Sermon delivered March 22, 1997

by Pastor Jim Irwin

McDonald Road SDA Church, McDonald, TN

One Ugly Beautiful Word

One that we can claim. Sometimes, even when we don't feel like it, we can claim it. Mr. Thomas was taking applications from an ad he'd put in the paper. As he looked up at the next gentleman who came in, he shuddered. He was such a giant of a man. His face was so ugly that he could hardly stand to look at him. So he fumbled to find words, and he finally said, "Your application says that you're Jeff Gaunt."

"Yes, sir. That's right."

The voice was soft, but, oh, that face! And so he looked down and he said, "Well, Mr Gaunt, it says that you're employed by the Cory carnival as ..."

"Mr. Ugly, sir." Mr. Gaunt added quietly.

Mr. Thomas was thinking, how in the world could he even consider hiring somebody like this. But, well after all, in this society, every applicant has equal opportunity. Right? So he said, "Well, you must understand we have quite a few applicants for this job."

Mr. "Ugly" said, "Yeah, I know, but I don't want any pay for it. I'll work for free." His face looked sad. His little eyes even sadder.

Mr. Thomas asked, "Why in the world do you want this job anyway? You already have a full-time job."

Mr. Gaunt said, "Yes sir. But I'll be able to keep my full-time job. I'm only asking for a part-time position, the one that you advertised here."

Mr. Thomas wasn't quite sure what to do, so he said, "Well, have you had any experience?"

"No, sir. But I promise you if you give me a chance, I'll do a good job for you. I won't let you down." Mr. Thomas took the application and laid it over on the side of the desk and said, "I'll get back to you by tomorrow."

Mr. Gaunt stood up, towering over the desk. You could see the signs of defeat in his face, in his eyes, and as he got to the door, he turned around as if he were going to say something, and he just sighed, and very gently closed the door.

Well, Mr. Thomas couldn't sleep that night. So the next day he found himself out at Mr. Cory's Carnival. He found Mr. Cory, a balding man, with very thick lenses in his glasses, and he said, "Mr. Gaunt came and asked for a job."

"Oh yeah, Ugly told me about that. You gonna give him one?"

"Well, I haven't decided yet."

"Hah! Ain't that a new one! He ain't never got that close before.

"You mean he's asked... gone out looking for jobs?"

"Oh yeah. Every, every year he goes out. I don't mind him going out. He ain't never goin' to get one and he ain't never going to get one."

"Well, why would he want it?"

"Why, have a ticket on me. Go down to the second tent on the left down there. You find out and see for yourself."

So Mr. Thomas took the ticket and walked down, and as he approached the tent he saw this huge, big sign, "Mr. Ugly." And he heard the barker calling out, "Come one! Come all! If you've got the guts! If you've got the nerve! Come on! If you've got a weak heart, better stay away. But if you've got the guts, come see Mr. Ugly." So Mr. Thomas went in to watch.

The light came on on the stage. Mr. Gaunt came out, painted up to look even more ugly, grimacing, making noises like a wild man. Afterwards, Mr. Thomas hurried around to the dingy dressing room in the back. Mr. Gaunt said, "I wish you hadn't come.

Mr. Thomas said, "Mr. Gaunt, about that job. Would you still like it?" "Would I, would I want it? Do I want it? YES!

"Well, you be there at five o'clock tomorrow!" And Mr. Thomas had very much intended to be there at five o'clock tomorrow. He didn't want anything to go wrong. He was putting his career on the line. But he got tied up. He couldn't get away, and he couldn't get away, and he couldn't get away! It was eight o'clock, three hours later before he could go. He rushed down to the toy department and when he got there, there was a huge massive crowd. "What have I done?" Then he heard through the general din the laughter of a little child and the soft laugh of Mr. Ugly. He worked his way around, and there, standing right in front of Mr. Gaunt was a couple of parents, just beaming down, smiling, and on his lap was a little child looking up into Mr. Ugly's face and laughing together and they were having a good time. The child was there to tell Santa Claus what he wanted for Christmas. They were having a marvelous, wonderful time together.

Now, what made the difference? Everybody knew him as Mr. Ugly. And yet the kids thought this is my best friend at this time of the year. How could somebody, so ugly, be so beautiful? And how can some words that we use seem to be so ugly? Some words that we hear people automatically think, "That's out of date. Don't want to hear about that. That's politically incorrect. And some cringe. Some go ballistic. Some say, "We ought to throw it out." What word am I talking about? I'm talking about the word "submission" or "submit."

