Sermon Series: Normal Is Just A Small Town In Kentucky
“Leaving ‘Last Chance’ Heading For ‘Needmore’”
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Hope. Our world is filled with people whose lives are standing at the Crossroads. Down one road is despondency and despair, and down the other is total misery and dejection. And that’s ALL they see because that’s ALL they have ever experienced. Somehow in life they missed the exit sign and the turn off to a life of Hope and Joy and true happiness. They don’t know there is another road.
They are like the character Leroy from the comic Lockhorns who comes home from work and says to his wife, Loretta, "The day went the way it usually does when your life is going down the drain."
A large percentage of people are living lives of despair, lives with no perceived hope. For many of these people, they’re on their “Last Chance” or think they have “No Chance” when the solution is they “Needmore” Hope and “Needmore” people who are willing share Hope.
During Hollywood's golden years there were many people in the film industry who were known for their practical jokes. One of the best known and most creative of these was a fellow by the name of Jack McDermott. He was a writer and director of movies.
McDermott's favorite gag was to take his guests for a ride in his Model-T Ford. Taking them into the mountains, he would careen around curves at perilous speeds. When a guest would complain about his recklessness, he would yank the steering wheel from its post and toss it over the mountain side. Of course his passengers would get all panicky and go nuts. But what his panic stricken rider didn't know was that he had installed foot controls for steering. (1)
Clare Boothe Luce, the playwright, journalist, editor, congresswoman and eventually Ambassador to Italy, who covered World War II in Europe for Life Magazine said: “There are no hopeless situations. There are only people who have grown hopeless about them.” Frederick Langbridge put it another: “Two men look out through the very same bars: One sees the mud, and one the stars.”
The truth is, we can’t have hope without getting over ourselves or looking beyond ourselves. We have to Leave ‘Last Chance’ and Head For ‘Needmore’.
Let’s look at the passage for today, Romans 12:9-11.
It’s only three verses so I want to read it first from the NRSV and then from The Message.
(NRSV)  Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
(MSG)  Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
 Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master,
I love how The Message translated verse 9: “Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it.” The reason I love it so much is because when we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength we are able to acknowledge that we ARE NOT the center of the universe, God is. And when we get that, when we move beyond ourselves, we are able to “Love from the center of who [we] are.”
And when that happens our lives begin to be filled with Hope and we don’t think this is our “Last Chance”
I. LAST CHANCE:
A. Last Chance, Colorado, was named in 1926 by Archie Chapman and Essa Harbert, who wanted motorists to know that their filling station was the last chance to buy gasoline for 80 miles west or 104 miles east. But you and I know people who are living in “Last Chance” or “No Chance” every single day of their lives. They can’t see beyond the City Limits. They don’t have any hope at all.
During Hollywood's golden years there were many people in the film industry who were known for their practical jokes. One of the best known and most creative of these was a fellow by the name of Jack McDermott. He was a writer and movie director.
McDermott's favorite gag was to take his guests for a ride in his Model-T Ford. Taking them into the mountains, he would careen around curves at perilous speeds. When a guest would complain about his recklessness, he would yank the steering wheel from its post and either hand to them or toss it over the mountain side.
What his panic stricken riders didn't know was that he had installed foot controls for steering. (1)
B. A lot of people have no clue that there is more to life than the road to despair and despondency. They don’t know that God is a God of Second Chances, not Last Chances. They don’t know that God wants to love them not thump them on the head. They don’t know that God wants the best for each us, and isn’t trying to make our lives miserable.
God wants us to Leave ‘Last Chance’ and Head For ‘Needmore’.
A. You have probably seen the Bluebell Ice Cream commercial that says in Needmore they need more Bluebell Ice Cream. So, just where is Needmore, Texas? According to the Handbook of Texas, there are actually 4 Texas towns named Needmore.
The oldest Needmore was established in 1850, Delta County. They couldn’t quite decide what to call their town, which was also known as : Jernigan, Pecan, Pecan Branch, and Eureka. The town officially became Needmore when the post office was named in 1886.
The next Needmore appeared around 1900 in East Texas, Nacogdoches County. This was followed closely in 1904 by a Needmore in Terry County. And the last Needmore came in 1920 in Bailey County.
