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Sermon for The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Jeremiah 17:5-10; Luke 6:17-26
"The First Step"


READING:  Jeremiah 17:5-10; Luke 6:17-26
SERMON :  "The First Step"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or06se.y-c 408 

   For this sermon a folder or handout that 
   outlines the 12 steps of AA or other 12 
   step program is an asset.   You could always
   print the 12 steps in the church bulletin. 

I handed out to everyone here today a copy of the 12 steps
because everybody can benefit from following those steps.

The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are a time tested guide
to recovery from addiction - and they, 
         when they are followed on a day by day basis, 
         produce in those who observe them a new and better life 
         - a blessed life.

The twelve step program is, as its creators repeatedly stated,
         a spiritual program -- it is designed 
          to give life to those who are in the process of dying,
          to give life to those who are slowly killing themselves
             by poisoning their bodies,
                 their social relationships,
                    their emotional environment,
                        and their spiritual world with alcohol.

The AA program works!
         and it works extremely well
          and that is why from its start just over 50 years ago in
                 Akron Ohio the AA movement has spread all around the
                 world.

The twelve steps,
         have been translated into hundreds of languages,
          and used successfully not only by those suffering
             from alcohol addiction,
                 but also by those who are addicted to many other
                    kinds of substances and behaviours.

The twelve steps have brought health and wholeness to literally
         millions of people  - many of whom have never touched a
          drink in their entire lives.

What I am saying is that the 12 steps 
         are not only designed for problem drinkers,
          they are designed for anyone whose life is 
             affected by drinking.

Studies show that for every addict
         there are 4 or 5 other people who, although they do
          not drink, are seriously ill because of that one addict,
             and they remain that way, they remain ill,
                 even when the addict ceases to drink.

They need help even when the original problem no longer exists.


These 4 or 5 other people are the people that are closest
         to the addict - generally family members -
          and because they live or work or associate with an addict,
             they end up living and thinking like addicts.

They learn to lie to protect the addict,
         they become distrustful of others, 
          they don't believe in promises anymore - because
             they have been so often let down.
             
Many become insufferable nags - hoping that by screaming
         at people and becoming angry 
          they might get what they want;
others become poor pathetic martyrs - complaining about how
         they have tried to do their best, but the world
          has been cruel to them.

In short while their lives are being messed up by the behaviour
         of the addict they develop messed up attitudes and behaviours
          - and there is no help for them, 
             just as there is no help for the addict, 
                 until they begin to follow the 12 steps
                    until they too realize that they are 

             powerless over alcohol and that their lives
             have become unmanageable.

That realization, that admission 
         is the first step to recovery for the addict
          and for those affected by the addict.

That confession of powerlessness is the first step towards
spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health.

So what does all this have to do with us today?

Well it is very simple really.
Every one of us displays addictive behaviour in our lives.
And everyone of us can benefit from the 12 step program.

Since Adam and Eve first decided that they knew better than God
         we have all been addicts -
          we have all declared sometime, somewhere,
             that we are in control of our lives,
                 and that we can save ourselves
                    and that we can save others,
                        without any outside help at all,.

We have all declared at one time or another,
         that God is wrong about some things
          or that the bible is in error and that the source of 
             blessedness in life is not obedience to God's word,
                 but rather it is an abundance of the things
                    that God has made.


We turn the sermon on the mount which is found in Matthew,
         or the sermon on the plain,
          which is what we read from in Luke today,
             completely upside down.

 We proclaim in our advertising,
         and in what we teach our children at home and in school,
          blessed are those who are rich,
             and happy are those who are well fed.

We tell them - unhappy are those who mourn,
         and blessed are they that laugh,
          cursed are those who are persecuted,
             and happy are those who are popular at school,
                 at work, and at play.

And then like a boozer after a binge, we wonder why things are
going so badly for us and for our children.

Why are things going so badly anyway?
--       Not just in our lives -- but in our society as a whole?

Do you realize that North America
         the most blessed region of the earth in material terms
          has more people in prison per capita
             than any other area in the world?

Do you realize that in the poor countries of the world
         children desperately want to go to school and learn
          that education is counted a fantastic privilege,
             while in North America more and more teachers,
                 are carrying weapons to protect themselves.

Do you realize too that in the very countries where drugs
       are produced - where they are free for the picking
          as it were - that there are less addicts per capita
             than there are in the USA and Canada?

