“Do We Live in ‘Why’ or ‘Whynot’”
(Romans 12:3-8, 16-18)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Pursuit of Happiness Clip
If you have seen the movie Pursuit of Happiness, it is based on the true story of Chris Gardner. Chris Gardner's life is falling apart. After a business deal goes bad, he feels that the only way he can make a good life for his family is if he changes careers. So despite all the odds, Gardner enters the chase for a lucrative job as a stockbroker at Dean-Whitter. The only problem is that the competitive internship required doesn't pay anything, and there is no guarantee of employment at its end. Evicted, abandoned, and nearly penniless, Gardner refuses to let go of his dream. To me, the The Pursuit of Happyness is a modern-day parable about perseverance and the value of family.
It’s also a modern interpretation of a famous George Bernard Shaw quote: “Some [people] see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and say, why not?”
Both lead us to the title of today’s sermon in our series Normal is Just A Small Town in Kentucky.
Today’s title is: “Do We Live in ‘Why’ or ‘Whynot’”
When mom returned from the grocery store, her small son pulled out the box of animal crackers he had begged for; then he very carefully spread all the animal-shaped crackers over the kitchen counter.
"What are you doing?" his mom asked.
"The box says you can't eat them if the seal is broken," the boy explained. "I'm looking for the seal."
Certain aspects of life depend on our point of view don't they? That’s why this particular title from the peculiar cities of Why, Arkansas and Whynot, Mississippi. We have to choose which one to live in.
Let’s look at our Scripture passage from Romans
12:3-8, 16-18 (NRSV)
 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,
 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;
 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;
 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Believe it or not, much of this was encompassed in or was the foundation for VBS this past week.
In order to live in the town of Whynot we have to live on the E.D.G.E. The church that is going to make a difference in the world is the church that continually asks, “Whynot?” So let’s look at what the kids learned through that filter of or Whynot”
I. GOD IS WITH ME. I WILL STAY CLOSE TO GOD:
A. The kids learned this week what the residents of Fear Not, PA: Strong, ME; Humble, TX already know: It takes more than just you in this world. God is with me. I will stay close to God. And the Good news is that God is everywhere. Isaiah 41:10 says “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” And Paul builds upon that in verse 5: “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” In other words, we are not alone.
I remember an old story about a little boy who was asked to go out on the back porch and get the broom. Unfortunately the light was burnt out and he was afraid of the dark. His Mom told him, “Don’t be afraid, Jesus is out there.”
When he got to the back door it was pitch black. He opened the door and whispered, “Jesus, if your out there, would you hand me the broom.”
B. Probably because of their innocence, kids seem to get this idea of God being with us better than we do sometime. Tony Campolo tells a story about a friend who had a 5-year-old daughter. One day during a thunder storm; lightning flashing, thunder roaring; he went to check on her. He found his little girl standing on the window sill leaning spread eagle against the glass.
He said, "Jennifer, what are you doing?"
She said, "I think God's trying to take my picture."
That’s a little girl who knows that God is with her everywhere. (1)
II. GOD GUIDES ME. I WILL FOLLOW:
A. The kids learned the same thing that the people of Igo, CA; Onward, Miss; CanDo, ND probably know: God guides me. I will follow. Isaiah 48:17 “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go.”
Paul reminds us that “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” One of those gifts is Teaching” We can learn from one another how to follow God.
B. One day a little boy came running up to his Mom and said, "Mom, I know that Jesus lives inside my heart. But how do I tell him I love him? Do you think if I write 'I love you' on a piece of paper and eat it, he'll get the note?" (2)
Or how about the story of the moonlit night Grandma and her small granddaughter went for a walk. The stars were magnificent. As Grandma named individual stars and constellations, her granddaughter exclaimed, "Grandma, if the bottom side of heaven is this beautiful, just think how wonderful the other side must be." (3)
Obviously, someone took the whole idea of following Christ and being a guide for others seriously. Those two little girls got it and they were following.
III. GOD TEACHES ME. I WILL LEARN:
A. Braintree, Mass; Wise, NC; and Grow, TX are all in tune with the 3rd lesson the kids learned, God teaches me. I will learn. In John 13:13 Jesus says, “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.” And like the Disciples, we are called to learn from Jesus through Worship and Bible Study.
Paul reminds us to, “not claim to be wiser than you are.” The truth is, none of us know everything, just ask me about the A/C system in the Family Center and I’ll prove it. We can all learn from one another. And we have a responsibility to teach one another in loving ways.
