Superglue: A Faith That Sticks
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Philippians 2:16
At my house, I am
not a very good mechanic, and I use lots of tape.
I use tape to fix almost everything because I am not very
good with hammers, saws, nails and little pointy things called
screwdrivers nor with those levered things called pliers.
I basically use tape to fix everything at our house.
For Christmas one year, a friend gave me a box of various
colors and sizes of duct tape and that gift was deeply appreciated.
I have narrow tape, medium tape, and wide tape.
I particularly like the narrow black tape called electrical
tape, and the wide, silver duct tape. I use them all the time, and I
can fix almost anything, so it seems.
A few years ago, we had a leak in the pipe underneath the
kitchen sink, and so I took a roll of tape and taped that leak up
really well, so it didn’t drip.
I fixed it and forgot about it.
Six months later, the drain plugged and so I poured some
Drano down that drain, and within seconds the Drano ate through the
silver tape and poured onto our kitchen floor and ruined the floor
in front of the sink. It
was a mess.
Being quite a
household authority in tapes, I decided to call a friend of mine who
works for Minnesota Mining. He was and is a chemist.
I asked him, “Can you tell me what makes tape stick?”
He informed me that there were two kinds of tape, just in
case you wanted to know. There
is what you call “initial stick” and “lasting stick.”
Now, initial stick, you can find on masking tape, scotch tape
or post-its. This tape
doesn’t stay on very long; it easily rubs off; the rubber adhesive
isn’t that good. My
friend labeled these tapes as “initial stick.”
But there is another kind of tape that my chemist friend told
me about and it is called “lasting stick.”
This kind of tape doesn’t stick real well at first, but as
time goes by, this glue gets harder and harder and harder and
harder. In fact, it
gets so hard that after a while, you have to chip it off like hard
cement. You find this
kind of tape used in campers and airplanes.
I asked my friend, “What is this kind of tape made out
of?” He said, “I can’t tell you.”
I asked, “Why?” He
said, “It has a secret formula.” I
said, “Aw come on, give me a clue.”
He answered, “Well, it is made out of animal glues and
resins and special chemicals, which are then mixed up together into
a batter, but we do not reveal the secret formula.”
To illustrate the
adhesive power of lasting stick tape, I have before you blocks of
wood and two kinds of glue. I have this white Elmer’s glue and I will now glue two
blocks of wood together. I
also have this second bottle of super glue.
I talked another friend, a carpenter, and he told me about
this super glue. I will
now glue these two pieces of wood together with this super glue and
at the end of the sermon, they will be so stuck together, I will not
be able to pry them apart with my hands.
And over the years, this glue between the blocks of wood will
grow harder and harder and harder until it hardens like cement.
At the end of the sermon, I will demonstrate the effects of
the two glues.
Well, it seems to
me that Jesus divides people into two groups:
those who first believe and then gradually fall away and
secondly, those who believe and their belief becomes stronger and
stronger and stronger as the years pass by.
It seems that Jesus, like my chemist friend, divides people
into two groups: initial
stick and lasting stick. In
fact, Jesus told a parable a story on this theme, the story of the
four soils, and we can easily apply it to initial stick and lasting
stick tape. A sower
went out to sew seeds and he threw some into the hard soil, and it
didn’t stick at all and the seed died right away.
The next was the rocky soil, and it stuck for a little while,
and then all the disasters came along.
These people were fair-weather Christians and as long as the
weather in their life was fair, they remained Christians.
But when the nasty weather came along, these people became
unglued, unstuck with Jesus. Then
there was another soil, with thistles in it.
The plant initially grew but the cares, riches and pleasures
of this life choked out the good plants.
These people, too, initially stuck, but they, too, became
unglued. Then there was
the fourth and last soil, and it produced 60,90, 100 fold.
Over time, the plant became stronger and stronger and
stronger, and Jesus said that is what we are to be like.
