Summary: Sermon on how Unless we look to God a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better. Its not. Delivery of this sermon is important. Emphasize the "unlesses" and preach the rhythm of the rhymes. Sermon was preached in promotion of a needed building.
Text: Matthew 5.20
CT: Unless we surpass the world’s view of righteousness we cannot be a follower of Jesus.
FAS: In 1992, a cargo ship left Hong Kong, bound for the U.S. While in route, the ship hit rough seas, and several shipping containers were washed overboard and lost at sea. One of the lost shipping containers held 28,000 plastic bath toys—rubber ducks, turtles, and frogs. The container broke open, and the toys were set free into the Pacific. From there, they began to travel.
A few lucky ducks landed in Hawaii, some made shore in Alaska, others beached in South America, Australia and the Pacific Northwest. The plastic toys have been found frozen in Arctic ice. Others made their way to Scotland and Newfoundland, in the Atlantic.
There are also some 2,000 plastic toys that still bob around in the North Pacific Gyre—a vortex of currents which stretches between Japan, southeast Alaska, Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands. The churning gyre holds a floating, plastic trash heap about the size of Texas.
Even 20 years later, some of the rubber ducks still break free of the gyre's grasp. It occasionally happens—a 20-year-old rubber duck washes up on the Alaskan shore. But it doesn't just happen and the ducks don't set themselves free. Instead, it takes something external—a shift in the wind, a storm that blows across, marine life that bumps a duck out of the current. If not for an outside influence, the ducks would stay trapped in the floating trash heap.1
1 [Dave Bolin, Gadsden, Alabama; source: Bryan Nelson, "What Can 28,000 Rubber Duckies Lost At Sea Teach Us About Our Oceans?" Mother Nature Network (3-1-11)]
LS: We, too, are in a trap, our human condition, lost and circling in the clutches of sin. Left to ourselves, we are doomed to circle in this state forever …. Unless something—or Someone—intervenes to set us free.
I. I had the privilege of officiating the funeral of Ricky Bretz a couple of weeks ago. Ricky was a special guy in our community. Some would call him handicapped but I say special. His niece, Megan, gave me one word to describe Ricky. She quickly gave me her answer. It was “unless”. She proceeded to tell me she got a small tattoo that said “unless”. First time she had showed it to her grandmother was when we met to talk about the funeral service. But when she told us why she got it, we all got a little teary eyed. She had heard this word in a quote from the Dr. Suess book, The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” It reminded her of her uncle Ricky.
Of course as a preacher I thought, Wow, there is a sermon. There is a lesson we all need to get.
Unless. Interesting word. The definition I have in my dictionary says except under certain circumstances. It could mean without or if not. In other words if something doesn’t happen something else will not come to be.
That is how it is used in our quote from Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
The world before Jesus came to be on earth was definitely in bad shape. Good it was not. It was a world lost in darkness with no way to get out. The world was lost to sin. There was no way to God. Without Christmas the light would never begin. That’s why we celebrate Christmas by the way. It’s not just another holiday.
The world was destined to remain in its gyre of sin and despair.
The world was in need of special care. The world needed a savior there.
Unless someone came along to break the world out of the gyre it was in, nothing was going to get better again.
Jesus came. Jesus came with a mission from his father God. He came so that we might believe. But Jesus gave us a reason to believe. He said in John 10.37, Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.
Jesus did not come to make himself great or be a great king. Jesus came only to be a servant. And unless he came to be that servant the world would stay in a terrible lot. It would not get better. It would not.
Jesus showed his disciples how they were to lead. He did it with only a towel, it was all he would need. Jesus said, “ Unless I wash you, you have no part of me”. (Jn.13.8) He was showing the disciples they were to serve not be served.
Jesus went even further with this idea of “unless”. He told them from the side of a large hill what would be the real deal. They were told, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5.20).