Monday, March 9, 2009

In Honor of Dr. Seuss Sermon for 3-8-09

A poem by Dr. Seuss, titled “Oh, the Places You’ll Go…”

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
and hang-ups
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.
All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
Dr. Seuss
Sermon: Mark 8:27-38, Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Moreover, when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. Dr. Seuss

These are not words we might expect from Dr. Seuss, whose birthday we celebrated this past week. We would rather avoid those times in our lives that we are scared out of our pants! In addition, perhaps we would like to protect our children from those moments. However, the reality of our journey in life means that we will encounter those scary moments. Just this week one of the staff members of our preschool was telling the story of how their family may have to file for bankruptcy, and is afraid of how this will influence her children and their lives. It is a very scary time for many in our community. The current rise in unemployment and the insecurity of the stock market are creating a perfect storm in which many are having to losing their jobs due to cutbacks, losing their homes due to their inability to pay high interest mortgage payments, and find themselves just trying to survive.
Since this is the reality of life, it should not be a surprise to us that the journey of faith is full of hardships as well. However, this is not always our expectation.
In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel Brennan Manning describes what he calls a myth that flourishes today in many of our churches, the suggestion that Christian discipleship consists of one rousing victory after another. This myth, he thinks, has done many a believer “incalculable harm” because it misrepresents the way Christian life is really lived. The myth goes something like this: "Once I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, an irreversible, sinless future beckons. Discipleship will be an untarnished success story; life will be an unbroken upward spiral toward holiness."
One commentator reflects: Personal experience confirms that this myth is patently false, but many Christians still chase it as their standard, goal or expectation. Thank God, for Lent, and for Mark's Gospel this week, which shows another way. Lent reminds us that the road to Easter resurrection zigzags through the valley of the shadow of death.(
I like this image of zig zagging through the valley of the shadow of death. Christian discipleship is not a straight line, from birth to eternal life, rather there are times when you feel like you are not making any progress, times when you try to find safe places to go to in the midst of the assault of life.
The Old Testament lesson reminds us that what sustains us during these uncertain times is the certainty of God’s promise. In addition, Abraham and Sarah’s response are reminders that it is important to maintain a healthy humorous attitude when it comes to following God down the path to peace.
In the first part of our reading for today God makes a promise to Abram "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous." (Genesis 17: 1-2)
So far so good, God preaches to Abram, expecting a response of obedience. God is prepared to offer Abram the deal of his life, walk before me and be blameless and I will promise to be your God, and you will prosper. This is a promise not to be entered into lightly; it is a holy contract, one that is woven into the fabric of life. In God’s eyes, this promise is a promise is a promise is a promise unto all people who will take the journey of discipleship.
God promises and we can rely on that promise all our lives with all our life. Of course, that is not our experience of life. Contracts are broken, marriage vows violated, parents abuse their children, those in power take advantage of those who look to them for help. Countries neglect the poor and sick, churches shut out those seeking God, pastors fail to serve those in their care. Broken promises are all to prevalent, and it can be any easy leap to think God has changed the terms when we experience the trauma of suffering, when we are scared out of our pants!
When things go wrong we can falsely conclude that God has forgotten us, forgotten to care for us in the times of deepest pain. However, this is not the message God brings to Abram.
I will establish my covenant between you, and me and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
God is our God forever, even when we are zigzagging through life, trying to find a way out of the dangerous circumstances. On the other hand, maybe as this is spring training, we might say when life throws a curve, we hang in there, and prepare to face whatever is thrown at us.
God does two things: First, he renames Abram and Sara, they are known as Abraham and Sarah. Then God tells them they will have a child! Now I have not reached the age of 99 yet, but even now, at the age of 50, if I were told that I would be the father of a son, I would laugh too. One commentator says it this way: It strikes me as supremely important that the laughter of Abraham and Sarah should be appreciated in all its profound importance, for somehow it plays a decisive role in that grand design. The first fruit of that covenant was named "Isaac" for laughter, and there is an implication that people who are incapable of a spontaneous chuckle, even in the presence of the Almighty, are not considered worthy of participating in the covenant.
I have to believe that humor is an important characteristic to have when we follow Jesus, we need to be able to laugh at the absurdity of life or else we might be weighed down in the burdens of discipleship. I know for me, I value those who help me laugh, without laughter I would surely of become dependent on strong courses of electric shock therapy. One of these sources is the Joyful Newsletter:
Good news and bad news
for a pastor
Good news: Church attendance
rose dramatically the last three
Good news: Mrs. Schmidt is wild
about your sermons.
Bad news: Mrs. Schmidt is also wild
about the “Friday the 13th” “The
Valentine Day’s Massacre,” and
all horror shows.
Good news: The church board
accepted your job description as
you wrote it.
Bad news: They were so inspired by
it that they formed a search
committee to find somebody
capable of filling the position.
Good news: Your staff-parish relations committee wants to
raise funds to send you to the Holy Land.
Bad news: They are stalling until the
next war breaks out. (via Rev. Dr. Karl R. Kraft , Feb. Joyful Newsletter)

Of course, laughter is not the only response from Abraham and Sarah, they go on to fulfill the promise made to them by God, they walk down the uncertain path, that will have many zig zags.
As we jump over to the Gospel lesson it good to remember the lessons of the Old Testament as we explore Jesus’ teaching of his death and resurrection.
In Mark 8:31-32 it tells us: Then 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.
Jesus was very clear about his mission and purpose. He knew the path ahead would zigzag through the valley of the shadow of death his entire ministry. Jesus knew from the beginning of his ministry he would not escape suffering nor escape death. Jesus starts the journey and does not deny or avoid the work ahead.
This was not an easy message for his disciples to hear, and Peter took exception to this doom and despair prophesies. Peter takes Jesus aside and disagrees, rebukes, argues with Jesus. Jesus rebukes Peter right back and tells Peter to get behind him, to set his mind on divine things.
On this journey of lent, we need to time to examine our own beliefs, to reaffirm our belief in the one true God, who we trust to lead us even when the path ahead will zig and zag through the valley of the shadow of death.
Bishop William Willimon stated in a sermon on discipleship: Do not think about discipleship as memorizing a whole string of Bible verses. Think about discipleship as a journey, a journey with Jesus.
This is the story that each of us is finishing for ourselves. Each of us is busy tagging along behind Jesus, being surprised by Jesus, trying to figure out what he said at the last stop. Being amazed at the places that he leads us on this adventure. (9/14/1997 - The Journey Dean William Willimon)
He goes on to say: The call to discipleship requires certain disciplines for keeping at it. As we have said, the journey, like any journey, is not always easy....Some modern people say that they feel God is far from them, absent from their lives. However, they do not consider how often they have been absent from God. In just coming to Sunday worship, you are putting yourself in the right place to keep on the journey. Perhaps today, sitting in church, your journey is going well. However, your journey will not always go well. There will be valleys, times when you wonder if you can make it. At those times, the resources, which you gained here during Sunday morning worship, can be invaluable, life giving.” (Ibid)
As we zigzag through life we need God to guide us, to help us. This is what God will do, has promised us.
Moreover, when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. Dr. Seuss reminds us that life is scary when we try to walk the journey alone. But with God, we can find our way, we can find courage for the path ahead no matter the places we will go.

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