Reflecting on habits.
Adapted from a sermon at First United Methodist Church of Orlando.
June was a hectic month for me. I spent more time away than home. I spent a week in the Dominican Republic, a week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and a week in North Florida.
On Wednesday I got a text reminding me I was preaching tonight. “Cool,” I thought. The truth is I had completely forgotten and without the text I’d have shown up this evening without a clue. But here we are!
Our theme word for this week is “Accommodate”.
“Accommodate” means to fit in with the wishes or needs of someone else.
This past week I was in Green Cove Springs with the sixth grade mission trip. There, we were working on houses in nearby Middleburg that suffered severe storm surge last summer during Hurricane Irma.
The site we were assigned was near the Black Creek, a small body of water about a quarter mile from the trailer. During the storm, the creek rose so high the trailer we were working on flooded. Again, we were about a quarter mile from the creek.
Throughout the week, our sixth graders and a group from Locus Grove UMC in Virginia completed a tremendous amount of work on this trailer.
The family owns cats, and I am highly allergic. Like, my eyes swell shut allergic. So I couldn’t go inside the trailer for fear I wouldn’t be able to drive the group back to camp at the end of the day.
To accommodate my allergy, I worked outside the house on a number of projects while a majority of our team worked on repairing damaged walls and ceilings inside the trailer.
One of the projects I worked on was a chicken coop for the family. They own three chickens that just wander around their property. The client built a doghouse he wanted to incorporate into the design of the coop.
Along with two of our sixth graders who are also allergic to cats, we started building the coop. The plan was to raise the doghouse up three feet, build a ramp, and enclose the whole thing with posts and chicken wire.
We spent the day measuring and digging holes for posts, cutting boards and screwing them into place. By the end of the day, we had the doghouse set and ready to enclose.
Then the client came outside.
He wasn’t happy. The chicken coop didn’t match his vision. I smiled and said “ok, I can accommodate your wish and we can expand and rebuild the coop tomorrow.” Even though it meant redoing a large majority of the day’s work, we were going to accommodate his plan.
That’s when I got the text reminding me to preach and the theme word was “accommodate”. Do you think God has a sense of humor?
If you stop and think, I’m sure you’ll come up with a list of things you accommodate all the time. We are a people that accommodate to the needs and wishes of others.
Why? That’s the question. Why do we accommodate to all these needs and people?
Because we care about them. We accommodate because we want the people we care about to be happy.
I could have told the client to deal with the chicken coop we built. But I care about his family and wanted to make sure they were happy.
We accommodate people’s wishes because we care for them. And here’s what’s wild: God, who created the universe and everything in it, accommodates our wishes too.
Our scripture for tonight is from 1 Samuel. At this point in history, the people of Israel had wandered the desert, settled land, and started asking God for a ruler. God basically said that a ruler would only bring distraction and they should solely focus on him.
The people weren’t happy and continued to ask for a leader. So God accommodated their wishes and said, ok, but I’m not giving you a king like the rest of the world since it will just cause problems. So God appointed a Judge. This was someone directly connected to God who could share God’s message and help make decisions for the people of Israel.
At the point of tonight’s scripture, Samuel had been serving as Israel’s Judge. As he gets old, Samuel decides to appoint his children as the next Judges. The only problem? His kids weren’t connected to God.
The scripture tells us Samuel’s sons “tried to turn a profit, accepted bribes, and perverted justice.” These weren’t good people and they allowed the power to corrupt their decisions.
The elders of Israel got together and went to Samuel. They said to him, (1 Samuel 8:5–6 CEB):
“Listen. You are old now, and your sons don’t follow in your footsteps. So appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the LORD.
Through all of Israel’s protesting, God decided to accommodate their wishes. The scripture continues with God’s response (1 Samuel 8:7–9 CEB):
The LORD answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request — everything they ask of you — because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshipping other gods. So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them.”
The people of Israel asking for a king is a way of rejecting God. God knows this. God knows appointing a king is a bad idea. He knows it will lead to corruption and greed and tells Samuel to make sure the people know what they want.
Despite the rejection, God still accommodates their wish anyway. Why? Because God cares about his people. He wants them to be happy even if their happiness means rejecting him. That’s the definition of sacrificial love which is later represented in Jesus.
God accommodates us because he cares deeply about us.
We accommodate the wishes of others because we care about them.
We should accommodate the wishes of God because we care about him.
God teaches us to care for others. God teaches us to love others. God teaches us to stand up for truth and justice and call out evil everywhere.
We should do all these things because we care about God’s wishes. We should do all these things because accommodating God’s desires can substantially change our world.
Instead of detaining families seeking a better life, we should accommodate them and help them find shelter and safety. God calls us to care for strangers, feed the hungry, shelter the unhoused, and ultimately love our neighbor.
We need to do all of these things not just because they’re the right thing to do, but because God desires us to do so. We need to accommodate God’s instructions because we care about him.
As you go through this week you’re going to accommodate other people’s wishes. You might not even realize you’re doing so, but I want you to take a moment to step back and think about the accommodations you make for others.
At the same time, think about the times you choose not to accommodate others. Is it because you’re putting your wishes and desires before theirs? Is it something else? God calls us to care for others and to love our neighbors. Often that means putting our own desires aside.
God could have refused to accommodate the people of Israel, yet he loved them and gave them a king even though he knew it would end badly.
So every time you accommodate someone else’s desire this week, take a quick moment to think about whether or not you’re accommodating God’s desires.
Today is the first of July. What if we made a concentrated effort every day this month to accommodate God’s desire?
They say it takes 21-consecutive days to develop a habit so let’s try to make a habit of accommodating God and truly living into his teaching. We can start one day at a time.