All of these communities were apparently named because they needed more settlers. None ever grew to be large towns and today only a few homes mark the spot of these once hopeful settlements.
But the name speak to what we need in our daily Christian walks. All of us, especially those folks leaving “Last Chance,” Need More Hope; Need More Faith; Need More Love and Grace and Mercy so we don’t slip back into that “Last Chance” mentality.
Slipping back into that “Last Chance” mentality is a real danger because it CAN drain us of Hope.
B. It is known simply as “The Play.” “The Play” is the name of what some would call the greatest game of football ever played, anywhere, anytime. Can anybody tell me who played in “The Play?” Right: California vs. Stanford.
Can anyone tell me the year of “The Play.?” Right: 1982.
So, “What was so special about “The Play?”
With 53 seconds left in the game, Stanford was down 17-19 and stuck in their own backfield. It was fourth down, 17 yards to go. But miraculously the Stanford QB (anybody know who? . . . John Elway) rallied, got the first down, and Stanford marched down the field. In four plays they got to the 18 yard line. With eight seconds to go, the field goal kick was up and good. Stanford had won the game, 20-19, and the crowds started going crazy.
But the game wasn’t over. There were still four seconds remaining on the clock, so Stanford had to kick off. Stanford fans started crashing the sidelines and the band walked onto the field. But that’s when the game became The Game. [Watch]
California won the game, 25-20, on a play that could never be repeated. “The Play” is still unbelievable.
In my mind, “The Play” represents the Good News of Jesus Christ because in every situation God always has the last Word. That Word is always filled with Hope and that Word is always “Victory.”
The classic example and model is the Crucifixion. That night, after Jesus had been laid and sealed in the tomb, sin and death had already stormed the field in celebration. The party lasted the entire weekend, but then on Sunday morning came “The Play.” The Greatest Play of all.
When they weren’t looking; when they least expected it, God snatched victory from sin and death. Jesus danced in the end zone because Resurrection was “The Play” God had in mind all along.
Victory, Resurrection and New Life are always God’s final play.
That’s why we are called to Leave ‘Last Chance’ and Head For ‘Needmore’.
That’s why we are called to share the Good News that God is a God of Second Chances. God is a God of forgiveness. God doesn’t want us entombed in Last Chance or No Chance. The stone has been rolled away. God wants us living and growing and serving in Needmore, realizing that we Need More of everything God has to offer. And all we have to do is reach out and receive it.
C. When we embrace life in Needmore; when we reach out to receive all that God has to offer our lives are changed significantly. We get off the road to despair find that exit to the alternate route in life; a life in Christ. A life filled with Hope.
Jesus’ first miracle was to change water into wine. That miracle showed the world that God in and through His Son, Jesus the Christ can take something as ordinary as water and make it into something new and beautiful. The truth is, God in Christ does it every single day. God in Christ takes the ordinary events of our lives and redeems them. Jesus touches our lives and changes the ordinariness of our lives and transforms them into something beautiful. God transforms our lives and moves us from ‘Last Chance’ to ‘Needmore’.
A sermon and illustration have sort of swept across YouTube. A particular pastor noticed how some of the homeless or needy hold cardboard signs at intersections with words like, “Will work for food” or “Viet Nam Vet, need help” and he started wondering about their back story – what was the other part of the story of their lives. And he developed a service which has been recreated in a ton of churches. The service was called “Carboard Testimonies” (Watch)
We all have our own personal testimonies of what God has done in our life. I didn’t grow up in the church. I accepted Christ when I was 22. If I were to hold up my own sign it might say: “Broken and Rejected. Unwanted Son, Unwanted Stepson” And the flipside would say: “Redeemed Child and Son of the Heavenly Father.”
Wherever we are in life, God can and does take whatever we are and whoever we are and changes us into something beautiful. No matter what our back story, God’s story for us is forgiveness, redemtption and second chances. God transforms our lives and moves us from ‘Last Chance’ to ‘Needmore’.
Today, and everyday really, there is one simple question: “If you’re stuck in Last Chance or No Chance what are you waiting for? God wants you to Leave ‘Last Chance’ and Head For ‘Needmore’.
God promises to supply your every need. All you have to do is receive it.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. THE LAUGH CONNECTION, p. 3
Other References Consulted