Summary: Story form sermon about a man who put all the symbols of recognition on display, but no one noticed. Finally someone asked who helped him attain all this. The world does not need to see display cabinets; it needs to see the God who empowers us.
Like it or not, every day, every moment, we send out messages about who we are. Whether it is about our work, our home, our civic life, our possessions, or our spirituality, we send out strong signals about what is in our very core. Those around us will receive those signals, make no mistake; they will receive our messages. They may accept them, they may reject them, but they will see who we are. The question is whether when they get our signals, will it be all about us or will it point beyond us to the glory of God?
Some of you operate intuitively. You can be around another person for only a short while and can pick up the radar and make an assessment about the heart of that person. You just know; you cannot tell me how you know, but you just know. You operate intuitively, able to read the inner side of another person.
As for me, I listen and watch for a while. I listen to what that person says, and usually take it at face value. I don’t spend much time probing into the deeper side. If he says he’s angry, I don’t wonder about whether his mother twisted his big toe when he was two years old. I just accept that he is who he says he is. If she says she is happy, I don’t wonder about whether she is in denial. I just accept that she is who she says she is. I see what I see and I hear what I hear. But others of you look deeper and listen more closely.
Here’s the heart of the matter. We are reading signals and we are being read. Deeply and intuitively, or just on the surface, somebody is taking notes on who you are. Someone is listening to your heart; skeptically and slowly or taking you at face value, someone is listening to your heart.
What will they see? What will they hear? Will they be able to go beyond what you exhibit up front to discern the glory of God?
Behold, I tell you a parable. A parable, as you know, is a story told to make a spiritual point. It may or may not be founded on actual happenings. It usually has one central character to whom all the others react. Parables were used by Jesus, employing the common things of His surroundings – oil lamps, pig sties, coins, fish – whatever was at hand, Jesus used to construct His parables.
So may I be permitted to launch a parable, the parable of the lighted cabinets? May I conjure up in your imagination two pieces of furniture, intended for the protection and display of objects placed in them? And along with them I ask you to imagine a man, a man accomplished and productive in many ways. But also a man with a need. The parable of the lighted cabinets. Remember that it may or may not be about someone you know.
There was a man who in his mature years had accumulated his share of accomplishments and recognitions. He had graduated from high school, and they had given him a magnificently engraved diploma in a lovely folio; it had been tucked away in a drawer for a long time. Then he had gone to college and again they had given him an impressive-looking sheepskin, once he paid his bills and took back his overdue library books! This item, in its own handsome frame, had also been secreted in a drawer, with no particular plan for its use.
But this our friend was even more accomplished. Not only high school, and not only college, but he had labored long enough and hard enough to receive a post-graduate degree from what everybody said was a prestigious university – though it sometimes seemed that “prestigious” was simply a synonym for “pricey”. This award, along with the bound copies of his thesis, he had plopped on the desk in his home office, and most of the time it was hidden by the bills to be paid and the catalogs that poured into the mailbox.
As the years went by, our brother frequently did things that brought over-and-above commendation. His years in the Rotary Club and as the chairman of one of its key committees had brought him a large plaque. Really no place to hang that on the wall, so it too gathered dust. His co-workers at the office, once he reached that ten-year mark, had invested in an oversized greeting card and had all signed it with words of affection. It was getting a little shopworn by now. His pastor, after this man had served a sentence – I mean a term – as a deacon, had written a warm letter of appreciation. That it was the same warm letter of appreciation every other deacon received every year our friend did not know; he just kept the letter because it seemed so sincere. And then there was the colorful scribble his little granddaughter had done, and if you looked carefully, you could read it; it said, “I love you grampa”. He had kept that too.