Trust Jesus and Elvis

Gail Arnall

August 7, 2017

Texts:    
      John 10:37-38
      Hebrews 11:1-2,  8-13

John:  37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works,  that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." 
Hebrews 11: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. …….

This past week I was at Chautauqua in New York, 90 miles south of Buffalo, attending a week-long series of sermons, seminars and teachings on The Spiritual Power of Humor.   I heard wonderful jokes from Christians, Jews and Muslims.  Like the notation that we know that Isaac was 12 when Abraham was ready to sacrifice him in accordance with God's instructions.  Had he been a teenager, at age 13, it wouldn't have been a sacrifice.  Or the new commandment:  Tweet others as you would like to be tweeted. The presenters included laugh-out-loud jokes, as well as thoughtful, humorous statements.  Like the fact that Billy Graham's wife Ruth saw a roadside sign that she wanted put on her tombstone.  Sure enough, you can go see it in Charlotte, NC.  It reads:  Construction Completed:  Thank you for your patience.

 

 

We learned about ethnic humor – specifically Jewish humor from Jewish comedians.  Have you heard the one where the couple is pushing their small baby down the street and someone stops to look at the baby.  "Your baby is so beautiful," she said.  "Oh, this is nothing; you should see the pictures." Or, I saw 7 NBA Jewish players playing in the final playoffs – then I woke up. I love the one that explains there was a family that lived by a river near Poland.  One day it rained and rained and the result was that the river changed course and the family's house was now on the other side of the river.  A few days later they got a knock on the door and the official-looking person said:  I am sorry to tell you that you no longer live in Russia; you now live in Poland.  The father said:  Thank goodness.  We won't have to deal with Russian winters any more. Every morning we heard a wonderful sermon from Rev. Susan Sparks.  She was a trial lawyer for ten years and did stand-up comedy on the side.  In spite of her Southern Baptist upbringing, she just knew she was called to preach and so finally quit the law and went to Union Theological Seminary.  She is now the senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City and continues to do stand-up comedy, mostly going around the country with a Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim – all comedians.   This morning I want to share one of her teachings with you – the one she entitled:  Trust Jesus and Elvis.

She and her husband made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year – Memphis, TN.  We were told that Memphis is the home of the Southern trinity:  blues, barbeque and the Bible Belt.

She quoted well-known Biblical scholar Adam Sandler who saw some parallels between Jesus and Elvis. Jesus said love thy neighbor; Elvis said, don't be cruel.  ..  Jesus was resurrected; Elvis had a comeback tour.  Jesus is part of the Trinity; Elvis' first band was a trio.  Jesus is the Lord's shepherd; Elvis once dated Cybill Shepherd.

While in Memphis, Sparks and her husband went to Graceland – Elvis' home.  She asked the tour guide how long Elvis had actually lived there.  There was a gasp in the crowd.  "We don't talk about Elvis in the past tense," she said.

It does not matter that Elvis has not been walking the earth for forty years. Elvis, the King, Lives!! 

Sparks gave three examples of the kind of faith Elvis fans have that Jesus fans should model.

First, if you believe that Jesus, the King, lives, you will literally wear it in all you do.  She mentioned that Jesse Ventura – remember him – former Governor of Minnesota – said that anyone running for public office should have to wear a NASCAR suit because the suits have the sponsors all of over them, with the main sponsor right in the center.  Humm….  If we did that, who would your center sponsor be?

The second example was the community of Elvis fans.  Sparks said there are over five hundred Elvis fan clubs worldwide, and even Elvis churches, such as the one in Pennsylvania where the pastor wears a gold lamé jumpsuit and serves Coca-Cola and Little Debbie cakes for communion.

Being on the journey with Jesus is not easy.  We need a community of believers for help, support and strength.  We need to look for others, and hang out with others who believe that Jesus is King.

Sparks's third example was that if we actually believe Jesus lives, then we will seek him.  Although Elvis is technically dead, we hear all the time about Elvis sightings.  What about Jesus sightings?

If we look, we may see Jesus in places we least expect – like in a homeless person, or we might even see the face of Christ in a person before we find out they supported Donald Trump.

We think Jesus is not here, but he could be if we truly believe he lives and we seek him out.

In the last six months I sense that many among us have been burdened by the lack of faith.  We have been living as though there is no loving God watching over us.  We have succumbed to the high-pitched news focused on all the outrageous antics of our new President as though he has power over the universe.  We keep asking for a sign that proves that God is still working in our world.  I challenge us to go out and find Jesus – find him in your work, your family, your school, and in this community.  Share and celebrate the sightings. Tell others that Jesus lives, and in the telling, remind yourself that  

"…faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Amen