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HISTORY IS STORY OF UNFORSEEN
In the introduction to his A History of Europe, H.A.L. Fisher writes:
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discovered in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. But these harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following another, as wave follows upon wave--there can be no generalization. There is only one safe rule for the historian--that he should recognize in the development of human destiny the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
— Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations —
Sermon Central Staff
CHRYSOSTOM ON ECCLESIASTES
Eutropius had fallen into disgrace. As the highest-ranking official in the Byzantine Empire (late fourth century), he served as the closest adviser to the emperor Arcadius, then ruling in Constantinople. But Eutropius abused his imperial power and aroused the anger of the empress Eudoxia, who orchestrated a campaign against him that resulted in a sentence of death.
Desperate to save his life, Eutropius slipped away from the palace and ran to the Hagia Sophia, where he clung to the altar and claimed sanctuary. Soon an angry mob of soldiers surrounded the great church, denouncing Eutropius and demanding his execution. Eventually, the crowds dispersed, but the next day was Sunday, and so they returned the following morning to see whether the pastor would give in to their demands for the execution of Eutropius.
The pastor was John Chrysostom, the famous preacher who served as the Bishop of Constantinople. As he mounted his pulpit, Chrysostom could see a church crowded with worshipers and thrill-seekers. They, in turn, could see Eutropius groveling at the altar. The great man had become a pitiable spectacle, with his teeth chattering and hopeless terror in his eyes.
The dramatic sermon Chrysostom preached that day may have been the finest he ever preached. For his text Chrysostom took Ecclesiastes 1:2 ("Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity"), and for his primary illustration he used the decline and fall of Eutropius.
Here was a man, Chrysostom noted, who had lost everything--position, wealth, freedom, safety. Only days before, he had been the second most powerful man in the world. But it was all vanity, as events had proven, for now Eutropius had become "more wretched than a chained convict, more pitiable than a menial slave, more indigent than a beggar wasting away with hunger." "Though I should try my very best," Chrysostom said, "I could never convey to you in words the agony he must be suffering, from hour to hour expecting to be butchered."
Chrysostom did not stop there, however. His purpose was not to condemn Eutropius but to save him, and also to give his listeners the gospel. To that end, he challenged his listeners to recognize the vanity of their own existence. Whether rich or poor, one day they would all have to leave their possessions behind. They too would face a day of judgment--the judgment of a holy God. Their only hope then would be the hope that they should offer to Eutropius now--mercy at the table of Christ.
The sermon must have hit its mark, for as Chrysostom came to a close, he could see tears of pity streaming down people's faces. Eutropius was spared--a life saved by the preaching of Ecclesiastes.
Because Ecclesiastes is the Word of the living God, it can have the same impact in our lives today. Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Ecclesiastes warns us to live our lives in light of eternity. Ecclesiastes teaches us how to live a meaningful life.
(From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, 7/11/2010)
You may recall that on Easter Sunday I made reference to Charles Schulz’s comic strip PEANUTS. The fact that I have to identify it as “Charles Schulz’s comic strip PEANUTS” just shows you how much things have changed. In the circles where I grew up, you could quote “PEANUTS” with no more introduction than you if you’d said, “SHAKESPEARE” or “THE BEATLES.” Anyway, in one strip, Linus runs up to Charlie Brown and says, "Charlie Brown, I just saw the most unbelievable football game... What a comeback The quarterback threw a perfect pass to the left end, who ran all the way for a touchdown The fans went wild Thousands of people ran onto the field laughing and screaming They were so happy they were rolling on the ground and hugging each other It was fantastic” And Charlie Brown – Good Ol’ Charlie Brown – says, “How did the other team feel?”
While Secretary of State during the Regan presidency, George Shultz kept a large globe in his office. When newly appointed ambassadors had an interview with him and when ambassadors returning from their posts for their first visit with him were leaving his office, Shultz would test them. He would say, "You have to go over the globe and prove to me that you can identify your country." They would go over, spin the globe, and put their finger on the country to which sent--unerringly. When Shultz’s old friend and former Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield was appointed ambassador to Japan, even he was put to the test. This time, however, Ambassador Mansfield spun the globe and put his hand on the United States. He said: "That’s my country." On June 27, 1993, Shultz related this to Brian Lamb on C-Span’s "Booknotes." Said the secretary: "I’ve told that story, subsequently, to all the ambassadors going out. ’Never forget you’re over there in that country, but your country is the United States. You’re there to represent us. Take care of our interests and never forget it, and you’re representing the best country in the world.’ "
We must never forget where our home and our allegiance is – Heaven. Daniel worked in a land that was hostile to the faith he held. His bosses were some of the most powerful, most ruthless, and egotistical kings in all ancient hi...
