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Getting Put in Our Place - By Pastor Thomas Engel

You know I like the old classical movies with actors like Wayne, Fonda, Tracy, and Hepburn.

When I go to visit my mom, she always has an old movie playing.

I have told her that they have made movies past 1960, but I do agree with her when she says, “Tom, they don’t make them like those old classics.”

Denzel Washington is not an old classical actor, but he is one of my favorites of today’s era.

This is what’s been said about Denzel Washington, “He has been described as an actor who reconfigured "the concept of classic movie stardom," associating with characters defined by their grace, di


gnity, humanity, and inner strength.”

From these comments, I can see why I like him, and we can see why he is often asked to give graduation speeches.

In looking for resources about growth mindset, I found his speeches, and I’ve shared with students his speech titled, “Fall Forward.”

Here’s an excerpt from the speech: “I found that nothing in life is worthwhile, unless you take risks. Nothing. Nelson Mandela said there is no passion to be found playing small and settling for a life that’s less than the one you’re capable of living. I’m sure in your experiences in school and applying to college and picking your major and deciding what you want to do with life that people have told you to make sure you have something to fall back on. “Make sure you have something to fall back on, honey!” But I’ve never understood that concept. If I’m going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything except my faith. I want to fall forward, I figure at least this way I will see what I’m going to hit.”

If you were to give a graduation speech, what inspiring words would you say?

Everyone here has lived long enough and has had enough experiences to be able to share something with young people who are starting out on a new journey.

In our congregation, we have business owners, Viet Nam veterans, educators, workers from a variety of fields, moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas.

Imagine if we would collectively put together a graduation speech that covers many aspects of life as we have come to know it from work to family.

Of course, we would talk about faith, too, as did Denzel Washington-from his speeches, he seems to be a solid Christian, and we will get to more about faith in a moment.

I’m sure if we got together to make a speech, it would be inspiring. We would talk about our successes, and the how’s and the what’s of those successes.

We did things to make a good lives for ourselves and others as we should have done.

And if anything, a young person needs to know about how to make a loving and nurturing family, a home where children can grow-up to be good adults.

So, we need to share the how’s and the what’s about all that it takes to be good people.

We can share a lot of words of advice-if it worked for us, maybe it will work for the young people of today.

Here are some shorter quotes from Denzel Washington’s speeches to get us thinking about what we would say:

  • “I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.”

  • “Do what you have to do, to do what you want to do.”

  • “My mother never gave up on me. I messed up in school so much they were sending me home, but my mother sent me right back.”

  • “In order to change your life, you must change your thoughts.”

  • “You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.”

If I were to hand-out paper and pencils right now and gave you a few moments, what would be your inspiring thought?

I think it’s a good exercise for ourselves to come up with an inspiring thought or two on paper because it would make us look at our own lives and come up with the how’s and the what’s that got us to our place in this big world today.

If we are going to be real, we wouldn’t just talk about the successes and some positive inspiring thoughts, but we have to talk about the hard times and our failures.

We know that the world and our lives can have some hard spots.

If I can say, and you can see if you agree, sometimes we are meant to meet hard times-that school we don’t want to go to, but we are in it-that school of hard knocks.

It’s our hard times and not so much the easy times that seem to leave a dominant impression on us. And we have the choice either to let them put us down or to learn from them and move forward with those lessons learned.

I think it’s the latter that Denzel Washington is talking about when he says, “Fall forward.”

Failure is inevitable because that is what humans do. We are far from perfect, so we will mess-up at times.

But, we can choose to keep going forward after we have dusted ourselves off-that’s where the real lessons of character are learned.

More sayings here and I’ve added thoughts from my own experiences:

“Don’t cry over spilled milk, unless, of course, it’s those last drops left in the carton for your morning cereal that you already poured into the bowl with your already sliced banana.”

“Make lemonade out of lemons, and if you really want to get going, add a splash of Sangria.”

In all my years, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that we are meant to be always moving forward.

In a way, it’s all very logical, for the clock always keeps ticking. If time is moving forward, and we can’t do anything about stopping time, we might as well keep moving forward with it.

If I was to make a serious deep inspiring quote, it would have to be something about that God has made us to be forward moving people with a purpose and meaning.

If there is one guy from the school of hard knocks, it has to be Job.

I wonder what Job would have said about God making us forward moving people.

Also, I wonder what Job would have said about falling forward.

Once Job had everything-he had wealth, perfect health, influence, and a great big family. Most of all, he had a close relationship with God.

It sounds a little odd, but Satan and God actually had a conversation about Job.

Satan said something like this about Job, “Of course, Job is dedicated to you because you have given him everything. Take all that away, and let’s see what happens.” It’s awkward to admit about Satan, but he had a point. What would happen if Job lost everything?

God did give permission for Satan to take away everything from Job.

To make a long story short, Job did accept his new “bad” situation. Early on, He said, “The Lord gives, and He takes away.”

But, as time went by, with the help of some “friends” who were not all that helpful, Job began to have his doubts about his situation.

Job had a lot of questions about his life, which I’m all for asking questions. If you have your doubts, ask questions for the sake of clarity.

God does answer Job’s questions, but the Lord answers him with His own questions.

This questioning of Job by God is where we are at today in the Old Testament reading.

Again, to make a long analysis short, Job wanted clarity, and well, he got straightened out like he never would have thought.

God put Job smack dab in his place.

By His questions, God is bluntly telling Job like it is, “I’m the creator of heaven and earth, and you, Job, are not.”

“When I was making everything, did I ask any for advice or try to get any kind of direction from you?”

God as the Lord almighty of everything was perfectly capable of making the sun, moon, planets, stars, every creepy crawly thing, every animal, and every human being, without any help from any human being.

Graduation season is about over. I doubt that any school will be coming to ask us to give a graduation speech.

If a school did, I doubt that it would want me to give the speech. I’m not sure if I would be all that inspiring as the school would like.

The theme that I would have that would probably not go over well is the theme of this sermon, “Getting put in our place.”

Humans do not like for anything on the outside of us to put us in our place.

I mean it’s all about, “Don’t tell me what to do!” And, I admit I like my personal freedom. I will make my own choices.

Also, I have to admit that I don’t always make the best choices.

We have that Adam and Eve thing going on is us like that eating of forbidden fruit-talk about falling-falling into sin.

So, for God to put Job and us as mere humans in our place, it’s what we need to happen.

It takes a swallowing a huge pill of humility, but when we do gulp it down, we are in the place that we need to be in-the place of repentance.

As sinners who are in need of forgiveness, our place is at the feet of God asking for HIs mercy.

And God is merciful, and in His mercy, forgives us.

Our place is in God’s Word that gives us life and salvation in Christ.

Our place is to come and eat and drink the true body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament, and now we are sure Christ is in his place, which is to be in us.

As children of a heavenly Father, who by our baptism are sealed forever in Him, our place is in our Father’s loving and caring hands.

When we are in our place, we have

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