Cars – The Need for Speed
This is my final draft of the second message in a series which looked at kingdom values through the pop culture lens of Americans love of cars. This draft was completed 9/12/06 and delivered on 9/17/06. The personal stories were my own experiences and were changed out by the senior pastor prior to delivery. I have included the original slides which I created for the message where possible.
[Song: Little Deuce Coupe]
Welcome, I’m glad to see all of you hear this morning at [Church Name]. Last week we started a new message series called Cars. This week we’re going to talk about the need for speed.
As I described last week, I’m someone who would love to own a fast car. Sadly, I don’t. So since I’m not really an expert on Speed, I thought rather than have me talk about it I would just show you a little video clip about someone who has a lot of experience with fast cars and whose name is synonymous with speed. In fact, he was once described as “a demon on wheels.” So let’s take a look at this clip.
[Speed Racer video clip]
That’s actually an episode of Speed Racer from 1966 called “The Fastest Car on Earth.” As you can see, even Speed Racer became disoriented due to excessive speed. I think there’s some truth to that idea. Obviously, this morning I’m not just talking about Speed on the road. I’m talking about the pace of life. In all of our lives, speed is disorienting. This morning I want to talk about some specific ways in which that’s true.
I think most of us have had an experience where we’re moving so fast to keep up with our commitment that we actually begin to lose focus. Back in March I was leaving the house to pick up my daughter from pre-school across town. As I went to leave, I bent down and picked up my 2 year old to put her in the car. That’s when I discovered that she’d wet her diaper and it had leaked all down her pants. She was soaked. I rushed to the changing table, changed her pants, her shirt, her diaper and then rushed to the car. I knew I was now running late so I sped up Edwards Hill. Did you know they have speed traps on Edwards Hill? They do. I was pulled over doing 60 in a 45 zone. Of course, getting pulled over didn’t help my being late. In fact, the whole time the cop was writing me a ticket I just kept thinking “I know I deserve this, but could you just write a little faster. I’ve got to go.”
Speed changes our perspective on things. One of the things it does is give us the sense that we’re important. We have this idea in our culture that your importance is directly correlated with how full your day timer is. For instance, who is more important in our culture, a CEOs who is always on the go, catching a plane, rushing to a meeting or someone who spends their days strolling through the park? Which activity garners more respect and money in our culture?
Since we all aspire to be important and we all want to feel important, we pack our schedules and then we hurry. Eventually we become disoriented. We start to really believe that without us everything would come. To. A. Standstill. That’s about the size of it really: Standstill bad. Speed good! We all think about it this way most of the time, whether we admit it or not. In our culture, speed is the ticket to the better life, a life that matters to ourselves and those around us. Speed is a crucial part of being someone.
I’ve asked Scott to play a song that really captures this idea clearly.
[Song: Fast Car]
She hoped that a fast car could help her be someone. The speed was intoxicating but that’s about all it amounted to, a buzz. But the disorientation only led her to more disillusionment. I want to spend the rest of this morning talking about two specific ways in which speed or hurry disorients us. Our text today comes from Luke 11. Hurry and open your Bible just kidding. Open your Bibles to page ??? We’re going to look at this chapter in reverse order starting with verse 38-42.
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me. 41 But the Lord answered her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.
Two sisters invite Jesus into their house and one, Mary, sits at his feet. Now a bit of context, in Jewish culture, you sat at the feet of a rabbi or teacher. This is how a rabbi’s talmudim would learn from him. Sitting at his feet was a way of saying, I’m here to learn. And unlike most teachers of the time, Jesus has no problem with teaching a woman.
Meanwhile, Martha is very busy in the kitchen. So much so, that she complains to Jesus, expecting him to order Mary to quit playing around and help out a little. What she’s really saying here is “Shouldn’t Mary be busy too?” Jesus responds “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
One thing is necessary. That’s a striking response isn’t it? What is Jesus saying here? Is Jesus saying that we shouldn’t cook? Is he saying that we shouldn’t be good hosts? No. What he’s saying is that Martha has really missed what’s important at this moment. Let’s put it this way Say Jesus agreed to come by your house for lunch. Now it’s quite possible that your first response would be something like, “Not until I vacuum, Lord.” But if he were to show up, would you keep cleaning the whole time? Wouldn’t you have a few question to ask God in flesh, like “What happens when I die? How am I doing so far?” or “Why so many kinds of insects?”
You see, one of the things that we can’t do when we’re busy is learn. There are lots of drive-thru restaurants in town but no drive-thru libraries or colleges. If you want to learn, you have to stop all the other things you’re doing and focus.
