Ezekiel 37:1-11, 2 Corinthians 5:14-20
Today we conclude our sermon series based on the book, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss, by James Kemp by looking at an all-time favorite story, Green Eggs and Ham. Interestingly enough, Dr. Seuss wrote this book in order to win a bet. The CEO of his publisher Random House, Bennett Cerf, bet Dr. Seuss $50 that he could not write a book with only 50 words. If you were to count the words in this story, there are exactly 50 unique words. With a lot of repetition, this book has been used by many teachers as a beginning reader teaching millions of children how to read. Ironically, Cerf never paid up on his bet, but considering the extreme success of Green Eggs and Ham, I believe Seuss had the last laugh!
In the story we meet Sam-I-Am. He is EXTREMELY persistent with his offering of an unusual delicacy, green eggs and ham. The other character in the story is never identified, but Sam-I-Am continues to offer green eggs and ham in every possible situation and location. [pg. 53] No matter how many times the other character says ‘no’ to Sam-I-Am’s offering of green eggs and ham, Sam-I-Am continues to present his unappealing choice, quite convinced if his friend would just try them he would like them.
The prophet Ezekiel also presented an unappealing message to the children of Israel. At the time, Judah and Israel were both conquered territories. The Babylonians had taken possession of Jerusalem, destroyed the sacred temple, and exiled the inhabitants – literally scattering them to the four winds. Ezekiel presented a message of judgment – God was not pleased with the Israelites’ repeated disobedience to God. Time and again they strayed from God, worshipping other gods and forgoing God’s law. Many times they were warned to serve the one true God and to only serve God. I have been spending time reading through the Hebrew Bible and I have to marvel at the distinct pattern – when the Israelites worshipped and served God they prospered; when they didn’t, they suffered. It seems easy to see from my perspective, yet I have to remind myself of the number of lifetimes covered during these scripture references. Folks often forgot their ancestors’ actions, whether good or evil. Altars were erected and altars were torn down, all to be rebuilt or torn down again. With the temple gone and the people in exile, it was probably hard to hear the ‘I told you so’ message from the prophet Ezekiel.
Yet there is persistence with Almighty God. One thing we learn from Sam-I-Am and the Great I-Am is that we are valued enough for God to continually call us into relationship with God. We are valued, we are loved. If Sam-I-Am did not value the other character in our story, he simply could have presented his unusual delicacy to someone else. But because he persists, the friend finally tries green eggs and ham, and lo and behold, he actually likes them. He had convinced himself he did not want this gift, only to be grateful for it in the end.
Ezekiel’s message came with a word of hope to those who desperately needed hope. “In exile, the Judean refugees neglected worship, failed to build proper houses for their families, and sat mourning their losses while the few remnants of their culture and the last vestiges of their faith continued to deteriorate” (Kemp, 56.)
In spite of all of this, God sent a message of hope. The vision of the valley of dry bones leaves us with a knowledge that the Israelites would not stay in exile. God had not abandoned them. They would live and thrive again. They remained God’s people and would once again gather together, rebuild the temple and worship the one true God in God’s holy place.
What about us? Have we been distracted from the challenges of work and family that we have neglected God? Have we soaked in a word of hope on Sunday only to neglect to share that hope with others? Can we seek ways to find balance in our lives, serving God and serving others? I believe so. Perhaps we need to be bold enough to taste green eggs and ham. Perhaps we need to be courageous enough to step away from our consumeristic culture to speak a word of generosity. Perhaps we need to be steadfast and persistent enough to continue sharing the love of God in our words and actions no matter how many times our friends say they do not like green eggs and ham.
The story Green Eggs and Ham is also a message to us about change. We have a tendency to resist change, do we not? We like our routines, our rituals, our methods (we are Methodists after all!) We may be a little quick to say we do not like something because ‘we’ve never don’t it that way before.’ We may decide that something will not work because ‘that’s not how we do things here.’ We may have traded our courage for safety. Sam’s friend resisted trying this new delicacy even though he had never eaten green eggs and ham before. How many times have we tried to get our kids to eat something new only to have them tell us they don’t like it, even without ever trying it before? We would know! Often because their minds are made up, even if they like the taste they will tell you they don’t like it! Been there, done that!
Here the good news. We have the Creator of the Universe as our guide and guard. We have the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ who took on the sins of the world through his selfless act of sacrifice. We have the power of the Holy Spirit as advocate, reminding us with a persistence of Sam-I-Am that we are loved and cared for by Almighty God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Take courage – God is with us, amen?
Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Corinth that we are born anew in Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; behold, everything has become new!” Our sin is forgiven. If we neglected to help someone in need yesterday, today is a new day. If we forgot to pray for others, the day is not over. If we were unkind to our neighbor, forgiveness is at hand.
There is one other thing I want to note in this story. Sam’s friend does not like Sam. The story opens like this: “That’s Sam-I-Am, that’s Sam-I-Am. I do not like Sam-I-Am.” Why? Why does the person immediately note he doesn’t like Sam-I-Am? Take a look at these pictures from the first pages of the book. We see Sam-I-Am darting in and out while our other character is trying to read. Sam-I-Am is interrupting him.
Think of your initial response when someone interrupts you. How kind and considerate are you when you have an agenda and this interruption will clearly deviate you from your plan of action? Is there ever any good that comes out of interruption? Perhaps. I remember a time when I worked in an office of cubicles – you know how they look. Everyone is compartmentalized in his/her own little world with specific tasks to accomplish. This particular day, the cable guys were working down the street and managed to cut through the main power line to all the office buildings in our area. All computers went down in mid-task. They must have done a lot of damage because all our phone lines went dead as well. Suddenly we all found ourselves with nothing to do but wait. We came out of our cubbies. We communicated with one another face-to-face. Imagine that? Our customer service operators were able to take a break together for the first time because normally at least one person had to remain in the call center. With the phone lines down, they had a moment to enjoy without disturbance. We had the blessing of some very necessary downtime, but clearly this was an interruption to our day.
Does God need to interrupt us from time to time? Does God need to get our attention in the midst of our normal chaotic existence? The kids went back to school last week and a new routine has kicked off. Sports programs wasted no time over the summer getting kids to practices long before this past week. When we layer stress after stress after stress on ourselves, how does God get our attention? I would encourage each of us to look for ways God is attempting to interrupt our normal routines. Who knows? Maybe we will actually like green eggs and ham!! Amen.