(Read from Green Eggs and Ham pages 1-16)
Do you know the story? I bet you do. It’s one of Dr. Seuss’ greatest works. “Green Eggs and Ham”. You know I hate that book. Didn’t always hate it though, no sir when I was a kid I loved Green Eggs and Ham, and when our son was born I promised myself that I’d buy that classic for my children, and I did. And my kids loved it and my Grand Kids love it and I have read it to them let’s see, at last count, 3,123,789 times approximately. And I have come to hate that book.
“Green Eggs and Ham” was published on August 13, 1960, exactly 2 months after I was born. Written by Theodor Geisel, who we all know as Dr. Seuss. Actually, we pronounce it wrong. What we refer to as Seuss was his middle name, and it’s German. A friend of Seuss’s Alexander Liang wrote: You’re wrong as the deuce.
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice.
But finally, Seuss gave up and went with the flow and he started pronouncing it the way everybody else did and Dr. Seuss was born.
The book came about when Geisel’s editor wagered him that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words. And he did, and it has gone on to become the fourth bestselling children’s book of all time.
You know the story. Sam keeps trying to get his friend to try green eggs and ham. Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox? And at every rejection he tries something new. And his friend keeps saying, no, no, no I don’t like them, until finally it would seem that Sam has tried everything because his friend says: (Read from Green Eggs and Ham pages 46-50)
This Summer our theme is “A Few of my Favourite things”, and the preaching team will be preaching some of their favourite sermons.
This message is almost 30 years old; it was first preached at North Point Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1993. I preached it at Bedford Community church in the late 1990s and at Cornerstone it was part of a series in 2011 called “Sermons from Suess”, where I used half a dozen Suess Classics as our theme.
Interesting tidbit. This message, like most of my messages, was posted on Sermon Central, and one day I received a cassette tape in the mail. There was a short note from a pastor in Georgia, saying they thought I’d enjoy the tape. I stuck it in the tape player, and it was this message preached verbatim from my manuscript, except without the lisp and with a southern accent.
The message had its beginning when we were pastoring in Australia.
In the winter/summer of 1993, we had taken a family vacation to the Great Barrier Reef. Deborah was allowed to take some books for bedtime stories, and you guessed it, she took Green Eggs and Ham.
And so, as I settled down one night to read my daughter this childhood classic, I saw something that I had never seen before.
If Sam had been your typical Christian from your typical church than when his friend said, “I do not like them Sam-I-Am, I do not like green eggs and ham.” then Sam would have said, “OK. No problem” and that would have been the end of the story. Sam would have happily gone on his way, and his friend would never have experienced the joy of eating green eggs and ham.
But no, Sam wasn’t content to take no for an answer. Luckily for his friend, Sam wasn’t like a typical Christian in a typical church; he wasn’t worried about offending his friend or driving him away. All he knew was how important it was that his friend make the decision to try green eggs and ham.
Now I am not trying to trivialize this sermon, but think about it, if a character in a Dr. Seuss story book knows the importance of being persistent when trying to convince someone to try something new, how come we don’t?
Well needless to say I determined that if I ever got a chance to start a church from scratch, it would be firmly grounded in the principles of Green Eggs and Ham. About this time, you must be getting ready to lean over to your spouse and say, “I knew it was a cult, Margaret, let’s get out of here”.
Just bear with me, OK? What can we learn from Sam-I-Am this morning, July 25, 2021?
1) We Need to Care About People. Sam I Am wanted his friend to try green eggs and ham. Why? Because he liked his friend and he felt like his friend was missing something in his life. In this case it was green eggs and ham. But he cared enough that he not only asked his friend, but he continued to ask his friend. His friend mattered to him. Cornerstone Wesleyan Church needs to put people number one. We need to care that people need Jesus or they will, in essence go to hell.
2) We Need to Be Convicted Of The Validity Of The Gospel.
