Summary: This sermon was done while peeling off T-shirts, one by one. The focus is that the presence of the Lord in our lives, as an active participant, drives out cynicism and preserves our joy.
I wish I had bought stock in the T-shirt industry. Of the making of souvenir T-shirts there is no end. People are using T-shirts to send all sorts of messages. Some T-shirts advertise products. Some T-shirts identify the work places. Some focus on the club memberships.
And then some T-shirts make political statements. I remember being in Williamsburg, VA, and seeing a young woman wearing a T-shirt that said, “You may have gone to the College of William and Mary, but I went to the College of Mary and William.” Feminism on a T-shirt.
Other T-shirts identify the your family. This is family reunion time, and I have already seen several of you with shirts that proclaim your family history. I recall one that was done something like petals on a flower. At the center was a couple who were the founders of the family. Each petal represented one of their many children. And so when you wore this T-shirt at the family reunion, you could identify whose flower child you were!
Still other T-shirts reward people for their participation. Run a 10K marathon in the sweltering heat, pounding the pavement, crossing the bridges, up hill and dale, and what do you get for your effort? You get sore muscles, shortness of breath, and a T-shirt. No money, no plaque, but you get a T-shirt.
In fact, there are so many T-shirts, and they have been used so many times for so many events, that now people say cynically, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.” That is meant to communicate, “Oh, don’t go there. I’ve tried that.” You have a suggestion for a new place to go? They respond, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.” You think you have a new idea? They say, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.” You think you’ve discovered a something new? They dash it with sarcasm, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.” It’s the ultimate putdown, it’s the bucket of cold water thrown on an ember, it’s the snarling snap against suggestions. It’s the calloused calculating cynicism of those who feel too old, too jaded, too worldly-wise to try anything new.
Solomon captured this feeling, writing Ecclesiastes, “All is vanity, and there is nothing new under the sun.” If Solomon were writing today, he’d say, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”
Shakespeare knew it, writing Macbeth,
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
A lot of words, Will. Hard words. We can do it faster, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”
And the writer of Hebrews knew about this, too, and knew that in our spiritual lives there is nothing more to be experienced, nothing more to know, nothing more to feel. Suggest a new spiritual possibility, and we reply, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.” I remember suggesting to someone that a Bible class would be right for her, and she said, “I don’t go to Bible class.” I said, “I know you don’t; that’s why I’m suggesting one.” “No,” she told me, “I don’t go to Bible class. I went as a kid. So I don’t do that any more.” In other words, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”
But I cannot improve on the challenging and frightening words of the author of Hebrews:
… let us go on … leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation … For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away ….
Challenging and frightening words. When our spiritual lives are mired in cynicism; when we believe that there is nothing new for us; when our faith is not growing or going; when our relationship with God is static; when to every new idea, every new possibility, and every new dream we cavalierly toss aside, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” – then we are in serious danger.
Let’s review what has happened to us when our faith becomes static.
Most of us begin with a wonderful, joyous experience with Christ. Whether we were kids responding with a child’s beautiful trust, or whether we were adults coming out of spiritual wanderings; whether we grew up in the church and came to Christ as naturally as breathing, or whether we fought Him every step of the way until He grasped us, when we came to Christ we felt new. We felt fresh.