From Apathy to Enthusiasm

February 10, 2013


Robin McGonigle
University Congregational Church
February 10, 2013

“The Contrast Society: From Apathy to Enthusiasm”
Titus 3:7-9, 14-15

‘We may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.” Helen Keller

The world of Paul and Titus was going through a radical change. The word “paradigm” wasn’t in their vocabulary, but had it been, people would have been writing about the major paradigm shift of the 1st Century. Jesus had talked about a new kind of kingdom – not the kingdom of Caesar – but a whole new way of thinking – where everything was turned on its head. This, Jesus said, was the way God wanted it to be. A contrast society!

Paul was a Greek Jew and a citizen of Rome. He became a Jesus follower after Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension. The Mediterranean became a breeding ground for followers of the new vision, and Paul was one of the major proponents of it.
Paul sent his disciple, Timothy, to Crete. It wasn’t one of the most exciting places to do ministry. The people of Crete had a bad reputation among Mediterranean people. They were known for lying and being deceitful. Worse than that, they were pagans who followed Greek tradition. It was to this island that Titus was assigned. Nothing like getting your feet wet! Titus was completely immersed, if you pardon the pun. Paul Hoffman, “Early Christian and Contemporary Leadership”

Titus was a Greek convert – with no Jewish background – but Paul asked him to stay on in Crete because the people needed someone with his enthusiasm for this new faith. Here are Paul’s instructions to Titus: Read Titus 3:1-9, 14-15.

John Mott wrote of spiritual leadership: “Leadership in the sense of rendering maximum service; leadership in the sense of the largest unselfishness; in the sense of full-hearted absorption in the greatest work of the world: building up the kingdom of Jesus Christ.”
J. Oswald Sanders, “Spiritual Leadership”, p.32.
Today we are completing this sermon series on the Contrast Society Jesus envisioned. And I want to talk about apathy vs. enthusiasm. This is a timely message because of the excitement happening in this church. I hope it will help you in your personal lives as well.

Apathy is the path of least resistance. It is a shrug of the shoulders and a kiss to wish well. Webster’s College Dictionary defines it as the “absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement.”

When we are asked a question, “Where would you like to eat”, we might shrug our shoulders and say, “It doesn’t matter.” That’s a neutral kind of apathy. Ultimately, it doesn’t change anything or having lasting value.

Another question, “Would you like butter and sour cream with your potato?” matters a bit more. If we’re going to have a cholesterol check, it makes a difference. If we’re watching fat intake, it makes a difference. But it only tips the scales a bit in the big scheme of things.

“How do you want your steak cooked?” matters even more. I won’t eat a tough, dry, over-cooked piece of meat. Why pay that much to eat something that tastes like shoe leather? People can be testy about this matter. It has some significance. Still, it’s only one meal. In the long-run, it probably doesn’t matter.

Christian faith was never supposed to be one of these non-committal questions. This is something the conservatives get right: having faith matters! They can be quite passionate about it. Progressives, not so much. We can be a pretty apathetic bunch.
• “Presbyterian or Methodist?” Not a big deal.
• “Sprinkle, pour or immerse?” We’ll take anything.
• “Wine or juice?” Yes, please.
• “Sometimes or always in church?” We’ll love you anyway.
• “Jesus or the Buddha?” Both good teachers.
Being agreeable is one thing. Being apathetic is another. The Christian faith isn’t about being milk-toast, non-committal, or just plain don’t care. And doesn’t have to be literal to be serious.

Listen to what Paul has to say:
1. Be obedient
2. Be ready to do good works
3. Speak evil of no one; avoid quarreling
4. Be gentle, and courteous

And he instructs Titus: “I want you to insist on these things… so that believers will be devoted to good works and meet urgent needs.”

No place for apathy here. These are significant changes for the people on Crete! Change things up, Titus, and get those people moving! Change their ways of being in the world. Be enthusiastic about moral living.

And the point of all of this? Being devoted to good works and meeting urgent needs. Enthusiasm is a spiritual activity. Showing passion is divine. In a poem by Sri Chinmoy, he says
The moment enthusiasm
Leaves us,
Our life-energy decreases
Beyond our imagination.

My entire being
Must be surcharged with

Enthusiasm is a divine gift,
And this divine gift
We get from higher worlds.
Enthusiasm lost,
Life-satisfaction is lost;
God-perfection in man
Remains a far cry.
Enthusiasm has success
In it.
Enthusiasm is progress
In itself.
Daring enthusiasm and abiding cheerfulness
Can accomplish everything on earth
Without fail.
My enthusiasm needs
No imagination-flight,
For it is always
A rich harvest.

I know we do a lot around here. We give something every week to the church, and we’re asked to bring items for donations. We ask for your time and your treasure. And you are generous people. What I’m asking you now is to be an enthusiastic church.
• Talk to one another more often than on Sunday.
• Visit our shut-ins and let them know about the good things happening.
• Show up for worship with expectation and energy.
• Speak about this church with enthusiasm and positive words.
• Be involved!
• Open your table in Fellowship Hall and invite newer people to sit with you.
• Be devoted to good works and meet urgent needs.

There is too much apathy in this world. Some people say they don’t vote because it doesn’t matter. Others say they don’t go to church because it doesn’t help anything.

Jesus turns our world upside down and challenges us to be energized and enthusiastic about his work!

In Nisswa, Minnesota, there is an annual Nisswa Turtle Race. Every Wednesday in the summer months, the people of Nisswa and the surrounding communities gather at a designated parking lot for the weekly races.

It’s big excitement and big business. Vendors rent turtles; others sell “turtle products”. And the fans gather early, putting their blankets and chairs where they can see. Some 400 turtles race in a 6 foot long course. Sometime there are 15-20 heats.

The announcer calls the turtles to their mark, gives them the “Go!” and the crowd goes wild. People stand, jump, and wave their hands in the air, imploring their turtles to be unturtle-like. The excitement grows and finally reaches a boiling point as the preliminary winners all gather for the championship race.

The winning turtle-trainer receives five dollars – along with a turtle necklace. This is an uncharacteristic frenzy of emotion for the normally reserved folks of northern Minnesota! “Perfect Illustrations”, p.77

Would it be that the church learns from the turtle races.

Bible References

  • Titus 3:7 - 9
  • Titus 3:14 - 15