That’s always the kicker, isn’t it? Just how convinced are we that this book is true? How convinced are we that there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned? If what this book says is true, then those who accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives will spend eternity with God.
But by the same token, those who don’t accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life will spend a Christless eternity without God. Now I realize that heaven and hell can be a little abstract to grasp, but somehow, we as a church need to become convinced of the value of Jesus Christ in the lives of people.
Not only for the here and now, but for the there and then. And once we become convinced of that, then we have to be ready to communicate that to people in a culturally relevant way. That is culturally relevant to this area, in July 2021.
And that can be tough, after all if it was easy every church would be doing it and they’re not. Too many churches are sound evangelically and sound asleep evangelistically.
If we believe the reality of hell and according to the word of God, hell is a reality, then we should be heartbroken over the fact that we have friends and family who will in reality be tormented for eternity. That’s what the book says and we don’t debate the book. Did you know that the Bible speaks more about Hell than about heaven? Listen to how Jesus describes it in Mark 9:48 as a place where ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’
and in Matthew 18:9 Jesus speaks of the Fires of Helland again in Matthew 13:42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And just because you don’t believe won’t make it one degree cooler or one day shorter.
Are we as convinced of the reality of Hell as Sam was convinced of the value of green eggs and ham? And if we are, then the next question has to be: are we that convinced that Jesus is the only solution to the reality of hell? There are not many ways to heaven, there are not several ways to heaven, there are not even two ways to heaven.
You can’t get there by being good, or by being sincere. Following Buddha won’t get you there. Following Mohammed won’t get you there. As a matter-of-fact Jesus said inJohn 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
And friends that is not being narrow, that is being scriptural. And until we understand that, we will never see the need to tell people about Jesus. Cornerstone Wesleyan Church wasn’t planted so that we could have a Wesleyan Church in Hammonds Plains, we came here to help depopulate hell. Now along with being convinced of the validity of the Gospel We Also Need to Be Convinced Of The Value Of our Church
Have you ever heard how people talk after they have seen a movie they really liked? Or have discovered a musical artist that they really liked, or found a great new restaurant? You can’t shut them up; they want to let everyone in on this wonderful secret.
I am convinced that we have a pretty good thing starting here. And notice that I said starting even though we’ve been in Bedford/Hammonds Plains for twenty-six years and in Sackville/ Beaver Bank for almost a year, we are only just beginning. Probably one of the speeches that will go down in history is Martin Luther King Junior’s speech “I have a dream.” I love that speech not just for the content but for the sentiment.
Friends, I have a dream, a dream of a church where people are valued for who they are, a dream of a church where that is committed to providing a home for the spiritually homeless. A church that will change and impact lives, here, near and far away.
A dream of a church that will be innovative and relevant. A church that will be bold and exciting. The poet W. B. Yeats wrote, “But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” When we started Cornerstone, we started with a dream, and we still have a dream and so I ask you; tread softly because you are treading on my dreams.
Can you see that church with me? Can you dream that dream with me? Can you see our buildings full of people who will dream that dream with us, people that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church has introduced to Jesus? Can you see a church that reaches out to help other churches dream, to help other churches reach out? A church that changes lives in a small village in Sierra Leone? Can you see a church that touches people at their point of need, whether it is spiritual, emotional or physical?
If we are going to do all the things that God would have us to do, we will need to see things that have never been seen, hear things that have never been heard, and attempt things others think are impossible.
Can you see it? It will only become a reality when we are ready to invite people out. Just about everyone here is here because someone invited you. We need to see the value of Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, not just for us but for our friends, for our family, for our neighbours. Who do we invite out?
There are four types of people in our world, in a very simplified sense. Out of those four groups, we are really interested in two of them. Those four groups are a) The Churched believers, pretty basic. These are people who have committed their lives to Jesus and are regularly involved in a Bible-believing church, that is a church that believes and practices John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
The next group are b) The churched unbelievers, these are those who haven’t made a commitment to Christ but who attend a Bible-believing church on a regular basis. Those first two groups of people are great to have as friend, it’s super to be with them, but to be truthful they already have a church home. It’s nice if they come out to a special service or two, but I’d like to see them fit into their church home.
