People often ask me what my favorite and least favorite things are to do as a pastor. I get to be a part of many wonderful and meaningful things. Weddings are almost always fun and sappy, except the rare one that goes sideways with a drunk uncle. Funerals, although sad, are still full of purpose and honor. It is always satisfying to go to graduations. I get to do a lot of other really great things, too, like fix the internet, copier, or various other things that break around the church on a near daily basis. However, you might be surprised to hear what my favorite thing is to do as a pastor. Right near the top of my list of things I love doing is going to Eagle Scout ceremonies. I have been to many of them and they always inspire me.
At one point in the ceremony, the Board recommends the scout to advance to level of the Eagle. However, before that happens, a current Eagle Scout says, “Still I am not satisfied.” That Eagle Scout then says that the Scout should be informed of the responsibilities of an Eagle Scout.
The prospective Eagle Scout is told the following: The foremost responsibility of an Eagle Scout is to live with honor. The second obligation of an Eagle Scout is loyalty. The third obligation of an Eagle Scout is to be courageous. To a Scout, bravery means not only the courage to face physical danger, but the determination to stand up for the right. The fourth obligation of an Eagle Scout is to be cheerful. The final obligation of an Eagle Scout is service. The performance of the daily Good Turn takes on a new meaning when they enter a more adult life of continuing service to others.
It is clear to me that Eagle Scouts have promised to live a life that aspires to a higher ideal. Just being a good person is not enough for them. That is why I love these ceremonies. I always leave thinking, “That is how it should be for all Christians.” We should be aspiring to live up to a higher ideal than just “good enough.” I have often thought people should take similar oaths when they become Christians or are baptized. We should be striving to live the very best life that we can. I believe that is what Jesus wanted out of us.
I am currently preaching from the early part of Matthew’s gospel. In chapter five, Jesus actually cranked up some parts of the Jewish law (murder, love your neighbor, etc.) Six times he does this. He starts each section by saying, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago …” Then, he states some law they would have known. Finally, he finishes with, “But I tell you …” and gives them an even stricter version of the law. As an example, he said they had heard they should not murder, but then he goes on to tell them that they should not even have anger toward another person. Jesus does this five more times with other parts of the Jewish law!
Why did Jesus make it even harder to follow the law? It seems that he was trying to help us become godlier. At the end of the six statements, he says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Preachers and scholars have often tried to soften that statement and say that Jesus really does not expect that much out of us. However, I disagree. Jesus is not calling us to be legalist and earn our salvation. However, he is saying that we should stand head and shoulders above the rest of the world when it comes to our behavior and love for others. Sounds a lot like what the Eagle Scout is promising to do, does it not?
Maybe I will finally get around to it and write a full initiation ceremony for Christians who are promising to live above the regular lives that we so often live. Perhaps I will write the promises that we will make which will help us to live into that deeper and richer godliness that Jesus tried to teach us. Until I do that, I encourage you to live for God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Be like Christ. Be full of love and compassion for others.