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Summary: Focuses on Jesus addressing the Disciples, not the crowd

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A recent survey has compiled all the qualities that people expect from the perfect pastor:

Results of a computerized survey indicated that the perfect pastor preaches exactly 12 minutes.

He frequently condemns sin but never upsets anyone.

She works from 8 a.m. until midnight and is also a janitor.

He makes $300 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $400 a week to the poor.

She is 28 years of age, but she’s been preaching for 30 years.

He is wonderfully gentle and handsome.

She gives herself completely but never gets too close to anyone to avoid criticism.

He speaks boldly on social issues, but must never become politically involved.

She has a burning desire to work with teenagers, and she spends all her time with senior citizens.

He makes 15 daily calls to parish families, visits shut-ins and the hospitalized, spends all his time evangelizing the unchurched, and is always in his office when needed.

I have a confession to make to you about sermon titles. Linda and I plan out the sermon schedule well in advance. The texts come from the lectionary, so we know what those will be as far in advance as you’d like. We select which text we will be focusing on months in advance, and that is when we come up with titles. I don’t actually begin writing my sermons until a couple of weeks in advance and I don’t finish my sermon until the Friday before it is delivered. Because the titles come before the actual sermons, sometimes they don’t fit. Sometimes the title turns out to be better than the sermon. This week, I meant for the title to be “Bless You” and that is what is on the sign. Linda thought that I had selected, “Bless Me” so that is what is in the bulletin. Actually, “Bless Them” would be a better fit for the sermon.

It is always difficult dealing with a familiar passage. I want to bring out some new thought or present an old idea in a new and memorable way. I often feel unsuccessful. The beatitudes and the entire Sermon on the Mount create that difficulty, but here goes.

In 1965, there was testimony before a Senate subcommittee that predicted that by 1985, the average American worker would be working 22 hours a week and would retire by the age of forty. Why? That was the impact that computers and related technologies were going to have on our lives. The factories would be automated. Typing would give way to Word Processing. Data would be stored and transmitted electronically. Communications would be revolutionized.

Before you scoff too much at these experts, you have to understand that they were reporting the conventional wisdom. It was even on prime time TV. In 1962 a prime time cartoon show about a family of the future made its début. The Jetson’s was a story of a family living in the distant future. They still show up in reruns and are currently being featured in an ad campaign for dish washer soap. George Jetson, the father, had a job with Spacely Sprockets. He would go into the office three days a week and push one big red button. That, and getting into trouble with the boss, Mr. Spacely, was the extent of George’s work.

Do we live in the world that was imagined in the 60’s? Do we have tons of time on our hands. I read a story about a man billing his doctor for the time that he spent waiting for a delayed appointment, and I felt sympathy. We have microwaves and instant everything and still we have no time. We shop on line and want next day delivery. We can’t waist the time that we spend in our cars, so we have entertainment systems for the kids while we talk on our cell phones. I have even seen advertisements for fax machines designed to be used in our cars.

In 1965 those senate experts were predicting just 20 years into the future, we now stand at forty years from that event. The average American worker now puts in over 45 hours a week. The retirement age is moving up, not down, with many choosing not to retire at all. People are engaging in second and third careers. What went wrong? Why were those experts so mistaken?

The surprising fact is that the testimony from 1965 was essentially correct. We actually saw greater gains in productivity than the experts had predicted. They did, of course, make a fundamental error. They assumed that we would be satisfied producing about the same amount of about the same sort of stuff. Increased productivity for the same output yields reduced time. They misunderstood the human desire to have more and better things. The more that we produce, the more that we want, and the harder we have to work to get it. We are riding on a rollercoaster that goes around the very same track with the same twists and turns and loops, but it is moving faster and faster with every turn.

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