However there are still two more groups of people out there, c) The Unchurched Unbeliever, Willow Creek Community Church calls these folks unchurched Harry and Mary, Saddle Back Community Church calls them Saddleback Sam and Sue. At Cornerstone, we call them our neighbours. These people have never made Jesus the manager of their lives and don’t have a church home.
Oh, they might have a church they go to at Easter and Christmas, but the other fifty Sundays of the year they’d just as soon go fishing or watch TV or sleep in. It’s these people who need to be shown the validity of the Gospel, doesn’t matter who they are, whether they are a friend, family or the guy you work with, they need to establish a relationship with Jesus Christ or they are going to hell, pretty sobering thought isn’t it?
The last group of people out there are d) Unchurched Believers. They have made a commitment to Christ, they are going to heaven, but they are not worshipping on a regular basis with a group of believers in a bible believing church. How come? I don’t know.
Maybe they were introduced to Jesus outside the church and have never found a church that they felt comfortable in, or maybe they’ve just moved here from somewhere else. Or maybe they have been hurt, either intentionally or unintentionally, in their last church. Unfortunately, spiritual abuse is a reality. And for whatever the reason, they haven’t found a church where they can be loved and accepted.
These people have already discovered the validity of the gospel, but they haven’t yet learned the value of Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.
Every one of us knows someone who fits into one or the other of those last two categories. Combined, we call them the spiritually homeless.
People who are either Christians or pre-Christians but who have no regular church home. They are the people who need us and who we need to love. They are the people that you need to tell about Cornerstone Wesleyan Church. Why?
Because you have something to offer them and it’s a whole lot more valuable than green eggs and ham. It’s the salvation that only Jesus Christ can offer and it’s a loving church family, a church family called Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.
We Need to Be Rigidly committed to flexibility. As I read Green Eggs and Ham I thought “Hey this guy just doesn’t give up” You won’t eat them with a fox then will you eat them in a box? No then how about with a goat, uh-huh then on a boat, in the dark, on a train, in the rain. Sam I Am must have figured that eventually, something would click even if his friend ate them just to get him off his back.
I want this church to be rigidly committed to flexibility. We will do whatever it takes to reach people with the word of God. If I have to get someone up here to juggle chainsaws and spit fire, then that is what I will do. Although with my coordination I can assure you that it won’t be me.
Right now, we are trying to provide the very best that we can with that menu we offer. If you don’t like our music, then maybe you’ll like the preaching. If you don’t like the preaching, then maybe it will be the excellent job that Marilyn and her crew do with the kids. If that doesn’t appeal maybe it will be a social event that we plan, or the Great I Hate Winter Beach Party or Dinner on the Grounds. Maybe it will a Christmas Eve service that we are planning even now, or maybe Easter Sunday.
And not everything will work, and we’ll learn from our mistakes and go on. It was Mark twain who said, “The man who picked the cat up by the tail learnt 40% more about cats then the man who didn’t.” Well, we are going to pick the cat up by the tail and we may walk away with some scratches, but we will learn what works and doesn’t work.
Denn you’re cheapening the gospel by relying on the spectacular. You mean like Jesus did when he healed the lame, made the blind to see and fed the five thousand? We will do anything except compromise the word of God.
Do you feel like we need a ministry to three-legged, left-handed bald people? Drop by the office and I’ll buy you a coffee and maybe we can figure out how you can start a ministry to three-legged, left-handed bald people. Notice that I said “how you can start” ownership is the key to effective ministry.
One of the biggest mistakes the church has made in its past has been the refusal to change. A pastor friend of mine got in trouble with a lady at his church when they put carpet down in their worship centre.
It was a blue carpet, and everyone knows that church carpet is supposed to be red.
