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Do Stick Out Our Tongue
February 17, 1980

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


How many of you were ever told by your mother or your teacher, “Don’t stick out your tongue?” My Grandpa Norris loved to tell how, when he was a boy, one of his classmates had this irritating habit of sticking out his tongue until one day my grandfather got irritated with him, clipped him under the chin and severely cut his tongue. The boy didn't stick out his tongue after that. But, there are occasions, there are times and places where it is appropriate to stick out your tongue. When the doctor examines your sore throat, you get in a very undignified position with the tongue hanging out and the board stuck in your mouth, and he tells you to say “Ahhh!” 

In New Zealand, on our recent travel, we discovered another occasion for sticking out one's tongue. All over New Zealand, there are Maori artifacts. The Maoris were the original inhabitants of New Zealand and they are still there. They were Polynesian. Many of these artifacts are images of human persons called tikis, and many of these tikis in the shape of a human face have the tongue hanging out. All over New Zealand you see statues with tongues hanging out. 

One evening, we went to a Maori presentation—a pageant of song and dance in the meeting house in the Maori village of Rotorua, New Zealand. This was a pageant depicting the history of their people. Youth and adults who are interested in preserving the culture, the heritage of the Maoris put this pageant on. It was excellent. They depicted the immigration of the Mario's when they went to New Zealand. There were several waves of immigration, the latest being in about 1350 A.D. They came from many other islands as did the Hawaiians migrate to what is now Hawaii. Tradition says that the Maoris came to New Zealand from Tahiti. 

The dancers reenacted the scene where the chief wrestled with the problem of overpopulation. There were too many people living on Tahiti with the limited resources they had. He wrestled with the problem. Several hundred years earlier, a navigator by the name of Kupe returned to the island saying that there was a large island to the south. How this navigator ever got there and back and had enough navigational skills and tools to tell these people how to get there again, is really quite magical and creative. The chief, after a whole night of prayer, in consultation with the elders, decided to dispatch immigrant settlers to this new land. The dancers in this pageant reenacted the building of the canoes. There were 12 canoes seating probably 70 people. To this day, the Maoris can tell you who the commanders were of each canoe, and what tribes were represented. 

Throughout the dance that evening, the male dancers would stick out their tongues, much to the delight of the children in the audience, and much to the delight of the older children. They would hang their tongues out as far as they could stick them, and then wiggle them rapidly. A member of the audience asked the Master of Ceremonies, “What does that mean when they stick out their tongues?” The Master of Ceremonies laughingly refused to answer the question. He said, “You figure it out.” That became a challenge to us. When we went to museums, we would try to research and find out why they're sticking out their tongues. Through observation and close listening that evening, I made up my own reasons. Maybe they're correct, I don't know. 

I commend these reasons to you as an occasion, a time and a place for you to stick out your tongue. It seems that the essence of the Maoris sticking out their tongues is in defiance of their enemies. Most of these images are of a warrior with his weapons of war in a posture of a war dance with his tongue stuck out at the enemy. Whether they went into battle with their tongues hanging out or not, I don't know. But at least figuratively, they went into battles with the attitude, “I defy you. You, my enemy cannot defeat me. I refuse to be intimidated by you, I will not be afraid.” 

There were also enemies in the spirit world. The Maoris had a hard life on New Zealand. The climate was much colder, and not conducive to the kind of life they'd had in the warmer area. They not only had real trouble with enemies, they had trouble with geography, and they believed they had trouble with a supernatural world. They believed that all around them were spirits. Many of them were the spirits of their ancestors. These spirits were easily offended, and would bring trouble and havoc on the population. So the Maoris would stick out their tongue at the spirits in defiance, and say, “I defy you. I refuse to be intimidated by you. I will not be afraid.” 

There is also a third kind of enemy. It was said that night at the pageant that the sticking out of the tongue was an act of defiance against one's inner enemies. We can relate to that. Not many of you have warriors out to get you, and most of us do not have trouble with the supernatural world, wondering what to do, how to cope and how to control it. But we all can relate to inner enemies. We know what they are. We have in us Old Doubt that tarnishes the big front we put up. Old doubt nags at us and says, “You can't make it. You'll never do it. You will fail.” Or, that old negative Murphy's Law, “If there's anything that can go wrong, it will.” A lot of people believe that, so they don't try because they know it will go wrong. And those old enemies in us called jealousy and resentment that get ahold of us, sap our energy and restrict our creative powers because we're all tied up with being angry and hostile. We know about those enemies. Or, the fear of the world situation today, or the fear of what's going to happen to us at the end of the world or whatever. Take those enemies, like the Maoris, and stick out your tongue. Old doubt, old jealousy, old resentment, old fear, old inadequacy, I am not afraid of you. I refuse to be intimidated. 

