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Something Good Is Happening
September 28, 1975

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

HEBREWS 5:11-6:1a

The story is told of a one room rural school back in the days when students went to school intermittently, depending on their home chores. By the time they were in eighth grade, some of them were getting pretty old. If we think kids behave badly in school these days, remember those one room schoolhouses! This one school in particular was a real rough one. Teacher after teacher could not make it. Finally, in desperation, the school board decided to hire a retired school teacher, an old man who had quit teaching years before. He lived in the next county. The day for school to start came. The students all got there early. They could hardly wait to see this new teacher. They began laying laying bets, laying wagers among themselves as to how long he would stay. Some said he wouldn’t last a week, some said maybe a month, some only gave him a few days. They began planning their strategy, how they were going to run that teacher out. It came time for school to start. No teacher. Half an hour went by, no teacher. When someone’s late, you get a little antsy, a little on edge. They went outside, stood in front of the school and began to look for the teacher. Two hours went by, two and a half hours went by. 

Finally someone saw way down the dirt road a cloud of dust. They said, “Hey, somebody’s coming.” They waited and waited as the dust slowly moved their way. Soon they could see that it was an old horse pulling an old dilapidated wagon with an old man driving the horse. The horse slowly plodded along and came closer and closer to the school. When the horse and the wagon and the old man got in front of the school, the old man said, “Whoa,” but the horse kept moving along. The old man again said, “Whoa,” but the horse kept going. The students stood with open mouths. The old man reached down to the bottom of the wagon, pulled out one of those old long barrel revolvers, very calmly aimed at the horse’s head, pulled the trigger—bam, the horse went dead. The students were dumbfounded. The old man turned to them and said, “I just want you to know that when I say whoa, I mean, whoa.”

Today is Christian Education Sunday, a day when we remind ourselves that we all need to grow. We all need to study our heritage that is found in the Bible. We all need to mature and grow in the faith. Our New Testament lesson from Hebrews said, “You have to be teachers but I’m still giving you milk. I’m still giving you pablum. You’re not ready for solid food.” Christian education is the process whereby we all grow into maturity and the faith. It’s more than Sunday School. It’s a name for the process whereby we grow into the faith, we mature and move from milk to solid food. What does a child need? What does a youth need? What does an adult need in this church? That Christian education may happen, that we may grow in the faith. 

What kind of climate, what kind of environment do we need that will best facilitate Christian education? What kind of teachers, what kind of parents best enhance the process of Christian education? 

Bob Parker gave me a statement this week about a favorite teacher. Dan Moore remembered his teacher, Ms. Roberts. “She gave me no indication that she believed learning should be fun. She never stooped down when she spoke to me so that our eyes would be on the same level. She accepted the fact that she was taller and I was shorter, and she assumed I accepted it, and I did accept it. It never occurred to me to wonder whether she loved me. And more importantly, I never sensed any need on her part to manipulate my feelings toward her. The only feelings I sensed from her were these: She believed learning to read was the most important thing in the whole world. She had absolute confidence in her ability to teach me to read. For some reason which she never explained to me, she cared personally whether I learned to read or not. She was neither beautiful nor ugly. Her personality was neither sour nor dazzling. She never tried to dress like the younger generation. She never used my vernacular or slang when speaking to me. I do not know whether she was married or single. If she had a hobby, she never told the class about it. I cannot recall the primer or supplementary aids which she used. I have no idea what reading system she favored. I was in her class for 40 weeks. I have not seen her for 40 years. About her I’m positive of only two things. She taught me how to read. And I always remember her with love.” 

Ms Roberts was not a chum. She was a teacher. Ms Roberts never tried to be like the students with her behavior, her language or her dress. And I imagine when she said “Whoa” they knew she meant “Whoa”. Ms Roberts seems to be a person who accepted and assumed wholeheartedly responsibility to her students and not responsibility for them. There is a fine distinction. No parent is responsible for the children. No teacher is responsible for the class. No spouse is responsible for the other. None of us is responsible for each other. Of course, parents are responsible that the kids eat, go to school, and have clothes. But I’m talking about responsibility in the ultimate sense of the word. You are not responsible for their value system. You are not responsible for the choice they make in their vocation. You are not responsible for the way they choose to live their life, what is right and what is wrong. You are not responsible for what they do with the training that you give them. You are not responsible for the relationships they develop with their spouse or their children or their God. No one has ultimate responsibility for another person’s life. 

But you are responsible to them. You are responsible to each other. You as a parent, you as a Sunday School teacher, you as a teacher, you as a church member, you are responsible to be the best person you can be, to live up to your ideals, to live up to your beliefs. You are responsible to be an authentic, genuine person in your own self. You are responsible to be a person of integrity, honesty and inner consistency with what you say, what you do and what you believe. You are responsible to be a model of who and what you are. 

