November 26, 2006
"Who Touched The Remote Control?"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Maybe you've heard about the family who was asked by their pastor how much time they spent together in meaningful discussion. The father said that they spent about two-and-a-half hours a day in meaning discussion. The pastor was impressed. "That's wonderful! That's more than I spend with my own family, a lot more! What kind of things do you discuss?"
Mom rolled her eyes and then volunteered additional information left out by the father. She said, "We only discuss one thing: who gets to hold the remote control for the television!" (1)
The remote control. We all have them don't we? We probably have three or four because even though you have the best universal remote on the market, there' one piece of electronics it won't control, right? We're lucky, we've pretty much been able to narrow it down to two, in the living room. And then one or two in each of the other rooms. I've even got a remote for my Sirius Satellite radio in my truck.
Growing up, I WAS the remote. "Billy change that to channel 5. Billy turn the stereo up. Billy turn the records over." You get the idea. A lot of you were the remote control in your home, too.
I ran across a gadget in the paper the other day that at first I thought was really neat. It's called the Loc8tor and it's a remote for the remotes. You know how sometimes the remote just disappears and you spend 30 minutes looking for it and your blood pressure just keeps going up? Or how about the mislaid car keys. Wouldn't it be great if everything in the house had a locator button, and all you had to do was press it to find a missing item? That's what the Loc8tor does. Radio signals from tiny tags, show the handheld unit which direction to go to find whatever it is you are looking for, as long as it is wearing the tiny tag. And it will find things up to 600 feet away. The tag starts chirping and blinking, and the Loc8tor points you in the right direction so you can find it. It's sort of a GPS for all your remotes.
I thought that was really cool. And then I got to thinking, just like the reviewer, if you're prone to misplace things, what happens if you misplace the Loc8tor.
So, what's with all this talk about the Remote Control? Well, a lot of go through life on remote control. We have a daily routine or procedure. It's not that we OCD, it's just that we've fallen into a comfortable habit. You set the alarm for 6:00 am so you can hit the snooze button twice before you really have to get up. The first thing you do is pour a cup of coffee and then head to the bathroom to get ready for work. You pop something into the toaster or toaster oven and walk out and get the paper. Flip on the TV as you walk by, to watch the morning news while you eat breakfast, peruse the paper and drink that second cup of coffee. Then it's in the car and off to work, or time to get the kids up and dressed for school. We sort of do it all on out of habit.
And there is nothing wrong with that. It's part of who we are. It's part of being human beings. Most of us like the routine. It feels safe and comfortable. There's no challenge except which flavor Pop Tart, Eggo, or Toaster Waffle you're going to have for breakfast. Life is stress free at that point. And that's good because there's so much stress in our lives. We need that breathing room of normalcy.
But what happens when that life on Remote suddenly goes haywire? What happens when everything comes from together to apart all at once? What do we do? How do we handle it?
In Jeremiah 17:7-8 the prophet Jeremiah has this to say:
 Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.
 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
When our remote control lives suddenly go on the blink and tragedy or disaster strikes, how do we handle it? How do we get through it? Now having read what Jeremiah wrote, I think it all depends on the CROPS we've planted and nurtured. I'm talking about Spiritual CROPS. CROPS is an acronym for those attitudes and actions that will help us through the crisis.
The first thing we need to do is Come Humbly To God. A fireman was explaining to a kindergarten class what to do in case of a fire. He said, "First, go to the door and feel the door to see if it's hot." Then he said, "Fall to your knees. Does anyone know why you ought to fall to your knees?" One little boy said, "Sure, to start praying to ask God to get you out of this mess!" (2)
That's usually what we do. Fall to our knees and ask to get out of the mess. In thinking about this, my first thought was of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of his betrayal and arrest. In the midst of the struggle of dealing with what He knew was going to happen to Him, the first thing Jesus did was go to God in prayer. And the first prayer he uttered was "Lord, take this cup from me."
And if you read the Psalms you'll see that a large percentage of them are prayers in the midst of struggle that ask the same thing, or cry out wanting to know where God is.
Psalms 10:1 "Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"
Psalms 22:1 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?"
But in the end, the prayer is always the same a prayer of humility like Jesus prayed in the Garden of Temptation, "Nevertheless, Lord, not my will but Yours."
The first thing we need to do is Come Humbly To God and ask for the guidance, strength and wisdom to use the gifts of Grace God has already poured out into our lives. And it's in that prayer of humility that we discover that, while we may be in the midst of crisis, we are loved more than we ever dreamed of and that allows us to say a radical "yes" to both the human condition and God's vision for our salvation through Christ..
A. Coming Humbly To God is also simply Remembering that God Is In Charge. We jokingly talk about, "Well, if I were king of the world I'd do so and so." We're not king or queen of the world and that's the point. God has yet to put us in charge.
This may very well be the hardest part for us. There are so many things in life in which God has given us charge as stewards, that when run into something out of our control we totally freak out. But the bottom line is God is still in charge. Might be heirs of Kingdom but God hasn't stepped off throne or passed on the crown yet.
