March 4, 2001
2 Corinthians 6:8-10
Two frogs fell into a deep cream bowl,
One was an optimistic soul;
But the other took a gloomy view,
“I shall drown,” he cried, “and so will you.”
So with a last despairing cry,
He closed his eyes and said, “Good-bye”
But the other frog, with a merry grin,
Said, “I can’t get out, but I won’t give in!”
I’ll swim around till my strength is spent.
For having tried, I’ll die content.”
Bravely he swam until it would seem
His struggles began to churn the cream.
On top of the butter at last he stopped
And out of the bowl he happily hopped.
What is the moral? It’s easily found.
If you can’t get out – keep swimming around!
One of the great novels of English literature contains the memorable sentence, “They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.”
We can say the same thing about this time in history. There are incredible things happening that allow us to live longer and live better.
Even though we are in a bumpy job market, there are more jobs available than ever before. Our standard of living, though not shared equally by everyone, is nonetheless the highest in human history.
We have more opportunities to learn and study than ever before. I went to a college in Illinois that is a member of the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities. While I was a student the Coalition had one study program, a semester in Washington, D.C. Now they have ten which allows you to study in places like China, Russia, the Middle East, and Latin America, or if you are interested in making a difference for the better in the entertainment industry, one that allows you to spend a semester at the Los Angeles Film Studies center. I am a might bit jealous.
But, we also live in the time of Columbine, of hate crimes, of workplace violence, of domestic violence, and a host of other serious problems. We have lost our moral compass, many columnists have written, and we are at odds with one another over how to find our way back.
Which view of our times do you take? “What a great time to be alive!” or “Where is it all going to end?”
As we conclude our journey this morning of understanding how we can “Dare to Dream Again” by breaking through barriers that hold us back, we come again to another important decision; “Are we going to major on the Good News or the bad news?”
Some time back a colleague and I were talking about God’s grace and how we both struggle with its offer to us when we seem to be looking up at our dungeon escape hatch much like Joseph did before his brothers sold him into slavery.
My friend said to me something that has stuck with me ever since, “Grace is rooted in reality.”
Yes these are tough and difficult times as we face personal and social problems that seem insurmountable. But, God’s grace, God’s favor, God’s mercy is rooted in the reality of the human condition. And that is Good News!
How then are we going to respond to the life and times that we currently live in? Are we going to naively draw on our great American optimism or are we going to retreat into a cocoon of despair and pray for the second coming to happen sooner than later?
Once again scripture offers us guidance as to how to respond in our times. We turn to read the words of one who saw the good along with the bad as he sailed, walked, ran, and rode throughout the Mediterranean world and shared the Good News as being possible through and beyond the bad news.
That person is Paul, who wrote a substantial portion of the New Testament. His statements in 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 can help us major on the Good News in the midst of the bad and begin to dream God’s dream once again.
(READ THE PASSAGE)
In the course of his journeys Paul was shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, jailed, and harassed. All for proclaiming a gospel of forgiveness and second chances. A message that majored on the Good News and not the bad news.
Paul “made butter” in those circumstances because the grace he proclaimed was rooted in reality. If we are going to dream God’s dreams for us again, if we are going to trust God and one another for the future that he has for us, and if we are going to let go of the barriers that keep us from that future, then, rooted in the reality of God’s grace, we are going to have to major on the Good News and not the bad, we are going to have to make butter.
This passage of scripture helps us to see and understand how to make butter in spite of circumstances and situations that seem hard to not just accept but over come as well.
Paul made butter because his confidence and trust was in God and His message and ability. The message Paul proclaimed was simply about Jesus Christ and His saving grace.
Paul’s ego was not tied up in the message. His ego was given up to God. This surrender made it easier for Paul to major on the Good News because it was not dependent upon his performance and ability but on God’s.
So many problems are created by egos that are larger than the RCA dome. The world, I would remind us, does not rise and fall on us. Thank God!
As I read these words, I sense a serenity and a peace that comes from a surrendered soul who is sure of Himself because of what His God has done to him as well as for him.
Another way Paul broke down barriers and dreamed God’s dream is that he was able to keep in mind the reason for his circumstances. He was where he was because he was doing the right thing.
That is not often the case for us. We are often where we are because we have done, or focused on, the wrong thing. This has been painfully illustrated in the lives of many professional athletes who have ended up on the bottom instead of at the top.
Paul stayed steady even during those “heart aching” times because he knew that he was right where he was supposed to be.
Paul also made butter because while he experienced the emotions of joy, sorrow, frustration, and sadness, he knew that these were entryways into a greater depth of living.
So often we stop dead in our tracks when our emotions overwhelm us. It almost as if we don’t have or make time to allow our feelings to teach us something important about our actions, priorities, and choices. Emotional pain is not given a chance to run its course, in the right kind of way, and so we carry it around or it comes out in acts of violence.
Paul seems to give evidence in this passage that he does not let the emotional pressure of his mission stop him cold. That is one of the ways we major on the Good News – we acknowledge and accept the emotional ups and downs of life – and we give them to God to help us grow forward.
I am concerned these days that those of us who say that we are Christians in the traditional and Biblical sense of the word, have become defensive and disillusioned. I fear that we have spent so much energy on the bad news that it seems as if the Good News we say we believe has become like a foreign language to us.
The Good News is based not on techniques, political alliances, or seminars, it is based on the awesome, overwhelming power of God to change us in ways that nothing else can. But, I fear that we have forgotten that in our quest for security and comfort, success and fame, and peace and quiet.
These are exciting times to be alive. I feel like I was made for this time in history. There are so many interesting and fascinating things to do and, quite frankly, to have.
But, I am afraid that the human soul is in bad shape. We have so much. But we are hurting so deep.
We can communicate around the world at the click of a mouse, yet we sit silent, and even exhausted, at the dinner table a few inches away from our families.
I am reminded of a song that illustrates this dynamic of life. Recorded a few years ago by the contemporary Christian group Big Tent Revival, it says a great deal about the difference between majoring on the Good News and majoring on the bad news.
Song: Two Sets of Jones’
The one couple survived because they majored on the Good News. The other couple did not because they majored on news that turned out to be bad news. Which is true for you? Amen.