young American was eager to search for the spiritual truths of
the world and had heard of a holy man in the Far East. He journeyed
there and climbed up the steep mountain to the cave where the
holy man lived. He sat outside the cave for an hour or so waiting
for the holy man to come out so that he could speak to him about
the wisdom of the spiritual journey.
the holy man came out and sat across from the young man, looked
him straight in
the eye, and said, What is the
most important thing that you can do for God?
young man sat there, reflected and thought and thought, and after
a long silence, pondering
everything he could think of, he looked at the holy man and
give up. The
holy man said, Exactly and returned
to the cave.
give up. Probably the last time you said that was when somebody
asked you a riddle in about the fourth grade. I give up. That
is not something we say anymore, is it? We dont add the I
dont know either.
never like to say, I
know or I give up. Well even say something
that is not particularly relevant or true just in order to
avoid being trapped with an I dont know or I
give up. Children still do it, but adults dont
do it very easily.
is almost refreshing once in a while to have
somebody look at you straight and say, You know I
just dont know. Its like
a breath of fresh air. Its almost like wisdom coming
your way, isnt it?
Actually a person said they didnt know. ...
the time Jesus was living and teaching, there were lots of little
political parties. We have two. He had a lot of them, but he
had mainly four. There
were basically four political parties that were the groups
that said, We
know. We have the answer.
of those groups said it this way, The answer is to stay
unspotted from the world. Get yourself removed from all the wickedness
and sin and corruption of human encounters and go off into the
desert and become pure. Those people were called Essenes.
They knew Jesus. Jesus knew them. They wanted Him to join, no
doubt. He was a very charismatic and popular figure. He didnt
was another group. This group was a very disciplined, educated
and highly regarded group. They were called the Pharisees. The
Pharisees had everything down so carefully disciplined, with
the rules and the regulations and what we call the law, that
they had turned the Sabbath day into a series of rules and regulations
so disciplined that every particular aspect of the Sabbath day
was formulated. Jesus offended them over and over again. He said
man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for the
was another group called the Zealots. The Zealots said, Get
the sword. They were the guerilla folks. They said, We
can whip those Romans if we get enough swords, enough disciplined
warriors, we can defeat the Romans. Jesus said, Turn
the other cheek. Do good to them who persecute you. Can
you imagine how that made the Zealots feel? They had the answer.
They knew what was right.
finally the fourth political party might be closer to some of
us here in this room, not you, of course, but the person next
to you. They were called the Sadducees.The
Sadducees were people who maybe used that expression I hear in
New York all the time
when you're doing a deal. It's called mutuality of interest.
What it really means is, I'll sell out if you'll sell out.
Sadducees were very interested in the status quo. They
sold out to the Romans whenever it was appropriate. They were
people, the prominent people. They probably went to the
San Hedrin in a limousine. They had wing-tip shoes. They bought
at Saks and Brooks Brothers.
offended them too because they didn't believe in Heaven. They
said, "What would happen, in
kind of a smart-aleck way, if a man had a wife and he died,
and then he had a brother who married the widow, and then he
died, and then it went on seven times? When they get to Heaven,
Jesus, who's going to be the husband of that widow woman? Of
course, Jesus said there is no such thing as marriage in
parties all had the right way, all knew what was the correct
way. All had worked it out very carefully. All sought to have
Jesus, the wonderful charismatic leader be a part of their group,
and he didnt join any group -
one of the astounding things about His life - as if there is
no single way to find
and to truly know.
of the fundamental truths in Alcoholics Anonymous is to say, I
give up. That is the beginning, AA says, of sobriety.
start with, I give up. I dont know how to do this
thing. I dont know how to control this thing. I don't have
the foggiest idea how to handle this. I give up.
members at the AA meeting look at you and smile and say, Ah,
you might be ready. You might be ready.
is just like that with Jesus, isnt it? All the people He seemed
to deal with were the people who said, I give up, and
then He moved right into their world.
all these other people,
the Sadducees, the Zealots, the Essenes, they had it
right and He couldnt seem to get along with them. It seems
as though Jesus ministered most effectively to folks who
give up. I don't know. I don't know.
Claypool, a friend for many years, is one of the gifted preachers
twenty-five years ago or so, John
Claypools ten-year-old daughter, Laura, died
of Leukemia. John has written a book about it. It's a very
powerful, meaningful story.
said he got hundreds of letters from friends all over the country
saying, "I'm thinking about you and
praying for you and here is what I think about Laura's death, et
cetera. He said, "Of all the letters I got, the most important
one came from a man named Carlyle Marney, a great Southern Baptist
divine - one of the great men of our time."
great Carlyle Marney, teacher, philosopher, preacher, counselor
wrote a brief letter to John at the death of Laura and
John, I don't know why this happened, but the first thing
do when I get to Heaven is to ask that question. Faithfully
in Christ, Marney."
said all the other letters I put away, and I kept that letter
out and read it a hundred times. It was on my desk. The great
Carlyle Marney says, "I don't know why Laura Lue died." He
said all those other letters were saying the Lord was ready for
Laura Lue, the Lord called Laura Lue, He needed some children
those kinds of statements that have come to you, you've gotten
them. The grief that you have gone through in your
life. You know people mean well, but they never tell you,
they never join that journey with you that says, "Lord, I don't
know why this happened to me." You need another voice, another
soul, another lover of Christ Jesus who says, "I, too, don't
know. I don't know."
is in our culture today a movement called mega-churches. Maybe
some of you have been to them. There are probably several in
Memphis. But the ones I am tending to talk about are interdenominational
mega-churches. Lots of them in California.
huge, gigantic places, and the press correctly calls the
people who have gone
to these new churches - some of them only ten years old with
5,000, 20,000 members - they call
the people who attend these churches "seekers." The press writes them up. They've
interviewed them. Books have been written about these people.
people are not people who want answers as much as they want
to find someone who will journey with them with their questions.
They're people who say, "I give up."
is not the church I grew up with. I don't know what church you
grew up with. I grew up with a church that wanted you to open
it, and we'll fill it with the facts, and then we'll close it
and you've got it. It's all right there. It's finished - don't
need to worry about it anymore. You've got it right there.
today were looking for people who will be honest enough
with us to say, "I'll journey with you. I'll go on the
seeking trip with you, because I'm not so sure myself."
when you look at the scriptures, it looks as if Jesus worked
had the most success with people who had said, I give up.
time you sit down with your Bible, just sort of thumb
through and say, With whom did Jesus most often minister? He
didn't do any effective work with these four political parties.
What he did his best work with was those people who were willing
to admit, as that member of AA is, I give up.
is a good time to let go and let God.
Lent is a good
time for at least forty days to stop being the general manager
is a good time to say, I don't know. I give
as the old holy man said, That's the best
thing you can do for God. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Matthews
from a sermon delivred at the
Lenten Noonday Preaching Series,
Calvary Episcopal Church,
Memphis, Tennessee, February