Katie Fisher, 17, entered the Madison County Ohio Junior Livestock Sale hoping the lamb she had for sale would get a good price. For months Katie had been battling cancer. She had endured hospital stays and been through chemotherapy a number of times. Before the lamb went on the block, the auctioneer told the audience about Katie’s condition, hoping his introduction would push the price-per-pound above the average of two dollars. It did-and then some. The lamb sold for $11.50 per pound. Then the buyer gave it back, and suggested the auctioneer sell it again. That started a chain reaction. Families bought it and gave it back; businesses bought it and gave it back. Katie’s mother said, "The first sale is the only one I remember. After that, I was crying too hard." They ended up selling the lamb thirty-six times that day, raising more than $16,000 in the process. (This is from The Story File by Steve May)
THE CRISIS OF ALL RELIGION
Jesus is unique....This is highlighted in the ministry of a well-known missionary in India, Dr. E. Stanley Jones. Jones often lectured to Hindu audiences having Hindus as chairmen of the meetings. On one such occasion the chairman was a chief minister of state. During his introduction he said, "I shall reserve my remarks for the close of the address, for no matter what the speaker says, I will find parallel things in our own sacred books." At the close of the meeting he was at a loss for words. Dr. Jones had not presented "things"; he had presented a person, Jesus Christ; and that person was not found in their sacred books. As someone has put it, "Christ is the crisis of all religion."
SOURCE: Dr. R. A. Robinson MA in "With So Many Religions, Why Christianity"
(The following is a parable that I made up as an introduction. It is fictional. For a story of similar proportion, see the movie RADIO.)
He was never an all-star athlete, although he wanted to be. He didn’t have what it takes. Bobby’s body was disproportionate; one leg was longer than the other was, so he walked funny. And to see him run was definitely a sight for sore eyes. He always liked sports, in fact, every Friday night, he would be at his high school cheering on whatever team was playing that night--basketball, football, baseball, soccer, tennis. If there was a game, he was there, sporting pom-poms and a foam finger that said his team was number one.
One Friday night, the football coach noticed his dedication to the team, so he asked him if he’d like to be the water boy. Bobby was amazed. Besides all the stares and giggles because of his limp, he had never thought anyone ever noticed him, especially Coach Gordon. Bobby had tried out for the football team two years earlier, and the coach sent him packing. “You’re too…uncoordinated,” he said. But now, the chance to be the water boy. Bobby jumped on the opportunity and the next week, he was at practice everyday, filling cups with water and making sure every player had something to drink when he needed it.
Every now and then, a couple of the players would make fun of him. However, Bobby loved his position as the teams water boy and wasn’t going to quit. His parents told him that being the water boy on a team was the lowest of the low, and that they would never stoop so low as to being the water boy. In spite of his parents’ comments, Bobby was diligent to serve as the teams water boy for the entire season. The next year, Bobby’s senior year, Coach appointed Bobby as his personal assistant. Coach Gordon was so pleased with Bobby’s heart, that he took him in and taught him everything he knew about football. Bobby went on to college the next year, and in addition to his studies, Coach Gordon had asked him to be the assistant coach. Bobby helped coach the team all throughout college where he graduated with a degree in Sports Management. Bobby continued to move up the ladder and at the end of his career, he had won two Super Bowls and owned his own football team.
Introduction: Some time ago The Wisconsin State Journal surveyed Vice Presidents and Personnel Directors of the nation’s largest corporations for their most unusual experiences interviewing prospective employees. Their stories included the following:
• A job applicant who challenged the interviewer to arm wrestle with him.
• A job candidate who said he had never finished high school because he had been kidnapped and kept in a closet in Mexico.
• A balding candidate who excused himself, then returned wearing a full hairpiece.
• A candidate who wore earphones to the interview and, when asked to remove them, explained that she could listen to the interviewer and the music at the same time.
• A candidate who said she did not have time for lunch, then started to eat a hamburger and fries in the interviewer’s office.
