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One Leg on the Other
September 7, 1980

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

1 KINGS 18:20-24; LUKE 16:10-13

It was a terrible drought in Israel. Israel was the name of the northern kingdom after that tiny nation divided in two following a civil war. Judah was the name of the southern kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital, Israel was the northern kingdom with Samaria as its capital. There had been a terrible drought on the land. They were threatening even to kill the animals because of the lack of water and subsequently a lack of food. They blamed the controversy of the day, the political and religious situation for the lack of rain. It depended on which side you were on as to who you blamed. There was a controversy between those who worshiped the god Baal, and those who worshiped the God YWH. YWH is the Hebrew consonants for God, translated usually as Lord, or in the older translations as Jehovah. A more correct pronunciation is Yahweh. There was a controversy between Baal and Yahweh.

 Ahab, the king of Israel had married a foreigner by the name of Jezebel who worshiped Baal. Ahab and Jezebel built a temple right in the capital of Samaria, a temple with images of the god Baal, a terrible affront to the worshipers of Yahweh the Lord. They persecuted the prophets of Yahweh and executed many of them. They were looking and searching for the greatest prophet of the time, Elijah. Ahab wanted him and put out an APB on Elijah. He even sought to extradite Elijah from neighboring kingdoms when he would cross borders. Ahab called Elijah the prophet, “the worst troublemaker in Israel”. And Elijah, on the other hand, accused the drought on Ahab the king for betraying his people, for setting up the worship of Baal and for the indecisiveness of the people. 

Eliza because of the terrible drought decided to take matters in his own hand. Pulling together a great amount of courage, he went and met King Ahab. He confronted him and set up a contest—oh, what a drama that must have been! To the top of Mount Carmel, people from all around came to watch Elijah challenge the prophets of Baal. There were 450 prophets for Baal and one lone prophet for the Lord— Elijah. Elijah challenged them to make a fire. He said, “Call upon your God to make a fire.” That's a beautiful, dramatic story. You read it, I don't have time to tell it. But of course, Elijah won the day with a fire and with the bringing of rain. 

But, it's Eliza's challenge to the people I want to lift up. Elijah stood there in the face of failure, with a fear of failure. He stood there face to face with the king and issued this challenge to all the people, “How long will you go limping along with two different opinions?” In the Revised Standard Version and in the Jerusalem Bible, it’s translated, “How long do you mean to hobble first on one leg and then the other?” The hobbling stance.

Jesus stated the same stance in our New Testament lesson from Luke, “No one can serve two masters. You will either hate the one and love the other, or you will respect the one and scorn the other.” No one can serve two masters. You can't hobble along. The Israelites hobbled and vacillated. They danced for both gods. They couldn't make up their minds. They were indecisive. Their loyalties were watered down, their ethics were a mess for they tried to follow both gods. They had no sense of purpose. They had no sense of direction. They foundered, crumbled, fumbled, and lost their nation. Their nation was destroyed by the enemy because of the weakness within, because of no center, no hub, no direction—hobbling along on one leg or the other. 

Eliza's challenge is still directed to us. There are many people who hobble along. On one hand is a person who is pressured, victimized by the calendar with so many meetings, harried, pulled this way and pulled that way, little time for family, little time for friends, no time for church, no time for God—pulled, harried and takes tranquilizers to calm down. On the other hand, is that isolated, lonely, depressed person who has all kinds of time and nothing to do, feels useless, and drinks alcohol, which is a further depressant. Both these people are hobbling for they have no morality, no purpose, no direction, no priorities or they have too many priorities. To our society and to you, Elijah says, “How long do you mean to hobble first on one leg and then the other?” 

If Jesus Christ is God, follow him. If something else is God, follow that. Is Christ God to you this morning? Or what is your God? Are you hobbling and vacillating and can't make up your minds? What is your center? What is your focus? What is your God? I have a test for you if you don't know. Some say, “Well, I think I'm a Christian. I hope I'm a Christian.” That's a sad statement. If you don't know one way or the other, you are hobbling. I have two tests to help you answer the question and to decide what is your focus and what is your God. These are simple tests—self administered, self graded. School is starting so you get tests. 

The first test is this. Take your billfold, take your checkbook and see where you spend your money. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Where you spend your money is what tells you and the whole world what is your priority. “No one can serve two masters,” says Jesus, “You cannot serve God and money.” It's one or the other. If you're hobbling along, look at how you spend your money. Inflation—the cost of food makes it even more essential to decide what are your priorities. What are you doing with your money is what you're doing with your life. If the Lord Jesus Christ is not getting 10%, who is? What is your God? If the Lord is not getting a high proportion, first off the top, what is? That says what are your priorities. If Jesus Christ is Lord, follow him with your billfold. If something else is God, if pleasure or materialism or fun or security or retirement is God, follow them with your billfold. How long do you mean to hobble along first on one leg and then the other? 

The second test if you didn't like that one! The second test is the calendar. The calendar is how you spend your time. If your calendar runs you with all kinds of meetings, places to go and you're harried and pressured and you say, “Oh, I've got so much to do. There just isn't time for God or the church or family.” That's a bunch of baloney. The calendar tells the tale of who or what is your God. 

How long do you mean to hobble along? Hobbling along is not very happy. Hobbling along is not very satisfying. The result of hobbling along, of playing around with religion, of not fully committing to Christ is guilt. Too many of us run on guilt and a sense of duty. Guilt or tensions or frustrations or unhappiness are the results of hobbling. 

If you're hobbling, you're missing out on the joy of being fully committed to Jesus Christ, fully committed with heart, body, mind, billfold and time. You’re missing out on peace which comes to one fully committed as a child of God—contentment, satisfaction. Let’s not hobble. Let's get with it. March instead of hobbling, limping and crippling along. Dance with all your energy before the Lord, with all the excitement, enthusiasm, joy and peace that comes when Jesus is really your Lord. 

May this Roundup be an occasion, may Communion be an occasion to dance instead of hobble. As you again receive the love of God, the salvation of Jesus Christ as Jesus Christ died for you, as you receive these elements, may you respond with a commitment, a total full commitment so the Holy Spirit may fill you and cause you to dance and not hobble.

© 1980 Douglas I. Norris