This is week five of our Old School Sunday School series. Each week we’ve been re-telling some of the great bible stories from the New Testament, and so we’ve discovered new insights from the story of Jesus’ parents losing him when he was a kid, about Jesus being baptized, healing the blind man and being entertained by Martha and her sister Mary.
A generation ago most children grew up hearing these stories in Sunday School and while Cornerstone doesn’t offer a traditional Sunday School program our Children’s ministries on Sunday morning still teach our children these stories, albeit without the flannelgraph.
For years flannelgraphs were an integral part of the Sunday School experience. How many of you had never seen or heard tell of a flannelgraph before we started this series?
This history of the flannelgraph grows back over 70 years. In 1942 a lady by the name of Ruth Overhotzer along with students from Dallas Baptist University launched a magazine called “Child Evangelism Magazine”. And each issue included a bible lesson with paper cut-outs to be used on a flannelgraph. And as they say, the rest is history. It wasn’t long before churches started ordering the magazine so they could use the flannelgraphs to supplement their Sunday School Curriculum.
Someone commented that flannelgraph was the first PowerPoint but that would actually be stained glass windows.
Flannel Graph Story of The Good Samaritan
He had woken up with a bad feeling about today, but that wasn’t unusual, he hated getting up in the morning and always woke up with a bad feeling. But now he was certain that he should have stayed in bed. It had started as just another day, and part of his day included a trip to Jericho. Not a long trip, and physically not an altogether difficult trip. And if we were to zoom in on the area immediately surrounding Jerusalem we would discover that Jericho was a twenty mile walk from the capital, and it was all downhill. Jerusalem was 2300 feet above sea level and Jericho was near the Dead Sea 1300 feet below sea level, a drop of 3600 feet over that 20 miles. And while physically it wasn’t a tough walk it was a dangerous walk, this was a bad area and as recently as the 1930’s it was still considered a dangerous trek. The path was narrow and twisting and provided all kinds of places to hide and then jump out and rob the unsuspecting.
And that is what happened to him, he was merrily going on his way, thinking about the end of the journey when suddenly he was mugged. A whole bunch of them jumped out from behind a rock, beat him to the ground stole all his money and then to add insult to injury they stole his clothes. He hurt so bad he couldn’t move, maybe if he just laid still the hurt would go away. And just when he was ready to just allow himself to drift away someone arrived, he sensed more then saw their presence and when he opened his eyes he could just make out the hem of their robe, a priest, it was a priest, thank God. But as quickly as the religious leader arrived he left, it almost seemed that he rushed away, and the man was alone, again.
When the next person approached, the man tried to speak, but the effort was too great and it just came out as kind of a croak. It didn’t matter the second man rushed away too, and the traveller laid his head back on the rocky soil, and wondered how long he would last in the hot Palestinian Sun.
He didn’t respond to the sound of the third set of footsteps, and hardly felt his head being lifted from the hard ground and cradled in the strangers arm. The newcomer’s callused hands were gentle as he washed the man’s wounds and bandaged the worst of them. Who was he? And why was he helping? The questions came to his lips but were silenced when his rescuer told him in to conserve his strength. But even that brought questions to mind because of the strange accent the words were spoken with.
And then, he was helped to mount his saviour’s donkey and he rode while the stranger walked alongside steadying him on his mount. The trip ended at an Inn close to Jericho but the care continued into the next day when the stranger continued on his journey, but not before leaving money to cover any additional expenses.
We all know the story, it’s the story of the Good Samaritan and even those in the world who don’t know that Jesus originally told the story know what a Good Samaritan is.
Jesus used this story to illustrate the point of loving those around us, a lawyer had asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life and Jesus’ answer was what do you think you have to do? And the Lawyer answered in Luke 10:27 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” To which Jesus responded “Ok, you know what to do, do it.” I love the next part because the bible says the lawyer wanted to justify his actions and so he asked “And who is my neighbour?” This would make me think that probably the guy was very religious but not all that much fun to be around. We all know people like that, they find it easier to love God than to love people.
Well, he wasn’t much of a lawyer because he broke the cardinal rule of being a lawyer. I’m not a lawyer but I read a lot of novels about lawyers and I know that you never, ever, under any circumstances ask a question that you don’t know the answer to, cause if you do you will get zapped. And Jesus zapped him. Who loved their neighbour? The guy who helped was kind, the others blew it. Jesus didn’t allow any room for excuses or yeah buts at all. It was very cut and dried, if you want to love your neighbour you do it by helping to meet their needs. Who is our neighbour? The people you come into contact with on a daily basis.
Now granted you might never be on the road to Jericho and come across a poor traveller who has been robbed, beaten, stripped and left on the road for dead. Maybe you will but probably not. But every day of your life you will come into contact with people who you not only can be kind to but who you must be kind to.
(Used clip from Forrest Gump here where he meets Jenny for the first time. Start with him waiting for school bus, finishes with him saying “Only friend I ever had”.
On of my favorite scriptures and the one that is featured in our mission statement at Cornerstone is Galatians 5:22-23 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are Characteristics that are supposed to be demonstrated by folks who say they follow Jesus. When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us. Not he might or he may or perhaps maybe but he will.
In this parable Jesus tells a story that displays two of these attributes, kindness and goodness. And they really go together, let’s start by stating up front that if you are good to someone it will involve kindness as a matter of fact the words used in the original have almost the same meaning. On the other hand if you were to define goodness as moral goodness then it will encompass all of the other fruit of the spirit as well.
And so as Believers, or Christians, or Christ followers, or whatever you want to call yourself, one of the most important elements of your life, will be and must be kindness.