• An applicant who interrupted the questioning to phone her therapist for advice.
• A candida...
Note: this was the introduction to a sermon on Elisha’s healing miracle in the cited chapter, and Jesus’ healing miracles in Mark 1:29-39.
Title: The CSI Effect-
A crime scene investigator from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was dusting for fingerprints in a home that had been burglarized. The investigator was challenged by the homeowner with these words: "That’s not the way they do it on television."
Captain Chris Beattie, who heads the L.A. County Science Services Bureau, also called the crime lab, calls this "the CSI effect."
With 60 million viewers a week for the three CSI programs on CBS - CSI, CSI:Miami, and CSI: New York, there is a lot more interest these days on how crime scene investigations are done. Robert Hirshhorn, a jury consultant, cites a study that showed that 70% of a jury pool were viewers of CSI, or A&E’s Forensic Files, or NBC’s Law and Order.
These shows have helped make jurors more receptive to scientific evidence, and another positive outcome is the demand by jurors for better investigations.
There are also downsides. The public now has unreasonable expectations that every crime can be solved quickly and conclusively like it happens on tv. Jurors have unrealistic notions of what science can deliver. Criminal science is not infallible and it cannot absolutely insure that the right criminal will always be caught.
The CSI Effect is an offshoot of our faith in science. From earliest schooling we are conditioned to believe that what is real is that which can be experienced with our five physical senses. What is real is that which can be measured, tested and verified through scientific experiment. The material world - space, time, energy and matter, is what is really real. We firmly believe that we can develop laws, theories, and best practices that are consistent, stable and dependable.
Science teaches us to trust what we can observe, either with our naked eye, or through a microscope or telescope. Science in history has led to secularism, but in this new millenium we understand that secular thought has not produced the needed corrections to the ills of this world.
Science, technology, business, education, government, the media and the arts have all failed us. Huston Smith, an internationally respected authority on world religions states that "today none of these is serving us well" (The Soul of Christianity). We need more than a materialistic outlook can deliver.
This morning we turn to someone who stands outside our contemporary scene. We need to find someone is not bound by a scientific mindset to believe that limit what God can do. We
turn to Elisha, a prophet from the 9th century b.c.
Notice what Malachi says;
“…A child HONORS his father, and a servant HONORS his master. I am a father, so why don’t you respect me? I am a master, so why don’t you respect me? You priests do not respect me?
But you ask, ‘How have we shown you disrespect?’ You have shown it by bringing unclean food to my altar.
But you ask, ‘What makes it unclean?’ It is unclean because you don’t respect the altar of the Lord. When you bring blind animals as sacrifices, that is wrong. When you bring crippled and sick animals, that is wrong. Try giving them to your governor. Would he be pleased with you? He wouldn’t accept you,” says the Lord ALL Powerful…”
Malachi 1:6-8 (NCV)
Pretty powerful words, Listen to how Max Lucado describes this attitude towards giving in the introduction to the book of Malachi in the Inspirational Bible.
The image is vivid. A family on their way to the temple realizes they have forgotten the sheep. He turns to her and says, “Did you bring a sacrifice?” “No, I thought you did,” she replies. He stops the wagon sans says, “You go ahead and take the kids, I’ll go back.”
He goes back to the pen and begins to sort through the sheep looking for the one to be sacrificed. He picks up a big fat one with thick wool. “Too valuable,” he decides and puts it down. He picks up another fat one, “No, I want to enter this one in a contest.” He finds another healthy one, “No, I need to save this one for breeding…”
Finally he comes upon a frail lamb with a broken leg and spotted wool. “Ahh,” he says, “This will be a good one to get rid of…”
What the fellow doesn’t know is that God has been watching the process. God has been observing the choosing. What God has heard the man say is, I will give a token, but I want give my heart…”
Such an attitude angers God. And such anger is found in this last book of the Old Testament.
Now, we don’t offer sheep, but every Sunday we have an opportunity to give. Some people arrive at the altar with no thought given at all to their financial responsibility before God. As the plate comes, she elbows him and says; “What do you want to give?”
He says, “Let’s see what I got.”
Wallets come out and the process of proclamation begins. We begin to sort through the sheep pen. We consider the big sheep with the picture of Ben Franklin, no, that’s too much. We think about writing a check with a couple of zeros. ‘Better not,” we decide.
We forget the process itself is a statement…
We forget that God is watching…