Turn to Ephesians 5. Today we want to look at this word, and there are many, many people who, when they hear this word, they are just turned off. They don't want to talk about it. It is not part of what they want to be: their lifestyle or in the church. But let's look today at this word and talk about how maybe it's not quite so ugly after all. Maybe we've missed something that we ought to grab a hold of. Ephesians 5: 21 cf. "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the Savior." The Bible talks a lot about submission. Submitting to the government, submitting to your masters, to your bosses, submitting to your parents, submitting to God, submitting to the church, submitting to each other, submitting to husbands. It's not a word that we as freedom-loving independent Americans would really understand or want. Well let's look at it.

Sandra Aldrich tells about Bryan. He was one of three partners in a business. He sold his part, one third of an exceptionally thriving business, and everybody wanted to know if he'd gone crazy. He said, "No!" And this is what he said, "Equal partnership sounds good in theory, but in practice, somebody has to run the show. Every circus needs a ringmaster. Well, how can you be a ringmaster and be a ringmaster that doesn't power-play over other people?"

Let's look at this concept of the head. The head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. We usually think of the head as somebody who is superior, somebody who has the authority over somebody, somebody who can call the power-plays, who's the supervisor, the person in charge, the head of the company, the one who calls the shots. But in Ephesians and Corinthians Paul doesn't talk about the head being the one in charge, per se. He's talking about another kind of metaphor, and he calls it the body. The head is intimately connected with the body, and the unity and mutual dependence of all the parts of the body: The head can't function by itself. What would the head do without the rest of the body? Not very much, would it? So it's unified together and the body works together as a team in unity. And so when Paul talks about being the head, he's not talking about (per se) being the boss, the one who calls the shots, and lords it over somebody else. And Jesus bears that out.

Turn in your Bible to Luke 22:25-27. Jesus had a problem with the disciples always wanting to be the one in charge, the one who has the authority, the one who had the prestige. After they had had a big argument about who was going to be the greatest, Jesus once again reminded them, and this is what He said: (Luke 22:25 cf.) "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. (You ought to enjoy what I'm doing to you, in other words) But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But, I (Jesus) am among you as one who serves you (not one who lords it over you)." And so, when we come back to this passage of the head and the body Jesus says along with Paul that if you're the head, you are not the boss. You are the servant. The one who serves. If you're in a position of power, if you're responsible, you're a decision-maker, you don't lord it over those you're responsible for. You don't lord it over those you have power over.

Well then, what kind of decisions do you make? You make one like a servant- leader. And what kind of decision does a servant-leader make? The servant- leader makes a decision based on the needs of the people they serve. In business they call it customer services. It's a big thing. I got a letter from University of Tennessee-Chattanooga yesterday. Three or four-page letter about three big gurus of customer service coming to the University of Chattanooga, wouldn't I please shell out all my money and come down and listen to these high-priced people.

Jay Cardy says that if a couple disagrees, yes the husband is the tie- breaker. How does he decide to break the tie? Well, he bases his decision on what is best for his wife. He bases the decision on what is in the best interest of his wife.

Why would that be? Cinder Aldrich says that wise husbands ask for their wive's confirmation of a decision they've made. Now some of us have learned that that's a wise thing to do. We go out and make mistakes and our wives say that that just doesn't feel right. We go do it anyway, and then we learn the hard way. So I've learned to ask Andy, my wife, "How do you feel about it? Do you have any feelings about this? What's your intuition? What do you just know that I don't have a clue about?"

A businessman, a very prosperous businessman decided he was going to buy some stock that as a no-lose proposition. His wife said, "It doesn't feel right." "Oh! It's going to make us lots of money!" And then a few days later, after he borrowed money to invest in this stock, the president was indicted for fraud. He not only lost his money, he had to pay it back. A double whammy. So the next time he saw a prime piece of property that was for sale and he knew it was going to be a money-making deal he told his wife and she said it doesn't feel right. So he gritted his teeth. "Oh!!" And the property sold and immediately the person who bought it turned around and sold it for double. The guy made thousands of dollars in profit. Oh, he was on a "bad" for two or three days. And then he heard on the news that the guy who bought it for double the price had put in a stipulation that they had to do an environmental check, and when they checked it they discovered that prime piece of property had been an illegal chemical dump. Millions of dollars to have to clean it up. And so he learned.

