Society’s Goals

According to my records, this was actually the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.

This was the message that I gave at Alexander Chapel UMC (Mason, TN) for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (8 June 1997). The Scriptures for this Sunday were 1 Samuel 8: 4 – 20 (11: 14 – 15), 2 Corinthians 4: 13 – 5: 1, and Mark 3: 20 – 35.

Society today presents us with two contradictory goals. First, we are told that we are better off waniting what others have. But, second, we are also told that we are better off staying with what we already have. These contradictory goals come about because we, as a society, have forgotten where we have come from and how our goals should be set.

We are encouraged through the advertisements we see on television, hear on the radio, and read in the newspaper to seek what others have, no matter if what they have is what is best for us. These ads often imply that our lives will be better with these particular products. There is even a company that tries to determine what is “cool” so advertisers and manufacturers will know what to make and sell in the coming day.

On the other hand,, while we want what others have, we are not willing to let go of what we already have. Change comes difficult to society today. No matter the time or place, people get set in their ways. You should see the look on people’s faces when they find out that I hold a Ph. D. and have taught college but now want to be a preacher. To these people, I cannot be a preacher because my training and background are not of the church. Once you have set your career, you are not supposedly allowed to change.

Even Jesus’ own family had a problem with his ministry. As noted in the Gospel reading, Jesus’ mother and brothers came to take him home, convinced that he was crazy.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

I won’t tell you what my brothers and sister said.

The reading from the Old Testament today shows us that the desire to have what others have is not a new phenomenon but one that has been with us for a long time. The elders of Israel come before Samuel and ask him to appoint a king to lead them. As stated in the commentary accompanying the scripture, this request is made in part because Samuel’s sons, who were the judges of that time, were corrupt and inept. Were that the only reason, then I think Samuel would have obliged and appointed a new king. But, the Israelites wanted a king so that they could be like the other nations in that area.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

The conversation between Samuel and God at that time tells us a great deal about how we live our lives today.

And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as the their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.

As God told him to do, Samuel told the Israelites what God had said and what this new king would do.

Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maid servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

You can almost hear the Israelites crying like little children, “But Daddy! Everyone else has one. Why can’t we?” Are we not like that today? Do we not seek something that we believe will make us better but, in the long run, will lead us to ruin? Do we remember from where all our riches come from? Why do we seek in the material world around us that which we actually get from God?

Now it should also be pointed out that “going with the flow” as its own problems as well. Those in the “cool” business are quick to point out that what is “cool” today may not be so tomorrow so that it is possible that what you bought to be part of the “in crowd” today will make you part of the “out” crowd tomorrow.

There is the desire to make sure that we are comfortable with our lives. Anything which disturbs that comfort will always be met with resistance.

That was the case with the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel reading today. They knew of all the miracles that Jesus was doing, healing the sick, curing the lame, helping the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, but they were not will to believe that such things could occur. After all, Jesus was doing things that they had been telling the people were impossible. So, instead of believing, they choose to defame Jesus’ character.

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub. By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

In response to his acts, the scribes and Pharisees attributed his power to Satan. But Jesus, speaking in parables, asked the Pharisees and scribes how he could be an agent of the devil if he were casting out the same agents.

“How can Satan drive Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whosoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”

In his parable about someone breaking into the strong man’s house, Jesus pointed out that you must tie up the strong man first. And the only one with the power to overcome Satan was the Holy Spirit, so how could Jesus be of Satan?

The problem for the scribes and Pharisees was that they had forgotten what God had promised. The scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus as a danger to them because they were not willing to see Jesus as a fulfillment of the law.

That is the same for us today. The contradiction of today’s society, the demands society puts on us each day come from our viewing society from within. The one thing that Jesus did was to change that viewpoint, to view life and society from a totally different viewpoint.

So what should our goals for living in today’s society be? The contradictions in society’s goals come because we view society from within. Jesus asked us to change that viewpoint. Remember that His mother and brothers came looking for him.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

Some say that Jesus’ response to their search was a rejection

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

But what Jesus was doing was expanding the definition of a family.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and my sister and mother.”

If we come to Jesus in body and spirit, if we do God’s will as Jesus asks us to do, then we become a part of the heavenly family. We know that Jesus’ mother was present at his crucifixion and that his brother James, the author of the Letter of James, became a leader in the latter church so we know that they did understand what Jesus was doing.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians of the difficulty in keeping the Christian life. Yes, the road is tough, the life is hard but the rewards can be worth the struggle.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building form God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Paul told the Corinthians; Paul is telling us today that the struggles that we encounter today are worth it if our goal goes beyond the limits of today’s society. Our frustrations in life today will never go away when all we try to do is hold on tightly to that which we have now or if we try to achieve things that cannot be ours anyway. But, if we accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior; if we understand that Jesus died to save us from our sins, then we understand, as Paul did, that nothing on this earth can ever be worthy of what we will gain in heaven.

Nothing we have will ever match that which Jesus did for us. The hymn “Just As I Am” tells us that we are accepted into heaven as we are, not as we would like to be. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins so that we could be accepted into heaven.

All that He asks is that we accept Him into our hearts fully and without condition.

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