A ‘How-to’ Manual

Posted by on Feb 22, 2015 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith
Rev. Rita S. Platt
February 8, 2015

“A ‘How-to’ Manual”


This is a story about a small seacoast village in England that routinely would become covered by dense fog. The pride of that village was a lighthouse that had been built on the north end of town where the harbor was navigable and free from the huge rocks that dotted the rest of the coast. One night the villagers had gathered on the south end of town to celebrate a local holiday. Part of that celebration included the building of a large bonfire on the beach.

That same night, a ship in the vicinity developed engine trouble. The ship’s captain, after checking his maps and charts, decided to locate on the beam from that village lighthouse and put in at that harbor for repairs. As he scanned the horizon through the fog, he caught sight of a faint glimmer of light. Thinking it to be the beam from the lighthouse, he set his course on it to go ashore.

As he came closer to land, he began to see the light more clearly and realized it was not the lighthouse but the bonfire. Quickly he changed course, later discovering that he had been only 100 yards away from one of the largest sunken boulders in that area and certain destruction of his ship. It made a difference how clearly he could see! (1)

The same can be said of us. 

At first glance today’s gospel reading might seem to be series of disconnected events Jesus’ ministry:

Event 1: A visit to the home of Simon and Andrew. Information was shared about the condition                  of Simon’s mother-in law and Jesus healed her.

Event 2: The people brought the sick and demon possessed to Jesus and Jesus healed many.

Event 3: Jesus went to a solitary place to pray.

Event 4: Jesus moves on to a different location.

But what if we are seeing the bonfire thinking it is a light house? What if the verses are a “How- to” manual?

A manual is a comprehensive and step-by-step guide on a particular topic for both beginners and experienced practitioners. It details what is given and what is required, explains how to put the presented information into practice, and instructs how to solve problems as they occur.

The topic of the How to manual is “Discipleship” and it is helpful to those new to the subject as well as to the most experienced among us.

Chapter 1: We learn Discipleship is about caring for the individual. Jesus goes to  the        home of Simon and Andrew, … there’s a conversation about Simon’s mother-in-law’s         condition.. and Jesus  heals her.  One to one – relationships. Think about your     relationships. Do you clearly see the people?

Chapter 2: Community care. After the moment of individual attention the word seems to   spread. We see Jesus ministering to the whole community.  Jesus’ goal is to include     each one in the community. Their needs are different. It wasn’t about Jesus’ ego; it was           about the community. To be an effective disciple we need to blend in well with our            communities.

Chapter 3 deals with Self-care. Caring for the individual and the community is a daunting task. The story is told of a little boy and his father. They were walking along a road when      they came across a large stone. The boy looked at the stone and thought about it a little.         Then he asked his father, “Do you think if I use all my strength, I can move that rock?”   The father thought for a moment and said, “I think that if you use all your strength, you can do it.” That was all the little boy needed to hear. He ran over to the rock and began             to push on it. He pushed and he pushed, so hard did he try that little beads of sweat           appeared on his forehead. But the rock didn’t move — not an inch, not half an inch.

After a while, the little boy sat down on the ground. His face had fallen. His whole body     seemed to be just a lump there on the earth. “You were wrong,” he told his dad. “I can’t           do it.” His father walked over to him, knelt beside him, and put his arm around the boy’s       shoulder. “You can do it,” he said. “You just didn’t use all your strength. You didn’t ask           me to help.” (2)

The world in which we live tells us that it is all up to us. It tells us that we have to be strong and independent. It tells us we can’t and shouldn’t count on anyone or anything else.

And yet the manual cautions us: we can’t do it all by ourselves. If we try we will destroy ourselves. We need to accept that we need to find a space – to be recharged and renewed – a place to rest.  We need to go there often.  We are not Eveready bunnies that can keep going and going and going; our batteries need recharging. It is important that we remember that discipleship is about more than doing. It is about caring for ourselves . . . so the cycle can begin again.

It seems so simple. Three basic things..all containing the word care: care for the individual, care for the community,  care for yourself.  It’s all in the manual. Isn’t it time we quit making discipleship so complicated?


(1) Paul E. Flesner, Sermons for Sundays in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, CSS Publishing Company

(2) Story written by Donald M. Tuttle