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The Blessing of the Curse

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The Blessing of the Curse

Intro [talk about series after thanks. Then talk about the commercial and lead into my use of that great sermon idea as a starting off point for our text…]

Intro [talk about series after thanks, then talk about the commercial and lead into my use of that great sermon idea as a starting off point for our text]

Intro [talk about series after thanks, then talk about the commercial and lead into my use of that great sermon idea as a starting off point for our text]

[quote to point out on end…what we want to be]
And every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning.
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.
I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.
I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say.
...This Drum Major Instinct can cause us to be great [for good and bad…list some]
John 9:1–5 NIV
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
John 9:1–7 NIV
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
John 9:1-
pray
[firstpichere]
“Who sinned, this man or his parents?”
You can tell by the reaction of the disciples that someone had to be blamed. Someone had to have caused this curse that this man had in his flesh. And even by saying that today, it makes it clear that the disciples, and likely everyone in that area, if not the world, thought of people much the same as we do today.
Some deserve goodness, and some deserve badness.
Now hear me clearly, that isn’t a good thing. No, I think that when we think that, we fly directly in opposition to the very word of God, but nonetheless, here we stand. Completely and utterly in agreement with these disciples, at least, if we are being honest.
I say that because of the countless conversations I have had with some of the most dedicated and wonderful servants of God I know! People who confess the difficulty of viewing everyone through the lens of Christ, and holding everyone else as more valuable to God, if not at least JUST as valuable to God, as they are.
This past week I had conversations with some of our youth, and our prayer group, about some of those issues. While I don’t feel the need to delve too far into them, the issues we discussed were ones that reflected our view of other people. It centered around this idea of what makes one person deserving of punishment and not another. In the hypothetical I placed before them, I asked them to consider someone killed a loved one. And then after the murderer was convicted of said murder, and sentenced to die, another loved one kills the murderer. Should he be sentenced to death as well?
It’s a hard question.
It’s hard because of how we rank sin, and even people because of their sin, in our own hearts. We raise some up, especially if they look and think like us, while others we push down.
This drum major instinct that Dr. King spoke of, leads us to gather all those who are likeminded, and who live like us and perhaps look like us - to gather them all around and create from them our little micro-societies.
[picofblindmanpersecuted]
But to do that effectively, often we need a scapegoat. An “other” that we can hold up against us. For the intellectuals it is the uneducated. For the rich it is the poor. For the poor it is the rich. For the liberal it is the conservative, and for the conservative the liberal. There is always SOMEONE who has to be the “other.” The one we are never like. Someone who has it wrong or is just cursed to not know or be like us.
Unfortunately, even the faithful can be diagnosed with that disease. The church holds it’s share of responsibility in this struggle against the drum major instinct. Believers versus unbelievers. Doers versus Faithers. Baptists versus Catholics. Denomination pitted against denomination, all vying for this invisible prize of “rightness” with God! This pull towards orthodoxy, or right thinking as the word means, as long as orthodoxy looks like I want it to look.
But let me echo Dr. King in this moment. In that same sermon he says:
“I've been to churches, you know, and they say, "We have so many doctors, and so many school teachers, and so many lawyers, and so many businessmen in our church." And that's fine, because doctors need to go to church, and lawyers, and businessmen, teachers—they ought to be in church. But they say that—even the preacher sometimes will go all through that—they say that as if the other people don't count.
And the church is the one place where a doctor ought to forget that he's a doctor. The church is the one place where a Ph.D. ought to forget that he's a Ph.D. The church is the one place that the school teacher ought to forget the degree she has behind her name. The church is the one place where the lawyer ought to forget that he's a lawyer. And any church that violates the "whosoever will, let him come" doctrine is a dead, cold church, and nothing but a little social club with a thin veneer of religiosity.”
Church we are all the same. We are all one in Christ. From the richest to the poorest. Young or old. Schooled or unschooled. We are meant to see everyone the same way - as children of God.
[paradepichere]
But these disciples, and we, can’t seem to always pull that off. And not just these disciples, church, this story continues to hammer home this idea, and really draw it close to our hearts.
[summarize]
His town needed him to be the blind guy. The Pharisees needed him to be a sinner. His family needed him to take away the pressure of the church, and suffer, even though he had been healed! The class order had been demolished, and that turns everything on it’s head!
They needed that “other.” For them to be in the band at the head of the parade, they needed someone to not be as special as them watching as the parade passed them by.
They needed it so much that his neighbors demanded to see the one who did it. The Pharisees insisted that He was a liar. His parents disown him and leave him to his own destruction. And then finally, after they find no reason or cause for this miracle, this sign of God, this unbelievable good that was bestowed on this man they would normally marginalize, finding no trace of God in it, they throw him out.
They cast him aside, and banish him from the faith.
“You were steeped in sin at birth,” they said.
[diversitypichere]
It’s your fault. You did this to yourself. You made the choice to not be like me. I AM THE DRUM MAJOR! I am free from the sin that caused you to look different, or think differently, or to conceptualize life differently from me! How dare you tell me how to believe!
Church, all too often, that is us.
We have to harness that instinct, that desire to be most noteworthy, and filter it through the words of our Savior! “Let he who is greatest become the servant.” Let the one who thinks the most of themselves lower themselves below everyone else! Let the lofty be made low! Let the rich become poor! Let the wise become fools! Scripture is clear, time and time again, that to understand and experience God, you have to hang up all those things that you think you are supposed to have - nice cars, position, friends, money, luxury, whatever - and take the position of one who has nothing! One who we, and these people in this text, think is cursed!
And we have to do that, church, because it is right then and there that we see the truth of this text, a truth that rings throughout all time!
There is blessing in the curse! This whole world can cast us aside church. Our neighbors, our family, even our church, but at the end of the day, when all those people have cast you aside, there stands Jesus! There stands the very one who gave you sight to begin with! There stands the leader of the parade! There stands the very one we should be paying attention to and giving our life to! There stands our Savior!
