Sermon Illustrations

Leveling the Ground! (10.21.05--That Person!--Genesis 5:3-5)

As I paid for my fuel purchase in he came. Everyone in town knew him as just plain Frank. He was dirty, loud and smelly. Most people avoided him because he was just different from most other folks. He didn’t bath or shower but once in a blue moon. Most of his teeth were missing and the house he lived in was junky even by rural, out-county standards. I moved away to give him space, trying to avoid eye contact or, heaven forbid, his scruffy coat should brush mine.

As I moved to leave, Frank did something that surprised me. He pulled out a gasoline credit card and plunked it down on the counter. In fact, as the clerk had handed me my card he picked up Frank’s. Somehow I had expected Frank to sign-off on a credit slip. Or, at the very least, pull some wrinkled bills from a greasy wallet. But no. He plunked down a fresh, new credit card. For the moment I was struck with the thought that Frank, at least at that counter, was no better or worse than me. Dirty and loud as he was, we shared the same credit card. That had to be good for something; at least Frank deserved a nod or some recognition. I felt compelled. You see--we both had the same card.

General Robert E. Lee was a devout follower of Jesus Christ. Although he was raised in the south where prejudice was a daily way of life, Lee seldom practiced it or revealed it in his life. Although his family owned slaves at one juncture, the slaves were always treated with respect and dignity. It is said that soon after the end of the Civil War, he visited a church in Washington, D.C., a city that had often heaped scorn on Lee throughout the war for his loyalty to the slave-owning states of the Confederacy. During the communion service Lee slowly made his way to the front of the church where he knelt beside a black man. After the service had ended, an onlooker approached Lee and said to him, “How could you do that?” Lee replied, “My friend, all ground is level beneath the cross.” (Source Unknown.)

I guess when I picked up that card and Frank plunked down his, it suddenly struck me that Frank and I were, at that moment, consumed with the same purpose. I needed fuel and had paid for it. He needed fuel and he did the same. Although I had felt that I was better than Frank since I showered daily and brushed my teeth twice a day, it suddenly dawned on me that these things were trivial criteria for drawing distinctions. There were probably many other things in Frank’s life that put him on “level ground” with me. The problem I had was that I could only see those things which distinguished me from him and not the things that bound us together. I left the station that night feeling peculiarly small and insignificant--something else I probably shared with Frank who must have known that feeling well.

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