I invite you today to defy your enemies. Realize and recognize that we do have enemies. Sometimes we allow the shallow optimism of thinking that the world is all rosy and that everything is created for our pleasure and our enjoyment. And then when things don't go our way, we are confused. But that shallow optimistic view of life is not biblical. The Bible recognizes there are enemies. James 4:7, “Resist the devil and he will run away from you.” Resist the devil. Stick out your tongue! 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Our enemy the devil is prowling like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Stand up to him.” Stand up to him. Stick out your tongue. Our scripture lesson from Ephesians, “Put on the armor of God and resist the enemy.” Christian humility, meekness and forbearance do not mean acquiescence, a blind acceptance of whatever comes. 

I visited in the hospital in Australia with one of our parishioners who was facing surgery the next day. There was a possibility of cancer. The evening before the surgery, she said, “If they find cancer, I'm going to refuse all further surgery. Let nature take its course. If it's God's will that I'm to die with cancer, I will die. If it's my time, I will go.” I said to her, “Not everything is God's will. There are enemies in this life and one of the worst enemies is cancer. Cancer is an enemy. Fight it. Don't give in and don't acquiesce.” If I had been to New Zealand at that time, I could have told her, “Stick out your tongue at  that cancer.” Say, “I refuse to be intimidated by you. I refuse to let you louse up my life. I'm going to live my life the way God intended it, and you can go jump!” That's what Jesus did. 

Jesus attacked the enemies. He chased out the money changers with a whip. He sharply denounced the Pharisees and Sadducees who were interfering. He had sharp words for demons, for the evil spirits.  I don't recall Jesus ever telling anyone who came to him with a health problem, or who came to him with any kind of trouble, or any kind of illness saying, “It’s God's will. Accept it.” But, rather, Jesus used words like, “Take up your bed and walk. And your faith will make you well.” If Jesus had ever been to New Zealand, I bet he would have told them, “Stick out your tongue.” 

Maybe that's a good gesture. Sometimes it takes a gesture or an act to release the emotions within us. Maybe sticking out the tongue is good, like a scream. Don't you feel some days like going out in the backyard and screaming? Maybe you should. Maybe all that stuff inside would come out. Try sticking out your tongue way out. Can you get it out there? Try it and then wiggle it as fast as you can. Have you ever stuck out your tongue in church before? 

Today after the service, we will have our monthly healing service. I invite you to participate with special prayers for yourself or for someone else. This healing service is a way of sticking out our tongues. Laying on of hands and anointing with oil—the ancient rites of the church—is a way of defying the enemies. There's quite a bit of interest in these ancient ceremonies. 

In Australia I was asked twice to lead a healing service. Neither person knew of the other requests. They didn’t know of any history that we have had here.

The first request was from a family who had premature twins. They were born three months early. One was just under one pound and the other was over one pound. The picture of the nurse holding a baby shows that the baby fit in the palm of her hand and the safety pin was as wide as the baby. They were the smallest babies to ever survive in the state of Queensland. They are bouncing baby boys now, named Laughlin and Cameron. Guess what ancestry—Laughlin and Cameron, One of the babies had been in a coma. One had eye trouble from the oxygen and was still undergoing surgery. They asked for special prayers. We gathered the family together, anointed with oil, laid on hands and prayed. 

The other request was from Vince who went blind 20 years ago. He was now scheduled for cataract surgery. The doctor said there may be a little bit of hope if he does cataract surgery. Vince may see a little light. In anticipation of that surgery, he asked for special healing prayers. Vince had never been to New Zealand, but he lives his life sticking out his tongue. He refuses to be intimidated by his blindness. He is a tremendous person. He raises orchids, and he can tell the color, the texture, the type, and the condition of the orchids just by feeling. He takes care of their yard. He sings in the choir by memorizing all the music. He is called upon by different clubs and organizations to give recitations. He has memorized some of the old Aussie ballads and songs. He made a tape of some of them for me. When he requested the healing service, he said, “I just want to make sure that my inner life is ready, that I have my whole being concentrated and ready so that God can move through the surgeon.” 

That's what we try to do. We call on all our resources. With the prayers of many people, we attack, We cooperate with the process so healing may run unimpeded, and unhindered. I invite you to stay afterwards. 

Whatever your enemy, whatever your doubt, whatever is hindering and blocking you, go in the bedroom, shut the door, name the enemy and stick out your tongue!

© 1980 Douglas I. Norris