This is important for us as Christians because learning and growth are a big part of what we’re about. We call it discipleship. Look what Jesus said as he went about calling disciples. Turn back one chapter to Luke 9: 59-62:
59 To another he said, Follow me. But he said, Lord, let me first go and bury my father. 60 And Jesus said to him, Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. 61 Yet another said, I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home. 62 Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
What’s the one thing that’s important? It’s following Jesus and becoming his disciple. If you don’t have time for that now, Jesus says, then you can’t be my disciple. We have to slow down and stop our busyness if we want to learn anything, including how to follow Jesus.
Now turn back to Luke 10 again. I want to turn your attention a little earlier in the chapter, starting with verse 30-35. This is the story of the good Samaritan:
30 Jesus replied, A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.
First of all, notice that Jesus set this story on the side of a road. Why there? Well, because he wanted to examine the reactions of different people who were passing by the beaten man. Where were they going? We don’t know but clearly the idea is that they had somewhere to go. They weren’t just strolling, they were busy.
I want to interject a bit of context here. Jesus says the first person to pass by was a priest. Now depending on your background, the word priest may conjure up a certain image in your mind. But Jesus, remember, is speaking to a group of 1st century Jews. At this time, a priest was someone connected to the ritual sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem. To be a priest was to have a highly respected position. I think one way we can put this across for most of you in this room is something like this. “Now by chance a seminary professor was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
Secondly, a Levite was a member of the tribe of Levi. God had set apart this one tribe from which all of the priests of Israel were to be drawn. So again, in language that might make sense to us today Jesus is saying, “So likewise an evangelical Christian, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” It sort of stings a little when you hear it that way, doesn’t it? That’s how it probably sounded to Jesus audience too.
Finally, a Samaritan went by. To the 1st century Jewish ear that was not a good thing. These were people who worshipped God, but with whom most Jews had political difference of opinion. I don’t want a show of hands or anything. No applause, no cheers. If you’re a liberal, I want you to read it this way: “But a red state conservative driving a pickup with a gun rack and a “W” bumper sticker — I took a little more liberty on this one — as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. So if you’re a liberal you should be quietly thinking, no way that’d happen!
Okay, now if you’re a conservative – remember this is between you and God – conservatives I want you to read this passage this way, “But a blue state environmentalist driving a Prius with a Hillary ’08 sticker, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
So my intent here is for everyone, wherever you fall politically, to be unhappy. Have I accomplished that? That’s how this would have sounded to a 1st century Jew. The thrust of this story is that the guy you really think would be the first to help, passes by. And the guy who you just know is a complete idiot…he stopped and had compassion. The important point is that all three of them saw the man. But the first two walked by. Why? Look again at how this story ends:
34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.
The guy who stopped took a lot of time and money. He even promised to come back and pay more if necessary. That’s what the priest and the Levite were trying to avoid. They didn’t have time to slow down and help. They were important. They were in a hurry. That’s the second thing you can’t do when you’re speeding through life. The first thing is you can’t be a disciple. The second thing you can’t do at speed is show love to those in need.
Does it matter? I mean, we all have things to do. Really, how much can God expect in those two areas? Look at your Bibles again, we’re still in Luke chapter 10. This time I want to go back even earlier in the chapter to verses 25-28. Here we see the question that led to Jesus telling the good Samaritan story:
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it? 27 And he answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. 28 And he said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.
By lawyer, this passage means a teacher of the Mosaic Law. This teacher asks Jesus, “How can I have eternal life?” Jesus turns the question around and says, “How do you read it?” The teacher answers “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus says, you nailed it. Do that and you’ll have eternal life. So, I’d say that’s pretty important, wouldn’t you. So let’s look at it carefully. It has two parts. First:
“love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength…”
So just a few questions about this one…Can you love God without following him? Remember what Jesus said to those who said they’d follow him as soon as they took care of a few things. Can you love God and not follow Jesus because you’re busy? Here’s a related question. When can you love God? Can you love God yesterday? Not really. Can you love God tomorrow, as in tomorrow I’m going to set aside some time to grow in my faith. Well, you can plan for that, but planning isn’t doing is it? When can you actually love God?
Right now. This is the one moment you have to love God. Remember Mary and Martha. You have a choice with this moment. How are you going to spend it. Are you going to stop and sit at the teacher’s feet, or are you too busy?
Now look at the second part : “and [love] your neighbor as yourself.”
This is where Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan. As we’ve seen, one of the main things going on in that story is that the important people were too busy to stop and help. They passed by. But the other guy, the guy you just know is an idiot, he stopped. He made time to love a stranger as himself. Somehow he got it right.
