Login / Signup

Free Access

Not a subscriber?
Get a FREE 30-Day Subscription
(No credit card necessary)
Get Full Access Now!

High-tension Wire

Sermon
Sermons On The Second Readings
Series I, Cycle C
A two-lane state highway bisects the little town of Hemingford in western Nebraska. Highway 2 is not one-sixteenth as congested as I-80 before a Big Red football game. Nevertheless, the highway is busy.

In that part of the state, prairie winds often throw the sound of an approaching vehicle. This makes it difficult for a person who does not see to determine by ear the approximate distance and speed of the vehicle.

On their own, early in the first week home after training school, Dee and Leader Dog Dolley prepared to cross Highway 2. Her hand on the handle of the dog guide's harness, the woman said the "Forward" command at the curb. This position rendered the dog guide the responsibility for the woman's life.

Just as they reached the crown of the road, Dee heard a vehicle approaching with considerable speed from her right. The direction of the wind had blocked its voice until the farm truck was almost upon them.

Too scared to rush forward but unable yet to entrust full control to her dog guide, she returned responsibility to herself. She did not give the new dog guide a chance to do its work. She dropped the harness and held only the dog's leash. "Around! Around!" she shouted. Pivoting on square, they raced back to the curb.

The woman dropped to the ground. She wrapped her arms around the dog. "I'm sorry. I won't do that again," she said. "Now let's do this over. This time, Dolley, you be in charge."

Her task was to trust her dog guide with her life. The time to start trusting was now. Otherwise, she might as well turn in the dog guide along with her freedom.

One evening not long afterward, it was the dog's turn to be spooked. Apparently not seeing well in the twilight, Dolley refused to pass by a large garbage container set out near a sidewalk they had traveled over only hours before.

The dog guide, also, had to overcome fear before she could carry out her work. Dee worked her repeatedly from the cross curb. Each time, they crept closer to the refuse container. After each attempt, she praised the dog for being brave until the grand rejoicing when Dolley passed by the container without hesitation. Having seen each other's vulnerability and shared each other's humiliation, the dog guide and the woman began what would become a decade of trusting and assisting each other. Each refused to give up on the other because of shortcomings. They gained enough internal strength to proceed with the quiet, intelligent confidence of a mature guide dog team.

Honesty of working together to avoid being overcome by fear builds any team, not just a dog guide team. With or without a disability, discouragement occurs with the day-to-day of living. Standing firm brings the steadiness of spirit that allows us to concentrate on making progress. Considerable gaining of heart happens whenever we adopt an attitude of determination. We meet with decision whatever changes come into our lives.

At times, blindness is like the benign center line of a highway that suddenly becomes a high-tension wire. It takes both the dog guide and the human being working together to neutralize the threat of adverse conditions.

Strength also requires gaining the capacity to show our fear to those whom we trust. When it comes to fear, everyone has a choice. When life scares us, we can curl into a ball like a poked slug, or we can give a good stretch and proceed forward.

Every time a person with faulty or absent sight steps outdoors, that step requires having made the choice of courage over fear. Every time any person with a special need moves beyond the known or the comfortable, there is opportunity to meet courage. At the rise of each day, first thing, make a choice. We either meet the morning with apprehension or greet it with courage.

From time to time, a blind person who uses an assist dog is asked if it is not a humiliating sign of weakness to be led around by a dog. The response of choice is not that of degradation but of freedom. This tethering is not an affront. It is an honor.

Courage in any circumstance never comes with ease, but a courageous spirit is contagious. By the time you and I know courage, we also know humiliation and vulnerability. Vulnerability is somewhat self-imposed by the limiting or handicapping dimensions of a disability. Humiliation is somewhat other-imposed by attitudes of society in general and by those specific persons who contribute to feeling that one is a lesser person.

Again, humiliation and vulnerability are not exclusive to those with physical disability. Any special need of body, relationship, economics, or spirit can spawn similar trouble. Courage can nullify feelings of humiliation and vulnerability here, too.

By living the day-to-day of our lives as Christians, we stage a study in the quiet tenacity of persistent courage. Vulnerability is also part of the "body of our humiliation" of which Paul speaks in verse 21. This vulnerability speaks of our lack of capacity to give in to temptation, to the negative energy of others, or to anything else that distracts us from the goal of being strong in faith.

Paul has a way of needling us into the reality of how we live out this faith. The troublesome "we/they" dichotomy of being a Christian dissolves. The familiar holier-than-thou attitude disappears when we acknowledge that within each of us live at least a few undesirable "they" elements. We are as vulnerable to these humiliations of body and spirit as the most artless Christian or any other member of the human family.

Paul offers an antidote of courage for us, as he does for the people of the church in Philippi. He shows considerable passion for these early Christians. He addresses them with warmth, as people "whom I love and long for, my joy and crown ... my beloved" (from v. 1). His goal for them is to avoid defeating the higher ends to which a Christian aspires by stumbling over lesser focus "on earthly things" (v. 19b).

Special to each of us is an extensive list of these "earthly things" that compete for our energy. Paul says this god "is the belly" (v. 20). Furthermore, in addition to ignoring the negative dimensions of such a life, we have fun engaging in many activities of the belly. When earthly things prevail, we waste on this negative stuff the positive effort we might have expended on standing firm. Let us, Paul might say, decide upon what we plan to stay focused.

Addressing the Philippian church with the earnestness of intimacy, the apostle urges these folk to "stand firm in the Lord" (v. 1). Standing firm is difficult. Standing firm requires that we contact the core of courage available within us, and that requires having enough self-compassion to give ourselves a chance.

