An Adventure of a Life Time - Sam Buehrer - Sylvania UCC - Sept162018

September 16, 2018


Sermon                 “An Adventure of a Lifetime”           September 16, 2018

by Samuel Buehrer

 

Proverbs 1:20-33

20Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.
21At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
23Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.
24Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, 25and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,
26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, 27when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
28Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,
31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.
32For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Mark 8:27-38

27Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

 

Sermon                 “An Adventure of a Lifetime”           September 16, 2018

by Samuel Buehrer

 

 

There was once a small plane with five passengers on it.  Halfway to their destination the engines started sputtering and failing.  The pilot came out from the cockpit wearing a parachute on his back.

He said, “Friends, I have some bad news and some good news.  The bad news is we have an engine malfunction and we are going down.  The good news is there are several parachutes here along the wall.  The bad news is that there are five of you and only four of them.  So you will have to work it out among yourselves.  With that, he was out the door.

A woman leaped up.  “I am one of the most prominent brain surgeons in the northeast.  I am scheduled weeks out with patients whose lives depend upon me.” She grabbed a parachute and leaped out.

A man stood up and said, “I am a partner in a large law practice.  The livelihood of many of hundreds of clients depend upon my expertise.”  He grabbed a parachute pack and leaped out.

Another man stood up and said, “I am purported to be the smartest man in the world.  My IQ is so high I don’t even want to mention it.  What I am working on in the field of physics, no one can begin to comprehend.”  He grabbed a pack and leaped out.

There were only two people left on the plan now, a middle aged minister and a teenage boy.

“Son,” said the minister, “you take the last parachute. You’re young.  You have your whole life ahead of you.  God bless you and safe landing.”

The teenager looked up at the older man.  “Thanks pastor. That means a lot to me, really.  But there are still two parachutes left.  The smartest man in the world just grabbed my school backpack!”

We’re all in midair clinging to some kind of sense of identity and purpose in life, as if our lives depended upon it.  Better hope we make the right choice!

In the today’s text from Proverbs we encounter a text about wisdom and making wise choices.  In the text from Mark, Jesus asks two questions, “Who do people say that I am?” and a more pointed one, “Who do you say that I am?”

The first question is fairly easy to answer.  You could look it up on ‘Wikipedia’ and answer it quickly without hesitation.  The second question is another matter.  It only differs from the first question by one word.  But that one word makes all the difference.  The answer is no longer an objective answer but now it is a very personal answer.  “Who do YOU say that I am?”  How we answer that question has specific ramifications for how we live our lives.  If I answer that Jesus is my Lord and Savior and mean it, then every aspect of my life will be impacted by how Jesus lived his life.  If my answer is that Jesus was a very spiritual person  who lived his life in such a way that people like me could learn from him, then the impact that his life has on mine is very different.  If I understand Jesus to be one of many very spiritual persons who have lived in various centuries, then my life is impacted in a different way as well.  The challenge put to us this day is that very basic question.  “Who do you say that I am?”  How we answer that question can very well have life and death consequences for us whether we believe it or not.  If we answer poorly, we become like the smartest man in the world who chose poorly and grabbed a school back pack when what he needed was a parachute.

Several months ago, when the hoist that held the cross aloft in the sanctuary failed, for safety reasons we lowered the cross and over the past several months have moved it to various locations in the sanctuary.  I have moved it purposely in the hopes that it might stimulate you to think about what the cross means to you. So today, like Jesus I put a question to you.  “What does the cross mean to you?”  When it was hung up high above the altar, what meaning did it have for you? When we brought it down to your level in front of the sanctuary, what meaning did it have for you there?  When I placed it today among you so, so close that you could touch it if you chose, what meaning does it have for you?  With that question in mind, hear these words of Jesus again, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

Who is Jesus for you?  What is your understanding of the cross that he challenges you to carry?

Once we began to move the cross to various locations in the sanctuary, many of you began to share with me your thoughts about its various locations.  When it was first moved from its elevated position to your level, several of you mentioned to me that the cross became more personal, not something removed but now something that you had to consider on a more personal level.  With that being the case, with the cross being no longer in front of you but now in your midst in the pews, how has its meaning changed for you.  What does it mean now to hear the words, “Take up their cross and follow me.”

Another person commented to me that he appreciated the cut glass around the cross, for he sees not cut glass but broken glass.  The imagery of the cross with broken glass has taken on for him the image of a cross taking on a broken life and making something beautiful out of it. 

Another said that although she appreciated experiencing it on a more personal level, when it is in the raised position it gives hope to something greater, a hope that is not bound and limited by the things of this world.

So again, like Jesus I put a question to you.  “What does the cross mean to you?”  “What does it mean to take up the cross and follow him?” For Jesus that answer meant that he was willing to suffer and even die so that other might have life and have it abundantly.

Some years ago, a similar life forming question was raised by a representative of “Teach America” as she was visiting the campus of Duke University.  Teach America tries to recruit this nation’s most talented college graduates to go into some of the nation’s worst public schools.  By this means, Teach America hopes to transform our schools into something better.  This woman stood in front of a large group of Duke students and said to them, I can tell by looking at you that I have probably come to the wrong place.  Somebody told me this was a BMW campus and I can believe it looking at you.  I can tell that all of you are a success.  Why would you all be on this campus it you were not successful. If you were not going on to successful careers on Madison Avenue or Wall Street?  And yet here I stand, hoping to talk one of you into giving your life in the toughest job you will ever have.  I am looking for people to go into the hollows of West Virginia, into the ghettos of South Los Angeles and teach in some of the most difficult schools in the world.  Last year, two of our teachers were killed while on the job.  And I can tell you, just by looking at you, that none of you is interested in doing that.  So go on to law school, or whatever successful thing you are planning on doing.  But if by chance, some of you just happen to be interested, I’ve got these brochures here for you to tell about Teach America. Meeting’s over.  At that, the whole group stood up, and pushed into the aisles and quickly moved to the front to grab a brochure before they were gone.  The professor who watched this happen remarked later that clearly “those students wanted something more out of life than mere happiness. They wanted to be part of an adventure.  People want to be a part of a project greater than their lives.”

If we answer Jesus question well, we get that “more”, that “adventure”. That “project greater than our lives”.

Who do you say that Jesus is?”

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