And ladies, maybe a word to you... One lady and her husband wanted to move from Kentucky to Indiana to a new farm. She didn't want to go. Her relatives and friends said, "Put your foot down. Make him stay." And she said, "No, he's got to go. If he doesn't go, he'll always wonder. If he goes, he'll know." So they packed up and moved to Indiana. When they got there and standing on the porch looking out over the farm and she was a little down and depressed. She asked her husband, "Honey, would you please unpack at least the piano so I can at least play some music and cheer myself up." He said, "Naw. We're not going to be staying here long." So husbands, when you make you decision-making as a servant-leader, check with your wife.

Now let's look back at Ephesians 5. There's another aspect to this idea of submitting and decision-making and being in charge. In Ephesians 5, besides being a servant-leader, besides being willing to submit... Let's read verses 1 and 2. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." And that begins this whole section in Ephesians 5 that talks about submitting. As the imitators, offer yourselves as sacrifices. Look in verse 25. "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." He gave himself as a sacrifice, and this is how husbands are to be responsible for their wives. To be in charge of their wives? They love their wives and give themselves up for their wives.

Gerald Dowell tells about George and Claire. Now George was what you would consider a man's man. He was a contractor, construction company. He had several crews that he operated. He had the biggest, most powerful four- wheeled drive available. He had the biggest power-boat on the lake. He had the biggest motorcycle he could find. He was into power. He was into authority. And he took charge wherever he went. He operated like a drill sergeant. He controlled every thing in his life except Claire. The feisty little lady stood up to him an d argued back and he loved her for that. But one day it went too far. She wound up grabbing her check book and a few things and said, "I'm leaving!" He said, "Good riddance!" And she said, "GOOD BYE!!" When she left, the tires squealed and the motor roared and the smoke flew up behind the car. All of a sudden he was standing there by himself and he looked down at tile floor that they argued constantly over. He didn't want to clean the tile floor from his muddy boots because that was a woman's work. And she didn't care for it either, so it very rarely got done. As he was standing there, all of a sudden he realized that Claire was gone. What had he done? What was he going to do? Both of them were Christians, so he said that as a sort of a prayer. "Lord, what am I going to do?" And he heard it! The Lord spoke to him loud and clear. "CLEAN THE FLOOR!" "What?" "Clean the floor." So he grabbed a bucket and water and soap and a scrub brush and he got down and he was cleaning the floor. Meantime, Claire is being honked at, and blown at and people are waving at her. So she decided to pull off the road and get herself together and as a Christian she, you know, prayed to God in her heart wondering what to do. She found herself pulling out and next thing she knows she's in her driveway. She kind of slips out of the car and tip-toes up to the door and looks inside. There's her husband, this big macho man down on the floor scrubbing. He is soaking wet with his own sweat and water that splashed up everywhere. And what does she do? She ran into the house, got down on the floor with him and hugged him and said that she loved him with all her heart. She saw in that scrubbing of the floor a different attitude. When they stopped doing the lose-lose fights, and looked at how each of them could win, then they re- cemented their marriage together.

When we give up trying to dominate, then we become a team. Submitting to one another. When we give up lording it over somebody else, we are able to love them. "When we voluntarily choose to submit. The Bible Commentary says and the Greek dictionary, this word is primarily talking about when we voluntarily decide to submit to one another then our relationships are filled with joy. When we focus on leadership as a servant we focus on serving instead of authority, then we have a good time together. We are able to succeed.

How does this work? Right at the beginning of this chapter (Ephesians 5) it talks about being filled with the Spirit and one of the signs of being filled with the Spirit is that we submit to one another. This is a supernatural gift that God gives to us. It's is not something that we as human beings can really put together on our own. It's in conjunction with the Spirit that we become serving, servant-leaders and sacrificing for each other.

Let me read something from Ministry of Healing (EG White). I think it sums up what we're talking about. "Neither the husband nor the wife should attempt to exercise over the other the arbitrary control. Do not try to, compel each other to yield to your wishes. You cannot do this and retain each other's love. Be kind. Be patient. Be forebearing. Be considerate and courteous, and by the grace of God you will succeed in making each other happy, just as in your marriage vow you promised to do." And may the Lord Jesus Christ fill you with His Spirit that you may indeed find the joy of being one, two as one in the Lord.

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