We were privileged to see the movie version of “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry”.  I recommend the movie to you—a monologue of Harry Truman for two hours, just one man on the screen. It’s alive, it’s vital and it’s a beautiful movie. Harry Truman is becoming a folk hero of our day. History is looking back on his terms and seeing a man who had no pretense, who was not phony, a man who was crude at times, and upset the country who felt he did not bring stature to the office. But he was a man of integrity. He was a man who was honest. Now our country seems to be looking for someone that we can hold up as a hero. We look far and wide for someone with integrity, for someone with stature. Truman was a man who said, believed and acted on his principles. He was a man who proved to us that it can work. He alienated huge power blocs in this nation. He stood up to big business. He stood up to the labor unions. He stood up to the military, huge, powerful blocs in our society. He stood up to them all, and was still re-elected by the people. His philosophy was that the major problem in America is the belief that money is more important than honor. He accepted his responsibility to do the best that he could. O, how your children and my children; O, how our youth; O, how we all need to have people and relate to people who believe in honor, principles, stature and integrity. 

I have a responsibility to you, not for you. I have a responsibility as a minister to you to be the best I can be, to preach to you, to teach you, to live the principles that I believe is what God wants for our day, what I believe God’s Word to our day is. That’s my responsibility. It’s not my responsibility that you like me, or that you that you agree with me. And if I were you, I wouldn’t give a dime for a preacher that you agreed with all the time for then there’s something wrong with his preaching. As I observe, as I look at our children and youth today, I believe that those who are having a difficult time living and growing up these days have parents and  teachers who first of all, take too much responsibility for the children’s lives. They dominate them, stifle them, lay trips on them, make their decisions for them and try to plan their lives. A child raised in that kind of environment has a difficult time finding out who he is. 

On the other hand, a child has a very difficult time growing up in this day and age if he has parents and teachers who are weak, wishy washy, inconsistent, who say “Whoa”, and don’t mean “Whoa”. He has a difficult time because he has nothing to back up against, nothing to rub against, nothing to bounce off from. It’s just mush. If Christian education is really going to happen, then we need to accept the responsibility placed upon us to be the best people we can be, to live up to our ideals, to be inner consistent, to have integrity. 

Secondly, if Christian education is really going to happen in this church, then we need to accept the responsibility to share what God has given us. You need to share with the rest of us what God has given to you. Take a look at you. Some of you feel like you need to do something. Some of you feel like you need to get off the dime. Some of you feel that there’s something missing in your life, that it is not as satisfying and fulfilling as it could be. Some of you are standing on the lake shore with your big toe testing the water and your leg is going to get tired. Do you decide to jump in the water, whole heartedly commit yourself, get involved? You get back what you put in, you receive what you put in.

Some of you need to go further, to go deeper into the Christian faith. Some of you are hesitant and cautious. And you’re not that satisfied. You’re trying to be happy, you’re trying to be satisfied on milk when God gave you teeth for steak, and God gives us the steak all barbecued. All the opportunities we have to grow in his grace, all the opportunities we have to go deeper in him are here. Here’s the steak and you are drinking milk and a steady milk diet gets monotonous. A lot of people come to church every now and then, or they come to church in spurts. They come for a few weeks, a few months straight, They go to  United Methodist Women, they go to Methodist Men, they get active for a while but then comes the point where they have to eat solid food and they’re not ready to do that. The milk they’re drinking is not satisfying. Church gets monotonous and boring because they won’t go the next step which is to share, to participate, to get involved, to study, to get into the Bible. We have opportunities on the second and fourth Tuesdays. We have a new group on Sunday night which will soon expand out to the rest of us. We have opportunities Sunday morning for you to study.

Some of you need to get into prayer to open yourself to God’s grace, to open yourself to the depth that’s inside you. Let God move in your life and give you real satisfaction. 

Some of you need like we heard this morning to give more money. Some of you are not giving so it hurts. And that’s unsatisfying. It’s unrewarding to just dabble with God’s work. Some of you need to take that step on faith, to really pledge as if you mean business with God, and find the fulfillment and the satisfaction from being serious with him. 

Some of you need to work and to serve. We have all kinds of opportunities for you to teach, to help teach classes, to work with your hands. The newsletter this week is going to come out with a list of things that we need done—repair, maintenance, little odds and ends that we cannot afford to pay for. Some of you that have the skill need to come and help. 

Some of you can go visiting. You can invite your neighbors and friends. You can visit people and say, “We’re so glad you came to our church. We want you to come and be a part of our fellowship.” That is one of the huge needs in our church right now. We need people who will reach out. Will you come to me and say, “Yes, I will help visit. I will go visiting.”

Everyone can do their part so Christian education can happen. Something good is happening and we all need to participate. We all need to get into it wholeheartedly, accept the responsibility to be the best people we can be with integrity, character and principles, and to accept the responsibility to share what God has given to you. God has given you a beautiful life. You are a beautiful person. Come out of your shell and share you with the rest of us. Then something good will really happen.

© 1975 Douglas I. Norris