Prompting the Oblivious to Consider the Obvious
October 18, 1998 Luke 12:54-13:9
An engineer, a psychologist, and a theologian were hunting in the wilds of northern Canada. They came across an isolated cabin, far removed from any town. Because friendly hospitality is a virtue practiced by those who live in the wilderness, the hunters knocked on the door to ask permission to rest. No one answered their knocks, but, discovering the cabin was unlocked, they entered. It was a simple place--two rooms with a minimum of furniture and household equipment. Nothing was surprising about the cabin except the stove. It was large, potbellied, and made of cast iron. What was unusual was its location: it was suspended in midair by wires attached to the ceiling beams.
"Fascinating," said the psychologist. "It is obvious that this lonely trapper, isolated from humanity, has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to the womb."
"Nonsense!" replied the engineer. "The man is practicing the laws of thermodynamics. By elevating his stove, he has discovered a way to distribute heat more evenly throughout the cabin."
"With all due respect," interrupted the theologian, "I'm sure that hanging his stove from the ceiling has religious meaning. Fire 'lifted up' has been a religious symbol for centuries."
The three debated the point for several minutes without resolving the issue. When the trapper finally returned, they immediately asked him why he had hung his heavy potbellied stove by wires from the ceiling. His answer was succinct: "Had plenty of wire, not much stove pipe!"
It seems that overlooking the obvious is a problem, even for the learned. But at least these men were looking. Some questions never even get asked, like this tidbit from Tony Campolo:
Wives feel resentment when it is assumed that they are responsible for everything that goes wrong around the house. This is epitomized in the television ad in which the husband is upset because there's a "ring around the collar." The wife breaks into tears because her detergent has not removed the dirt from her husband's shirt. The ring around the collar is seen as telltale evidence of her failure. The ad never asks the obvious question--Why didn't he wash his neck?
Today’s message begs the question about the signs of the times and what we should do about it. It is a message from Jesus prompting the oblivious to consider the obvious. He wants us to be aware of God. He wants to save us for God. In fact, He is God.
I. Obvious certainties lead us to obvious conclusions. (vv.54-59)
A. A weather sign indicates a weather event.
B. A judgment date indicates a judgment event.
C. The certainty of an event should prompt the prudence of precaution.
1. The signs of the times are spiritual signs.
2. Judgment is coming.
3. Redemption is available
II. Obvious uncertainties also lead us to obvious conclusions.
A. An uncertain political climate makes life precarious.
B. An uncertain physical environment makes life precarious.
C. The uncertainty of life should prompt the prudence of precaution.
1. The only security for life is spiritual.
2. Spiritual security begins with repentance.
3. Spiritual security continues for eternity.
III. This present time of grace - God’s countdown on compassion - is a gift of obvious opportunity. (vv.6-9)
A. It is an opportunity to respond to the Caretaker.
B. It is an opportunity to bear the fruit of repentance.
C. It is an opportunity to be saved from destruction.
D. It is an opportunity to please the Owner.
Repentance is not a popular word these days, but I believe that any of us recognize it when it strikes us in the gut. Repentance is coming to our senses, seeing, suddenly, what we've done that we might not have done, or recognizing ... that the problem is not in what we do but in what we become.
-- Kathleen Norris in The Cloister Walk. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 12.
There is no greater heresy for a man than to believe that he is absolved from sin if he gives money, or because a priest lays his hand on his head and says: 'I absolve you;' for you must be sorrowful in your heart, else God does not absolve you.
-- John Wycliffe, in Christian History, no. 3.
Lloyd H. Steffen wrote in The Christian Century how when King Frederick II, an eighteenth-century king of Prussia, was visiting a prison in Berlin, the inmates tried to prove to him how they had been unjustly imprisoned. All except one.
That one sat quietly in a corner, while all the rest protested their innocence. Seeing him sitting there oblivious to the commotion, the king asked him what he was there for. "Armed robbery, Your Honor." The king asked, "Were you guilty?" "Yes, Sir," he answered. "I entirely deserve my punishment." The king then gave an order to the guard: "Release this guilty man. I don't want him corrupting all these innocent people."
-- Donal W. Brenneman APO, Miami, Florida. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2.
The evil person is like the man who jumped from the 50th floor without a parachute. When he passed the 30th, someone shouted, "How's it going?" And the jumper answered, "So far so good." God, we may complain, is always right there to tell us to be good, but he is sometimes rather short on explanations. Perhaps it is because we are not yet ready for explanations. Or, more likely, it is because once we experience deeply in ourselves the goodness of God (Matt. 19:17), we do not need explanations.
-- Father Henry Fehren in U.S. Catholic (April 1985). Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 12.
“Boy Explains Religious Beliefs in School Paper,” The Sioux City Journal, October 11, 1998 - E 3.