Series: Normal Is Just A Small Town In Kentucky


“Finding ‘Comfort’ Instead of ‘Little Hope’”

(Romans 12:12-15)

 

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

Bread Of Life Video

INTRODUCTION:

      “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” That’s what John 6:35 says Jesus told the crowd. Jesus offered them words of  hope which lead to words of Comfort. Some of them didn’t get it. But some of them did. They realized that God sent Jesus into the world because for the most part, the world was still living in Little Hope.

Let Us Pray:

 

Prayer:

     I read a story recently about a mother and daughter who had gone to a museum together and were standing look at a sculpture of Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper. The little girl was transfixed and fascinated by the sculpture and was taking in all of the details with a fine tooth comb. All of a sudden she pointed to the round, unleavened bread in Jesus' hand and said in astonishment, “Mom? Did they really eat pizza?” (1)

      Sometimes we look at something and it just looks strange, doesn’t it? We don’t see it the way other people do. Every time I drive from Dallas back home I see the new Cowboy Stadium. It’s huge and sort of looms there and takes over the horizon. It’s huge and as it sits there I can’t help but think it looks like one of the space craft out of the movie Independence Day.

      There are all kinds of strange things in this world aren’t there. Some of the strangest are the names of towns. You wonder why anyone would saddle their town with a name like that. That’s kind of the inspiration for this series Normal Is Just A Small Town In Kentucky.

      I was reading Romans 12, where Paul says “do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and my mind went down one of those strange hallways Mary says my mind is filled with and I began thinking about the weird names of towns like Yellville, Arkansas and Pumpkin Center, Missouri. Anyway, it lead to an internet search. Here’s a few that I found.

      Rabbit Hash, Kentucky; Why, Arizona.

      Purgatory, the Durango Mtn, Colorado Ski Resort; Normalville, Pennsylvania.

      Accident, Maryland; Boring, Oregon.

      Surprise, Nebraska; Lizard Lick, NC.

      Two Egg, Florida: Happy, Texas

      And two towns in England. Crackpot and World’s End.

      Plus there are towns by the name of:  Toad Suck, Camel Hump, Embarrass, HooHoo, Lick Skillet, Sweet Lips, Nameless, Nine Times, Due West, Idiotville, Slapout, Bowlegs, Knockemstiff, Tick Bite, Hicksville, Worms, Tightwad, Chunky, Waterproof, Monkey’s Eyebrow, Beanblossum and Dunmovin.

      Those are just a few. Over the next month we are going to be interpreting Romans 12 through some of the weird names of some of these towns like the two in the title for today, both of which are Texas towns. Comfort and Little Hope.

I. LITTLE HOPE:

      A.  The world, for some reason, tends to live in the town of Little Hope. It’s where they think we should all live. But the truth is, when there’s no hope or little hope we have a tendency to get small minded, insular and look at one another with suspicion rather than looking at each other as children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.

That’s pretty much opposite of what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:12-15:

[12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  

[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.  

[14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  

[15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  

      When we live like that, when we put those four verses into practice, we are filled with Hope, not devoid of hope or filled with only a Little Hope.

      B.   There’s a story about a pastor who was serving communion one Sunday when he unintentionally failed to serve a five-year-old little boy who had squeezed his tiny body in between his mom and dad. He could hardly be seen but he certainly could be heard because when the pastor passed him by, the little boy shouted out, "Hey, Mr. Jesus! Don't you got some bread for us little folks down here?” (2)

      The Good News is that God heard our cry. “Don't you got some bread for us little folks down here?” God heard our cry and sent us Hope.

      There’s a great scene at the end of the movie The Shawshank Redemption, one of the best movies of the 90’s which was based on a short story by Stephen King.

      In the movie, Andy Dufresne is a quiet banker who is unjustly convicted of murder and sent to Shawshank State Prison in Maine where he is befriended by “Red” Redding, a lifer who knows all the ropes. The guy you go to when you need anything. It’s Andy’s spirit that attracts “Red” to him. Of all the prisoners, Andy is the only one who the place doesn’t seem to get to.

      Andy is full of surprises and through his life, gives hope to the rest of the prison. But even Andy can only take so much. One night, to everyone’s surprise, Andy escapes. He’s left hints for his friend “Red” about how to find him if he’s ever paroled. “Red” finally gets paroled and follows those hints. Near the end of the movie he digs up a letter and traveling money that Andy has left him and Red boards a bus headed to Hancock, Texas. (WATCH)

Shawshank Redemption Clip

      There is a universal need for Hope. Hope in the midst of the ordinary everyday lives we live. Hope that can spring up in the midst of turmoil and even uncertainty. Hope that can lead us out of the fog of our selfishness and lead us into a state of readiness for anything the world or life throws our way.

      The Good News is that God heard our cry for both Hope and Comfort. God saw how Little Hope there was in the world. And at the right time, Jesus came to bring us hope so we could live in Comfort.

II. COMFORT:

      A.  God wants us to live in Comfort not Little Hope. Now don’t get me wrong, when I talk about a life in Comfort, I’m not talking about the physical things that bring us a false sense of comfort like the big house, a nice car, a good job. That’s worldly comfort not Kingdom Comfort. And there’s a big difference.

      I’m talking about the Comfort that comes from knowing Christ; the Comfort from being a part of something bigger than ourselves; the Comfort from being part of something and someone that makes a difference and makes life better. I’m talking about the Comfort that comes from being a part of a community of faith which lives and practices and encourages others through those four verses we read earlier from Romans 12.

      Real Comfort doesn’t come from stuff or position or status or any of the worldly things around us. Real Comfort comes from Jesus, the Bread of Life.

      B.   Immediately after fighting had stopped in World War II, American soldiers gathered up many hungry and homeless children and placed them in tent cities. Many of those children were malnourished and in need of medical care. The soldiers opened their hearts and shared their bread with them. However, the soldiers noticed the children were afraid to go to sleep at night. They couldn’t figure it out. The fighting had stopped and the sounds of gunfire had stopped.

      Then one of the soldiers tried an experiment after dinner, just before bed, he gave each of the children a piece of bread to hold. The result was absolutely astounding. When they had the security of bread for tomorrow they slept like babies. That small piece of bread gave them Hope and Comfort. That small piece of bread took away their fear. (3)

CONCLUSION:

      Today we come to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Today we will receive a small piece of bread. It’s just bread but it’s also so much more than just bread. Somehow, the spirit and the presence of Christ is imbued in it and that small taste, that small bite fills us with Hope and brings us Comfort. (WATCH)

Suppertime

      Jesus gave Himself up for us. He died on the cross for our sakes, so we could experience small bites, feel clean, and be excused. That’s where we get our Comfort, that’s where we get our Hope and that’s where we are empowered to live these four verses so that others can Find ‘Comfort’ Instead of ‘Little Hope’.

 

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

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Bibliography

1.    Adapted from: Life As We Know It edited by Daniel Kelly (Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1996), p. 97.

2.    Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Eric S. Ritz 

3.    from a sermon by Rev. Eric S. Ritz

4.   

 

Other References Consulted