Billy Graham tells a story about a young pastor who wanted to leave his mark on his first church, so he recommended that they buy a chandelier for the sanctuary. One of the men in his church said, “I’m against it and I’m against it for three reasons. The first is that there ain’t nothing in the Bible about them there chandeliers, second we haven’t got anybody in the church who can play one and thirdly what we really need is more light in the sanctuary.”
There is nothing sacred about how a church looks, there is nothing sacred about whether we sing hymns or the latest worship music, there is nothing sacred about whether we have prayer meeting, bible studies or life groups. There is nothing sacred about whether the pastor preaches expositional messages or topical messages. We will use whatever techniques we need to see this area won for Jesus Christ. But we will not compromise the message.
When I first started out in ministry Moncton Wesleyan Church had just published their Manifesto which said, “We might have our personal preferences about a big church or a small church, a formal service or an informal service, a long service or a short service, gospel music or liturgical music, fiery preaching or quiet preaching. However, if those preferences dictate which church we attend and support, then we can never experience God’s greatest blessings, because our motives are selfish.”
Is it any wonder that Moncton Wesleyan is one of the largest Church in the Maritimes? And if you’d rather go to a church that caters to you as a Christian and your musical taste and taste in sermons then to a church which is intent on introducing people to Jesus then Cornerstone Wesleyan church ain’t for you.
I’d rather start with twenty people committed to our dreams and mission statement than with 200 people who just want to play church.
The word of God is unchangeable, the message of the gospel will be uncompromised, but we need to present the message in such a way that it will reach the people of our community, today July 25, 2021, not 1971, not 1981 or even 2011 but 2021.
The challenge will continue to be being able to present the gospel in such a way that the message is fresh in 2022 and 2023 and 2024.
The concept isn’t new, listen to what Paul who was one of the greatest preachers of the church in the New Testament had to say when he wrote in his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 9:22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.
We Need To Be Persistent In Our Invitations. Wasn’t Sam I Am great? Talk about not giving up. He obviously hadn’t heard the admonition, “If at first you don’t succeed try ,try again, but don’t make a complete fool out of yourself.”
If you were to look in the dictionary under persistence, you would find a picture of Sam-I-Am. If we are going to see people come to our church through our invitations, then it will be because of persistence. Just because somebody can’t come out to church the first time you ask doesn’t mean that they won’t come the next time you ask, right? I mean maybe their hair really did fall out after the hot oil treatment.
We’re not asking them to cut off their arm, we’re just inviting them out to church. And in most cases, you need to invite people because they aren’t going to invite themselves. Your neighbour probably won’t be driving down the street this week and say, “You know I ought to go to Cornerstone on Sunday.”
Sometimes we even have an open invitation, when someone says, “Someday I’d like to visit your church.” Do you know what they are saying? Here is the translation, people; I will say it slowly, so you catch it, ready? What they are saying translated into English is; “Please invite me to a service.”
You say but Denn what if I drive them away, where are we going to drive them to, Hell number 2?
If you’ve been through Cornerstone 101, then you’re familiar with our mission statement that says, Cornerstone exists to provide a home for the spiritually homeless. Guiding them into a dynamic growing relationship with God and His Family.
Or the shortened version Cornerstone exists to provide a home for the spiritually homeless.
Or the concise version Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exists to help depopulate hell. And that will not happen until each of you has embraced that mission statement as well.
If that isn’t why we are here, if we are not committed to providing a home for the spiritually homeless, if the only reason we are here and the only reason we have built is to have a church to attend then we might as well close the doors. And if that isn’t what you want to do as a congregation then let me know and I start sending out my resume.
But you know how the story ends, don’t you? (Read from Green Eggs and Ham pages 53-62)
And if we do our part, some day we will stand in heaven and someone will come up to us and thank us for being convicted of the validity of the Gospel, convinced of the value of Cornerstone and persistent in our invitations.