Late one night a burglar broke into a house. He froze when he heard a loud voice say, “Jesus is watching you!” Silence returned to the house so the burglar crept forward. “Jesus is watching you!” the voice boomed again. The robber stopped dead in his tracks and looked all around. He spotted a parrot in a cage. “Was that you?” asked the burglar? “Yes,” answered the parrot. The criminal sighed in relief and asked, “What’s your name?” “Moses,” said the bird. “That’s a dumb name for a parrot,” sneered the burglar. “What idiot named you Moses?” “The same idiot who named the
Today we look at a “one and done” sermon, God Is Security. Dictionary.com defines security as: “freedom from danger, risk, anxiety, or doubt; well-founded confidence.”Actor Richard Dreyfuss, star of such movies as “Jaws” and “Mr. Holland’s
Opus”, was being interviewed by Barbara Walters. She asked him: “Richard, if you could have one wish, what would that wish be?” Dreyfuss pondered for a few seconds, then said, “If I could only have one wish- I would wish for inner security.”
Security is big business. Burglar and smoke alarms are wired directly from our houses to police and fire stations. Cars make loud noises in parking lots when somebody pushes the wrong button on their key pad. High school students walk through metal detectors as they’re buzzed into their school buildings. There are multi-colored alerts regarding
the threat of terrorism. 10’s of thousands of troops are in harm’s way. North Korea has nuclear warheads and a restarted plutonium-producing reactor. Never have so many experienced such chronic anxiety about the state of the world as now. In an endless search for security, early humans learned how to use a club in self-defense. As we continuously upgraded our destructive capacity, we transitioned from the club to the bow and arrow, then to gun powder, through the gasoline engine to the jet engine and the atomic bomb. And to keep from simply bringing about the ruin of the human race, we have to find ways to match our nearly frightening ability to make “bigger and better” with an equally
amazing spiritual and moral maturity.
Security can be hard to see…even when you are in the middle of it. We live in nerve-wracking times. Our mountains are very real. We’re constantly trying to climb over obstacles like a bad personal history, a poor education, a short temper, illness, addiction, depression. And how does Jesus respond to all of this gloom despair and agony on me?
“Don’t worry!” And yet…we worry. 20th Century theologian Paul Tillich said, “Worry is the state in which a being is aware of its possible non-being. Worry is experienced as one’s own finitude.” Saturated by a world of worry, it’s no wonder we respond irrationally- devising careful plans about where and how we will meet up with our loved ones when the world blows up. And we wonder if, perhaps…just perhaps…Jesus is a bit…well…naive. “Don’t worry,” he says, as if THAT’S really possible. He might as well say, “Don’t breath.” It’s NEARLY impossible not to worry. In fact, the only cure for worry is trust. The only
answer to despair is hope.
Would you bring along a sack lunch along when invited to dinner at someone’s house? No! Would you invite 20 people to a party and only make enough food for 10? Of course not! Would you send your kid out into a snowstorm in a swimsuit? Not on a dare! As rude
and self-centered and uncaring as we humans can be sometimes, we still adhere to a few basics of good behavior and common sense. So why do we think Jesus wouldn’t? Jesus wants to offer us not just a life of sustenance, but of abundance. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. Let’s see what else Jesus has to say on the subject.
Matthew 6:25-34- “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
A man was always bragging about his love for children. He bragged all over the neighborhood about how special children were to him and how much he loved them. One Saturday he worked all day pouring a new cement driveway, then went into the house. While he was inside, the neighborhood kids got into the concrete- they walked all through it, wrote their initials in it, even put some of their toys in it…and it hardened that way! When the man came out of his house, he exploded. And every time he saw the
neighborhood kids, he’d scream at them and run them away. After awhile, one of his neighbors said, “I thought you loved children?” The man said, “Well, I love them in the abstract…but not in the concrete!” God, on the other hand, loves us EITHER way.
Birds may not sow, reap, or store…but they DO scavenge for seeds, unearth grubs and scoop up insects. The lilies of the field might not labor or spin, but they DO know how to put down roots, take in nutrients, reach for the sun and move with the wind. In order to teach us how to give our worries over to God, Jesus encourages us to do two things. 1st,
we are to look to the lilies of the field, which, as weapons of mass destruction cast a shadow over everything, seems…well…a bit preposterous. But Jesus isn’t describing some kind of mythical bliss. Instead, He encourages us to study the patterns of nature around us- look and learn. The lilies He refers flourish for just one day and then are burned as fuel. These flowers have one spectacular shot at life, and in that brief flash there is beauty and meaning and joy. Each flower is unique and irreplaceable, but also part of something
bigger than themselves. In other words, Jesus is suggesting that by comparing
ourselves to the lilies of the field, we are facing our fears, and moving through them. And as we do that, our worry will begin to lose its power over us.
2nd, Jesus asks us to live…but to live in a particular way. He asks us, in the midst of our worry, to live FOR God and LIKE God. He asks us to strive, first and foremost, for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then, He promises, all the things we worry about will be taken care of as well. Jesus reminds us that we need to get our priorities
straight. Jesus reminds us of how divinely graced and gifted we are. He insists that there is so much more to our lives than the quest for physical essentials. As children of God, our first priority is to strive “for the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. We aren’t called to be mere consumers of stuff — the “goods and services” that keep our economy afloat. We are called to keep discovering God’s righteousness, God’s intentions for us- in everything we do, say, and experience.