Now, the parallels
are obvious. Seated before me today are these fifteen young men and women.
I would like to say to you very clearly this morning that to
begin to believe is not enough.
To go through a three-year confirmation study program is not
enough. To go through the rite of confirmation today is not enough.
To have initial stick tape is not enough.
It is just not enough. Now,
the hard evidence is this. The
hard evidence is that unfortunately, there is some initial stick
tape in this group and in a very short time, some of you young men
and women will begin to slowly drop out of church, and by the end of
this year, we will see less of you and by the end of next year,
still less. It could be
that your life, I hope not, is composed of initial stick tape.
This past week, I
took time and examined all the names of the confirmation students
that I have confirmed since 1974.
That is nearly twenty years of confirmation students. I
divided the list. Knowing
that only God is the true judge of a person’s heart, I still
divided them into two lists: those
who seemed to initially believe and then gradually fell away, and
those who seem to believe and are still part and active in their
church today, wherever it may be. I started to wonder to myself:
what is it about some people who initially believe and then
fall away. What are the
qualities of people who initially believe and then fall away?
What are their ingredients of initial stick tape?
One quality that I
found among the initial stick crowd is that they had an awful lot of
what I call “I” for independence.
The logic sounds like this:
“I want my way. I don’t care about what the rest of the
world thinks, I am going to do it my way.
God can tag along with me as long as it is on my terms.
I don’t care what the preacher says; I don’t care what
Christ says; I don’t care what my Mom and Dad say because I am
going to do it my way. I
am no longer a child doing what my parents want but a young adult
doing what I want. Lord,
my will be done.” There
is an awful lot of the letter “I” for independence in initial
I remember when I
was about your age, I said to my parents, “Stop treating me like a
child. I am not a baby
any more. You don’t
need to tell me who my friends ought to be or at what time I get
home at night. I am
capable of handling my life.”
We all have this wholesome growth into becoming more and more
There are crucially
important steps towards independence at this time.
We finally get our driver’s license, and we are free to
roam the world with no parents in the car, and that feels good.
In time, we get a job at the grocery store or department
store, and we start to have our own money and are not so totally
dependent on our parents for cash. We don’t have to beg for money in a demeaning way.
Time moves on and we get our first apartment or dormitory and
our parents don’t even know the ins and outs of our lives because
we are no longer living with them in the family house.
We have our own apartment now.
During this era, we think, feel, or say, “ Please Mom and
Dad, don’t treat me like a baby anymore.
I am growing up. I am becoming responsibly independent. I
have a car, cash, and condo.”
But in that same
healthy process of growing up and growing more independent, we also
start to grow away from God, and we often unconsciously think:
“God, I don’t need your house anymore.
I have my own house or apartment. I don’t need our daily
talks anymore. I don’t need to be with you so much any more. I am not a
child anymore, and I don’t especially want to be your child
either. So we rebel,
not only against our parents, but against God. We strive for
independence, not only from parents, but from God.
So what are the
ingredients of this secret formula that makes for initial stick
tape, for Christians that initially believe and then become unglued
from Jesus Christ? There is an awful lot of “I” for
independence. But there
is another ingredient in this formula for initial stick and that is
the letter “P” standing for pleasure.
In fact, sociological studies on young adults prior to
children being born indicate that this is the most self-centered
generation. As long as
I can make enough bucks, get myself a new car and pair of skis, away
I go. I am having fun
in this world, and God, I don’t have time for you.
But, to be honest,
I am more interested in lasting stick tape, in the bond that grows
stronger and stronger and stronger as the years go by.
The secret formula of this lasting tape includes the letters
JC, P, and WW. It is a
secret formula. I have
to admit that I don’t know exactly all the ingredients that go
into this batter, but I know some of them.
Only God, the ultimate Chemist comprehends all the
ingredients that make for lasting stick discipleship, but I would
like to share with you what I know. God didn’t tell me everything
that goes into lasting stick, but I know enough.