So these are the two things Jesus says sum up what is required to receive eternal life. One is loving God by being a disciple of Jesus and learning from him. The other is loving others and doing good for those in need. And as we’ve just seen, both things are incompatible with the need for speed.
To do the things Jesus says we need to do, we have to slow down and then stop. Discipleship requires it. Here at [church name], we offer several opportunities. The most intense is a year and a half long series of classes that requires 100 hours of your time in a group and another 100 hours of homework. That’s five work weeks of study. Over 200 people have graduated from these classes. No doubt they could have done other things with that time. But they slowed and stopped and made discipleship a priority.
Several times a year, we have groups of people who travel to Mexico to build homes. It’s a big commitment of time. But serving is important. We also have people at this church who are part of the Helps ministry which brings meals and other assistance to people who are ill or incapacitated. It’s a time commitment. I’m sure they could find other things to do. But they’ve slowed down and stopped to help others because Jesus says that’s critically important.
You can not race through life and be a Christian. It’s not possible. If it were Jesus would have done it. He didn’t. Instead, he frequently stepped away from the noise and the crowds and went off by himself. He frequently turned aside to someone in need. He was always there in the moment, not rushing to catch the next train, bus, plane or important meeting. Jesus lived life at a different pace. If we want to be like him then this is a pre-requisite. We must slow if we want to grow. We must stop being busy to love others.
A little later on, Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus is dying and they beg Jesus to come heal him. It takes Jesus two days to get there. He just wasn’t in a hurry. But here’s the thing we need to understand: Jesus was really, really significant, the most significant person to ever walk the earth. So it’s safe to say, you don’t have to hurry to be important.
Dallas Willard, a Christian philosopher wrote, “God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being ‘right,’ we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life. For those situations and moments are our life.”
One last story and we’ll close. A few weeks ago I was on my way to school. My wife was out of town and I left home a little later than I’d hoped. I knew I would only have a few minutes when I got there to do one last review of the material that would be on the quiz.
About halfway there, the traffic really backed up and I started thinking “Great, now I’ll have no time to study at all.” As I made it up to the light where things were backed up I could see a stalled car in the lane ahead of me. It was a six lane divided highway, three on each side and this car was stalled in the center of three lanes. A guy was standing behind it calling for help on his cell phone. Like the other drivers I whipped into one of the other lanes and zoomed around him.
As I drove on, I felt this twinge of guilt. Maybe I should have stopped and helped him. But then I thought, “I didn’t really see him until I was already passing. Too bad I couldn’t have seen him earlier and gotten in the other lane.” I kept driving.
Suddenly I remembered the story of the good Samaritan. But, no I thought “I’ve got a quiz. I’m studying church history at Biola so I can be a more knowledgeable follower of Christ. I can’t blow that off. There must be someone else God could find to help.”
Then I remembered the priest passing by on the other side of the road. “But, Lord, I’ve gone almost a mile already. Probably three other people have stopped by now and I don’t have time for this.” And I remembered the Levite passing by…And finally it hit me. Instead of asking God to send someone else to help the man in need, I could stop and instead ask God to help me get to class and get a good grade.
I made a U-turn and drove back fully expecting the car to be gone. But he was still there. It was rush hour at an intersection of two six lane highways. No one had stopped. There are a lot of important people on the road these days.
I pulled into a parking lot, ran into the street. He got in to steer and I pushed the car off the road. There was a little hill up the driveway and I was praying, “God please help me get this up the hill.” And literally out of nowhere another guy ran into the street grabbed the car beside me and started pushing. We made it to a parking space. The guy in the stalled car thanked us both. I drove off. Made it to school. Got a 95 on the quiz.
I never got the name of the driver, but I can tell you one thing: he was my neighbor. I don’t know the other guy’s name either, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find it out one day. He is my brother. I’m telling you this for one reason. I’ve been a believer 20 years and I almost kept driving. At the last possible minute, I decided to be a believer this time instead of next time. It shouldn’t have been such a tough call.
If you want to follow Jesus, you can’t do it yesterday or later or tomorrow or when it fits into your schedule. If you’re going to follow Jesus, you have to hit the brakes, slow down and follow him right now. Right now. Right now. And right now all day long. Are you ready to do that? If so, I’m here and this church is here to help you do that.
Next week, we’ll continue this series with a message called Road Rage.
[End of message]
For comparison purposes, here is the audio of the message as delivered on 9/17/06. I have removed the name of the church where necessary.