Sermons

Summary: Between what is important, and unimportant, who can understand?

After Wilbur and Orville Wright’s successful flight on December 17, 1903, they joyfully sent a telegram to their sister in Dayton, Ohio. The message read: "First sustained flight, 59 seconds. Home for Christmas."

The sister, also elated, ran all the way to the newspaper office with the telegram. Laying the message on the editor’s desk, she announced, "I thought you would want to see this for tomorrow’s paper."

Sure enough, the next day it was in the paper, but you had to look for it. It was buried on page 16, underneath the obituaries. The notice said, "Local bicycle merchants to spend Christmas at home."

Can you believe it? One of the major events of the 20th century and the editor completely missed it.

That editor is not the only one. Many of us have a difficult time sorting through the events of life trying to understand what is important and what is unimportant.

Some of you may have seen the film, "Places in the Heart,” which came out several years ago.

The film concerns a widow, played by Sally Field, trying to raise two young children during the depression.

Each night, the blind man cranked up the old style Victrola and listened to a recording of a book for the blind. One day, the children sneak into his room and listen to one of the records. Suddenly they hear a noise -- someone is coming -- and quickly put the record away, but as they do, they scratch the record.

That night, the blind man goes to the room to listen to the recording.

"New York Public Library Recording For the Blind," says the voice on the

Victrola.

"Trent’s Last Case. Chapter One. Between what is important and unimportant, who can understand."

And then, because the children have scratched the record, the needle skips and over and over the voice says,

"Between what is important and unimportant, who can understand?

CLICK

Between what is important and unimportant, who can understand.

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"Between what is important and unimportant, who can understand?

CLICK

That phrase of the broken record becomes the theme of the entire movie as every character tries to seek out and discover what the difference is between what is important and unimportant.

In the movie, a man struggles with his own passions. He loves his wife, but has an affair that threatens their marriage. Between lust and love, he hasn’t understood the difference between what is important and unimportant.

The widow of the movie is offered an easy way out of her difficult situation. Split up the kids and live with relatives. She refuses, because between easy answers and the difficult task of being a caring parent, she has the wisdom to know the difference between what is important and unimportant.

Throughout the movie, some of the characters fail to make that discovery. A few, however, have the wisdom to know the difference between what is important and unimportant.

Throughout life, some people are able, but some are unable to know the difference between what is important and unimportant.

I read about a man recently who was being interviewed about his beautiful home. He gave them the Better Homes and Garden type of tour, and pointed out the great treasures of his home. The person conducting the interview asked, "what’s the most important thing in the house--is it the Rembrandt hanging in the hallway?"

"Yes," said the owner of the house, "Or at least it was until last summer when the river flooded and house was being flooded. For a while the Rembrandt was not nearly as important as the inflatable raft out in the garage."

There is a story of a child who was raising a frightful cry because he had shoved his hand into the opening of a very expensive Chinese vase and then couldn’t pull it out again. Parents and neighbors tugged on the child’s arm, with the poor child crying louder and louder. Finally there was nothing left to do but to break the beautiful, expensive vase. Once broken, it became clear why the child had been so hopelessly stuck. His little fist grasped a penny which he had spied at the bottom of the vase and which he, in his childish ignorance, would not let go. For the sake of a mere penny, the expensive vase was lost.

"Between what is important and unimportant, who can understand?"

We grasp what is UNnimportant, we cling to it and in so doing, sacrifice and lose the very things that are important.

In Ecclesiastes, our Old Testament lesson for this morning, the author writes of the brevity of life, and of the difficulty in discerning between what is important and unimportant.

The author of Ecclesiastes said in our lesson, "I tried cheering myself with wine and embracing folly...I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

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