2018 AUG 19 “Be Careful!”

CHILDREN’S ADVENTURE   “Have you ever been foolish?”

Have you ever done anything foolish?  I can think of a lot of foolish things that I’ve done.  I played hockey on very thin ice, and fell in.  I rode my bike barefoot, and when my foot slipped off the pedal every toe nail on my right foot got bent backwards.  My mother told me not to get out of the car when we arrived at the motel, because of a thunderstorm, but I didn’t listen and when the lightning bolt hit I was showered with sparks.  Or the time my friends and I decided to knock down a bee’s nest.  I was at a children’s park near Ellieana’s house in Rochester, and I happened to glance up and a little boy was about to ride his tricycle down the slide.  I stopped him, and he was not happy with me.  I think everybody in this room has done something foolish in their lives, but fortunately we appear to have survived!

My message for adults this morning is simple: “be careful!”.  And it’s a good message for children, too.   Think about what you’re doing before you do, in case you get into a disaster!

I learned a word in Spanish this year that comes in very handy in times when foolishness is likely to get us into trouble:  “cuidado!”  It means “be careful”, “watch out” or maybe “don’t be foolish!”  The adults in our church, especially Sunday School teachers, are eager to teach you how to be careful.

 

THE WORD               Ephesians 5:15-20

      Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

COMMUNION MESSAGE      “Be Careful!”     Rev. James Renfrew

What do you call these little handheld toys that spin?  Fidget spinners.  Anyone here have one?   There’s no real purpose to them, but they are very popular.  Long ago, I invented one of my own.  What a great idea it was!  I had this great idea in a moment of boredom.  I put a few rubber bands together and then twisted a marker in with the rubber bands to spin it like a propeller.  It looked like it would be fun, when I should have been doing my homework.  So I let it spin once, it was cool, so for the second try I wound it up even tighter than the first time, ready for a real power spin.  1-2-3, there it goes!  Wheeee!

But of course, the unforeseen happened.  The cap of the marker flew off and then the ink started shooting out.  Who knew that a magic marker had so much ink in it?  And of course it was bright red ink.  The ink didn’t go everywhere, but it left what looked like a wide red skid mark on my white curtains. It looked like someone had burst an artery and then attempted to climb up the curtains while bleeding profusely.  What a mess!  I wish I had thought it through, thinking about what could go wrong, but it was too late for that!  I wasn’t being careful.  I didn’t know about cuidado.

It was such a foolish thing to do that I’ve mostly managed to erase it from my memory, until last night when I started making my personal list of the foolish things I have done.  I no longer remember what my parents thought about it.  I no longer remember what flimsy excuse I offered (in case a Martian invader ever comes through my window I would blind him with red ink!).   Here’s how successfully I have managed to erase this memory:  I no longer remember if there was a consequence.  Maybe my parents had become used to this foolishness and just shrugged. But they must have done something about it, but I just don’t remember.  But I do remember that I had a red stripe across my white curtain until we moved away from that house when I was seventeen.  The white curtains did not make the journey to the new house in Maryland.

Every one of my foolish adventures could fill an entire sermon.  Every one of them would lead to the same conclusion, “I’ll never do that again”, “What was I thinking?”, or  “Why didn’t you stop me?”  Each one of my foolish adventures follows a simple outline.  Your foolish adventures probably follow the same outline as mine.

Step one on the outline could be “hey, this looks like it’ll be fun!”  Or Step one could be, “let’s take this shortcut”.  Or step one could be “don’t worry, no one will get hurt”.

Step two is the step that tends to get left out, making Step three inevitable.  Step two should be “This might be a big mistake, let’s think it through, first”.  Or step two could be “we better read the directions, before we switch on the power”.  Or step two could be, “Let’s make sure we all have medical coverage, or can afford a lawyer”.   Or Step two could be, “Before I spin this magic marker, do I really want to give up my allowance for six months to pay for the damage?”

Step three comes in the aftermath of the disaster.  Step three includes testimonies like these:  “I never meant to burn the whole house down”, or  “I should have read the directions before turning it on”, or “I didn’t mean for anyone to end up in the hospital or spend the night in jail”.

The Apostle who wrote Ephesians, it’s often credited to Paul, but some aren’t so sure.  But the Apostle has a simple solution to foolishness.  Do you know what it is?  It’s pretty simple:  “Be wise”.  Could it be more simple than that? “Be wise”.  That is advice to live by, advice to share, advice to guide children, advice for leaders in government.

So parents, there you go!  As your kids leave the house, always remind them of the Apostle’s words, “be wise”.  That should nip foolishness in the bud, don’t you think?  Supervisors?  Tell your employees to be wise.  They’ll listen and act accordingly, I’m sure. Teachers? Tell your students to be wise and you’ll have the smartest students in the world.

If only. Teaching the lesson “be wise” does not easily sink in, and foolishness continues to reign.

I write lots of letters to politicians, and probably all of them boil down to the Apostle’s words, don’t be foolish, be wise.  Protect the environment for the future, don’t destroy it in the present.  Every bomb or missile you build leaves less money for schools or medical care.  But for some reason, what looks like foolishness to me continues to win out.

There are many things that cause us to come to this table of Jesus Christ.  Hunger and thirst.  Jesus’ words of invitation to the table.  Our vision for a better future.  A radical experience of equality before the Lord as everyone is invited to a seat at the table.  It could be related to theological insight or faithfulness to Scripture, or adherence to doctrine, or love for tradition.  The smell of delicious bread, the taste of juice or wine.  There is usually no single thought or idea that brings us all to the table in the same way.  Except maybe for this:  we all have been fools, but we are trying to be wiser.   As we share the bread and cup, this morning, we seek the wisdom of God so we can be wiser, so we can be careful, and no longer so foolish.

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