(This sermon was delivered to a group recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.)
Good evening – How’re you all doin’ tonight?
Well, it’s that time of the year again.
The holidays are finally over
and now the 12-Step meetings all over town are filling up.
You’d better get to your meeting early ‘cause the seats are going fast
and it looks like we’re in for another bumper crop of new drunks and druggies!
Seems there’s a near endless supply of us out there!
So much for feeling special!
And some of these “new folks” who come into the program this year,
they might have been seeing a private counselor or a therapist for a while –
You know, trying that softer-easier-way
before thinking things were so bad they had to come and be with us! –
And more than a few of those folks are gonna be in for a big surprise
when they get here.
They’re going to discover there’s quite a difference
between their very kind and very loving therapists
and a 12-Step sponsor that seems to have sprung straight out of the gates of hell.
Someone sent me a little brochure a few years back –
and it lists the twelve differences between a sponsor and a therapist.
I’ll pass it on to you tonight with the hope
that it might be helpful to anyone here
who might be making that very difficult and god-awfully painful transition.
A SUBSCRIBER SAYS: “I need to let you know how very much your exegesis impacts me weekly! My church never has an adult class that goes beyond their own personal interpretation. And that approach can be so very narrow!!! You help us get beyond that. I just want to say thank you!”
A thousand sparks to spark your imagination!
#1. Don’t expect your sponsor to be all that interested in hearing your long list and well thought-out reasons as to why you drank or drugged.
They really don’t care!
According to them we drink cause we’re drunks and we drug cause we’re addicts!
Sponsors like to keep things very simple!
Especially our rationalizations!
And #2, your therapist probably thinks your root problem is your lack of self-esteem,
or maybe it’s your negative self-image.
Get ready for a change – cause your sponsor thinks your root problem is: YOU!
And #3), while your therapist wants to hear all about your “inner child” – and maybe have you give the kid a great big hug and a kiss every morning;
Your sponsor thinks if that kid exists at all,
he probably ought to be “spanked” or maybe even “taken out and shot!”
#4) Your therapist tells you, “Don’t be afraid to open your mouth and learn to express yourself” –
Your sponsor tells you to “Shut-up and stick a sock in it!”
#5) Your therapist wants you to hear all about your painful childhood experiences –
Your sponsor tells you that any inventory you take ought to be yours –
and not your parents!
And speaking of parents, difference #6 says that yYour sponsor’s gonna tell you
“not only shouldn’t you confront your parents for what they did to you, you might consider making some amends to them for what you did to them!”
#7) Your therapist tells you to “go with that feeling” –
Your sponsor says, “Go to that meeting!”
#8) Your sponsor thinks “boundaries”
are things you probably need to start tearing down
and not go around building up.
#9) Your therapist wants you to “love yourself;”
Your sponsor wants you to love others first!
(But none of that special kind of lovin’ we all like for at least a year! —
Maybe six months if you get a softie!)
#10) Your therapist prescribes care taking and medi-CAtion;
Your sponsor prescribes prayer making and medi-TAtion.
#11) The only time your sponsor ever uses the word “closure” is before the word — “mouth.”
And #12), After you’ve been with ‘em for a year, your therapist thinks you should make a list of your goals and objectives for the next five years, starting with getting that GED or finishing off that college degree.
Your sponsor thinks you should spend the day like any other –
and making those amends you’ve been dreading and putting off ever since you arrived.
So much to learn and so little time to teach ‘em!
Tonight it seems Jesus is also gathering his little group of new recruits –
and he sounds like he can be a pretty tough sponsor himself!
The story begins with the news that John’s been arrested and locked up
and Jesus has moved up north into Galilee, land of the pagans –
He’s moved into territories that are away from the big cities
and into territories that are pretty backwards compared to Jerusalem
with all of its bright city lights.
The gospel writer says the people there were living in darkness –
but now into their world a light was coming.
Maybe one of the things that best gets us ready for the light of recovery,
is the darkness most of lived in just before we got here.
Toward the end of my drinking, the fun had long gone out of it
and when I drank, first thing I’d usually do was close the blinds,
shut out the light and retreat into my own dark world once again.
But if we make it into recovery,
and when we get a little time under our belts,
most of us wind up being strangely grateful for our pain
and even grateful for our darkness
cause if we hadn’t experienced them –
we’d never have been willing to do the things
those crazy sponsors were asking us to do.
And so now the story tells about Jesus calling his first little group of followers –
He starts with Peter and with his brother Andrew – simple fishermen –
probably not the brightest bulbs in the pack–
and certainly not the best educated or anywhere near the wealthiest –
but like our first reading said they had something else going for them:
They were humble and they were willing –
And for the little group Jesus was asking to join him,
those seemed to be the only requirements for membership.
People didn’t need to have to have any great ability –
but what they did need to have was great avail-ability!
When the call came they needed to respond.
So the reading says, “Jesus spots these two brothers –
Peter and Andrew – and they’re doing what a hundred other men were probably doing that day on the beach –
they were casting their nets into the sea –
But when the call comes – and I like to believe it came to all those fishermen that day –
it was only these two who responded.
If you’re new here – you’re probably not feeling it yet –
but if you made it into these rooms –
then you’re already one of the lucky ones.
Most alcoholics and addicts die from our illness and they never even make it this far.
But maybe God’s spotted you –
and maybe he’s made the call to you too –
We all know the darkness of our Step One’s really well –
But now we’re called to get up and move into Step Two –
We’re invited to come to believe that God’s sending us the light we need
to get us out of our old worlds
and get us into a whole new world that he has waiting just for us –
a world where the Big Book says:
we’ll have a new father and a new employer too.
Just like in that first reading, most of us, when we look back –
we see that we really are the lucky ones.
We’re the blessed and the chosen ones – the ones God spotted.
Maybe we were drunk and passed out on the beach –
but he spotted us!
And we were restored to enough sanity that we got up
and we joined whoever he sent to us carrying his message.
And so then, a little further down the beach,
Jesus spots another set of brothers –
James and John – the sons of Zebedee –
and later in the gospel these guys are referred to once again
and they’re called: the Sons of Thunder –
They seem to have gotten a reputation for themselves in that neighborhood by the sea –
They were probably a couple of real hot heads –
short-tempered – quick to explode – Sons of Thunder!
I can relate to James and John – and maybe some of you can too.
But with all their shortcomings, with all their character defects – they get chosen too.
And when the call comes for them,
the gospel account mentions something really important
that might be easy for us to miss.
It says that when Jesus called them,
not only did they get right up and follow him
but it also says that in doing so,
they left behind their father and they left behind his boat.
In the world these guys are coming from
that means they were leaving behind their family
and leaving behind all of their security too.
They were fishermen – that’s all they knew how to do –
and they were the sons of their father –
and he was head of all the family they knew –
but still, they risked all of that in answering this call.
Sometimes getting sober requires that we leave our families
and sometimes it demands that we leave our jobs.
That’s not always the case, but sometimes it is.
I know for me, when the sobriety call came,
it didn’t arrive at the same time for my family
or for any my old drinking friends.
I got it in December of ’72 – but they didn’t.
And so, some of those people –
especially the ones that were still drinking and drugging –
they thought – what are you doing leaving the beach and following those AA wacos? – Why are you abandoning us and abandoning the party boat too?
Think you’re too good for us any more?
And so some of them tried to pull me right back to that boat –
“Come fishing for booze and trolling for dope!” They said
I got sober 1,000 miles from my home –
I probably couldn’t have done it in my own neighborhood –
And I remember going back there sober the next Christmas.
And when I get there, there was a party going on in the house.
It was a typical Christmas party in my family’s house –
The older folks were getting drunk in the kitchen
and the younger ones were smoking dope and popping pills in the back bedroom.
Nothing had changed – because nothing there had changed.
I was 27 and I remember the back bedroom bunch feeling like
maybe I was better than they were
cause I was turning down what they were offering.
And back in the kitchen, I remember my father – Old man Zebedee –
he was three sheets to the wind, ready to throw the kitchen table into the sea –
and asking me rather sarcastically:
“So how’re you doin’ with all that Triple A stuff?”
That night I had to get out of there –
And that night I learned about a new family–
I left the house and I went out and I found a meeting –
I went out and found people like me –
People who were no better than the people back there;
but people who’d been called into a new & sober life –
People who’d answered yes –
That night a bunch of strangers I met in a church basement AA meeting
felt more like my family than my own.
If you’re new to this recovery thing,
be prepared for a lot of people to have no idea why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Be prepared for them to call you back to the boat –
even if that boat is sinking and even if you’re gonna go down with it.
Be prepared for friends to no longer be your friends
cause they weren’t real friends to start with.
They were just fishing buddies / or drinking buddies / or using buddies /
and if they heard the call at all – They were still real busy saying NO.
Jesus called these four fishermen, and then a few more,
and because they answered him – the world was never the same again.
And now it’s our turn.
Now we’re being called just as surely and just as clearly as they were.
And weather we say yes or no is gonna make a huge difference not only to us –
but to a whole bunch of people we’ve never even met yet.
The truth is, this isn’t a selfish program
and the truth is we don’t just get sober for ourselves –
we’ve been chosen to be part of a chain.
And there are some people out there who’ll never get a chance at sobriety
if we answer, “NO thanks – not now.
I think I’ll just go fishing for fish instead.”
Jesus is asking us tonight, just like he asked those guys back then:
Will we drop the bottle – will we put down our drugs –
Will we let go of our excuses and our securities –
and will get up and follow him?
And the story says: they did exactly that –
They abandoned their boat and their father and all their excuses –
and they followed him through the backward towns of a land filled with great darkness and full of hopeless people.
They healed the sick and they brought the dead back to life –
And for all the ones who were living there in great darkness,
for them – a light had come. Amen.