Submission: Being Subject to One Another 1 Peter 5:1-5

September 29, 2019 Rev. Don Hackett, D.Min.

Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, Pa

“Of all the Spiritual Disciplines none has been more abused than the Discipline of submission…Therefore, we must work our way through this Discipline with great care and discernment in order to ensure that we are ministers of life, not death.” Richard J. Foster

Opening 

How many of you have heard of Tough Mudder events?  What are they? On the Tough Mudder website, this is a description of an upcoming event: 

Tough Mudder Classic is one 8-10 mile loop of mud-soaked mayhem loaded with 25 best-in-class obstacles, including 10 new or updated 2019 obstacles on Every. Single. Course. That’s right – double-digit innovation and more obstacles than ever, for maximum limit-testing. This is is your chance to get outside your comfort zone, discover what you’re made of, and cross that finish line stronger than you started.  https://toughmudder.com/events/what-is-tough-mudder-classic

Do you know their pledge before each event?

Tough Mudder Pledge

1. I UNDERSTAND THAT TOUGH MUDDER IS NOT A RACE, BUT A CHALLENGE.

2. I PUT TEAMWORK AND CAMARADERIE BEFORE MY COURSE TIME.

3. I DO NOT WHINE – KIDS WHINE.

4. I HELP MY FELLOW MUDDERS COMPLETE THE COURSE.

5. I OVERCOME ALL FEARS.

I thought we could adapt these for worship today.  Repeat after me:

    1. I understand that life in Christ is not a race but a challenge.
    2. I put teamwork and camaraderie before my own wants.
    3. I do not whine.
    4. I help my friends in Jesus complete the course.
    5. I overcome all fears in Christ.

Introduction

Listen and let’s think together what do these two news stories have in common?

Greta Thunberg has a message for world leaders at the United Nations this week: “We’ll be watching you.” Speaking at the Climate Action Summit in New York, Thunberg added, “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean.” But instead, Thunberg, 16, is trying to convince politicians to take climate change seriously, and to do something to stop a global warming trend that will affect the world’s children more than it affects anyone who’s currently in power. https://www.npr.org/2019/09/23/763389015/this-is-all-wrong-greta-thunberg-tells-world-leaders-at-u-n-climate-session

Li Yikui is a 13-year-old [Chinese] boy who radiates warmth and friendliness. But inside he is hurting.  “I love to be with my classmates, so that I don’t feel lonely,” he said. Yikui has not seen his father in four years. His mother visits just once a year. When he is asked if he misses them, a big tear rolls down his cheek and he covers his face with his hands. It is a silent, but eloquent, answer. Yikui is one of the millions of children left behind, the hidden casualties of China’s rapid development. Studies show about 70 per cent of the ‘left-behind’ kids suffer from emotional trauma, depression or anxiety.  They are sometimes called the lost generation, or the damaged generation.

About a third of the [60 million] left-behind children — 20 million — will get involved in crime, while another third will need time in mental health institutions, according to a small Christian NGO called Children Charity International (CCI).  “I can’t imagine what that would do to China,” CCI founder Joseph Lim said. So far young Yikui is staying on the right path. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-06/millions-of-chinas-children-left-behind/7816010

What do these stories about a brave and angry girl from Sweden and a sad and lonely boy from China have in common?  Authority and submission. A breakdown in the structures that have authority and power to protect.

Breakdown of Authority

As we look at the spiritual discipline of submission, we need to back up and think about the role of human structures.  Families and governments are the way we organize life and meaning.  These structures are held in place with respect, obedience, and submission to the proper authorities. When families are healthy and governments are functional, human community flourish.  When they fall apart or are negligent, people, especially children, suffer. The Bible instructs us that we are to respect and honor the authority of parents, elders, government leaders. There is a reason for this.  We are to submit so we can bless the structure that at designed to hold everything together.

In 1 Peter 2:13-17 we are told in order to become a life-giving force in our communities we are to:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

This theme of submission continues later in this letter.  This time it is focused on how we treat each other in the church. Let’s read our scripture in your bulletin together.

1 Peter 5:1-5     The Voice

Now for the elders of the church.  I want to encourage you.  As you know, I am an elder, too, like you.  I have witnessed firsthand the sufferings of the Anointed One as well as shared in the glories which are soon to be revealed.

When you shepherd the flock God has given you, watch over them not because you have to but because you want to. 

For this is how God would want it not because you’re being compensated somehow but because you are eager to watch over them.

Don’t lead them as if you were a dictator, but lead your flock by example; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be crowned with honor that will shine brightly forever. 

You who are younger in the faith: do as your elders and leaders ask.  

