LET’S GO CRAZY!
PROVERBS 1.1-7 ACTS 26.19-24
SEPTEMBER 9, 2007
WESLEY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
The governor said to Paul, “You are out of your mind. Too much learning is driving you insane!” If that is true, if too much learning can make one crazy, let’s all go crazy!
Everywhere he went preaching the good news of Jesus, Paul made converts. Both Jews and Gentiles became Christians, thanks to Paul. But, he also incurred opposition, sometimes violent opposition. He was upsetting the establishment—the religious leaders and the traditions. Especially offensive and controversial to some was Paul’s preaching of the resurrection of the dead.
When Paul came to Jerusalem to worship in the temple, he was recognized, and some began shouting at him. Paul was arrested for disturbing the peace, and eventually, to avoid execution, he appealed to the emperor. Paul was a Roman citizen and as such was entitled to procedures not available to most of the people. One procedure available to Paul was to request a trial in Rome, bypassing the local, biased authorities. On his way to Rome, he was examined by Governor Festus who could find nothing wrong with him. Festus asked King Agrippa, who was visiting in Caesarea at the time, to question Paul. Paul made his defense, interpreting the Bible, explaining how Moses and the prophets pointed to Jesus. The governor interrupted, “You are out of your mind. Too much learning is driving you insane.”
If so, let’s all go crazy. Today is Rally Day. The fall education program kicks off today. We’re looking for some touchdowns. We have talented, effective coaches. We have exceptional facilities. The field is ready. The opposition team, led by the Devil, is strong, but we are confident in ultimate victory because Jesus is our Head Coach, and he is unbeatable. But, to win against the forces of evil, we have to play the game, and to play we have to field a team. In the recent newsletter, I shared my concern for the children and youth who are not in the church, who are not on the team, who are not being coached by some of the best coaches around. Bring your children and grandchildren.
If we don’t field a team, if we don’t train our children and youth to fight the opposition, the opposition wins by forfeit. Our children and youth face tremendous pressure today. The world they live in is far different from the world I lived in. When I was in school in rural Minnesota, the biggest temptations we faced were smoking and drinking beer. There were no drugs, gangs, and pressure to perform like our kids face. Our children and youth are in battle, a daily battle, and I feel a concern for those who are not trained nor equipped with a firm biblical foundation.
And, I’m concerned about adults as well. How about you? Are you on the team? Are you going crazy about learning? Is too much learning about the Bible driving you insane? Let’s try an experiment. Listen up now. I’d like all those to stand up who know everything there is to know about the Bible. How about our beliefs? The Apostles’ Creed. Do you know everything there is to know? When Melanie, one of my granddaughters, was five-years old, we talked about Sunday School. She told me all about Moses and the Exodus. I was impressed with what she was learning. She said, “We know all about Jesus, now we are learning about Moses!” Are you like Melanie? Do you know all there is to know about Jesus?
What kind of contribution are you making to our team if you aren’t studying the manual and practicing? A young man impressed the foreman of his logging crew with his ability to swing an axe. He was hired on Monday, but fired on Friday. The young man protested, “I’m the hardest worker you have. I arrive first. I leave last. I even work through my coffee breaks.” The foreman thought for a minute, and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your axe?” The young man replied, “I’ve been working too hard to take the time.” He was so busy chopping; he neglected to sharpen his axe. Sometimes church members are tempted to get so busy doing church work, they neglect to sharpen their axe. They neglect to study. They neglect the Bible, our working manual.
Perhaps you are wondering why you need the Bible, and why you need to continually study and grow in your understanding of the Bible. Why? Because the Bible speaks to our age, speaks to our condition, speaks to us. The 20th century came like a lamb, and left like a lion. The 20th century dawned with hope for brotherhood, security, peace. There was a widespread belief in progress, technology, education and science. Then came two wars, a debilitating world depression, the demonic Hitler, the slaughter of Jews, atomic explosions in Japan, the threat of communism, wars in Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, 9/11 (the sixth anniversary is Tuesday), and now wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 20th century left like a lion.
The Bible is meant to be read and understood in times like these. With stark realism the Bible describes events which rocked the very foundation of life, destroyed nations and displaced populations, bringing havoc, suffering and anxiety. Poor people were the victims of the rich, and one great nation after another sought military triumph and suffered eventual defeat and destruction. The message of the Bible in those days is very relevant to our times. It finds us where we are living. It speaks of doubting and believing, hating and loving, despairing and hoping. Someone said, “The Bible is read with the eyes of shipwrecked people whose everything has gone overboard.” Perhaps the Bible is most deeply understood by folks who know themselves to be shipwrecked, tossed and turned, seeking to grab onto something that will allow them to float on the threatening water.
The Bible is an exciting, relevant book to read. And, if we are to hear God’s Word spoken through the Bible to us today, we must put ourselves within the world of the Bible, learn what was going on that prompted the author to write. When was it written? Why was it written? To whom was it written? We must try to read the Bible through the eyes of the ancient authors.
There are also many types of literature in the Bible. In order to understand the message, realize what type of literature you are reading. Don’t take poems so literally that you miss the beauty, the majesty, the message. For example, the first chapter of Genesis is not a scientific textbook on creation. It is a magnificent poem. Let the beauty and pageantry speak to you. Let your mind and spirit respond to the power and majesty of God. Don’t get bogged down trying to make Genesis something it was never intended to be. Be true to the literature.
Similarly, some folks read the Book of Revelation as a blueprint of the end of the world, and they look for current events to corroborate their preconceptions. But, again, Revelation is a poem, written by an author with a tremendous gift of imagination. Appreciate the imagination of the author, rather than trying to make him say things he is not saying! Let his imagination inspire you with hope in the ultimate victory of God. Hope is the message, not the details.
And, there in the reading and studying of Scripture, if you ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, you will discover the Word of God. The authors remembered stories, treasured traditions, and wrote using various forms of literature to tell how God had confronted them in the events that they had experienced. God revealed himself. God took the initiative to establish a relationship with his people, and God’s people includes you and me. God is still using the words of the Bible to speak to us, to reveal himself to us, to establish a relationship with us, to use us in God’s work, to fill us with hope, love, joy and peace.
Our church offers several Bible studies, described in this morning’s announcement sheet—Sunday morning, Saturday morning, Wednesday morning, Wednesday evening. And, we are talking about again offering Disciple, Book one, the entire Bible in an absorbing, thorough study. Join a study. Heed the admonishment of Proverbs 1.7, “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Some folks are crazy about football, some are crazy about baseball, some are crazy about rap, and the latest fads. Too much Bible learning can drive us insane, said the governor to Paul. Let’s go crazy about the Bible.