Marines.Together We Served

Monday, May 28, 2007

Somethin' Squirrelly's Goin' On!

Sermon preparation is always an interesting exercise. Each week I sit down to begin the process of prayerful study in crafting my message for the next Sunday. Okay, okay, okay! So maybe it was hastily thrown together at the last minute in a state of sheer panic. But don’t let my bishop know!

Last week was no exception. I recently began a sermon series working my way through the New Testament book of I Corinthians. I’m taking a chapter-by-chapter approach, so last Sunday I was preaching from chapter five. The title of the sermon was, “Satan, Sin, Salvation.”

I live in a small town in the Central Valley of California. Ripon’s population is around 14,000. Around here I’m still considered a newcomer, only having been assigned here as pastor since 1998. However, in that time the town has grown by half.

Small towns are great! I have discovered over the years that not everyone agrees with me regarding small towns. I’ll hear folks say, “I couldn’t wait to move out of that small town I grew up in!” When I would ask them why, the answer usually sounded like this: “Because everyone knows your business!” This is when I would ask the question, “What were you doing that you wouldn’t want people to know about it?”

Anyway, last Friday three Marine recruiters I know in the local area picked me up to drive to Monterey where we were to play in a golf tournament hosted by an Army command. Since this was about a two-and-a-half hour drive, I took several articles I had saved in a file, along with my Large Print Bible. After about an hour on the road, comfortably seated in the front passenger’s seat with my Bible open on my lap to I Corinthians, I decided a power nap was in order.

I woke up refreshed about twenty minutes later. The Staff Sergeant driving the car looked over at me and said, “Sir, Corinthians can’t be that boring!” I chuckled and said for everyone in the car to hear, “No, it’s far from boring. In fact, let me read you the first verse from the chapter I’ll be preaching on this Sunday: ‘It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud!’” You could have heard a pin drop!

I had been wrestling with this passage all week trying to figure out the best way to present it. The Apostle Paul had many difficult issues to address with this fledgling church he had started in Corinth, and sexual immorality was one of the biggest problems he faced.

I remembered a song by novelty singer/songwriter Ray Stevens called, “Mississippi Squirrel Revival.” It was perfect! In the same way Paul was attempting to reason with these new Christians in Corinth regarding the continued sinful behavior on the part of some in the congregation, this song, too, by Ray Stevens pokes a humorous finger at sin and forgiveness in the church today. My favorite lines in the song pretty well tell the story. A squirrel is let loose in a church service . . .

All the way down to the Amen Pew,
Where sat sister Bertha Better-Than-You,
Who’d been watching all the commotion with sadistic glee,
But you shoulda seen the look in her eyes
When that squirrel jumped her garters and crossed her thighs
And she jumped to her feet and said, “Lord, have mercy on me!”

As the squirrel made laps inside her dress,
She began to cry and then to confess
To sins that would make a sailor blush with shame!
She told of gossip and church dissention,
But the thing that got the most attention
Was when she talked about her love life, and then she started naming names!

The day the squirrel went berserk
In the First Self-Righteous Church
In that sleepy little town of Pascagoula!
It was a fight for survival
That broke out in revival
They were jumpin’ pews and shoutin’ “Hallelujah!”

So on Sunday morning at a certain point in my message, I had the audio/video guy play this song. It was a hoot! Folks were laughing and enjoying the song. Much to my surprise, there were actually some who had never heard the song before!

The point was made: Your sins will find you out. But by confessing that sin, there is forgiveness and true repentance.

The verse that reinforces this is found in Galatians 6 where Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The man who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

Let me ask you: Are you hiding something? Do you worry that you will be found out? Well then, now’s as good a time as any to confess it to Jesus who is the only one that can cleanse you of sin. Trust me: You’ll feel much better.

And you won’t have to worry about some half-crazed squirrel spilling the beans on you!

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