Speak not only of isolated incidents of courageous action. Even a hearty burst of courage will dissipate after its moment. Our need for courage is ongoing. Courage is a chosen way, an attitude of response. Stand firm.

Despite all effort to plant ourselves with resolve and to refuse to compromise, we still need something beyond ourselves. While our standing firm seems a solitary thing, it needs grounding in our relationship with God.

When the prairie winds of the soul threaten to skew our perception, we must keep in mind that one from another realm keeps our direction steady. One who knows the Lenten struggle of courage and who quells the taste of fear stands with us, stands ready, and stands steady. We call this one Christ.

Paul says, "Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us" (v. 17). Let us seek our models and mentors, those from history and those in our present surroundings. Among these models of single-minded persistence are Paul and Christ.

Paul's call to us is to stand firm, but stand firm in Christ. As we see throughout Lent and Holy Week, Christ will let nothing deflect him from his course or garble his purpose. The transforming capacity of Christ which awakens our capacity of transformation is our saving grace. This is the holy glue that adheres hope to purpose.

When our faith grows fragile, God, we need someone stronger to urge us forward. Bring into our hearts the living models of those who have been faithful to you.

When we lose hold of hope, God, we need a measure of courage. Send us renewal of hope in whatever traditional or unparalleled form will stir our boldness.

Remind us always that Christ is Christ. Amen.
UPCOMING WEEKS
In addition to the lectionary resources there are thousands of non-lectionary, scripture based resources...
Signup for FREE!
(No credit card needed.)
Proper 14 - OT 19 - Pentecost 9
25 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
30 – Children's Sermons / Resources
19 – Worship Resources
28 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Proper 15 - OT 20 - Pentecost 10
25 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
31 – Children's Sermons / Resources
21 – Worship Resources
26 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Proper 16 - OT 21 - Pentecost 11
25 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
31 – Children's Sermons, etc.
18 – Worship Resources
25 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Proper 17 - OT 22 - Pentecost 12
24 – Sermons
150+ – Illustrations / Stories
29 – Children's Sermons / Resources
19 – Worship Resources
28 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Plus thousands of non-lectionary, scripture based resources...
Signup for FREE!
(No credit card needed.)

New & Featured This Week

The Immediate Word

Mary Austin
Dean Feldmeyer
Christopher Keating
Ron Love
Thomas Willadsen
George Reed
Bethany Peerbolte
For August 18, 2019:
  • Seeing the Signs, Taking the Steps by Mary Austin — Jesus tells the crowds listening to him to see the signs, and watch for change in the world. We can interpret the weather, but seeing change in our communal life is much harder.

Emphasis Preaching Journal

Wayne Brouwer
The Desert Fathers told of a father and a son who were traveling together. They came to the edge of a forest. Some of the bushes were loaded with berries. They looked so delicious that the son asked if they could stop for a while and pick berries.

The father was anxious to be on his way, but he saw the desire in his son’s eyes and agreed to stay there for a short while. The son was delighted. Together they searched the bushes for the biggest, plumpest, juiciest berries.
Bonnie Bates
Bill Thomas
Bob Ove
Frank Ramirez
Ron Love
Mark Ellingsen
Isaiah 5:1-7
In the passage from Isaiah, God is the owner of the vineyard, which represents God's people. The coming destruction (verses 5-6) results from the people's failure to do what God "expected," and hoped for (verses 2, 4, 7). That is, the failure to enact and embody justice and righteousness invites catastrophe.

God’s judgment is just and would ultimately come for the recipients of the prophecy by means of the Assyrians (if the recipients were, as many suggest, the Northern Kingdom).

StoryShare

Peter Andrew Smith
Frank Ramirez
Contents
“A Cloud of Witnesses” by Peter Andrew Smith
“A Mind of Their Own” by Frank Ramirez


A Cloud of Witnesses
by Peter Andrew Smith
Hebrews 11:29--12:2

Pastor Will stormed out of the board room.

“Is everything okay, Pastor?” Linda called from the office. “Are you finished already?”

“We’re just taking a break,” he said. “We all need a few minutes”

Will walked into the sanctuary, sat in a pew, and closed his eyes.

CSSPlus

Arley K. Fadness
Jesus said, ‘I came to bring fire to the earth,’...” (v. 49a)

Good morning girls and boys,

It is a good morning, isn’t it? It’s good because you and your family are here at worship. It’s good because I get to talk with you. It’s good because God is here. How awesome is that? Can you think of other reasons why today is a good morning? (children may respond)

What secret do you think I have in this special box? (children guess)

(presenter removes and shows a candle on a candlestick)

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
All prospective Church of England clergy are obliged to attend a three day selection conference to determine whether or not they are suitable candidates for ministry in the Church. This can often cause real difficulty for those candidates who are told at the end of the conference that the selectors have decided not to recommend them for training at this time. The candidates feel themselves to have been called by God, but the selectors don't agree.

SermonStudio

Lee Ann Dunlap
Some of the best prophetic voices of any culture are its troubadours. Historically, the term refers to traveling musicians who once strolled the streets and pubs of medieval Europe singing love songs in exchange for food and lodging. Today they travel by jet or private coach filling auditoriums with screaming fans and recording "greatest hits" albums. Regardless of the time or language, music has an almost supernatural power to affect the human soul and even change the course of the human community. It lifts our spirits, bolsters our courage, and points out injustice.

Special Occasion