So, I am a dork. It’s true. I’ve tried not to be a dork, but it always ends in an epic fail. I think dark socks with sandals are OK. When there is a movie coming out that I’m really excited about, I’ll research movie theaters within a hundred mile radius, just to determine which one will provide the best viewing experience. About a week ago I found this really cool app for my phone that scans the square QR codes you see on some products and then launches your browser to the indicated web site. Yeah, I’m a dork. I don’t know if you have to be a dork to cheer at movies, but when I’m at home by myself watching, say Rocky, and I catch myself sitting in my chair throwing punches with Rocky at Apollo Creed, I kind of feel like a dork then too.
In fact, I have cheered at a number of movies. It’s a bit uncomfortable when you’re the only one in a crowded theater that does, but the folks around me just look at each other and say, “What a dork.” There was that scene at the end of the Matrix when Neo stops a barrage of bullets just by holding up his hand and saying, “No.” I cheered. Harry Potter defeats Voldemort. I cheered. Heck, I probably even cheered when I saw Snoopy defeat the folding chair in “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”
And I remember a scene from the movie The Untouchables that made me cheer. The movie was about Eliot Ness and his team as they try and bring down Al Capone in Chicago. Ness is played by Kevin Costner and he meets this incorruptible Irish cop named Jimmy Malone played by Sean Connery. Malone wants to make sure that Ness really wants to get Capone, so he pulls him into a church for a private word. Malone says to Ness, “You said you wanted to know how to get Capone. Do you really want to get him? You see what l’m saying? What are you prepared to do?” Ness responds, “Everything within the law.” Malone fires back, “And then what are you prepared to do? If you open the ball on these people, you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they won’t give up the fight until one of you is dead.” Ness, “I want to get Capone. I don’t know how.” “Here’s how you get Capone,” says Malone, “he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone.” I watched that scene – I cheered. Gave it one of those, “Yeah!”
I’m certain that I’m not the only one that cheers at movies or at many things for that matter. We all have those things we get excited about. Here recently it’s been the World Cup, but for some, when the stock market goes up they cheer. Playing golf and we sink a long putt. Cheer. Maybe it is something like the birth of a grandchild. Doing well on a test. Getting your driver’s license. These things make us smile and they make us cheer.
Consider this parable of Jesus, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me – cheer with me – I have found my lost sheep.’” I guess since they didn’t have the multiplex theater in Jesus’ day that this was the sort of thing folks got excited about. Then Jesus goes on to say, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
What I find so interesting is the disconnect between the things we find to cheer about and the things that Heaven finds cheers about. I’m not saying that its wrong to cheer at a movie, the birth of a child, or any of that, that’s part of being joyful, it’s part of being alive, but let me ask you this: we read the story of Abraham being called by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Most folks dislike that story, but there towards the end the angel of the LORD called from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
When you heard that, did you want to cheer? Did you want to cheer because God spoke from heaven? Or because he provided a substitute for the sacrifice of Isaac? Did you want to cheer because Abraham loved God so much that he was prepared to give it all up, no matter the cost?
How about this – Jesus walked on water. At least for a few steps, Peter walked on the water. Jesus saved Peter as he was sinking. Did that make you cheer? Ever been as excited about telling someone about how Jesus fed 5,000 as you were about telling them the latest tidbit of gossip?
Have you ever gotten excited about sharing the love of God? Saint Therese De Lisieux wrote, “How terrible, I thought, that no act of love is ever made in hell! And I told God that I was ready to go there myself, if it pleased Him to contrive, in that way, that for all eternity there would be one loving soul in that abode of blasphemy.” She was so excited about the love of God that she was prepared to exchange the glories of heaven for the fires of hell, so that there would be one soul in hell proclaiming the love of God.
Do you get excited when you see others living out their Christian faith? Do you want to cheer them on? The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” When you see someone pouring out their life for the faith like you pour out a glass of water, do you encourage them? Do you cheer them on?
Would this be the kind of life you want for yourself? St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, wrote, “To defend his purity, Saint Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, Saint Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush, St. Bernard plunged into an icy pond. You… what have you done?”
Again, is this the kind of life you want for yourself? A life that is prepared to give it all up? A life that’s not afraid to try and walk on the water? A life that plunges into the icy pond? A life that gets excited about their faith and cheers for the things of God? If you answer, “Yes”, then the question to you is the same that Malone asked Elliot Ness, “What are you prepared to do?” And once you’ve answered that question the next question is the same, “And then… what are you prepared to do?”
To ask, “What are you prepared to do for your faith?” is essentially asking, “What are you prepared to sacrifice?”
If you want your family to thrive, to be happy, and so on, you must sacrifice of yourself. If you want your world to be a better place, you have to sacrifice of yourself. If you want this church to grow and be a holy place, you have to sacrifice of yourself. You have to want it. You have to be excited about your faith and you have to make sacrifices of yourself.
If that is what you truly want, then what holds you back? What prevents you from being that beacon on a hill? If I were to make a wager, I would say that the answer is fear. Fear is what holds us back, because we are so afraid that the world will look at us and say, “God, what a dork!” And you know what? They might, but there will be some who will want what you have and they’ll want to know how they can have it for themselves. They will welcome you into their lives and in doing so will welcome God into theirs. Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
Don’t be afraid of being a dork. You have within you something mighty to cheer about. You have within you the ability to show Jesus to the world. It begins by answering that question: What are you prepared to do? What are you prepared to sacrifice?