Rev. James A. Splitt
January 9, 2000
Mark 1:4-11 Acts 19:1-7
Acts 19:1-7 [NIV] While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" John’s baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
How are we to express our trust in God? I have a wonderful answer to that question in the form of a story. It is a story that you will find very difficult to forget. This is one of those stories that will stick with you, leaving a permanent image in your mind. This story tells us how to express our trust in God!
This is a story about identical twins. One was a hope filled optimist. "Everything is coming up roses!" he would say. The other was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy’s Law, was an optimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist. He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twin’s personalities. "On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford, and give the optimist a box of manure." The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results.
When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him audibly complaining, "I don’t like the color of this computer ….. I’ll bet this calculator will break…. I don’t like this game….. I know someone who’s got a bigger toy car than this…"
Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the air. He was giggling. "You can’t fool me! Where there’s this much manure, there’s gotta be a pony!"
[from More Sower’s Seeds by Brian Cavanaugh, in a 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, p.180].>P> I suppose we can say "Manure Happens!" Optimism is the attitude we have when we put our complete and total trust in God, or when we rebound from discouragement. We face adversity with hope. We seek the blessings amidst the pain. We turn failures into challenges. We refuse to stay depressed. We seek to win out over our fears. Trusting God is totally letting go and letting God be the supreme authority in our life.
Back in the ‘60s I remember going to a workshop on "Sensitivity Training". One person was blindfolded and asked to stand in the center of a circle. Everyone else stood around that person with his or her arms out. The person in the center was told to fall backwards and give complete trust to the group to catch them. Another variation on this exercise was for the blindfolded person to stand on a chair. The group would form two lines, locking hand/arms with one another. The person on the chair would do a trust fall into their arms. A trust walk was letting another person lead you around blindfolded. Trust was that act of totally letting go, and letting someone else care for you.
The national motto of our country, "IN GOD WE TRUST" was established by Act of Congress on July 30, 1956, [see: www.usmint.com/facts/fun_facts5.cfm]. This motto has been in imprinted on coins for almost 100 years, dating back to 1864. From Treasury Department records it appears that the first suggestion that God be recognized on U.S. coinage can be traced to a letter addressed to the Secretary of Treasury from a minister in 1861. An Act of Congress, approved on April 11, 1864, authorized the coinage of two-cent coins upon which the motto first appeared. The best that money can buy, can never buy trust.
What we learn in our Christian faith is that Christ paid for our sins with his life. We were bought with a price, a price more precious that silver and gold. We were bought with the full love and grace of God. This is Paul’s message to the people in Corinth as expressed in this morning’s story from the book of Acts. Paul goes to the people in Ephesus, who are recent converts to Christianity. He wants to find out if they had been baptized. They were fully convinced that they had been baptized through the baptism of John the Baptist. When Paul found this out, he took time to explain to them the difference between the baptism of Paul and that of Christ. Paul explained to them that being baptized in Christ was the baptism of repentance. Baptism was the means by which we are to put our total and complete trust in Christ. "Do this so that you might believe!" Paul declared. Through baptism we take let go and let God!
Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. All schools of developmental psychology agree that our ability to trust begins in the very earliest moments of life. I have my own theory about trust. I believe we are able to trust others to the degree they trust themselves. Self-trust is important. A number of years ago, I was a workshop leader at the World Conference on the Study of Mental Imagery. My workshop was called Hopenosis. I was addressing the idea of how positive self-image helps individuals heal from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. One of the participants in the group posed an important question. "How do you as a counselor get clients who have been abused to trust you?" Before responding to this question, I already knew that victims of abuse struggle with issues of trust. They were victims of betrayal by those who were supposed to love them. My answer to her was clear. "I do not expect my clients to trust me. Rather I model to them a trust in myself. If I don’t trust myself, I don’t see clients." When we have a positive self regard and trust our motives, intentions and purpose in life, we are capable of earning the trust of others. Because God’s love is perfect, we can trust in a God who is trust – worthy. Letting go and letting God is having the faith and belief in a God who loves us through life … even when manure happens.
We can develop closer relationships with others if we model behavior that is trustworthy. I remember as a Scout, the first principle of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy. People cannot trust in us, if we cannot trust ourselves to live moral and ethical lives. People cannot trust us if we are inconsistent in what we say and do. People cannot trust us if we profess to believe in Christ and we don’t live it on a day to day basis. People cannot trust us if misuse of God given gifts. Trust is a sacred and precious gift in every relationship. Broken relationships occur whenever the bond of trust is broken.
The importance of Paul’s message is that it calls us to fully understand the practice of baptism. The baptism of Christ is the baptism of repentance. People who are trustworthy are people who can admit their wrongdoing, seek forgiveness, and actively reform from their mistakes. While we believe that Baptism is a sacrament that occurs once in our life, it would benefit us to think of our Baptism every time we wash our hands, take a bath or shower. Baptism is the washing away of sin, the radical evil that separates us from the love of God. I want to close this morning with another image that will help you understand how we are to trust in the Lord. Remember the paralyzed man that Jesus healed. (Mark 2:1-11). I heard this story for the first time in Sunday school. In our lesson was a picture of Jesus inside one of those clay homes teaching with a crowd all around him. A paralytic was being lowered through the roof in order that Jesus might heal him. Remember what Jesus said to him? First he spoke to the man and said, "Your sins are forgiven." The crowd could not believe what they heard. How could Jesus say such a thing? "Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . .." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." And so he did.
Proverbs 3:1-9 states "Do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and others. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.