Sermons

Summary: You can go from Hero to Zero in a nanosecond in this world. You can turn it around

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Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”

All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. Isaiah 40:1-11(NRSVA)

You can go from hero to zero in a relatively short time; just ask Wrong Way Riegels. On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. In that game a young man named Roy Riegel recovered a fumble for UCLA. Picking up the loose ball, he lost his direction and ran sixty-five yards toward the wrong goal line.

One of his teammates, Benny Lom, ran him down and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team. Several plays later, the Bruins had to punt. Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, demoralizing the UCLA team.

The strange play came in the first half. At half-time the UCLA players filed off the field and into the dressing room. As others sat down on the benches and the floor, Roy Riegel put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, and put his face in his hands.(1)

I know how Roy felt. In high school I did the same thing in the first basketball game of the season. When the tipoff for the game started I soared high to grab the ball, raced to the rim and scored two points for the opposing team. Ouch! They didn’t publish individual high school stats in the papers then; mine would’ve been, Brownworth -2!

The Hero to Zero syndrome is evident in so many areas of life. The leaves were heroes a few weeks ago, in their radiant color-filled splendor; now they have left, and the trees are pitifully bare!

Richard Nixon was a hero in 1972, claiming the presidency with one of the greatest landslide elections in history; by 1974 it was all over – the first president to resign in humiliation, a product of the Watergate scandal.

How many hero-to-zero stories can we recall? Just in recent years we have had Ron Lay, Sadaam Hussein, and Martha Stewart!

Isaiah was cousin of the king of Israel. He was a prophet of God during a difficult period – the occupation of his country by the Assyrians. Putting up with Assyrian domination was a hard pill to swallow. Yet Isaiah had the privilege of announcing God’s message to the people of Israel – the captivity is almost over – God is going to make it all right. He will smooth out every valley – level every mountain!

Isaiah was a hero for that; a few years later there was Manasseh, a new king. There was a new (and even worse) Babylonian captivity on the horizon. Isaiah pointed out that the new enemy was God’s further judgment for Israel’s sins. Manasseh had Isaiah placed inside a hollow log, and sawn in two as a warning for any other prophets who wouldn’t cooperate with his program. Hero to zero, just like that!

It can happen to you too! Have you noticed how changeable people can be?

• One minute you are a hero – someone worships the ground you walk upon; you will be nominated for the next vacancy in the Trinity. Soon, however, the tide changes like the wind blows hot and cold – and suddenly you are sub-zero, less than swine. Hero to zero!

• You have a great portfolio; A few dot-com dives on the Dow Jones and you’re broke. Hero to zero!

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