughtful in countless invisible ways.

Thank you for teaching us how to release to you our feelings of inadequacy when representing your spirit in our world.  Thank you for the confidence to show up and be ourselves even during moments when life appears to be an endless chain of uncertainties.  

When we are no longer afraid, what a great ride the experience of living can be!  We take courage from people of faith that have inspired us to give without counting the cost.  Help us to move beyond the thoughts of what life should be so that we can think of how best to serve through what life is.  Inspire us to realize how best to redefine our discipleship so that your will, and not ours, unfolds around us.

May our developed inner world lead us to wear more smiles, experience more laughter, and spread more joy, as we breathe fresh enthusiasm into all our relationships. We pray these thoughts through the loving spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught his disciples to say when they prayed . . .