Sermon for Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, November 11
Some men are crazy, some men are stupid, some men are brave. And some are a little of each. Felix Baumgartner is one of those such men. A few weeks ago, Felix captivated the world’s attention by a crazy, stupid, and brave feat.
Felix stepped into a capsule attached to a balloon, and flew to 123,000 feet about the surface of the earth. To give you some perspective, northwest Houston is about 130 feet above sea level. Commercial airliners fly about 30,000 feet about the surface of the earth. This is like running a marathon straight up into the air. So Felix didn’t just go above the clouds, he went way above the clouds. He was so high up, that he actually had to wear a space suit. And the plan was that once Felix got that high, he would simply jump out. This isn’t sky diving, this is space diving.
Now what are some choice words we would use for such a person? Crazy. Stupid. Insane. Out of his mind. A real nut. And that’s exactly what people around the world were saying about Felix. The internet was buzzing with this stunt. “Felix is a real lunatic.” “Felix doesn’t have any sense.” “Felix shouldn’t be taking such a big risk.”
But Felix didn’t listen to the nay-sayers. He climbed into his space suit, put on his parachute, and then he jumped.
Now at that moment, there were 8 million people around the world watching this event live. And I think that at this very moment, every one of those 8 million gasped, “Oh Lord!”
What happened next is hard to comprehend. Felix started to fall…fast. I mean really fast, like 850 miles per hour fast. He broke the sound barrier. But since he was so high up, he was free-falling for over four minutes. That’s about enough time for me to say the entire prayer before communion.
And then what happened? Felix survived the plummet. His parachute opened. And when Felix landed softly on the ground, the world went wild. Remember all those people who had said that Felix was “crazy” or “stupid” or “out of his mind?” Now they were saying, “Felix is a hero! Felix is so brave! Felix had some real courage and ambition!”
So often we look at someone like Felix with mixed emotions. We are at the same time inspired and humbled. His example of risking everything, and of trust, and then going ahead and taking the plunge is daunting.
But taking the plunge is not without its reward. Though she was no Felix Baumgartner, the poor widow that Jesus watches is just as brave and as bold. The crowds are watching her, not because she is wearing a space suit and parachute, but because she has two small copper coins. It doesn’t seem real – this all the money she has. And as she approaches the offertory plate, in anticipation the crowds are saying, “She won’t give away everything, will she? She’s just crazy. She’s out of her mind to give so much.”
But that poor old widow does take the plunge. And what happens? The crowd gasps, and they let go a collective, “Oh Lord.” Then when the copper coins clink in the plate, Jesus goes wild. Jesus is the one of the sidelines jumping up and down yelling, “She did it! She was so brave! She was so bold! That poor old widow is a hero! She’s ambitious and courageous!”
That poor old widow took the plunge. She took the plunge of faith.
The rich folks who put in the money, well, they were giving, sure, but they weren’t really risking anything. They had plenty of money to give, so they were giving out of their wealth. They were giving away their spare money, their loose change, their walking around money. But not that poor widow. She gave everything, everything, she had to God. When the opportunity presented itself, she took the plunge. And she was rewarded.
Every day we are presented with an opportunity to take the plunge. It might not be as scary as jumping 23 miles to the earth below. It might not be as costly as the poor widow. But still, in our everyday walk with Jesus, we are given the opportunity to take the plunge. And what stands in the way of us jumping out on faith is our own fear.
We sing well in the shower, bursting out our favorite songs. But it’s fear of sounding bad that stops us from belting it out in church or in joining the choir. We think about those people in the hospital from our church who could use a visit. But it’s fear of not being good enough at sitting with them that’s holding us back. We drive past the poor and homeless right here in Spring, but it’s fear that makes us roll up the window and keep driving. We sit there with our pledge cards not filled out, but it’s fear of not having enough that’s holding us back.
It’s the fear of being ridiculed. It’s the fear of failing. It’s Felix’s fear that his parachute wouldn’t open. It’s the poor widow’s fear that she wouldn’t have enough. But fears can be conquered.
Because the space suit always works, the parachute always opens. The widow is always cared for. God always provides.
I can assure you that God provides because I know it from my own life. I remember when I started telling my family and friends that I wanted to be a priest. You would have thought I was telling them that I was going to sky dive from 23 miles in the air. They told me I was nuts. They said it was crazy and that I should choose a “safer” job. I lost some friends over my calling. Finding girls who would date a future priest was impossible. But God provided. It was a crazy, risky, gamble for Jesus – but I took the plunge. And it paid off huge. I married a woman who is way above my pay grade. And I here I stand before you, as your priest, living proof that the parachute does open.
And I will promise you this: God will provide. God always provides. God gives you the strength you need to conquer your fears. God gives you the courage to leap out and try out something new for Jesus. God gives you love – a love that will always hold you and never fail you.
As your priest, as your spiritual guide, I am challenging you to do this one thing – take the plunge. Do that one thing for Jesus that sounds really crazy but you know is not. And if everybody says “you’re nuts for wanting to do that,” then you know that you’re on the right track. Don’t jump from 10 feet, or even 10,000 feet. Join Felix way up there at the edge of space and jump out. Don’t just give whatever extra you have lying around. Give with that poor old widow, to the point where you feel it.
Because if it’s not a crazy, risky, gamble for Jesus – then it’s probably not bold enough. Join the choir, fill out that pledge card, talk to the homeless guy you always drive past, hang out with our youth, start visiting folks in the hospital, stand up here and serve communion with me. Be a little crazy for Jesus. Because when you’re crazy for Jesus, he’s crazy for you.
The space suit will work. The parachute will open. God will provide. God always provides. Take the plunge.