Scientists at NASA have developed a gun for the purpose of launching dead chickens. It is used to shoot a dead chicken at the windshield of airline jet, military jet, or the space shuttle, at that vehicle's maximum traveling velocity. The idea being, that it would simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with flying birds, and therefore determine if the windshields are strong enough to endure high-speed bird strikes.
British engineers, upon hearing of the gun, were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high-speed trains. However, upon firing the gun, the engineers watched in shock as the chicken shattered the windshield, smashed through the control console, snapped the engineer's backrest in two, and embedded itself into the back wall of the cabin.
Horrified and puzzled, the engineers sent NASA the results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield, and asked the NASA scientists for any suggestions.
The NASA scientists sent back a brief response: "Thaw the chicken."
Sometimes the answer seems so simple: thaw the chicken…
Where is this scripture going: you want to change the world, start with yourself. I learn a lot talking to Denny Bos as he goes out in the region scouring the countryside for quality hay, and the reports of the widespread destruction, the bony cows…the drought in the Midwest and across the world that is causing major problems and perhaps leading to a resetting of our community, regional, national and world patterns. How easy to conclude we are doomed… The Lord is calling us to be realistic, but we must not get caught up in the cynicism, the hopelessness.
In the midst of the chaos, we are called to be beacons of light pointing the way to Jesus Christ. The answer is obvious. As simple as thaw the chicken. Solomon’s initial response is disheartening: Ecc. 4:2-3. We get caught in the drama, but then you gotta take a breath and find a better answer. Ecc. 4:2-3 is Solomon’s over the top response…! “it would be better if we were all dead!” but eventually, he comes to such a simple answer.
From a sweep of injustice across society, Solomon then turns to the fighting that takes place between neighbors, the daily drama that sidetracks us from a full relationship with Christ and enjoyment of all that God is doing. The NLB translates Ecc. 4:4 this way: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors, but this too, is meaningless…” How common it is to point the finger at others as the problem’s of this world: “If only the rest of you would start to be normal like me and think like me then we would be living in heaven on earth. My unsettled soul is your fault!”
Notice the pattern. First Solomon laments injustice in the world: If only the world’s movers and shakers would be more fair and respectful then I’d be happy. Then he explains the problem of his discontent on people surrounding him: they are all lazy, they are not being responsible people. Finally, he boils the problem down to one person: “There was a man all alone.” Solomon is discontent, and finally, he nails the real problem of discontent: Loneliness. Solomon isn’t talking about a healthy solitude in which we are enriched, (like the quotation in the bulletin). Clearly people who never marry and live alone in a house or apartment are more than capable of having a full and rich life. Solomon is speaking of a sense of loneliness. President Harry Truman famously spoke of loneliness: “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” Loneliness, a yearning for community, a yearning for understanding. It is said of Queen Victoria that when her husband died, Prince Albert, at a relatively young age, she used to say, “there is no one left to call me ‘Victoria’ now.” Loneliness is a plague.
Anyone that is chronically discontent, dissatisfaction as a way of life, never ending sadness, constant apathy, a not-caring about anything attitude… can blame the world, a very easy target and quite understandable, can blame other people, if only they would act with more honesty and not be so lazy and competitive and uncaring… but what it really comes down to when all is said and done is loneliness, a sense of isolation ~ the problem with discontent is a problem within.
I think when Solomon says, “There was a man all alone…” I think he is thinking primarily of himself. For all his accomplishments, for all his vast wealth and possessions, for all his power, he was lonely. Nobody else on the earth truly understood him. The lonely person thinks too much. God created us to need others….//Did you hear about the lonely frog that calls a psychic hotline and asks what his future holds. His personal psychic adviser tells him, "You are going to meet a young girl who will want to know everything about you." The frog is excited about the news. "That's great! Will I meet her at a party?" he croaks. "No," says the psychic. "In biology class." God created us to have shared lives.
The answer is as simple as “thaw the chicken.” The answer for discontentment, for loneliness, so simple: make a friend. Ecc. 4:9-12. READ.