Jesus Christ. The
kids who have a lasting relationship with God have a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ.
To know Jesus Christ is to have first hand experiences with
Jesus Christ. As you
kids know very well, it is one thing to see a movie about Mount
Rainer but it is totally something else to go hiking on Mount
Rainier. The first hand
hike lives so much more in your inner being than a movie or picture
of Mount Rainier. As you kids know, it is one thing to see a movie
about sky-diving or bungie-cord jumping, but it is far different to
jump out of an airplane and feel that parachute jerk open and your
heart stick in your throat. It
is a different experience to actually jump from a bridge and hit the
bottom of the bungie-cord only to be whooshed suddenly up in the
other direction. There
is no comparison between a movie version and a first hand
experience. And the
same is true for Jesus Christ.
Rather than reading about Jesus or seeing a movie about
Jesus, it is to have first hand experiences with the Spirit of
Jesus, the Spirit of the Living God, to have deep first hand
encounters with Jesus Christ.
It is not enough to
know the thirty one facts and figures about Jesus’ childhood, the
thirty one facts all based on the Bible that you learned in a memory
card in confirmation. It
is not enough to have learned all you have learned in the past three
years of study. It is
not enough to have religious feelings about Jesus where you have sat
around the campfire and sung songs on a star filled night.
Nor is it enough to have positive feelings about your friends
at church. Nor is it
enough to have positive connections with us your pastors, youth
advisors, and congregation who have supported you all these years.
Important as all of these are, far more important is to have an
authentic, living relationship with JC, with Jesus Christ, who is
the Presence and Spirit of God in you and around you.
The invitation is to surrender your life to Jesus Christ on a
daily basis, so that Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, the
Ruler of your life, the Person and Presence of your life for all
More than Biblical facts, more than campfires, more than
parents, more than pastors. JC. Jesus
Christ. The crucial
ingredient of this formula for lasting stick tape is for a person to
know Jesus Christ first hand.
A second quality
that I have noticed in kids who have a long-term relationship with
Jesus Christ is the “P” factor. The “P” factor stands for
parents. It is not
always true but almost always true that kids who have a long-term
relationship with Jesus Christ have moms and/or dads who truly love
Jesus Christ and walk with Jesus Christ.
Today, I am grateful not only for the confirmands who are
seated before me but for their moms and dads.
You kids may be one of the finest confirmation classes I have
ever had, and the reason for this is that you have such quality
mothers and fathers.
Your parents have
learned to make three fine distinctions.
First, you parents have learned to love deeply without
loving indulgently. You
have learned the art, the fine art, of loving deeply but not loving
indulgently so that your kid begins to think that he or she is the
king or queen of the world; that your confirmand, can do what they
want to do, regardless of how that behavior hurts others. The second
fine line that these parents know is how to be firm without being
parents have been firm: firm
with church, firm with confirmation, firm with daily prayer of all
things, but you have not been forceful.
You can’t cram religion down anyone’s throat.
You can’t force the love of Jesus into someone’s heart.
You can’t force toothpaste into a tube, and you can’t
force true Christian faith into someone’s heart.
That fine distinction is so important in parenting.
The third fine line is this:
you have been responsible without being rigid.
You parents have been responsible in coming to worship with
your confirmands, responsible in prayer and Bible reading,
responsible with the weekly questions, responsible in all the little
things, but you have not been rigid or autocratic.
These fine distinctions are so important in Christian
parenting: love deeply
but not indulgently, firm but not forceful, responsible but not
I want to share a
story with you. One of my dearest friends, Ray Osterloh, died slowly of an
ugly case of cancer. He
was a businessman, my stockbroker. Immediately after Ray died of
cancer, his wife, Jan, was searching in his dresser and found a
piece of paper, weathered yellow with time.