All of you should treat each other with humility, for as it says in Proverbs, God opposes the proud but offers grace to the humble.

So bow down under God’s strong hand; then when the time comes, God will lift you up.

Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries.

How we practice submission to each other

Do you see the dance of submission we engage in as followers of Jesus Christ? As we function as children, parents, neighbors, citizens, and church members, we can bring light and life to these relationships. Let me show you two ways we can live in healthy relationship to authority.

Application

1. The practice of submitting to each other.  One effective way you and I can submit to each other by listening and by keeping silent.  Betsy McPherson sends out a daily devotional to help us understand and apply the wisdom of the the Bible to our daily lives.  This past week she reflected on the Old Testament person of Job and how his friends came to comfort him in his suffering.  The passage reads: 

And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.  Job 2:13

Betsy reflected:  “Do I listen and hear? I caught myself, after asking a good friend what was happening with her son’s health, looking around for other people I needed to talk too. I brought myself back to her and looked her in the eye through the rest of her discourse, because it was important to me and important for her to be able to share her concerns knowing I would address the situation in prayer and tell others to pray also.  Prayer: Lord I beg of you to poke me if I am not paying enough attention when people speak their concerns. I really do need to focus more sometimes. Let my voice encourage and my heart love when I speak always to everyone. Amen. 

Listening is a way we honor, respect, and submit to each other.   In his book, 

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Chris Voss talks about the importance of listening.  In his intense work as a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI, Chris details how crucial it is for a negotiator to learn how to listen well.  He employs focus, mirroring (repeating back what he has heard), labeling (naming the emotions and fears he is hearing), and allowing silence as a to connect and build a bond of trust with others.  The same works for you and me.  As we truly listen to each other, we honor the other, we come away understanding each other, and we are bonded to each other in deep and significant ways.  https://www.amazon.com/Never-Split-Difference-Negotiating-Depended-ebook/dp/B014DUR7L2

2. The practice of speaking up for others. Sometimes things are not fair.  As in the case of Li Yikui who was left to raise himself, he needed someone to notice, to care, and to speak up for him.  Greta Thunberg had the passion, anger, and resources to speak up for others. She could have quietly been frustrated with the inaction of leaders, but she chose to step in and speak up for the next generation.  

A part of submission is keeping leaders and authorities accountable to what is best for all. Speaking up for others without a voice is how we make communities healthy.   

I want to thank you for the ways you all step in and speak for others.  In our newsletter you will see that we are:

  • Selling pretzel sandwiches and sub to raise money for bus tickets for the women of LifePath Christian Ministries in York. This ministry used to be know as the York Rescue Mission.  https://lifepathyork.org
  • Building a “Paper Pyramid” of kitchen and personal products to serve our friends being served at the Mason-Dixon Community Service in Delta.  http://www.mason-dixon.org
  • Walking in the CROP walk next month which raises funds for Church World Service to fight hunger around the world. “For nearly half a century, CROP Hunger Walks have ensured that more people worldwide have access to nutritious, sustainable food sources. From combating droughts in Nicaragua to providing agricultural training in Indonesia to stocking shelves in hundreds of food pantries across the United States, CROP Hunger Walks help end hunger by raising funds to support local food programs and the international anti-hunger work of Church World Service.” https://www.crophungerwalk.org
  • Supporting missionaries around the world who train leaders, help plant and grow churches, and serve those who are forgotten in other countries.  You can discover all we are doing at the PCUSA Presbyterian Mission website.     https://www.presbyterianmission.org

These are all ways you and I are stepping up and caring for others.

There are other ways we can be on the lookout to speak up.  It may be speaking up as utility companies seek to expand in our area or attending the meeting on People Traffiking in York County this Tuesday night, October 1, 5:30pm, at the New Freedom Community Center, 150 East Main Street, New Freedom, Pa.  https://www.sparrowplace.org/updatesevents

Background on Speaker from Sparrow Place in York:  Shea Rhodes is coming to SYC to educate our community about the realities of sex trafficking and how we protect ourselves and our children. She is a true expert in the field of commercial sexual exploitation and we are being blessed by this opportunity to hear directly from her. This event is open for teens as well so PLEASE, bring them! There will also be a panel so you can ask questions directly to local law, school, legal, and government representatives. ‘Shea Rhodes ’97, Co-Founder & Director of Villanova Law’s Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, has been named a 2019 Power Player for her work with the CSE Institute and the mission to end sex trafficking.’

Let us pray:  

We want to find our place in your world, God…a place where all are welcomed and honored, a place where we belong and have purpose.  Guide us today as we listen deeply to you and each other.  Help us be the voice others need. In Christ, Amen.