July 9, 1983, Sally and I stood in this room and exchanged marriage vows. Jim Crouse shared a devotional based on Ecc. 4:12: A chord of three strands is not quickly broken. The idea he shared was Jesus Christ being the third chord of the braid, I’ve never forgotten that day… wonderful message. A tremendous thought to think of the third chord as Christ. But even more basic is simply the need to not be alone, for another to understand, to share your heart. Stand back to back with another. God uses others so that together we find God. We need others to share our burdens, our joys, share our problems. We yearn for something more, we yearn for contentment and peace, and God created us so that we find a dependence on others to help us lift up our eyes.
A couple of days ago a young man in the community flagged me down, and when we were all alone he poured out a very serious and difficult situation in his life. I assured him I would tell nobody else, not Sally, nobody in the church …As he shared his story, it was obvious there was not a thing I could do. when he was finished I asked him: why did you tell me. He looked at me, and smiled, and I could see the wheels turn in his head, and he smiled and he said, “I just wanted somebody else to know what’s going on…” He did not want to be alone, with out of control thoughts, dwelling on the seemingly insurmountable problem. We need friends.
Companions calm the troubled waters of our souls. Companions build bridges of hope and reassurance when we are vulnerable, and exposed. In community with others our lives are strong and enduring, like the rope "of three strands". Two friends are great! Three are even greater. Jesus said, “Where two or more come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20). You know one of the main reasons I want people to come to church, this church, any of the fine and wonderful churches? The community! The imperfect but necessary community. I am guessing we live in an unprecedented time of good Christian people rejecting the church, yet we need the strength of others, the companionship, the accountability. I don’t care about numbers, I’m too old to be a dopy pastor that competes, I just want to see people’s lives changed, and the way I read the Bible, how much better it is when it the transformation takes place in community~ we just need to thaw the chicken ~ we need others, the companionship…
What can you say about friends? I like this little joke. I’m not quite sure what is says about friendships, maybe you can figure it out… :
A group of friends went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck. "Where’s Harry?" he was asked.
"Harry had a stroke of some kind. He’s a couple of miles back up the trail."
"You left Harry lying there, and carried the deer back?"
"Well," said the hunter, "I figured no one was going to steal Harry."
So much to say about good friends. One person said, “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at your 3 best friends. If they're ok, then it's you” ( Rita Mae Brown). Charles Dickens said: “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate” aint that the truth.
I like this quotation, I’ve seen this in action with Charitta: “Friends are relatives you make for yourself.” (Eustache Deschamps). Every few weeks it seems Charitta is introducing me to another person as her “sister” or “brother”…. At first I believed it, and I thought to myself, my goodness Charlena sure has a lot of kids…
C.S. Lewis captured so well what Ecclesiastes is getting at: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” As I listen to the heartaches of a thousand people in this community, I am amazed at how many people feel as though they don’t fit anywhere,// the loneliness, nobody else understanding, drowned out by the noise of life.
I see four ideas in Ecc. 4:9-12 about the advantages of good friends:
1. a good return for work, i.e. accomplish more together (Ecc. 4:9)
2. Help when you fall. You will fall, and you need friends when it happens. God wants us to help each other. (Ecc. 4:10)
3. Warmth. There is just a comfort. If you suffer sudden tragedy in your life, who would you call? Who would come and sit with you all day? Who do you just hang out with? (Ecc. 4:11).
4. Defend you. You need others to be a reality check. I don’t think it means a friend is to nod no matter what you do and defend you. But you do need people who can explain you… As one person said, “A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” – (Bernard Meltzer) (Ecc. 4:12).
Loneliness is a plague that sucks us dry, takes away energy, creates apathy, distrust, no purpose. Loneliness leads to discontentment. You can blame the world for being unfair, you can blame the people around you, but discontentment really comes down to a sense of loneliness. Loneliness is rampant in our world. The answer to loneliness is as simple as thawing the chicken. Take the risk of becoming vulnerable, and make some friends. Friends help you accomplish more than you can by yourself, help you when you fall, bring warmth, defend you. God put within us a yearning for eternity, a longing for God and his Kingdom come, but loneliness, distrust of others, being overwhelmed by the chaos of the world, can cause us to lose focus on God. Thaw the chicken, it’s really not hard: make a friend. A good friend. A friend that understands. Better yet, two friends: a chord of three strands cannot be quickly broken. Good friends, who understand you, who share your values, will help you in your quest to find the peace of Christ and find satisfaction as we yearn for the eternity that is promised by God. Amen.