St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-10-2018

St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-10-2018

Graduate Recognition Sunday

1 Samuel 8:4-11, Psalm 138, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

As usual, on such an occasion as this, I have planned to speak to those whose accomplishments we honor today. And, as usual, I will call for the rest of you to not take a nap during my message; pay attention, you might learn something too; or, at least, you might be reminded of important lessons of your past.

And so, Jodie and Gannon, I’m sure you’ve already heard a lot of advice about where you should go from here in your life. I’m certain you’ve already been told about setting goals and working toward them. And I am absolutely positive that you already know just how important your diploma is to your future and how continuing to develop yourselves with further education is always a good idea.

This is all good stuff to know, and I’m equally certain that I couldn’t say any more about those things that would add much to your ability or your desire to start planning the next step in your lives. But, perhaps by using my own experiences as example, I can give you something that you can carry, not only into the next step, but throughout your days.

Way back, I’m talking ancient history here, well before I graduated High School, I wanted to be an astronaut. I was amazed at the technology; it was American ingenuity at its best! I followed every minute of the space program: I remember Alan Shepherd being the first American in space; a trip that was basically straight up and straight back down. Then came John Glenn, the first to orbit the earth. Soon after that rockets were developed large enough to carry two men; then three; and then we accomplished what seemed a decade earlier to be impossible; putting men on the moon and returning them safely home.

This was soo exciting to me; I wanted to learn everything I could about it; I read every book on rocketry I could find!

And, while I was doing that I discovered one of my hero’s; one whom I admire and hold in high esteem even to this day.

Perhaps you learned about him in your history classes; his name is Robert Goddard, known as the ‘father of modern rocketry’!

Mr. Goddard was one of the first to go beyond fantasizing about space flight into actually believing it could be possible and, with little recourses besides his own money, he developed the technology of liquid-fueled rocket engines that eventually did make space flight possible!

But! It wasn’t his contribution to rocket science that made him my hero; it was the road he traveled to make those accomplishments that set him apart from all others in my mind.

You see, even though he was well educated in physics he had to think beyond that education to accomplish all that he did; and that kind of thinking drew a lot of criticism from his peers.

As I said, I studied this long before I graduated High School which is long before Google was invented so I wasn’t able to find the exact quote and I am now paraphrasing from memory but one critic of Goddard, also a well educated physicist, said, “Robert Goddard is a buffoon! Any physicist with a half a brain knows that in the vacuum of outer space there is nothing to push against and, therefore, propulsion in space is impossible”!

Even in the face of such criticism Mr. Goddard thought outside the box, challenged common knowledge, and proved himself right and a multitude of others wrong. That is what makes him a hero in my eyes to this day.

Another of my hero’s is, of course, Jesus Christ; and for much the same reason.

Jesus was obviously a Jew and, by his use of ancient scripture in his teaching, was well educated in the faith. Whether he could read or write we don’t know for sure, but any devout member of the faith in his day would spend time in the synagogue hearing the scriptures read and committing them to memory.

But Jesus also thought outside the box; he challenged the ‘common knowledge’ of his time, the standard thinking; and he was criticized for it! How many times in the New Testament do we read it? Just a few quotes for you: “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them”? (Mark 11:28 NRSV) And from today’s reading, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons!” And, “He-has-an-unclean-spirit!” And then there’s that one line, also from today’s reading, “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” Even his family was believing that he was, indeed, out of his mind.

Jesus was out of his mind. He was putting aside common knowledge and allowing the Spirit that burned deep within his soul to challenge the experts; he was thinking beyond the common knowledge of the day; he was believing that the way it is, isn’t the way it has to be; and that trying something different, something new, another way; was not only a possibility, it was necessary.

Jesus also proved himself right, and a multitude of others wrong!

And one more for you; this one certainly not one of my hero’s but a personal experience none-the-less. This time it’s about… me.

Some years ago I began to feel the Spirit burn within my own soul. It was the beginning of God’s call for me to become a minister. And, yes, I had my critics. There was a dear friend who couldn’t understand how I could “believe all that Bible stuff” (using his words). And I have a cousin who knew me best in my not-so-spiritual days of long ago who is still scratching his head in dismay. The worst of my critics was, however, myself. And oh how I argued with myself.

“Ron, seriously, you barely made it out of High School; how are you ever going to get through a Masters program. And there’s your past and all those not-so-savory things you did that could come back to bite you. And besides all that, you’re scared to death of public speaking”!

Eventually I put the criticism aside and, as you can see, with the power of that Spirit burning within me and my own conviction to my calling, God proved me right and a multitude of others, including myself, wrong.

Jody and Gannon, yes, all that you have learned so far to earn your diploma does have value; every bit of it! But what I hope I have conveyed to you, and what I hope you will take with you today, is to not allow all that you already know, and all that others tell you they know for certain, to be the last word; don’t let it hold you back from accomplishing more than can be imagined! Listen to that Spirit when it burns inside of you telling you to think differently, try something a new way, or do something out of the ordinary. Then be amazed when fantasy becomes a dream and your dream becomes reality and you, too, prove yourself right and a multitude of others wrong!

God bless you as you go.



1 Samuel 8:4-11
8:4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah,
8:5 and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.”
8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the LORD,
8:7 and the LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
8:8 Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you.
8:9 Now then, listen to their voice; only–you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
8:10 So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king.
8:11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots;


Psalm 138
138:1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.
138:3 On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.
138:4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
138:5 They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
138:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.
138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.
138:8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.


2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
4:13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture–“I believed, and so I spoke” –we also believe, and so we speak,
4:14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.
4:15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
4:16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
4:17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,
4:18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Mark 3:20-35
3:20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.
3:21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”
3:22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”
3:23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?
3:24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
3:25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
3:26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.
3:27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
3:28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter;
3:29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”–
3:30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
3:31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.
3:32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”
3:33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
3:34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!
3:35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”