June 22, 2016

Ozarks District Superintendent Lynn Dyke led the Service of Sending forth on the last day of the Missouri Annual Conference Session morning with a wedding story. No, not the love verses from Corinthians, or the ones about Christ being the bridegroom of church. She went back to Judges, for the story of Samson’s disastrous first wedding that ended in murder rather than matrimony.

Prior to the wedding Samson had killed a lion. Later when he passed by the lion carcass, he noticed bees had built a hive in it, so he claimed some of the honey. He then used this experience to craft a riddle he used at his wedding feast.  

From the eater came something to eat
From the strong came something sweet

The riddle wasn’t solved, which led to cheating, betrayal, revenge and essentially a lifetime, albeit a short one, of impulsive behavior and more dead bodies than action movie.

“Now you and I could shake our heads at the tragedy of the story, and you might even be wondering what this story says about us,” Dyke said. “Yet I would suggest the real tragedy is that the story is not all that uncommon.  I mean, every one of us has acted without thinking at some time or the other.  And I’m pretty sure some of us have forgotten some sacred vow and promise.  And we’ve probably all acted foolishly in our hurt and out of revenge.  And aren’t every single one of us set apart to be holy, to be God’s people, and yet haven’t we too gotten caught by sin in our lives?  The story is not all that uncommon.”

But the dark, tragic conclusions wasn’t the reason Dyke chose the passage. It was the part about getting honey from the lion carcass.

“Amid all the tragedy and messiness of the story, there is great hope,” she said. “For there is honey in the lion – there is sweetness in the midst.”

Dyke acknowledged that we all come face-to-face with our lions. We see people struggle with cancer, alcohol abuse, poverty, social injustice, natural disasters, and many other trials.

“In the midst of wrestling life’s lions, sweetness has been found, God’s radical hospitality and love has been shown,” Dyke said.

She cautioned that sometimes sweetness doesn’t show up immediately. As in Samson’s case, some time elapsed between him being attacked by a lion, and that lion carcass later yielding honey.  

“Sometimes you discovered the sweetness, years later, looking back,” Dyke said. “Maybe it was the people that surrounded you in a time you most needed. Maybe it was your church family that was there in an amazingly hospitable way. Maybe it was people you didn’t even know who offered an act of hospitality and generosity.”

Dyke said those pastors who were about to move churches would face lions, as would the pastors who were staying at the churches where they are. She encouraged them to remember the goodness that can come from hard times.

“That’s the promise of God – that’s the radical hospitality and love of God. It’s the resurrection story isn’t it? Out of the toughest moments of life come sweetness and hope and new life,” Dyke said.

Pastors were asked to move on the Conference floor to their new location and meet with their new lay member to Annual Conference. The service concluded with communion, and with a mass laying on of hands of Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase and his family as they prepare to move to new Episcopal area. It was the final act of Annual Conference. As people exited the service, they were handed a Bit O Honey. 

A video of this sermon is available on Vimeo.