Summary: A sermon showing John the Baptist pointing to Jesus - relinquishing his disciples to become Jesus’ disciples, an example of our pointing to the Lord.
The Reformed Church of Locust Valley
Epiphany II January 20, 2002
“Playing Second Fiddle”
What’s wrong with second place?
First place is worth fighting for, isn’t it? Don’t we want our kids to be all they can be? to be the best, achieve the most, get the highest grades, get into the best schools, live in the best neighborhoods?
What’s wrong with that after all?
Most of you heard the story about Thomas Junta. Thomas Junta was a 44-year-old truck driver, who was recently convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Massachusetts for killing his son’s hockey coach, Michael Costin by smashing his face on he ice of the hockey rink during a disagreement. The event was seen by many boys on the team, because the dispute was during a practice, not even an actual game. Charles McGrath, writing about the incident says, “In my experience both as a coach and as a spectator, hockey parents are even worse that Little League parents who seem meek by comparison.” This author tells of a fight he witnessed rink-side as two hockey moms’s literally pummeled each other in a dispute about a game. (NY Times Mag. 1/20/02)
So there! First place is worth fighting for, isn’t it?
This incident is bizarre, and deaths involving irate parents at sporting events are rare. But parental anger isn’t.
Parents want their kids to win. I wonder how much sportsmanship is taught today? Some of the members of our church coach sports for young people. I know these people and they are good, and I imagine that they try hard to get all kids involved, and help the boys and girls hone their skills and do their best and learn how to play fair. But that isn’t easy with some parents who seem to have nothing but a killer instinct, as if to say, “My child must win at all costs.”
My daughter is 10. Ten years old, mind you. She’s a fifth grader. That means she has seven years to go till she graduates from High School. Eight years if you count the fifth grade. A few weeks ago she came home and told us about an activity her classmate is going to be involved in so she can go to Harvard Law School when she finishes with the locust Valley Central School District. Ten years old. Harvard Law School. Now, is this because she has a burning passion for justice? No, it is because she knows successful lawyers make lots of money. Ten years old.
Gotta be first. Gotta be rich.
Now, she didn’t figure this all out on her own.
I’m afraid our culture is way off course.
Again, not our young people. I was amazed and impressed as were many of you at the creativity of young people in finding ways to relieve the suffering after September 11th. I think in many ways, young people today are more aware and more caring than other generations. Say what you want about mall rats and valley girls, our children have a spirit that runs deep. You need only look at the teen agers in this church.
But they are the counter culture – our church kids. This culture wants to grab hold of them and use them up in the endless cycle of acquiring.
Jesus came to make people rich. The Bible even says that. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich (Gk. PLOUSIOS), yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty, you might become rich (I Cor. 8:9)” The Greek word means is “fullness.” The root is “to flow.” It can mean fullness of goods, but here it means spiritual fullness. It means a flowing in of incredible spiritual riches – or as we know from our childhood memory work, “My cup runneth over.”
It is more important to have a cup running over with the Spirit of the Lord than a coffee running over with gold.
The person with the most things – the person with the most first place ribbons, the person who is first chair first, is not necessary life’s most successful person.
I guess the greatest second fiddle of all time is John the Baptist.
I’m going to tell you something about John that many of you don’t know. John the Baptist had disciples. He had people who followed him just like the disciples we know so well followed Jesus.
They were devoted to their master, John, but they faced a crisis. When Jesus came along, John, “Here’s the guy I was telling you about. Leave me and follow him.”
People don’t like change. Try changing something in the church and watch what happens. I met a new church start pastor once and said, “I envy you, no traditions, no prejudices to overcome, no people saying, “We never did it that way before.” He laughed and said, “Fred, I’ve got news for you. It takes about one hour to make a tradition. If in the school building we’re renting I ask the people to change the way we set up chairs last week they fly into a tizzy. It’s human nature.