And we think we have it together don't we?
         That while we have some problems, we are basically OK
          and that we can teach the other nations
             how to live and conduct their affairs, 
                 those places where people starve to death
                    and governments torture their citizens

Perhaps we can teach others - in some areas - but in other areas
I think we are the ones who need help - and we need it badly.

Listen to Jesus again and ask yourself
         is he talking about us - or about someone else.

         Woe to you who are rich,
         to you who spend more money in a year on lottery tickets and
         on renting movies than on helping your neighbours,
         for you have already received your comfort...

         Woe to you who are well fed now
         to you who throw food in the garbage everyday
         and encourage your companies to destroy tons of grain
         and millions of eggs each year
         for you will go hungry

         Woe to you who laugh now
         To you who refuse to consider the sorrow around you
         and avoid all thought of the suffering in the world
         for you will mourn and weep

         And woe to you when all people speak well of you
         to you who are politically correct and whose
                  opinions are sought by those around you
         for that is how all the false prophets were treated.

Sometimes it is hard to see the good news in the gospel.
Sometimes it seems that church is depressing
and the message hard to bear.

We really don't want to deal with the truth,
and so we avoid it - we go elsewhere - 
or we declare that the truth is a lie
or that it doesn't apply to us,
that we make some mistakes - but basically we are OK as we are..

That my friends is exactly what alcoholics do......
They avoid and they deny.

That is why the first step to recovery in the AA program 
 is what it is...  WE ADMITTED WE WERE POWERLESS OVER ALCOHOL -
                   THAT OUR LIVES HAD BECOME UNMANAGEABLE.

It is only when an addicted person finally admits that
         they are in trouble,
          it is only when he or she finally believes deep in
             his or her heart that it is true - 
                 that their lives are in a mess,
                    and that they do not have the power in
                        themselves to change the situation,
                               that they are able to begin the
                                  process of returning to health.

The bible message is the very same as that of the AA movement -
it is, after all, where the founders of AA got their ideas.

It is only when we acknowledge that we are powerless
         over our sinfulness,
          only when we recognize that our own hearts
             are deceitful above all things and that we
                 need help, that we cannot do it on our own,
                    that we can be begin to return to health.

But only begin - because we, like the alcoholic,
         have to go from finally admitting that we have
          a problem that we cannot handle,
             to confessing that there is a power greater
                 than ourselves that can restore us to our sanity.

We have to not only confess that we cannot help ourselves,
         we also have to believe that someone, or something
          can help us - that God can help us.

Cursed, says Jeremiah, is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength.

Cursed indeed are those who believe that the woes
         of our society today can be fixed by raising taxes
          or by lowering taxes.

Cursed are those who think that we will recover our material
         blessedness if we only get people to spend more money,
          or shop Canadian.

Naive are those who think that we can cure teenage crime
         by educating our youth better
          and eliminate AIDS by getting everyone to use
             condoms and avoid contaminated needles.

Silly are those who think that their marriages will
         improve and their families be happier,
          if they simply spend more time with their spouses,
             and provide Junior with more recreational
                 opportunities after school.

The fact is that the problems we have
         are not problems with time or taxes,
          nor are they problems of education or its lack,
             nor even are they problems of having too much
                 money or too little money -
the problems we have are spiritual problems,
problems of attitude,
problems of the heart.

Medical science tells us one of the leading causes of death in
North America is heart disease.

In today's scripture readings Jesus and Jeremiah suggest 
that the leading cause of spiritual death is the very same - 
our hearts are diseased.

We value the wrong things and we trust in the wrong things.

God wants us all to be happy,
         he wants us all to be well fed,
          and to be able to laugh
             and enjoy the fat of the land,
                 and that is why he gives us his Word
                    and why he tells us to follow in the path of
                        Jesus his Son. 

The bible does not condemn our quest for happiness, 
         for blessedness, 
          rather it points out to us where it may be found....

It is found in trusting God,
         and following his word,
          it is found in hungering for justice
             and in crying with those who hurt,
                 and speaking the truth even when people
                    do not welcome it.

Jesus does not call us to delight in suffering and pain,
         when he says blessed are the hungry,
          and blessed are those who mourn,
             rather he is pointing out - that those who recognize
their need, and the needs of others, are able to have those needs
met- but those who deny it, will not.

The cure isn't easy to take,
         it requires humility,
          and honesty,
             and hard work,
                 but the cure is better than the disease
                    as every recovered addict will tell you.


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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