New Testament scholar Helmut Koester was serving as guest preacher. Prior to the sermon, there was a baptism scheduled. During the ceremony, 5-year old Benji, the brother of the infant being baptized, got scared and crawled under the altar, which had a large cross on top of it. Despite the plaintive cries of his parents, the church’s pastor, and
assorted members, Benji would NOT come out. Finally the pastor shrugged his shoulders and continued with the service. When it came time for Koester to preach, Benji was still under the altar with the big cross on it. As he stepped into the pulpit, he turned and spoke to the table…under which the boy had found his security: “That’s all right, Benji, for centuries people have taken refuge under the cross. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last.”
Jesus chides his listeners for worrying- about food, about drink, about clothing…all the things necessary to make life livable. Sustenance and shelter were a daily challenge for the average Joe 6-Pack of 1st Century Palestine- as they are for the average Joe 6-Pack in 21st
Century America. It’s hard to make ends meet…and Jesus knows that. But He wants us to live a life that reaches beyond the struggles for everyday existence.He invites us to come along, to join Him in a lifelong journey to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And the journey Jesus invites us on feeds our soul, clothes our mind, and fills our heart. Helen Keller says, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
I read a story about security I wanted to share with you. It was an unusually cold day in May. Spring had arrived and everything was alive with color but a cold front from the North had brought winter’s chill back. I sat in the picture window of a quaint restaurant on the town-square. As I sat, my attention was drawn across the street. There was a man, walking into town, carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He also carried a well-worn sign that read, ‘I will work for food.’ My heart sank. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking for the strange visitor; I saw nothing of him. I stopped at a store and then got back in my car, but deep inside, the Spirit of God kept saying: ‘At least drive once more around the square.’ So…I headed back into town. As I turned the corner, I saw him, standing on the steps of a store front church,
going through his sack. I pulled in, got out and approached the town’s newest visitor. ‘Looking for the pastor? ‘Not really, just resting.’ ‘Have you eaten today?’ ‘Oh, I ate something early this morning.’ ‘Would you like to have lunch with me?’ ‘Sure!’ As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. ‘Where you headed?’ ‘St. Louis.’ ‘Where you from?’ ‘All over; mostly Florida.’ ‘How long you been walking?’ ’14 years.’ I knew I had met someone unusual. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, ‘Jesus is The Never Ending Story.’ Then, Daniel’s story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early in life. He’d made some wrong choices and reaped the
consequences. 14 years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had
stopped on the beach in Daytona. He got a job with some men who were putting up
a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. But the tent didn’t house a concert…but a revival, and from that service he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God. ‘Nothing’s been the same since,’ he said, ‘I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now.’ ‘Ever think of stopping?’ ‘Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me. But God’s given me this calling. I give out Bibles, that’s what’s in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles.’ I was amazed. My homeless friend…wasn’t homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: ‘What’s it like?’ ‘What?’ ‘To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?’ ‘Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people’s concepts of people like me.’ We finished our lunch and walked out. Just outside the door, he paused, turned to me and said, ‘Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in.’ I felt as if I was suddenly on holy ground. ‘Could you use another Bible?’ I
asked. We stopped by my church and I was able to find my new friend a Bible- he
seemed very grateful. ‘Where are you headed?’ I asked. ‘Well, I found a map on the back of this amusement park coupon.’ ‘Are you hoping to get a job there?’ ‘No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone there needs a Bible, so that’s where I’m going next.’ He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town-square where we’d met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things. ‘Would you sign my autograph book?’ he asked. ‘I like to keep messages from folks I meet.’ I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.’ ‘Thanks. I know we just met and we’re just strangers, but I love you.’ ‘I know,’ I said, ‘I love you, too.’ How long’s it been since someone hugged you?’ I asked. A long time,’ he replied And so on the
busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed. He put his pack on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, ‘See you in the New Jerusalem.’ ‘I’ll be there!’ was my reply. He headed off with his sign, his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, ‘When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?’ ‘You bet,’ I shouted back, ‘God bless you, Daniel, wherever your feet take you.’ ‘God bless,’ he said. And that was the last I saw of him. Late that evening, the wind blew strong and I bundled up and hurried to
my car. As I sat back, I saw them…. a pair of well-worn brown work gloves sitting on the seat. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them. Then I remembered his words; “If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?” Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember to pray for my unique friend and his ministry.
When we humans are faced with mounting security concerns, some tend toward the “cabin in the wilds of Idaho” approach. But to the contrary, as Christians we’re called to reflect God…and live IN the world. But to do that, we need protection from the evil forces of the world- because the Church wasn’t meant to hibernate its way into the future. We
can’t water down the teachings of Jesus to encourage passivity and meekness. There is no greater security than that which is found in Jesus Christ. It’s the security that allows us to walk with grace and reverence under all circumstances. I think everybody ultimately wants security. But it only comes when we realize that Jesus Christ paid for our sins- when we put our faith in Him…trust in Him. Then we can truly say we have security.
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!