“The Strength of Our Faith: God’s Gift to a Parched World” Feb. 17, 2019
“The Strength of Our Faith: God’s Gift to a Parched World”
Psalm 1:1-6/ Jeremiah 17: 5-10
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
I would venture to guess that everyone here who has owned a television is familiar with the long running series called “Hee Haw.” It was a music and comic variety show starring Roy Clark and Buck Owens, full of one liners, country music, and short skits that entertained in spite of the fact that the show took the concept of cornball to a level no one had ever dared to go in the past. But people loved it and it lasted some 23 years; the final episode was aired on June 19, 1992. Now I bring this up because for some reason while studying our Gospel text from Luke today, I got to thinking about ‘’Oh, that’s good. No, that’s bad.” Do you remember that skit? Once a week, Roy Clark would walk into the barber shop to get a haircut, and the barber, played by Archie Campbell, would pretend to cut his hair and engage in some kind of goofy conversation. The ones I remember best were the “Oh, that’s good. No, that’s bad,” skits. “Say Roy, I suppose you heard I won the lottery. $50,000!” “Oh, that’s good.”
“No, that’s bad, because the IRS came along and took half of it.” “Oh, that’s bad.”
“No, that’s good, because with that $25,000 I went and bought myself an airplane and took me some lessons to learn how to fly it. I got pretty good at it, too.” “Oh, that’s good.”
“No, that’s bad. See, I got showing off and while I was flying upside down I fell out of the plane and was falling to the ground.” “Oh, that’s bad.”
“No, that’s good, because I looked below me and saw that I was heading for the biggest haystack you’ve ever seen.” “Oh, that’s good.”
“No, that’s bad, because in that haystack was a pitchfork sticking up pointing right at me.” “Oh, that’s bad.” “No. that’s good because I missed the pitchfork.” “Oh, that’s good.”
“No, that’s bad because I missed the haystack, too.” Oh, that’s good; no, that’s bad. Like so much of our humor, the funniest stuff is the material that rings the truest.
Today’s reading from Luke probably sounds familiar. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blesses are you who weep now, for you will laugh…” These words that Jesus spoke to his disciples in what is called the “Sermon on the Plain” sound a lot like the words he spoke to the crowds in Matthew’s record of the “Sermon on the Mount.” Now we could argue all day about whether these are just two different versions of the same thing or what have you, but you know, I don’t believe that is the point. The point is that Jesus probably spoke about the dangers of trusting in this world for your salvation a lot – every chance he could get. After all, this is a theme that goes way back. Think about it…
“So, God tells Abraham that he will become the father of a great nation.” “O, that’s good.” “No, that’s bad, because Abe and Sarah are way too old to be having children.” “O, that’s bad.” “No, that’s good because Sarah does conceive and they end up having a child.” “O, that’s good”…. Aaaand I could go on and on through the wars and famines and enslavement and exiles all the way up to the present day. In fact, isn’t that the human condition? We fight and scrap and scrounge to finally make it to the top of the heap and just when we’re about to start pounding our chest and bragging to the world about the wonderful things that we have done, we get knocked down by something totally unexpected, totally unpredicted, and totally undeserved. (Jer 17:5) which we read earlier, reads, Thus says the Lord, “Cursed is the man that trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness.” Funny thing is that the words of Jesus ring out right about now – (Lk 6:24) But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort; woe to you who are now full, for you will be hungry; woe to you who are now laughing, for you will mourn and weep. This, I have to believe, is the strength of our faith. As people of faith, we don’t measure our success by what comes and goes in this world. Sure, that’s part of the deal, but we are offered so much more. Our lives don’t need to be dictated by “Oh, that’s good,” and “No, that’s bad.” But there’s a catch. When you decide to walk with Christ, you do it every day, not just when you need some help, not just when you are stumbling, but all the time.
The opening verses of the 1st Psalm captured my imagination this week. I would like to leave it with you in closing in the hopes that these timeless words might help tie all these pieces together for you as they have for me. It reads, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is the instruction of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but he way of the wicked leads to ruin. Small wonder that this was chosen to be the first in the greatest collection of poetry ever assembled. He is like a tree planted by streams of water and his delight is in the instruction of the Lord. Oh, that’s good; that’s good.
Amen & Shalom