These two parents had raised two boys, strappling young men,
some six feet six inches tall, and she found this poem the morning
after Ray’s death. The poem was so indicative of Ray’s life:
I may not be as
clever as my neighbors down the street,
I may never be as wealthy as some other men I meet.
I may never have the glory that some other men may have,
But I have got to be successful as my little fellows’ dad.
I may never get
earth’s glory, I may never gather gold.
Men may count me as a failure when my business life is told.
But if he who follows after is a Christian, I’ll be glad,
For I’ll know that I’ve been successful as my little fellows’
The most important quality that I could ever pass on to my
children is that they would stick with Jesus Christ long term, that
their faith in Jesus would grow stronger and stronger and stronger
as the years go by.
The other day, I
watched a Dobson film about Christian parenting.
Dr. Dobson said that as a parent, he was like a long distance
runner, and that he wanted to pass on the baton of faith to his
children. He said,
“That is by far the most important thing I could pass on to them,
a lasting faith in Jesus Christ. In this messed up world, what kids
need most is Jesus Christ.” Dr.
Dobson then went on to tell a story of a little boy, five years old,
who was dying of lung cancer. If
you are an adult dying of lung cancer, Dr. Dobson explained, it
feels like you are drowning but if you are a five-year old boy dying
of lung cancer, you don’t understand and it is very frightening.
Dr. Dobson went to the hospital to visit this little
five-year old boy with cancer.
Dr. Dobson had been seeing this little boy regularly; the
child was one of his patients.
The boy asked, “Doctor, do you hear the church bells
ringing?” And the
doctor shook his head and walked out of the room and said, “The
poor boy must be hallucinating, he is in so much pain.”
That same night, the doctor came back to the room and there
was the boy’s mother, sitting on a rocking chair, rocking her five
year old back and forth. The
little boy again said to his mother, “Mother, I hear the church
bells ringing. I hear
the church bells ringing.” The
doctor shook his head and said, ‘I am so sorry that your child is
hallucinating; the pain must be very bad.”
The woman said, “O no. My little child is not
hallucinating. I told
him, ‘Son, when you get really afraid, when the fear gets so bad,
you look up into the corner of that hospital room and you listen
carefully, listen real carefully in the silence, and you will hear
God’s church bell’s ringing for you.”
The little boy said again, “Mom, I hear the church bells
ringing.” The mother
believed; her child believed as only a five year old can believe.
By far the most
valuable gift that your Moms and Dads can give you confirmands is
not your education, is not fancy haircuts, is not fancy clothes, is
not fancy friends, is not fancy duds, is not fancy cars, boots,
skis. By far, I repeat,
by far, the most important quality that your Mom and Dad can pass on
to you is to have you believe deeply in Jesus Christ, so deeply that
your faith grows stronger and stronger and stronger as the years go
In this magic
formula of lasting stick discipleship, I have discovered that the
letter, P, standing for parents, is very important.
The last letters of
this formula are two letters, WW, standing for Word and worship.
When I look at the young people who were confirmed years ago
and are now loyalists to Jesus Christ and his church, I discover
that they have a healthy dose of WW in them, the love and
appreciation of Word and worship. Jesus said, “I you continue in my word, you will know the
truth, and the truth will make you free.”
I see it all the time; people who love the Word of God, who
continue to read the Word of God, where the Word actually begins to
live inside that person. And
those same people I find at worship, with their hearts lifting up
honor and praise to God, in their private devotional worship of God
and in the public worship of God on Sundays with other Christians.
You just can’t have lasting stick discipleship without WW.
It is impossible.
we examine the effect of the two glues.
The first glue is Elmer’s and with little effort, I pry
these two blocks of wood apart. See? The glue was not very strong. It stuck only initially.
Now, I will attempt to pry the second blocks of wood, glued
together by this super glue. I
can’t pull them apart. And
over the years, I am told that this glue will get stronger and
stronger and stronger. This
demonstrates the difference between initial stick and lasting stick.