A Sermon For Boy Scout Sunday
At the Boy Scouts of America’s first annual meeting in 1911, a committee was changed with “Americanizing” Lord Baden Powell’s Scout Law.
The original, English version of the Scout Law (the one that Lord Baden Powell put together) had nine points, covering the virtues of trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courtesy, kindness, obedience, cheerfulness, and thriftiness. Well the Boy Scouts of America committee changed the wording of some of the points a little bit, while still trying to retain their meaning.
But, in there attempts to honor the law as it was… and also to set a precedent for youth in America… it still felt incomplete to them. So at the urging of James E. West, (who was the first executive of the Boy Scouts of America three more points were added:
Brave: Makes sense, “Land of the free, home of the brave…
Clean: In thought, word and deed.
Reverent: West was particularly adamant about adding “reverent” to the scout law, because, as he said many years later, “I felt then, as I feel now, that there is nothing more essential in the education of the youth of America than to give them religious instruction.”
Would you all agree?
I certainly would.
I meet with the boy scouts this past Monday night so that we could walk through the worship service together… and I got to hear them recite the Scout Oath, the Scout Law (which we heard earlier is a very expanded way through the responsive reading), and I think I heard recited The Outdoor Code, is that right?
As An American, I will do my best to-
Be clean in my outdoor manners.
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation minded.
Well, I couldn’t help hearing this with “pastor ears” and noticing that upholding or fulfilling the code, the oath, and the Scout Law… is itself a reverential act towards our God.
Scouts and congregational alike, let’s ask ourselves: Why would anyone want to be helpful? Why would we learn about conservation and caring for creation? Why would anyone pursue loyalty, and trustworthiness, and kindness? Why would we strive to be strong and be prepared?
Because a reverent person knows, a Scout knows, that our presence on this earth matters… how we spend our time/ the experiences that we have/ the choices that we make- all matter.
It matters to us as individuals, it matters to our community, and it matters to God.
But it is up to us to make reverent choices, isn’t it?
We have the ability to live a life of service. One that honors our God and honors this precious gift of life that we have been given (a reverent life)– and we have the ability to live passively, just watching the world go by/ taking the easy way.
Our choices matter.
Well, our Gospel lesson this morning touches on this idea of living a reverent life; verses living a passive life.
We all know this story don’t we? The tale of the Good Samaritan.
Once upon a time, a man was traveling down a road when he was ambushed by thieves! They robbed him, beat him within an inch of his life, and leave him for dead.
And as he lay there in a bloody heap on the side of the road, several people (those who are supposed to embody the mercy of God…) pass him by without stopping. They ignore his moans and pleas for help. They are passive to his pain.
Then a man, who believed in doing Good Turns (as you might say). A man that wasn’t expected to even have a merciful bone in his body… happens along. He has a choice here.
Now, the precedent has already been set that this man’s pain doesn’t matter, helping him wasn’t exactly a priority… he could have walked on by, and any witnesses wouldn’t have held it against him. After all if the preacher didn’t stop to help, it must have been pretty bad.
What does he do? What does he choose? Does he follow the path of passivity? The path that everybody else is on? Or does he recall what he learned in Scouts… and have compassion?
Well we know how the story ends, using his own clothing, he makes bandages and binds the victim’s wounds. He chose duty/mercy over what was easy.
Now, have you ever wondered why Samaritans? Why was it a Samaritan man that was unexpectedly helpful?
Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies. Centuries before, most of the Jews were exiled to Babylon by the conquerors. But some Jews, those that managed to stay behind, intermarried with other Babylonians. As a means of creating their own identity, they took parts of the Jewish religion and parts of the Canaanite religion and created a mash-up culture, a hybrid of the two. So, after that, the Jews considered the Samaritans heretics and inferior, because they did this. They felt that they were a disgrace to the faith and the culture.
But these events… they happened a long time before Jesus told this parable. It is likely, at this point, that the Jews and the Samaritans just hated each other out of habit. That prejudice had just become part of their culture.
So, this compassionate man is labeled outright ‘Samaritan’. That is the first thing that we know about him. With that label comes all the baggage of cultural prejudice. He is presented in a way that asks the audience, immediately to paint a picture in their mind of an obvious traitor/ a heretic/ someone who was unclean.
Most Jews during that time would picture a Samaritan. That’s why Jesus likes to use Samaritans in His storytelling… it promotes a reaction.
So, if Jesus were to sit us down today and say, “I’m going to tell you a story.” And he goes on to tell us this tale, who do you think he would put in the role of the Good Samaritan?
Who do you find hard to love, or accept? Who do you consider “unclean”?
Picture that person in your mind.
Now, Scouts, one-day maybe you see that person being bullied in the hallway at school. Or maybe you see them in some other compromising situation. What do you do? Everybody else is turning a blind eye! They are ignoring the whole situation! They are choosing to be passive and take the easy way.
What do you do?
Congregation, what do you do when you see an injustice happening?
Your choices matter! You have the choice to be reverent, truly, or to be passive. In Bible Study this past week we talked a bit about how our passivity can sometimes mean that we take part in the injustices that we see.
You have a choice of whether of not to care enough to help a person who needs it. To look at someone, who may be different from you, but acknowledge that they are a child of God and it is your responsibility to look out for them.
(Now I don’t recommend jumping to the middle of a fight. You may have noticed in our Scripture lesson that the Good Samaritan came along after the fight. So don’t go telling anyone that pastor gave you permission to be some sort of vigilantly Boy Scout.)
According to the overall philosophy of Scouting, you only need three things to help someone. You need skills, knowledge and a willingness.
The Samaritan had all three: He obviously had some first aid skills, he diagnosed what needed fixing, and he simply cared enough to get involved.
Scouts: The skills and the knowledge part come from your leaders. Every mid-winter camping adventure, or cross country trek you go on, every merit badge you earn… you gain skills and knowledge.
But the third, a willingness to get involved. That comes from in here. (point to the heart). That comes from being reverent, and brave, and loyal, and kind). That comes from all the virtues that you grow into.
And it’s the same thing for the church isn’t it? We come to worship every week, we attend bible study, we engage God’s Words to us, so that we can gain the knowledge and the skills needed to help others, to be of service in this world. But in doing so, as Christians, we grow stronger in our reverence, and kindness, our own loyalty, and bravery… and soul cleanliness…
Do you all know the story of the Unknown Scout?
William Boyce, the guy that would found the Boy Scouts of America, he was lost on a foggy street in London in 1909, when an unknown Scout came to his aid, guiding him to his destination. When Boyce tried to give him a tip, the Scout explained that he was a Boy Scout and that he was merely doing his daily Good Turn.
Part of that oath I heard the Scout recite on Monday night said that you will do your best to help other people at all times and that you will stay alert.
People of God, I want to encourage you to embrace this oath. God places in our path people and situation that could use our intervention. An opportunity to be reverent. We will meet suffering strangers, we will encounter injustice… maybe on occasion we will be the one that is battered and bruised, abandoned on the preverbal highway of life… and we have choices where ever we go.
What we do with this life God has gifted to us matters. I pray that we all look to honoring our Lord through reverent service.