One day at church one of the little girls was all plugged into her cd player and singing along with the Michael W. Smith CD she had going. She didn’t know anyone was listening as she sang her version of the song "Angels Unaware." When she got to the line, "Maybe we are entertaining angels unaware," I heard her version loud and clear: and started to laugh, “Maybe we are irritating angels unaware.”
You know, maybe we are. Maybe we should spend a little more time in study so we’re not like the third grade boy who was asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday school and prayed, “Our Father who art in heaven, How did you know my name.?
The point is if we don’t learn and we don’t teach, our kids won’t learn. God teaches, we’re called to follow and teach one another with love.
IV. GOD LOVES ME. I WILL LOVE GOD AND OTHERS:
A. The folks in Friendly, WV; Alliance, CA; Candle, AK all understand the 4th point the kids learned this week. God loves me. I will love God and others. In John 15:12 Jesus said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Pauls says,  “Live in harmony with one another.”
To be real honest, this is one of the most difficult aspects of Living on the EDGE but it can be down and we can teach it to others
A mother shared this story in Today’s Christian Woman, she said, one evening, while putting her daughter, Carla, to bed, she asked her what it was like to be four years old. Carla said, "It's special."
"Why is it special?" Mom asked.
Carla responded, "It's special because I know my mommy loves me."
That’s a pretty profound thought for a four year old! But the truth is that if we'd only take the time, we could see like Carla that life is special because our heavenly Father loves us. (4)
And because God loves us, we CAN love others.
V. GOD SENDS ME. I WILL GO:
A. On the last day of VBS the kids actually learned two things the first was that God loves me. I will love God and others and the second was God sends me. I will go. In Mark 16:15 Jesus said, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” And you can see that attitude in Askew, MS; Hopeulikit, GA; Opportunity, MT.
You can also see it in a story told by Pastor Steve Sjogren (pronounced Show-gren) in his book Conspiracy of Kindness. It seems Joe Delaney and his 8-year-old son, Jared, were playing catch in their backyard in the Cincinnati area. Out of the clear blue Jared asked, "Dad, is there a God?"
Joe replied that he went to church only a few times when he was a kid; he really had no idea. Jared ran into the house. "I'll be right back!" he yelled.
Moments later Jared returned with a helium balloon from the circus, a pen, and an index card. "I'm going to send God an airmail message," Jared explained. Then he wrote "Dear God, if you are real, and you are there, send people who know you to Dad and me."
Joe thought, “God, I hope you're watching,” as they watched the balloon and message sail away.
Two days later, Joe and Jared pulled into a car wash sponsored by Sjogren's church. When Joe asked, "How much?" he was told, "It's free. No strings attached." He couldn’t believe it and asked, "But why are you doing this?"
"We just want to show God's love in a practical way," Sjogren answered.
"Are you guys Christians, the kind of Christians who believe in God?" Joe asked. Sjogren said, "Yes, we're that kind of Christians."
From that encounter, Steve eventually led Joe to faith in Christ. There are a lot of people in the world, people we meet everyday who only one act of kindness away from meeting a true Christian. You and are are only one act of kindness away from leading someone to Christ. But we’ll will never be able have the attitude of Askew or Hopeulikit Opportunity if we don’t Go when God sends us.
And the truth is, we all have those opportunities to make a difference in the life of children, youth and adults. It doesn’t make any difference what your age is. Watch this.
It’s Never Too Late Video
It’s never too late to say “Yes” to God and follow. So, as we close the sermon, I want you to join me in the daily E.D.G.E. Pledges.
God is with me. I will stay close to God.
God guides me. I will follow.
God teaches me. I will learn
God loves me. I will love God and others.
God sends me. I will go.
“Do We Live in ‘Why’ or ‘Whynot’” Are we asking “Why” aren’t there more dedicated Xns or are we dreaming of mission and ministries which will impact the world, change lives and make Disciples for Jesus Christ and asking “Whynot?” If we truly believe that God is with us; that God guides us; that God teaches us; that God loves us and that God sends us, then there really is only one answer.
Our challenge is to say “Whynot?” and then go.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Tony Campolo, "If I Should Wake Before I Die," Preaching Today, Tape No. 124.
2. Donna Hutchinson, New Jersey. Today's Christian Woman, Vol. 18, no. 5.
3. Clara Null, Christian Reader, Vol. 34.
4. Elizabeth DeBeasi, Stanford, CT, Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."
5. Leadership-Vol. 18, #1
Other References Consulted