University Congregational Church
Feb. 23, 2014
“Elvis Sightings “
Gen. 1 7: 1-10; 15-19
Rom. 4: 16-25
One of my most dreaded tasks as an adult is grocery shopping. I remember when I was younger and I went to the grocery store three or four times a week, because it was actually fun planning a meal for Eric and myself as I browsed along the isles. Will it be steak and potatoes or chicken and stuffing? Those were the days!
Little did I know that several years later I would turn into one of those shoppers I have always hated the most. You know the kind: the ones with more kids in the basket than groceries! And the kids… they are the most obnoxious children you have ever met — arguing over cereal boxes, climbing in and out of the cart, crying because they can’t have the $10 box of sugared treats. I guess it was about the time I was expecting #3 that grocery shopping became a huge inconvenience. If I didn’t like to eat so much, I would have avoided it all together!
Picture it: It was 1990 and I was about 8 months pregnant with #3. Numbers I &2 were ages 2 & 3 and, as usual, doing the tiring children do in grocery stores. Now there wasn’t enough room in the cart for two children and groceries, so I was putting the groceries underneath the cart while trying the hold the kids in their places. Since I am a price shopper, I also had a handful of coupons. That meant that I was pushing the cart with my stomach, grabbing items off the shelf and bending over a huge belly to put stuff under the cart. After 30 minutes of such pleasure shopping, it happened.
I saw Elvis! It was the Elvis of 1971 – the Elvis with bell-bottoms, sideburns, the open-necked shirt and huge lapels. He was standing in the isle with exotic foods – you
know, the one with pasta, Mexican and health foods, all in one isle. He had just picked up a jar of hot sauce. Then, just as quickly as I blinked my eyes, he was
“Maybe he is alive!” I thought. Well, I had seen it in the tabloids with screaming headlines like “I had Bigfoot’s baby” or “Aliens came to visit me”. Nearly every week there was an Elvis sighting – and I had been skeptical until that day in 1990 ….
Well, it is amazing what people will believe. And it’s even more amazing how much money people will spend to read about these unbelievable events. Do you know that according to a recent poll, one out of seven Americans believe that Elvis isn’t really dead? That’s about the number of people in church any given Sunday morning…. 1 out of 7!
The Scripture is full of incredulous stories. I mean really, do you believe that Abram, who was 100 years old actually talked with God about having a baby? And what about this stuff with Jonah, being swallowed by a whale? Then, of course, there are Scriptures about Jesus, the incredible story about his birth, life, death and resurrection. How gullible does God think we are? Do we really believe in these things or are we trying to pull something over on the rest of the world? Read Gen. 17: 1-7, 15-19.
You know, it’s a funny thing, truth. None of us really knows much about it. You’ve heard the saying that truth is illusive. So, how is it that we, as Christians, are supposed to have a handle on what is true? Sometimes, Christians believe things
that really don’t make any logical sense, and we call it faith. We say we accept the incredible, unbelievable stories on faith. But the rest of the world seems
puzzled by this faith thing, even suspicious.
What they see on the outside of the sanctuary is a group of normal humans: during the week we are plagued with the same problems — our cars won’t start, our checkbooks won’t balance, our prejudices run amok. Yet, each week, we come together to resolve to mend our ways starting first thing tomorrow –
knowing that tomorrow will be like every other Monday.
As for Abraham and Sarah, the next day was not like every other Monday. God came to them and told them some unbelievable news. God told them that at their age (somewhere between 90 and 100), they would have a baby. Not only that, but the baby they were to have would be the beginning of an entire nation! Talk about a mixed blessing! Can you imagine this? In our society, we exclaim over people who are 40 having babies.
But it’s just like God to come into someone’s life at the time when that person thinks life is about done. It’s just like God to make some strange, unbelievable promise: like having a baby at an old age. It’s just like God to ask someone who is old and set in their ways to change their names and their family
situation. And Abraham, like many of us, if we were faced with the same situation, laughed. He laughed. We can hardly blame Abraham, after all. I can just imagine how he felt. He was old, perhaps even thinking about his death. The Scriptures make it clear that he had lost hope about having a baby with Sarah.
Have you ever found yourself in Abraham’s shoes? Have you ever felt old, worn out, or without hope and suddenly, you saw God standing at your door, making strange requests and promises? Has God ever come to you and told you that God was going to do something special with you.
Probably, your first response was like Abraham’s: “Why me?” “Oh no, God, you’ve made a huge mistake!” ‘I’m too old, too young, too tired, too poor, too busy, too…” or, “God, now let’s face the facts… you’ve got the wrong person!” Somehow we have convinced ourselves that God is going to operate on the basis of our human condition. Somehow we think that God can’t (or won’t) use us. Yet, God sees us all as prime candidates for enacting God’s own will. In other words, there are no 2nd class citizens in God’s eyes. Read Romans 4:16-25.
You know about 2nd class citizens, don’t you? Each of us has placed that restriction on ourselves at one time or another. We think because we are old, like Abraham, that we’re 2nd class. Or, we think that because we’re young,
that makes us 2nd class. Or, we think because we’re left-handed, that the
rest of the world rejects us. Or, we think because we’re single, or poor, or handicapped, that we’re a 2nd class citizen. But, in God’s eyes, all of us are acceptable. God takes a look at us and pronounces us good. God accepts us where we are, redeems us and makes something priceless out of us. It really doesn’t matter if we’re old, or young, or in the middle. It doesn’t matter if we’re single or married or divorced, God can do something good in our lives.
It doesn’t matter if we’re clumsy, silly or weird, God can work in our lives. That’s the meaning of these two Scriptures: God has a job for us and all we have to do is have enough faith to let God work in our lives.
Sure, we may laugh at first. We may find God’s plan funny or strange or unbelievable, but in the words of Paul: “for those who have the faith of Abraham … God gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (vs. 16-17) That’s what God does. And we’re called to do what Abraham did: “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what God had promised.” (vs. 20-21)
So there we have it. One out of seven of us believe Elvis is still alive but we struggle daily to believe in the things of faith. We, like the rest of world, have our doubts. We aren’t always sure what truth is and we don’t always feel like having faith. Yet, we have maintained faith in the oddest things surrounding us. We fill our heads with TV tunes, gimmicks, songs and trivia but we refuse to believe in the miracles of God around us.
Have you ever watched Star Trek? I know several “trekies”, who have no problem accepting Mr. Spock, who’s half-human, half-Vulcan. They have no problem accepting folks on other planets speaking English or even accepting Lieutenant Uhura wearing miniskirts in the 22nd century.
I guess that’s the nature of faith. Each day, we test our own minds. We believe what we have to and disregard the rest. Yet, each week, we come together to find truth, even as hard as it is to believe. And somewhere, along the way, when we are together like this, there is a moment in time when we are able to believe the unbelievable.
I wish faith and truth were certain; instead, I take comfort where I find it and wrestle with the rest. And in spite of the endless sightings and headlines, I choose to believe the truth as I know it: Elvis is dead, and, by the grace of God, life goes on.