here is nothing quite as affirming as being welcomed back home. Just a few years after ordination I was invited back to Lexington to preach on Scout Sunday at Trinity Methodist Church. The newspaper ran a story about the half-dozen scouts from our troop who had entered the ministry and the Holiday Inn even emblazed on their marquee, "Welcome Home Dr. Bob!" Marilyn and my family were there. My old scoutmaster, and other scout leaders, all seemed proud of me. It was an affirming experience that encouraged me to continue to bear our scout banner high.
One of the saddest stories in the life of Jesus is that of his rejection in his hometown. The neighbors who knew him best had heard of his miracles, sermons and fame from several months of ministry in the southern part of Palestine; and now "the local boy made good" had come back to Nazareth. His friends and neighbors seemed to initially affirm him and were amazed at his brilliance when he began to speak publicly in their small town synagogue. They were not even turned off by his initial hint of messianic fulfillment. "All who were there spoke well of him and were amazed by his gracious words that fell from his lips. 'How can this be?' they asked. 'Isn't this Joseph's son?'" (Luke 4:22).
However, when he continued to speak, making the point that sometimes God extends his grace to Gentiles and not only to Jews, they became enraged, carried him out to a cliff and were ready to throw him to his death... But, he simply slipped away right through the midst of the mob. Sometimes victory comes in seeming defeat.
John Wesley, whose evangelical ministry reached out to paupers, who had been systematically excluded from the state church, often encountered mobs. Most of us have read the novels of Chaucer and know something of the class structure of 200 years ago in England where there were the royal high class, but 90% of the people lived in poverty. Twice in one year, Wesley was confronted by howling mobs who tried to keep him from entering his house. Both times he calmly spoke to them about Christ until they listened quietly and dispersed. Wesley always stood up against mobs and was never physically attacked. For all of the power of his voice and eyes, Wesley was only five-feet-three inches tall and weighed 128 pounds.
Sometimes the weak win. Sometimes seeming losers ultimately win. As Yogi Berra says, "It ain't over 'till it's over!" In Christ we look beyond the skirmish to the final victory.
Sports fans know this is true. Tonight's Super Bowl winner will probably be the team that captures the momentum as the game progresses, and calmly runs the ball right through the middle of the opposition's defense.
Jennifer Capraiti, a heavy underdog, had never defeated top-seeded Martini Hingis until Friday's Australian Tennis Open. Only 24, the sentimental crowd favorite had left the tour in the mid 1990s because of problems. She won because she wanted to win and she played with all of her power and skill.
I learned from my high school football coach, Lee J. Stone, to never give up. I will never forget the championship game of the Western North Carolina Conference when we, the much acclaimed Asheboro Blue Comets were trailing the Albemarle Buckaroos by a field goal with less than a minute on the clock and they had possession of the ball on their twenty yard line. Coach Stone yelled from the sidelines, "Boys, never give up! Winners never quit!" And suddenly we dug in as never before. As a defensive right guard my job was to try to get the ball as soon as it was snapped, however Mickey Strayhorn, beat me to the quarterback and knocked the ball out of his hands, then Strayhorn kicked the ball into the end zone where Bobby Bulla fought for it only to see it slip out of his grasp. Several Buckaroos frantically went for the bouncing ball but Bulla held their legs back as I was able to dive onto the ball; thus getting credit for the touchdown that won the championship as the buzzer sounded ending the game.
I wish I could have phoned Mickey and Bobby to make sure I got this story straight. But Strayhorn was killed at age 21 in an automobile accident, and Bulla was killed in the jungle of Vietnam. However, since we three Blue Comets sat in Sunday School together every week, and relived our heroics many times, I think I have it straight. I do know this; they would have made two fine men for they learned to never give up and to fight to the end. I am sure our Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Leonard, must have covered this story of Jesus' triumph in the hands of his executioners. Mickey, Bobby, Coach Stone, and even Mrs. Leonard have won their final battle and are seated near Jesus at the Throne of God. Sometimes I feel them whispering to me, "Never give up! Winners never quit!"
I suppose that many from that Nazarene mob felt that Jesus was a great loser when he was ultimately executed on a Cross; But, Jesus turned out to be the most elusive loser of all time.
Nobody knows whether the Ravens or the Giants will win tonight's Super Bowl game. Sometimes in football the best team does not win. In fact, both teams defeated better teams just to get a chance at a Super Bowl Championship. It is my humble opinion that both teams are in the Super Bowl because they had the greater desire to win. Perhaps they have been possessed by a clearer vision of victory.
So, we fight on by the Power that is at work within our lives. We win some and we lose some too, but our Hope of Glory is a future reality because we know its true!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor