The Motorcycle Sermon

Posted: June 19, 2016 in Uncategorized
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The setting: the little river town of Rocheport, Missouri.
The occasion: Sunday morning worship on Father’s Day.
The uniqueness: motorcyclists from the congregation pulled up with engines revving.

The story from the Gospels was about blind men seeking sight from the healer, Jesus.
The story from life had to do with handling your bike in sharp curves.

Each of the two stories cast a new light on the other.

“Do You Believe I am able to do this?”  Mt 9:27-31
Timothy L. Carson                                  June 19, 2016

In the story before this morning in Matthew’s Gospel two blind men seek out Jesus and ask for healing. Like any one of us, they want more than anything to see, to feel normal again, to stop hurting, to find some kind of peace in their lives. They are like so many others in the Gospel stories who sought out healing and wholeness, relief for suffering, and the reassurance that they are loved and not alone. And they are more like us than unlike us.

Like us they witnessed great suffering and tragedy. Like us they witnessed tremendous injustice and the fruits of human evil. Like us they watched as love ones perished and were helpless to do anything about it.

One of the interesting things about the story is that Jesus turns the tables and asks them a question in return. He asks them if they think he can do it, which is a perfectly reasonable question. It is also a question that gets to the heart of the matter.

It is a remarkable question because it clarifies right off the bat whether their request of him was a serious one. Do you believe that such a request can be granted? If not, why are you asking me?

Still the skeptic in all of us wonders. We know of plenty of illnesses that are not cured. We know that we all go sooner or later. And we even have our doubts about spiritual healing, whether something as non-material as this has real influence on our actual health. Is this just a metaphorical story about opening eyes and spiritual sight? Or is it really about healing eyes that can’t see?

These are the questions moderns ask. We want scientific proof. We see through the lens of a materialistic world view; there is nothing real outside of what can be seen, measured and tested. No wonder we are skeptical when we hear such stories. No wonder we’re not sure how we would answer Jesus’ question. Do we believe he can do this? Not just then, but especially now.

One thing remains for certain: Unless our faith and resolve is there we will not be able to receive what is offered, no matter.

Kathy and I took off this week and headed out on a motorcycle tour. We chugged around southern Missouri and into northern Arkansas. Some of the best biking roads are in those places; there are wonderful hills and valleys, curves and turns and great scenery to boot. If you are a biker on a trip like this, a trip on two wheels through the winding roads of Missouri and Arkansas, you have to come to terms with taking the curves.

Of course, most of this is just simple physics. As you make a curve your velocity and the centripetal force casts you out away from the center you are circling. Depending on the severity of the curve, if you keep going the same speed you’ll be cast off the road into the ditch. As opposed to a car you feel this force on the two wheels of a motorcycle. It’s not enough to simply turn your handlebars in the direction you want to go; that won’t work. You have to exert and equal and opposite force toward the center. On a motor cycle you do this one way: you lean.

How much you lean depends on the curve and your velocity. If you go into the curve fast you have to lean far. If there are two of you aboard you both have to lean because all of the matter in the turn – the bike and two bodies – are affected equally.

Now back to the lean. As I said, unless you are willing to lean you will be cast off the road. In serious racing the bikers lean as much as 75 degrees – they can touch their elbows to the ground. That’s not me. But anyone easily leans 45 degrees.

Here’s the thing: it seems unnatural to lean that far over if you are standing still. You will just fall over. But not moving through a curve. You have to know, you have to believe, you have to act in spite of everything your former experience has taught you: Don’t lean like that, you’ll fall over! But that’s not true when you are moving around a tight curve at 50 miles an hour. You have to lean or else.

When you are a new rider people tell you that. You watch videos and see them doing it. And then it comes your turn to try it out for yourself. Low and behold that’s exactly what has to happen.

And then you experiment with the sharpness of the curve and your velocity, your speed. Your lean – the equal and opposite action to the centripetal force – is gauged accordingly.

Of course you have to have good rubber on your tires and a road surface that has good traction – not slippery, covered with water or oil. All that comes into play, too.

When you are a novice you find it hard to believe in the lean. You hold up and hold back. You second guess yourself. You panic. You freeze. You’re afraid to lean. You try to wrestle the bike rather than lean. You slow down or, even more deadly, you brake (which takes away the very velocity you need to plant the traction of wheel against pavement). You are afraid to give yourself to the lean.

But here is the natural miracle and wonder. There is a balance point right at the razor’s edge of the centripetal force that’s casting you outward and your lean toward the center. When you arrive at that balance point everything is effortless. You let go and let the bike take you around. You lean, find the balance point, surrender to it, let it go. And when you get to the end of the curve the bike sets back up vertical because you have rebalanced to move forward in a straight line.

When Jesus was asking the blind men if they believed he could do it, he was asking them if they were willing to lean into the curve. Because if you’re not willing to lean we might as well stop right there because things are only going to go badly for you. But if you are willing to lean – to lean into the force – you’ll find your balance point and all kinds of things become possible.

Leaning into the force is the prerequisite to finding your balance, your harmony, and your way out of the curve. It doesn’t make everything a straight line. But it does make the curves possible.

And isn’t that what we what, to make what seems impossible, possible?

Those men trusted Jesus enough to come to him without seeing, without knowing the outcome, calling on his mercy. And he, in turn, called on their willingness to lean into the curve. When both are in play all kinds of miracles take place.

Get ready, get set, lean……………………!

  1. Reblogged this on The Lutterworth Press and commented:
    A fascinating comparison of motorcycling and a Gospel tale that is surprisingly enlightening. Timothy Carson is our author of Liminal Reality and Transfomrational Power.

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