Foster: Staying sane in an insane world
Jan. 6, 2017 at 11:27 p.m.
During the past few months our church's ministers delivered an excellent series of sermons on Daniel. The Rev. Keith Cropper, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Carthage, has opened many minds and hearts by telling the story of Daniel's faith during his Babylon captivity.
Today, however, I wish to focus on a sermon by our church's associate pastor, Leah Hanks, that contemporizes lessons from Daniel to help us cope with challenges in today's modern life. The title of her sermon is "Staying Sane in An Insane World." She provided me with a copy of the sermon so I can pass along some of her important points.
Daniel faced seemingly impossible challenges posed by Nebuchadnezzar, who asked his wise men for divine interpretations of his dreams. When his court's soothsayers and enchanters couldn't explain the meaning of his dreams, he threatened bodily harm to his subjects until Daniel was called on to interpret his visions.
On several occasions, Daniel saved both courtesans and commoners from death by calmly dealing with the king's unreasonable demands by listening and asking questions. In essence, he was staying calm while dealing with a madman.
Leah said that we as Christians need to stay sane in the face of maddening events in today's world, but many times "I'm not sure we are doing a great job. We seem to be lined up with an 'us against them' posture, screaming and slinging mud at each other.
"We see a lot of Christians reacting exactly opposite of how we see Daniel reacting. And if you notice, we are getting back the exact opposite reaction from the world. Instead of them listening to us because we listen to them, they are not listening to us because we did not listen to them. No one is listening to anyone else and we all are just sitting around talking about how offended we are," she said.
"In my opinion … the great sin of the American church through the years has been that it would not listen to those calling out that they were in pain and not being heard. And now those same people will not listen to us. The church does not hold the same position of automatic respect it once enjoyed."
Unless we find a new way, we will continue down the same road.
"We call the world insane, but the definition of insanity is what? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If we keep coming at the world angry and railing at everything that we perceive threatens our faith and way of life like we always have, then the divisions we see will just continue to grow," she said.
"When you see Daniel humbly moving through a world that rejected everything he stood for, when you see him submit to what they subjected him to, neither railing against them nor accepting what they teach, does it remind you of anyone," she asked.
"If Daniel isn't a good enough example of keeping your sanity in an insane world — of answering with kindness, love and compassion when your values are attacked and you feel threatened, then surely Jesus is. If He's not, you're in the wrong place."
She concluded: "What this world needs is some sanity and some love. And we are the ones with the good news to share. We are the ones with the truth. We are the ones with the Savior who taught us to move humbly through a world that is beneath us and help it rise. But we have to set down self and be willing to do it."
In a totally different vein, I want to give a shout out to the supporters of Carthage High School athletic and academic activities. This was evidenced in the strong turnout for the Carthage Bulldog football team that won the school's fifth state championship Dec. 16 at AT&T Stadium.
Carthage fans nearly filled the lower tier of some 12,000 seats on the visitors side, equaling the turnout on the Abilene Wylie side of the field. The difference is that Panola County's entire population is about 25,000 while Abilene's city population alone is about 165,000.
Equally impressive was the sendoff when the team boarded buses for the trip to Arlington. Hundreds of students, faculty, band and community members were on hand. Also appreciated were the scores of Beckville and Tatum residents waving signs of support for the Bulldogs as the buses traveled along Texas 149.
As one woman commented on Facebook about the send-off: "I can't imagine anywhere on Earth being as wonderful as Panola County. WOW, just WOW!"
— John D. Foster, a Carthage resident and former editor of the Panola Watchman, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org