Just Do It! (In Obedience we overcome Inertia ) I Kings 19:8-18 and Romans 10:5-15
We all learn at different speeds, but in classrooms, things often move at only one speed. Some students can’t “keep up” and others get bored. A man who taught one of my children in elementary school had a method for this. When he set students to doing their own work, he allowed them to move at their own speed. For those who finished earlier, he had other things that they could do in the classroom. One of those things was the “Take-apart” station, where he had some simple tools and some things that were already broken (old clocks, computer keyboards, small machines and broken toys) for them to explore.
I never had a teacher like that. Maybe that’s why I like to take apart words. Students who are forced to learn English from me spend a lot of time looking at little parts of words. This week, it’s your turn. The word is “inertia”, which means “the condition of being without action”. “in” means “without” “ert” is related to action, and “ia” means “a condition”. If we’re talking about physics, it means that something which is not moving, will just stay there, and something which IS moving will continue exactly as it is going unless something stops it. There will be NO change.
We met “inertia” this afternoon in the story about Elijah that we read in the Old Testament. As I read that story, I saw into my own being without action. I found more and different stuff in the New Testament reading. When I overcame my inertia this week and wrote this, I learned some things that might help us all.
I The Fear Freeze
Though there’s no book of Elijah in the Bible, there’s certainly a lot about him. He was so important to the people of Jesus’ time that when he was hanging on the cross and cried out in his native language, Aramaic, some of the people thought he was praying to Elijah. He is so important in Jewish religion today that during the high holy days each spring a chair at the banquet table is left open for him. At the miracle of the transfiguration, when Jesus face shone like the sun, two historical figures appeared with him, Moses (who represented the law) and Elijah (who represented the prophets).
Elijah was indeed a brave man. He confronted kings and queens, military leaders and priests of rival religions. And Elijah never lost. But in this story, we met him while he was running away in fear. He could do nothing while he was frozen by fear that he would be hurt. We met him running away, and listened to him while he was hiding in a cave. When the voice of God spoke to him and asked him, “Why are you here?”, he sorrowfully responded that he was hiding. As the story goes, God called him out and showed him the power at God’s command, yet, when asked again why he was there, the same sorrow filled reasons were given. He had learned nothing!
Do we act like that sometimes? I know that I have. Something has made me afraid of a coming confrontation, or of a possible failure, or of some sort of trouble, so we “hide from” whatever it is, and, like Elijah, revert to childhood practices and complain.
“I don’t want to go home, because my parents are unhappy with how I’ve been spending my time and money.” “I don’t want to go to class, because the teacher will scold me for poor attendance.” “I don’t want to write the thesis, because one of the committee members is an expert on my topic.” “Nobody likes me. I don’t have to take those risks.”
Elijah was REALLY stuck. Even after he saw the power of God demonstrated in wind, earthquake and fire, he didn’t change his complaint. He was frozen by fear. But fear isn’t the only thing that has ever stopped somebody.
II The Further Training Ploy (Romans 10)
We read some stuff from the New Testament this afternoon that I usually avoid. It’s in the Bible and it’s good stuff, but I have a hard time figuring out what it means.
I have a friend who lived in Taiwan for about 20 years but returned to America a while back. This guy LOVED Bible readings like the one we did this afternoon. He enjoyed going in there, figuring out the historical situation in which they were written, comparing line to line, and basically “untangling” the knots that he found. But as I listened to him explain the chapters, paragraphs and verses of Romans, I was always left more and more confused. I concluded that I couldn’t really understand what is written there unless I went to the Bible college where he had studied, found the teachers who had taught him, and sat in their classes. After which I might know enough to figure these things out. Basically, I’ve decided that if I’m going to understand Romans like my friend does, I’ve got to go back to school.
So earlier this summer I started, and dropped, an online class in Bible interpretation by a guy who took a completely different approach from my friend. That teacher, Dr. Walter Russell, is only a couple of years older than me. He has learned a lot about history and culture and holds a very high view of the authority of every word found in the Bible. He explains and interprets it by comparing words here to words there. He always uses the best academic, theological and linguistic tools. I started the class because I wanted to learn those tools and how to use them. I dropped out because I wasn’t learning the tools and their use so much as I was learning Dr. Russell’s conclusions that he arrived at through use of the tools. I concluded that if I’m going to understand Romans like Dr. Russell, I’ll have to go to the school where he teaches and learn his conclusions.
How many of us use “I need to get some more education first” to stop us from doing what needs to be done. There’s nothing wrong with further education. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get better trained or to get a higher degree. Our problem sometimes is that we put off any action on ANYTHING until we have the degree in one specific thing. However, we can do something, which is to “get whatever we can reach now”, and hope for more, later.
At the end of both the Old Testament and the New Testament verses that we read this afternoon the conclusion was similar, and it’s illustrated by the symbol on the front of today’s bulletin and on the screen behind me. When that symbol is used in advertizing, it often has a slogan with it, the slogan that is the sermon title today, “Just Do It.”
III Just Doing it
Elijah was afraid of the Queen of Israel. He was afraid that her police would find and arrest him, and that she would have him killed. In his fear, he stopped acting as a grown person and began to act like a child. In the story, God confronted Elijah with a demonstration of power, an assignment of duties, and a command to “Just do it”. The stories of Elijah continue for several more chapters of 1st Kings and into 2nd Kings, where he goes up to heaven in a whirlwind. He did what he was told to do, and left behind for us the story of “fear freeze” and its cure.
St. Paul, who wrote Romans, was dealing with questions and problems in chapter 10 which do not necessarily connect to us. They had more to do with the situation of the church in Rome at the time he was writing, situations and conditions of churches and ethnic groups. For that reason, and because I’m not half clever enough to even start at it, I’m not going to try to untangle or explain Romans 10:5-13 this afternoon. I will, however, “get what I can reach”. Verses 14 & 15 call the original readers, and call us today, to become messengers, telling about the help we have received through the good news that has been shared with us. We don’t have to be able to explain verses 5-13, or ANY verses. We don’t need to go to Bible college or theological school, because our message is simply this, “faith in God has helped me.”
Like Elijah, we may be hiding in a cave. Afraid of what might happen if someone notices us. It doesn’t matter how much power God shows in the world and to us, or how much personal word we receive from God, we are afraid and we hide. Or maybe you’re like me, sure that you need more training before you can speak or act, and knowing that you don’t have the time to get the training now, you put off speaking or acting until an indefinite time in the future, when you’ll understand better.
Sometimes, however, the time comes to do something, and to do it now, no matter what the risks might be. There’s a situation that I have to address this afternoon, something that makes me sad to be an American. People advocating race hatred and white supremacy have demonstrated against people of color and people of other-than-Christian religious faith, positions that are in line with the ideology of America’s current president. I do not ask the members of Tainan International Community Church to do anything about this, because you are not Americans, as I am. This is my duty, and I have to “just do it”, and do it today. I absolutely refute the white supremacy ideology of the American men and women who demonstrated for their opinion on Friday, August 12th, in America. I denounce them and their leaders, and I oppose the president whose rhetoric has stirred up their putrid and hateful actions.
You have other missions to “just do”. I encourage you to find them, and to follow God’s instruction and encouragement in them. Both Bible readings we heard this afternoon tell us the same thing. There’s nothing to fear out there. we have sufficient backup power and background to get moving. Our “inertia” has been overcome by the power of God, who, once we are moving, will guide us further, energize us, and carry us through, even as far as a whirlwind to take us to heaven if that’s what’s needed.
Sisters and brothers, “Just Do It.” we have the training you need, stop delaying.
We’re ready enough. GO
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.