August 14, 2016 – The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss – Week 3 – The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

Genesis 1:1 – 2:1

        We are up to week three of our sermon series, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss with today’s story, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.  Now just as a warning, your homework this week will be double to make up for the fact you did not have homework last week!  You will want to review The Cat in the Hat, and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.  We first meet our friend The Cat in the Hat when ‘Sally and me’ are home alone on a rainy day.  In spite of the fact that these children have plenty of toys to play with, they sit by the window claiming they have nothing to do. In comes this charming, fun-loving, disrupter known as The Cat in the Hat.  Very quickly chaos ensues and ‘Sally and me’ are caught in a whirlwind of an increasingly messy situation.

The Creation Story read for us from the book of Genesis seems to have a similar progression. God created all things and saw after each step that creation was good. When God created humankind in God’s image, God saw that it was very good. Similar to the beginning of our Dr. Seuss story, the house is in order. Yet very quickly sin enters the picture and the destruction of that sin begins to create the chaos of our broken world.  “…Trash began to appear:  an apple core, a torn fig leaf, [and soon after] a slain brother” (Kemp, p. 24)  Sin takes the beauty and perfection of creation and taints it with greed, selfishness, jealousy, and self-reliance.  While the first The Cat in the Hat story has a happy ending, with the Cat returning to clean up the entire mess and putting everything back in order just before Mom comes home, the messiness and chaos of our broken world continues.  In the story, ’Sally and me’ are faced with a dilemma – do we confess our allowance of the chaos or do we keep quiet?

The second story, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back is interesting because ‘Sally and me’ (note that Dr. Seuss puts us into the story), we are well aware of the chaos The (charming) Cat in the Hat can bring.  While we have work to do outside, (Sally and me are tasked with shoveling snow), The Cat in the Hat heads right into the house to create more havoc.  The Cat beelines for the bathtub where it takes a bath while eating cake. This leaves a big pink ring in the tub! The rest of the story is the Cat making attempts to get rid of the ring by wiping it off with Mom’s dress, Dad’s shoes, the wall, a rug, the bed, etc. Finally the Cat calls in some friends, cats A-Z, who continue to make bigger and bigger messes.

I ask you, does this not seem like a parallel to sin in our lives? We warn our kids about lying because one lie can lead to another one which leads to others. When we succumb to greed, suddenly nothing else matters but the next rung on the ladder or the next big payoff.  When we succumb to our addictions, we can fall deeper and deeper into the messy chaos that often follows.  When we have no time or caring for others, suddenly the world is a very lonely place.

Jesus entered this messy world only to create more chaos.  Jesus reeked havoc on the religious leaders of the day who were more interested in outward appearances than spiritual well-being.  He was challenged time and again by these religious leaders as to why Jesus was spending time with sinners. His statement was simple: “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12.)

With the Creation story we are reminded that we are all merely stewards of all God has given us.  We are charged to have dominion over the earth and to subdue it, but only as a way to leave it in a condition suitable for our children and our children’s children.  When we were a more agrarian culture, farmers understood the need to work and care for the land so that their children would be able to inherit it and also work and care for the land in preparation for the next generation. We seem to have lost a bit of this appreciation for Creation, yet we are each charged with serving as stewards – caregivers for all we have been given.  It’s a change of focus – becoming more God-centered in our very being.

Our world today is messy. We are steeped in a fallen world that has been stained by the effects of sin. Similar to this cross, we have some bad things in our lives for which we need to confess.  Perhaps we have not loved God with our whole hearts. Perhaps we have not fed the hungry, visited the sick, or heard the cry of the needy. Maybe we are waiting for someone else to step up because we have done our share.  Perhaps we have placed other idols ahead of God.  Maybe we have chosen to sit in the seat of judgment, criticizing others while trying to justify ourselves.

Hear the good news. In our second story, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, one little helper cat, Cat Z, unleashes VOOM!!! This wonderful tool cleans up all of the mess left by The Cat in the Hat and his minions, Cats A-Y.  Cat Z has the solution – VOOM!  Jesus is our VOOM!  Jesus took on the sins of the world from the beginning of time and forever more.  Jesus, whom the mess makers of the world thought they had thrown out with the garbage, died a criminal’s death only to rise again, wiping the slate clean of all the ugliness of sin in our lives.  When we confess our sin, we can hear these words and believe, “In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.” [Quote book beginning on pg. 25]

Jesus wipes the slate clean. Jesus paid the price for our sin by dying on the cross for us. Jesus gives us the assurance of eternal life through his suffering, death, and resurrection. During our VBS week, we had the children draw sad faces on this cross to represent the effects of sin in our lives.  I have written some words here to correlate with our sin as well. Words like greed and selfishness, deceit and jealousy.  When our hearts no longer show compassion for others, we may find ourselves covered in a pink bathtub ring that just seems to get worse. Yet Jesus is our VOOM! Jesus does not simply cover our sin, but eliminates it.  The apostle Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

In the book of Revelation, the scripture that was read for us gives us a glimpse of a vision of a new order – a world without sin.  This promise shows us an eventual time of no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, no more death.  This will be a time of ultimate peace – we are given the assurance of eternal life with Jesus Christ, our VOOM!

Perhaps today’s Dr. Seuss story has stirred something inside you. Do we need to confess some darkness in our lives that is keeping us from living as true followers of Jesus? Do we need to ask forgiveness for not hearing the cries of the needy? Do we need to seek God’s mercy for the way we have been treating others?  Do we need to be better stewards of all God has given us?  I would like us to spend some time in prayer today.  The altar is open if you would like to come forward, or you can just pray where you are.  (You can count this toward your weekly prayer commitment!)  The hymn, “Take Time to be Holy” reminds us of our need to die daily to sin, rising as a new creation in Jesus Christ. Let us spend time together in prayer and thanksgiving.  [Wipe sin off cross] Amen.

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