Why? Because We Are Commanded To In Galatians 5:22 we are told that kindness will be evident in your life if you are a Christian, not might be or could be or may be but will be evident in your life. In the Old Testament we are told by King Solomon in Proverbs 3:3 Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart.
Listen to Paul’s command to believers in Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Did you catch that “Be Kind To One Another” and in 2 Timothy we are told to be kind to everybody. Everybody.
John Wesley told Christians 250 years ago “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Throughout the New Testament we are reminded of how our actions reflect our faith, and the ultimate outcome of the entire discussion is that it doesn’t matter how religious you are, it doesn’t matter how spiritual you talk, and it doesn’t matter how you perceive yourself, your actions talk louder than your words. Listen to what Jesus says in
James 2:15-16 Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
Jesus himself told us that our behaviour would validate our claims to be a follower of his, remember what he said in John 13:35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” That would lead me to believe that the converse is also true, that your lack of love for one another will prove to the world that you are not my disciples. Makes you think doesn’t it?
We Do It For Ourselves I know that it sounds like a selfish reason, but it’s still a reason. Jesus is very plain throughout the gospels that the way you treat others is the way you will be treated, it shouldn’t be a shock to people if they get to the pearly gates and Jesus says “whoa, where do you think you are going?” If you don’t believe me go to the last part of Matthew 25, you know the story, Jesus told it to illustrate the judgement day and bottom line he said you if you don’t show kindness you aren’t getting in.
It doesn’t take much looking to find places that you can be kind, “Compassion”, “World Hope”, “Ronald McDonald House” and “Operation Christmas Child.”
Some people would say that is a gospel of works, read the New Testament it is a gospel of works. And yes I know what Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his special favour when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. We’re not saved because of the kind things we do, but because we are saved we are required to do kind things. Jesus’ brother James put it this way in James 2:18-20 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” I say, “I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.”
Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?
And then there are the less then spiritual reasons why we do it for ourselves, Wilson Mizner said “Always be nice to people on the way up; because you’ll meet the same people on the way down.” And remember “If your words are soft and sweet, they won’t be as hard to swallow if you have to eat them.”
And your kindness or lack of kindness will determine how you will be remembered William Wordsworth made this comment “That best portion of a good man’s life; His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”
We Do It To Make A Difference. The story is told about an old man walking along the beach after a storm had washed hundreds of starfish upon the sand and as he walked he would lean over and pick up a starfish and throw it back into the ocean. Eventually he met up with a younger man walking in the opposite direction, and the younger man said “you’re wasting your time, there are too many of them, do you really think you can make a difference?” The old man reached down picked up another star fish flung it as far as he could and said “Made a difference to that one”
I don’t think anyone would debate the fact that the Good Samaritan’s actions made a difference in the life of the traveller, literally a life and death difference. Sometimes the difference we make is physical, when you become a foster parent to a third world child you may literally be keeping them alive. When you reach out to the less privileged in our city you may be the difference between a child going to bed hungry or going to bed with a full stomach.
And sometimes the difference is far more eternal then physical Frederick Faber hit the nail on the head when he said “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” The way you treat others may determine whether they spend an eternity with God or a Christless eternity of torment. The way YOU treat others.
And it’s not just the big things that make a difference. It’s not just saving the traveller on the Jericho road. There is a great story in the book of Genesis and it’s when the brothers Jacob and Esau meet up after being estranged for a number of years and this is what Jacob said when he saw his brother Genesis 33:10 “for what a relief it is to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the smile of God!” It’s like seeing the smile of God. That’s awesome.
Have you ever noticed how contagious a smile is? It’s as bad as a yawn. When I was speaking about joy I mentioned how social scientists have made a remarkable discovery. We all know that when we feel good on the inside we smile, that’s a given right? Scientists have discovered that we can reverse that, if we smile we begin to feel good on the inside. They have also discovered what we all know and that is that smiling is contagious. If you smile at someone there is a pretty good chance that they will smile back. So you following me, if we smile we can make other people smile, and if they smile they begin to feel better on the inside. You can make a difference. You have the power to make a difference in someone’s life.
Do you realize that by your smile you have the power to change someone’s life? The other day I was in a grocery store and the young lady at the checkout seemed to be having a less than perfect day and I decided to try and change her day. When I got to the checkout I gave her a big smile asked how she was doing, we chitchatted while she rang in my groceries and when I left I told her that I hoped she had a terrific day. And she was just beaming when she “Thank you so much” I made a difference in her day. And maybe she was able to make the person behind me smile because she was smiling and when that person left she had made a difference in their life.
You can make a difference. Do you believe that? Do you? Can you say, “I have the power”? Say it with me, “I have the power” how about “I can make a difference” Let’s try it together “I can make a difference.” How about “I have the power to make a difference”
And it shouldn’t end with strangers Maya Angelou said “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘‘Good morning’’ at total strangers.”
When I was a teenager I had really eclectic musical taste, I listened to some fairly heavy rock, some light pop, some country but my favourite singer was a guy by the name of Harry Chapin, probably famous for two things one was the length of his songs, how do you get a fifteen minute song played on commercial radio? And the second was a song called “Cats in the Cradle” that has been quoted at every church in the world on Father’s Day. But less known is that Chapin gave half of the profits of his concerts to charity and that he fought tireless for the poor. As a matter of fact five years after he was killed in a car accident at the age of 39 he was awarded the congressional medal of honour because of the work he did for the poor in the US.
His feelings are summed up on the epitaph on his tombstone, which of course came from one of his songs. If a man tried to take his time on earth And prove before he died what one man’s life could be worth, I wonder what would happen to this world.
Let me finish with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Who said, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’“
Every day we will arrive at situations where we will either ask the question‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ or ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’“