February 4, 2024 Sermon: ‘WHATever!’
Rev. Jane Courtright
[This sermon is not based upon
persons or groups in this Church of Peace.
It is not meant to criticize persons or groups.
It IS meant to encourage thought, constructive talk,
reflection, ideas and possibly
‘WHATEVER IT TAKES’ actions.]
May the words from my mouth
reflect the Spirit of Jesus
and the wisdom of God!
I remind you, again, that pastors are used to
being the target of jokes!
It kind of goes with the territory! How about this one?:
A church member had just had a serious operation,
and was still under the influence of anesthesia
when his pastor came to visit him.
So the Pastor said a prayer & left.
The next day she returned &
asked if he remembered her visit.
The church member answered,
“Yes, I vaguely remember your visit.
I remember opening my eyes and thinking,
“I can’t be in heaven because
HERE is my pastor!”
YES, we are used to being
the targets of jokes & criticism!
There was a letter in the ‘Dear Abby’ column
some time ago:
One of the toughest tasks a church faces
is choosing a good minister.
A member of a church council going through
this process finally lost his patience.
He had just seen the search committee
reject profile after profile for some minor fault
– REAL OR IMAGINED!
He decided that it was time
for the search committee
to do some soul searching!
So, he stood up & read this letter, which he said
was from a potential minister:
Dear Search Committee,
“Understanding your pulpit is vacant,
I should like to apply for the position.
I have many qualifications:
I have been a preacher with much success
& also have had some success as a writer.
Some say I’m a good organizer.
I’ve been a leader most places I’ve been.
I’m over 50 years of age & have never
preached in one place for over three years.
I have left town after my work
caused riots & disturbances.
I must admit I have been in jail 3 or 4 times,
but not because of any real wrongdoing.
My health is not good,
though I still accomplish a great deal.
The churches I have preached in have been small,
though located in several large cities.
I’ve not gotten along well with religious leaders
in the towns where I have preached.
In fact, some have threatened me,
even attached me physically.
I am not good at keeping records.
I have been known to forget whom I baptized.
However, if you can use me,
I promise to do my best for you.”
The council member then turned to
the search committee & asked,
“Well, what do you think?
Should we call him as our minister?”
Those good church folk were appalled!
Consider a sickly, trouble-making,
absent minded ex-jailbird?
Was the council member CRAZY?!!!
They asked just who had sent such a letter?
WHO HAD THE NERVE?l
The council member eyed them closely
for several long seconds before he answered,
“It’s signed, THE APOSTLE PAUL.”
There is more than just a little truth to that letter!
If you reed Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth,
you may notice that Paul
couldn’t seem to please ANYBODY!
YOU JUST CAN’T WIN! Paul couldn’t win.
if he charged for his ministry services,
he offended some people.
If he didn’t charge, he offended others!
Somethings haven’t changed much!
Still, Paul had the deeply meaningful,
& wonderfully unpredictable privilege of sharing
the teachings of Jesus & the love of God!
And Paul was willing to do
WHATEVER IT TOOK to accomplish this!
Listen to what he says:
“To the Jews, I became like a Jew,
to win the Jews.
To those under the law,
I became like one under the law…
to win those not having the law!
Paul was willing to do WHATEVER IT TOOK
to win people to the church!
Someone once said
that there are 2 kinds of people
in the world: those who say WHATEVER,
& those who say WHATEVER IT TAKES.
I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement.
A lot of people live with that motto on their lips:
WHATEVER, & not just young people!
Have you ever asked someone
to do something very important,
or shared with them something
with which you’ve been wrestling ,
only to have them shrug their shoulders,
and answer, “WHATEVER!”
Sometimes, WE are like that with our Christianity.
In fact, let’s create a litany of sorts!
I’m going to make some statements.
After each statements
I invite you to help me out
by answering with a shrug, “WHATEVER!”
Say it with a LOUD SIGH:
Are you ready: O.K.:
*Jesus said that is EASY to love those
who are loveable.
We are called to love our enemies!
