Scouting is No Coincidence
February 12, 2023*
By Pastor John Partridge
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Matthew 5:21-37 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
How do you navigate your life?
If we’re driving a car, we can use dead reckoning, maps, or Google maps, or GPS, or a dozen other methods of finding our way from one place to another. If we’re flying, some of those same methods work, as well as a couple others. At sea, again, GPS works, but it can still be useful to know how to use a compass and sextant to navigate using the stars. But how do we navigate the lives that we live here on earth? How do we get good advice, learn the skills that we need, and learn the values that make us good citizens and decent human beings?
Before I get too far down that road, however, I want to say something about how I chose the scriptures that I am using for this morning’s message. Each week, I generally reference the Revised Common Lectionary which is used by Protestants, Catholics, Episcopalians, and all manner of Christians around the world. There is no requirement to use the lectionary, but it’s just a handy way of keeping things fresh, working our way through the Bible on a regular basis, and it helps for Sunday school classes to often be talking about the same things that the pastor or priest preaches about.
The Lectionary lays out a rotating three-year calendar that works its way through scripture and offers a scripture passage from the Old Testament, Psalms, the four gospels, and one from the rest of the New Testament. Today was no different. There is not a “Scout Sunday” selection in the lectionary, so today’s scriptures are the same ones being used in every other church that uses it regardless of whether they are celebrating Scout Sunday or not. I say that because I want you to know that the connection of today’s scriptures to scouting was not deliberate and could likely be made with almost any scripture, on any given week of the year.
So, how do we navigate life? Obviously, our parents have a lot to do with instilling values and giving us good advice, schoolteachers contribute to that, and so do the people we choose as our friends. But where else do we learn the skills that guide us? From my perspective, two places that can happen are here at church, and in scouting.
We begin our scripture lesson this morning with a reading from Deuteronomy 30:15-20, and as I read, I have asked a few of our scouts to help me point out where our scriptures of the day, cross paths with, and overlap, the values taught by scouting.
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death, and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience…
Obedience. There’s our first one… say it with me, “A scout is Obedient.”
…to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings, and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
That’s the second one, it’s a little less obvious, but right there God declares that he will keep his promises and will be loyal to his people if his people are loyal to him. And we know that, “A scout is Loyal.”
In Matthew 5:21-37, Jesus offers guidance to help us get through life saying…
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwill be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court.
I break from the scripture reading at this point because this word “Raca” deserves some explanation. This Greek word appears only once in scripture and it is an idiomatic phrase used in Israel at the time of the New Testament, to express derision. “Idiomatic,” words are phrases that have meaning in a particular time and place that may not mean what the words would mean if translated directly. Some examples of modern idioms are words like surfer dude, valley girl, motorhead, and phrases like “under the weather,” “break a leg,” and “on the fence.” We know what “Raca” means, but because idioms don’t translate word for word, we end up with a Greek word in our English language scripture. In any case, translated loosely, “raca” means stupid. But, if we translate an ancient idiom into a more modern idiom, we might think of Moe Howard calling this person a “numbskull,” Yosemite Sam calling them and “idjit.,” or phrases like “his elevator doesn’t go to the top,” or “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” So, with that in mind, let’s return to our scripture…
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court.
And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Again, this isn’t entirely specific, but if we understand that Jesus is teaching us not to call people names, I think that crosses paths with the scout law twice. “A scout is Courteous,” and “A scout is Kind.”
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
I admit that this one takes a little interpretation, but one implication of this verse, particularly to those of us with any experience with the legal system, is that it’s usually a lot cheaper to settle a court case before it goes to court. And so, our intersection with scouting here is “A scout is Thrifty.”
(I’m skipping a couple verses here in an effort to keep this family friendly.) …
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’
And when Jesus says, “Do not break your oath,” we can hear that echoed in the scout law, “A scout is Trustworthy.”
34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
And then in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, we hear Paul encourage the church to get along with one another, and work together, so that they can do the work that God has given us to do. He says…
3:1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
And if the people of the church are described as co-workers, then that intersects with the Scout Law with, “A scout is Helpful,” and if we are doing the work of God’s kingdom then that connects with “A scout is Reverent.”
And so, in the three scriptures from this week’s lectionary selection, having no deliberate connection with scouting, we’ve easily found eight of the twelve parts of the Scout Law. And the only ones we missed were “A scout is Friendly, Cheerful, Brave, and Clean,” and I’m pretty sure that I could have included those if I had worked at it a little harder.
My point is that it isn’t a coincidence that the church and scouting get along so well. I could do something like this every Sunday, and so could you. The values of scripture that we teach on Sunday mornings align with the values of scouting. As a church, our relationship with scouting is no accident. We fit together, and I think it is easy for us to be, in Paul’s words, “co-workers in God’s service.” I don’t, and I won’t, show up at scouts on Monday night and preach, but the values that that are being taught in scouting are many of the same values that we teach, preach, and reinforce on Sunday morning.
Our time together every Sunday morning helps us to navigate the lives that we live here on earth. We get good advice, learn the skills that we need, and learn the values that make us good citizens, decent human beings, and work to be better people that are more like Jesus. But our partners on that journey are teaching many of the same life skills downstairs every Monday evening.
I hope that you will join me in supporting this vital youth ministry of Christ Church with your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™