It comes as no surprise that the stereotypical male seems to be at a loss when it comes to communication. And because they say so little anyhowÖI thought I would do the ladies here a favor by helping translate the difference between what a guy says and what he actually means.
"I'm going fishing." Really means: "I'm going to stand by a stream with a stick in my hand all day, while the fish swim by in complete safety."
"It's a guy thing." Really means: "There is no rational thought pattern connected with it, and you have no chance at all of making it logical."
"Uh-huh." "Sure, honey." "Yes, dear."
Really means: Absolutely nothing. It's a conditioned response.
"Hey, I've got my reasons for what I'm doing." Really means: "And I sure hope I think of some pretty soon."
"I can't find it." Really means: "It didn't fall into my outstretched hands, so I'm completely clueless."
"You look terrific." Really means: "Please don't try on one more outfit. I'm starving."
"It would take too long to explain." Really means: "I have no idea how it works."
"Take a break, honey, you're working too hard." Really means: "I can't hear the game over the vacuum cleaner."
For many people integrity has been reduced to merely telling the truthÖfor others it means that you mean what you say or that you walk the walk, or that you practice what you preach. Integrity comes from the Latin word integra, which means inner strength. The people who seem to use the word best are carpenters and engineers. When they say that a building has integrity they mean that it is structurally sound and that the inner strength of the building materials as well as the relationship between the components that went into the building are strong. Just look at those long wooden beams above you. In order for this building to have integrityÖthose beams need to have the inner strength to bear the weight being imposed upon them other wise they would snap in half. Yet at the same time their function depends upon how they are related to the rest of the buildings components. If the metal girders that those beams rest upon didnít have integrity then it wouldnít matter how strong the wooden beams, because without strong relationships those beams would still come tumbling down.
Now in todayís scripture the Pharisees are challenging Jesusí and asking him which is the greatest commandment. Now the Pharisees are the religious leaders of the day and they all know that there are 613 laws in the Hebrew Scriptures and they know that there are 10 Commandments, but they are testing Jesus. Jesus says love of God and love of neighbor which most of us have heard before, but then he says something critical. He states in verse 40, that, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." In other words the integrity of all 613 laws rest in the love that comes out of them. Jesus throughout his ministry continually challenges those laws, he heals on the Sabbath, he hangs out with unclean people, and he saves a woman caught in the act of adultery by confronting the lack of integrity in some of those laws.
Today just happens to be Reformation Day in which we celebrate the birth of the Protestant church. It was formed by people who protested against the Roman Catholic churches because of the lack of integrity they saw. Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk who challenged the integrity behind the difference between the clergy and laity; he quoted scripture from the book of Hebrews and developed the rallying cry of the "Priesthood of all Believers". The integrity of other relationships were dealt with at this time such as the relationship between the Eucharist and the Cup, between the Bible and the laity up to that point only the clergy were allowed to read the scriptures, and the relationship between clergy and holy matrimony. Thanks to this your church allows and encourages pastors to be married if they so choose.
Let me suggest to you that we need a cultural reformation in which we once again look at the integrity of our world. I remember when I was in high school one day we had an hour lunch and so six of us guys went over to an apartment complex and played basketball. Well time got away from us and we were late getting back to our classes and it just so happened that four of us were in the same English class. When we came in we lied and said we had a flat tire. Mrs. Jordan said, "OK you sit there, you sit there, and placed us across the room. Then she told us to pull out a piece of paper and to write down which of the tires was flat. Needless to say I learned a lot about integrity that day. I read an article about the 1999 Womenís World Cup Soccer team, which was interviewing the goalie of that team Briana Scurry and the amazing diving save during the shootout at the end of the game that ultimately allowed the US to be victorious. She openly admitted that she broke the rules by taking two steps forward to cut the angle on the goal. This allowed her to make a finger tip save and the referee didnít catch the foul. When she was asked later about cheating she was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, "Everybody does it. Itís only cheating if you get caught." Now people this is not some guilt trip about speeding or about all the little rules that we break, but it is a challenge to the integrity of our culture. Look at the news lately. We are inundated with questions of integrity about Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom and the numerous executives caught up in these scandals. Even Martha Stewart, the apron-clad icon of hominess is caught up in it. Our political leaders have had their share of scandals and corruption and lets not forget about the church. Those Roman Catholic Priests are just a few of numerous clergy and church officials that have been surrounded by questions of integrity.
Let me share with you a struggle I have had while preparing this sermon. It started out a few years ago when I was at a pastorís school down in Phoenix. A well-known published preacher stood in front of 150 preachers at Paradise Valley United Methodist and from the pulpit he was answering questions. One person said "hey preacher what is the problem with the church today? It was clearly a question of the churches integrity. And the answer he gave has stayed with me ever since. The troubling part of the answer is that he used profanity and shocked every one of us. Let me tell you the point was loud and clear. Now we are in a brand new place of worship and we are in the middle of a worship service. I really want to use his example, because it clearly illustrates the issues of integrity we need to address. But folks I canít seem to do it. Maybe itís because I donít have the courage and maybe itís because I donít want to jeopardize the relationship I have with this congregation. However I will try to make the point. The preacher said, "You want to know what the problem with the church today is? He said according to Compassion International 40,000 people die every day from easily preventable causes. Hunger, malnutrition etc. The problem with the church is that 40,000 people died yesterday and the church doesnít give and then he used the profanity. All of us were speechless and you could tell everyone was questioning, did he just say what I thought he said. And then the preacher said, but do you want to know what the real problem with the church today is? He said the real problem is that you are more upset about the language I used than you are about the 40,000 people that died yesterday.
I just got back from Nicaragua this week in which we worked at a quote unquote orphanage. The model they are using down there takes physically, sexually, and emotionally abused children as well as abandoned or deserted kids and places them in a family setting instead of an institutional setting. The Via as it is called takes young couples with two or three children of there own and gives them eight more children along with a house and food so that they can raise these unwanted children in a loving environment. The via is on 300 acres of land and has crops an elementary school along with the vision of building facilities to teach specific trades such as automotives, carpentry, agriculture, and computers. It is different solution that addresses a major societal dilemma and it does so with integrity and love.
One of the great calls to integrity our church has faced over the last several years is to question how we are responding to the needs of our community by asking how are we loving our neighbors. Through Open Door and the Saturday at the Park Feeding Ministry and some of those other 89 outreach ministry areas Timís been referring to recently we are trying to have integrity. I see it when the church wrestles over whether or not we should give free handouts and asking whether or not we are creating dependencies by doing so which has the potential to perpetuate the problem even further. Tony Campolo a Baptist preacher suggests that churches use the resources they have to combat homelessness. He thinks churches should use the unused facility space they have during the week and the business professionals or retired professionals to help homeless folks start businesses. One church took one family and a few of his homeless friends and started a moving company out of a Sunday School Classroom. They used an existing phone; rented moving trucks on the days they had jobs, and the professional taught one of the wives to do the books. That company moved out of the churchís classroom and into the home of that young family that was purchased some six months later.
Folks, Jesus is saying if you want to have integrity then you must love God and love your neighbor. Because on these two commandments hang all of the law and the prophets. And I leave you with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., who said: Lifeís most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? What are you doing for others?
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