Login / Signup

Free Access

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.)
Easter 6
30 – Sermons
110+ – Illustrations / Stories
26 – Children's Sermons / Resources
20 – Worship Resources
25 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Ascension
25 – Sermons
160+ – Illustrations / Stories
22 – Children's Sermons / Resources
18 – Worship Resources
23 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Easter 7
30 – Sermons
160+ – Illustrations / Stories
27 – Children's Sermons / Resources
25 – Worship Resources
27 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Pentecost
29 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
27 – Children's Sermons / Resources
28 – Worship Resources
32 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Trinity Sunday
27 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
29 – Children's Sermons / Resources
29 – Worship Resources
30 – 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

CSSPlus

John Jamison
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (vv. 16-18)
John Jamison
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.  Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (vv. 50-53)

The Immediate Word

Dean Feldmeyer
Christopher Keating
Thomas Willadsen
Mary Austin
George Reed
Bethany Peerbolte
Katy Stenta
For May 16, 2021:

Emphasis Preaching Journal

Mark Ellingsen
Frank Ramirez
Bonnie Bates
Bill Thomas
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Frank Ramirez
The resurrection of Jesus takes center stage, rightfully so, in the church calendar. By contrast, Ascension Day often falls by the wayside, unless it happens to fall on a Sunday. It’s something Jesus did, but it’s not necessarily a significant event in the lives of many churches. These three texts, however, illustrate the central importance of this event, which is the capstone of the ministry of Jesus.
Mark Ellingsen
Bonnie Bates
Frank Ramirez
Bill Thomas
Acts 1:1-11
There is still a lot to be in despair about in America. Racism is not gone, as the families who lost loved ones to wanton police shootings continue to mourn. Those who lost jobs, incomes, and businesses in the pandemic continue to suffer and remain in despair. It is all so tragic, as the German-born philosopher Theodor Adono once wrote: “But he who dies in despair has lived his life in vain.” Martin Luther saw this text and its account of the ascension as a time to preach on faith and the comfort from despair that that Word brings:

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Many years ago I met a churchwarden who had grown up within a Jewish background but who had converted to Christianity quite late in life. She had had an amazing conversion experience which had affected her deeply and as a result had become an ardent Christian. She was particularly zealous about Christian mission to the Jews, wanting to convert all Jews to Christianity. When I asked whether she thought Jesus was the only way to God, she looked astonished and said yes, of course!

SermonStudio

Constance Berg
Brian could feel the heat of anger rising in his neck. His left hand curled into a fist and he hit the palm of his right hand. He felt dizzy as he looked around.

Clothes, towels, and sheets were scattered all over the living room. A glass of orange juice was empty, the contents still dribbling down the side of the coffee table. A towel landed at his feet. His one-year-old looked up at him and giggled, making Brian even more angry.
E. Carver Mcgriff
We Americans have long had a love affair with winners. Successful undertakings of nearly every sort quickly receive the admiration of those around us. As a group, we take great delight in banquets and other ceremonies at which honors are distributed. People who come in second are rarely remembered in our culture. The runner-up usually receives a brief word of recognition and then is quickly forgotten. If you happen to be a sports enthusiast, you'll remember the poor old Buffalo Bills of the NFL.
Paul E. Robinson
How many of you know what BASE jumping is? BASE jumping is the very scary sport of jumping off Buildings, Antennae, Spans, and Earth objects. If you want to do it more than once, you jump with a parachute or perhaps a hang glider. Some of you may have seen examples of this daring sport on television.

An example:
John W. Clarke
Ascension Day is a good time for the Christian community to assess where it has been and where it is going. We need to ask ourselves why we are here and exactly what is it we are supposed to be doing. Our lesson for this day provides us with much needed information on what we should be doing and what our final destination as we travel this road in ministry with Jesus is.
Erskine White
When people are confused or afraid, when they feel that things are out of control, or when they feel helpless to overcome the problems which confront them, they often resort to "pie in the sky" religion. They look for Jesus to come and fix what they can't fix for themselves. They figure that one day, as if by magic, Jesus will make everything right for them in the "sweet bye and bye."

StoryShare

Peter Andrew Smith
David O. Bales
Contents
“Not the Hour or the Day” by Peter Andrew Smith
“Closer To Heaven” by David O. Bales
“Power To Change Nature … and People” by David O. Bales
 

Not the Hour or the Day
by Peter Andrew Smith
Acts 1:1-11

“God, I know that I’m supposed to have faith and trust,” Paul said softly as he sat on the bench outside of the nursing home. “Yet a part of me wishes you would tell me when.”

Special Occasion