*Jesus said to: “feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
give water to thirsty, free the imprisoned, and
just as you have done to the least of these,
you have done to me!
*Jesus said that if someone sins against you,
you shall forgive them…not just 7 x, but 77x!
let’s change the response from ‘WHATEVER’
to a loud, enthusiastic ‘WHATEVER IT TAKES!’
Are you ready? [repeat above statements]
But, like Paul, are YOU & I really ready…
to do whatever it takes to win people to the church?
George G Hunter, in his book ‘Church for the Unchurched,’
Tells about a man named Bill in his late 20’s who began
To serve in the youth ministry of his church.
He also became interested in
revitalizing their ‘Men’s Fellowship’
by reaching out to young men in the community.
BUT THIS IS WHAT HE RAN INTO!
Bill noticed that a lot of the young men
in his community liked to get together in the fall
to watch Monday Nite Football.
The only place they were able to get together
to watch the game was in bars!
Bill wondered if the Men’s Fellowship
could bring a large screen tv or projector
into the Fellowship Hall on Monday nites
& invite these men.
He asked one young man with Dred Locks,
eyebrow piercings & tattoos if guys would be
interested in watching
Monday Nite football at the church.
The young man replied,
“Yeah, man…& I could bring other guys with me!”
But when Bill proposed this Monday Nite agenda
to the Men’s Fellowship, they said,
“Sure, we could meet on Monday Nites,
but we like to play dominoes.
Let’s invite them to play our game.”
Now, could someone give me a “WHATEVER…?”
Still, even with this renewed agenda,
the one young man came.
He liked the men there, most of whom were older.
He was interested in what he understood, thus far,
the message of Christianity.
But he felt uncomfortable, & said to Bill:
“Look, with my dred locks, piercings & tattoos,
I’m out of place here.
Christianity must not be for people like me.
After tonite, I’m out of here.
Bill found himself saying,
“If I get a piercing, will you come back?”
The young man was moved by this, and said,
“If you care enough to do that, SURE,
I’ll come back and invite my friends.”
Now, I’m NOT suggesting that all the men
in this church come back with piercings
[although it would be INTERESTING!]
I’m asking whether YOU are willing to do
WHATEVER IT TAKES
to win people to the church.
ALL THIS is to say that Paul understood
that in order to reach out to people,
to invite them to the church,
we have to meet them
WHERE THEY ARE….NOT WHERE WE ARE!
A sales trainer once asked her audience
If they liked strawberries.
“Yes,” most of them said.
“Strawberries are delicious!”
So, she suggested that they go fishing
with strawberries as bait.
They looked at her as though she were crazy,
or knew nothing at all about fishing.”
“But fish don’t like strawberries,”
pointed out one trainee.
“But YOU DO,” replies the trainer.
“But I want to catch FISH.”
“What do fish like, then?” said the trainer.
“”WORMS.” “Do YOU like worms?” “NO.”
‘Then,” answered the Trainer,
“Don’t sell what YOU like, sell what THEY like!”
How often, as a church,
GO FISHING WITH STRAWBERRIES?
That Men’s Fellowship which wanted
the young men in the community to play dominoes
instead of watching football…
was fishing with strawberries!
And how often do we do that as the church?
We have the kind of worship services
that APPEAL TO US,
The kind of ministries that APPEAL TO US.
We plan & host the kind of activities
that APPEAL TO US.
We so rarely stop to ask,
“What are the needs & preferences
of the people we are called to reach?!
Paul changed the world as we know it.
With the help of God &
his small group of Christians,
he changed a tiny Christian community
from a small sect
TO A CHURCH WITH WORLDWIDE INFLUENCE!
Paul was willing to do WHATEVER IT TOOK,
at least whatever was consistent with his calling.
(As far as possible without surrender]
He was willing to consider the world’s
needs & preferences.
THAT’S a formula the church needs today.
‘WHATEVER IT TAKES….’
Don’t you think it’s time we stopped
“FISHING WITH STRAWBERRIES?!” AMEN.