Coming humbly to God is simply the understanding of the natural order of things. We are the creatures. We're the ones who are created. Yes, we have a partnership with God and reflect God's creative nature in our own creativeness. But we are not the Creator. God is Good and perfect. We're not. Our lives are a composite of good and evil, light and darkness; obedience and rebellion. (3)
Augustus Caesar ruled over the greatest empire of his time. Augustus Caesar thought he was in control. King Herod ruled over Judea. It was not Rome, but it was obviously important to him to be the big fish in a little pond. In that little pond, at least, he was in control. But Augustus Caesar and Herod were wrong. They weren't in control. All it took was a tiny babe to overshadow their empires forever. God is in control.:
Third: Own Your Own Feelings about what's going on in your life. Get mad at God if you have to. I've never known anyone zapped or thumped on the head. Again, go back to the Psalms.
I liked the wall hanging I saw in a store or office, don't remember exactly which, it read: "One day I shall burst my buds of calm and blossom fully into hysteria."
God created us with feelings. It's how we deal with life. Laughter, joy, tears, anguish, fear, anger all of these are ways we cope with a situation. It's how we express the situations effect on our lives. Are the feelings always appropriate to show, not necessarily. When anger turns to rage it can be dangerous.
But should we own those feelings as our own? Absolutely. There is nothing more potentially dangerous to us than repressing those feelings. They will come out one way or another. If we own them and own up to them, then we can deal with them in constructive ways. And once we own the feelings about life suddenly going out of control, we will be better able to begin the healing or recovery process.
A. One of the best ways to deal with life when it throws us a curve is to Prepare Ahead.
When Harland Sanders began his Kentucky Fried Chicken business, he had little capital and no money for advertising. So he grew a little beard, got a white suit, and as a Kentucky Colonel he became a walking advertisement for Kentucky Fried Chicken. As Christians each one of us is a walking advertisement of the Christian faith. We probably would prefer not to be, but we are. That's why Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Col. 3:12) (4)
And how do we do that? How do we clothe ourselves in these things? By planting the seeds that will grow into them today through prayer, worship, Bible study and service. When we put what we say we believe into action, we begin weaving the clothe for those clothes.
A. We're also called to Share With Others. The movie Because of Winn Dixie is about a little girl, Opal, who has been abandoned at an early age by her mother. She and her her father, a Preacher of a store front church, have moved to Naomi, Florida. In the opening scene Opal prays for friends, one of whom turns out to be a mongrel dog she names Winn-Dixie.
There's a scene where Miss Franny tells Opal, and a young girl named Amanda, the story of her great-grandfather, Littmus W. Block, who fought in the Civil War. She says that when he returned home after the fighting, he started a candy factory that had since fallen to ruin. While the candy is no longer made, Mis Franny still has an ample supply, so she gives the children a taste. Amanda tells Miss Franny that she likes the candy, but it makes her think of sad things. Miss Franny explains that the candy contains a "secret ingredient."
Opal asks what it is, and Miss Franny replies, "Sorrow." She says that Littmus made a fortune because he had managed to create a unique candy that "tasted sweet and sad at the same time."
Amanda eats her candy and says that "It makes me miss Carson." And the audience discovers that Carson is her brother who drowned the previous year and nobody ever talks about it.
The scene reminds us that everybody has their share of sorrows because we live in a fallen world. Those sorrows and difficulties are compounded because, even though we could help one another, many of us are too ashamed or prideful to share the burdens of our lives with others.
Scripture demands that we "bear one another's burdens." But how can we bear one another's burdens when we are unaware of them. Wouldn't it be great if we had a magic candy that would loosen our tongues so we would feel free to share our burdens with others? Or be the kinds of friends we really need? (5)
I don't think there is anything that has power against a group of people who confide in and support one another. There really is strength in numbers. We all need a support system of some kind. Because, there in confidence and affection we experience love, friendship, respect, indulgence and admiration. Within a Christian support system we experience both the human and divine through experiencing God's grace and forgiveness through the lives of others.
Grandma and Grandpa were driving across Kansas on vacation with their five-year-old granddaughter. They were enjoying the sights, especially the beautiful fields of corn. The wind was blowing hard and Grandma commented: "Looks like the wind could blow the corn down." Their five-year-old granddaughter piped up, "Oh, no, it's planted deep, Grandma. And you don't blow down when you're planted deep." (6)
Each of these five things we've talked about are just kernels which help us plant the right CROPS so we can be planted deep and reap the best harvest.
Remember what Jeremiah said: "Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit."
As Christians our faith is planted deep. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and that means something. If Jesus is resurrected, then life is stronger than death, hope is stronger than despair, good is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate and life is much greater than we ever imagined. If Jesus is resurrected, then God really is in charge.
And if God is in charge, then we don't have anything to worry about when everything about our Remote Control world comes from together to completely apart because God we can know and count on the fact that God will see us through.
1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), January 1998
2. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), September 1985
3. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), September 1992
4. Preaching, Vol. 11, No. 4
6. From Country, February/March, 1990 (Milwaukee, WI)
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