Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 4 of 6: Yertle the Turtle
Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/10/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
How do you define power?
- I can do anything I want whenever I want with whoever I want with no consequences. No, this isn’t even possible.
- Our actions and words are always tied to others. They ripple.
- Power is Influence
Everyone has some power and influence. We’re all interconnected and it all ripples. It might be massive or small or somewhere in-between
- Imagine the power and influence of a world leader next to a teacher
- an inventor
- a farmer
- a parent/grandparent
- an author
- a police officer
- a child
Who influenced you?
- A family member, a teacher, a coach
- Maybe someone you never met. Someone you read about in a book or they wrote a book or created a piece of art which influenced you.
Power is influence. Others are using their power which is flowing towards us and we are using our power which is flowing towards others.
How will you use your power and influence?
Reading of Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Suess
How will you use your power?
- Think about how one person has the power to bring goodness, healing, and change
- Like little Mack’s burp
- Sometimes we think “I don’t have the power of the leader of a company or city or nation.” You have power. Often it’s the little things done with great love which change the world.
- Example: Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus because it was an injustice and how it rippled through an entire system of injustice
- Examples: Mr. Rogers, Gandi, Dr. Seuss
- Think about how one person has the power to bring pain, injustice, oppression, and harm. How one person’s actions can ripple through a family, a school, a community, or even the world.
- Yertle is modeled after Hitler
Yertle the Turtle is such a simple story and yet it beautifully contrasts the power of one. The power of one to do good in Mack using his voice, in doing a small thing which ends an injustice. Yertle using his power and twisting it something it was never meant to be.
Power is a good gift of God. It is neither good nor bad. It is a gift. How will you use the gift? Will you use it for good, healing, grace, and hope or will you twist it into something it was never meant to be.
Jesus had a great deal to say about this. We’ll read one the times he spoke about it.
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.
- Jesus had many encounters with the scribes (lawyers), Pharisees and rabbis (teachers), and priests (clergy)
- One way to twist the gift of power is to twist it with hypocrisy. You lay down the rules but you are above them and don’t have to practice them yourself. How frustrating and unjust.
4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.
- Power misused brings burdens on others.
5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.
- Practicing faith in order to be seen, to show off
- Self-centered, prideful, arrogant
- Demanding respect, demanding the place of honor
C.S. Lewis Quote from Mere Christianity
As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.
Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Jesus is saying there is another way to wield the good gift of power. Look at the way Jesus wielded power himself. Look at the humility of Jesus, the grace, the welcome.
Jesus wielding his power to heal. Jesus wielding his power to give voice to those who have no voice. Wielding his power to be in solidarity with people others had labeled outcast, insignificant, and other.
Jesus wielding his power as a servant, never demanding title or position. Jesus wielding his power to the point of death, the point of blood and torture and sacrifice and generosity and wielding his power to take up his life again in resurrection.
This is the other way to use the good gift of power and influence.
Jesus said: 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Jesus said, “I have not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
How will you use your gift of power and influence?
Will you let go of your ego? Will you let go of your willfulness and surrender wholly to God’s self-giving passion for the love and salvation of the world?
Will you take up your cross for the oppressed, the outcast, those yet to follow Christ?
Will you carry in your heart and prayers the sorrow of another?
Will you speak truth? Will you stand alongside those the world labels do not count and have no voice?
Will you mentor?
Will you welcome?
Will you use your power and influence for good and for the glory of God?
Little things can make a huge difference if they are done with love and grace. If they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
An Invitation to Christ by Dimitri of Rostov
Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins
kindling my heart with the flame of thy love.
Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there.
For you alone are my King and my Lord.
Yertle the Turtle Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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