John 9:35–38 NIV
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
John 9:35
Lord I believe! I believe.
When this world leaves you behind. When the parade of life goes another direction, all you are left with is Jesus. And just as important for the believer, when you give up all those things that get in the way of living like Christ, all that you will find is Jesus. And right there, that is where we will find our life, and will find the blessing of the curse.
[schoolpic]
Fred Craddock, a renowned preacher and professor of Homiletic’s once told a story that I think speaks to that idea.
In a certain village the school bell rang at 8:30 am to call the children to class. The boys and girls left their homes and toys reluctantly, creeping like snails into the school, not late but not a second early. The bell rang again at 3:30pm, releasing the children to homes and toys, to which they rushed at the very moment of the tolling of the bell. This is how it was every day, with every child, except one. She came early to help the teacher prepare the room and materials for the day. She stayed late to help the teacher clean the board, dust erasers, and put away materials. And during the day she sat close to the teacher, all eyes and ears for the lessons being taught. One day when noise and inattention were worse than usual, the teacher called the class to order. Pointing to the little girl in the front row, the teacher said, “Why can you not be as she is? She comes early to help, she stays late to help, and all day long she is attentive and courteous.”
“It isn’t fair to ask us to be as she is,” said one boy from the rear of the room.
“Why?”
“Because she has an advantage,” he replied.
“I don’t understand. What is her advantage?” asked the puzzled teacher.
“She is an orphan,” he whispered as he sat down.
[
John 9:3 NIV
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Church, I don’t know what your curse is. Maybe you don’t think your smart enough, or handsome enough, or thin enough. Maybe you don’t think you have enough money, or can’t get to where you think you need to be in life. Whatever you think might limit you, it is a lie.
This blind man, and this orphan, they found out the truth. They stuck close to the master, to the one who offered them life, and there in that life - as they offered their full attention and all their moments, they found that there is blessing in the curse! They found that if they only keep close to the real Drum Major, that they are at the head of the parade! And if we give Him all our attention, all our time, all our lives, we will find that same advantage and blessing church! And what an unbelievable way to live our lives.
Remember, God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good. We can’ t know His ways, and we need not try. We need to harness that desire to be thought of as great, or to think of others as not so great, and be reminded of God’s truth. A truth offered by the flawed vessel of a truck commercial.
Everybody can be great. And that everybody, includes you.
and verse 33]
be sure to use and verse 33]
In a certain village the school bell rang at 8:30 am to call the children to class. The boys and girls left their homes and toys reluctantly, creeping like snails into the school, not late but not a second early. The bell rang again at 3:30pm, releasing the children to homes and toys, to which they rushed at the very moment of the tolling of the bell. This is how it was every day, with every child, except one. She came early to help the teacher prepare the room and materials for the day. She stayed late to help the teacher clean the board, dust erasers, and put away materials. And during the day she sat close to the teacher, all eyes and ears for the lessons being taught. One day when noise and inattention were worse than usual, the teacher called the class to order. Pointing to the little girl in the front row, the teacher said, “Why can you not be as she is? She comes early to help, she stays late to help, and all day long she is attentive and courteous.”
“It isn’t fair to ask us to be as she is,” said one boy from the rear of the room.
“Why?”
“Because she has an advantage,” he replied.
“I don’t understand. What is her advantage?” asked the puzzled teacher.
“She is an orphan,” he whispered as he sat down.
“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve!
You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
[commericial…use with “he who wants to be great...”]
And you can be that servant. You just have to be touched by Christ, you have to have been given sight by God - eyes that can see the truth! Eyes that are fixed on the Master! Eyes that in light of the abandonment of this world seek to find the Savior! Eyes locked on to Jesus, hanging on every word, and desperate to learn and to serve from the Savior of the world. When you have sight like that, church, you will not only be blessed, but you will have mastered this drum major instinct, and will, like this man, be able to overcome any obstacle in this life. You will find the blessing in the curse.
And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don't have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant…[my words…you just have to be touched by Christ, you have to have been given sight by God - eyes that can see the truth! Eyes that are fixed on the Master! Eyes that in light of the abandonment of this world seek to find the Savior! Eyes locked on to Jesus, hanging on every word, and desperate to learn and to serve from the Savior of the world. When you have sight like that, church, you will not only be blessed, but you will have mastered this drum major instinct, and will, like this man, be able to overcome any obstacle in this life....tell orphan story]…[
But more important than that. You will lead the parade to truly know and experience God. You will be a drum major for Grace.
Invitation
And the church is the one place where a doctor ought to forget that he's a doctor. The church is the one place where a Ph.D. ought to forget that he's a Ph.D. (Yes) The church is the one place that the school teacher ought to forget the degree she has behind her name. The church is the one place where the lawyer ought to forget that he's a lawyer. And any church that violates the "whosoever will, let him come" doctrine is a dead, cold church, (Yes) and nothing but a little social club with a thin veneer of religiosity.
But this is why we are drifting. And we are drifting there because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. "I must be first." "I must be supreme." "Our nation must rule the world." (Preach it) And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I'm going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.
...But that isn't what Jesus did; he did something altogether different. He said in substance, "Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you're going to be my disciple, you must be." But he reordered priorities. And he said, "Yes, don't give up this instinct. It's a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It's a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do."
And he transformed the situation by giving a new definition of greatness. And you know how he said it? He said, "Now brethren, I can't give you greatness. And really, I can't make you first." This is what Jesus said to James and John. "You must earn it. True greatness comes not by favoritism, but by fitness. And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared." (Amen)
And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That's a new definition of greatness.
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