Every time I look at a Boy Scout uniform, my first thought is “those patches and merit badges!” which I remember trying to sew on my husband’s Scout Master’s uniform – with the most valued being the Wood Badge, and for our two sons, the Eagle Scout patch. Some may try fabric glue, but it really doesn't hold; only needle and thread work, and it is work - to get the troop numbers straight and all the merit badges in line on the sash.
My second thought is “all those merit badges,” more than 120 possibilities with 12 specified ones and at least 10 more needed to attain the rank of Eagle Scout. It was that thought that prompted my asking Scouts in Troop
7155 what badges they found the most fun to earn; and they answered:
Geocaching (If the name sounds strange, ask a Scout what it is.), Orienteering, (using the compass), Personnel Fitness, Rifle Shooting, Shotgun Shooting, (and look out for the kickback when firing), Small Boat Sailing, White Water (rafting).
When asked, “Of all the badges, what are the most challenging?” the immediate response was: Cycling (50 miles, 25 each way up hills, in hot weather!), and the hardest of all: the three Citizenship Badges – Community, Nation, World – all required for the rank of Eagle Scout.
When hearing those answers my third thought was, “’Isaiah’s merit badge" printed out in the questions we hear in today’s Old Testament lesson.”
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Questions asked in a tone that implies we just need to admit we do know and have heard the answer which follows:
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
Boy Scouts do begin to know and hear that answer when working on merit badges that have them: plotting points on a compass, setting a sail to catch the wind, digging into the earth, which serve as an introduction to the earth’s magnetic poles, the wind’s patterns, the sky’s expanse into space beyond our calculating and exploring, the earth’s age plotted in geological layers that, if symbolized in the count of 365 days, tell us we humans appeared in the last second of the last minute of the last hour in the last day.
A perspective that humbles us with the thought that we are living in an earth home filled with evidence of having been designed and created by a Force, by a Power, that for want of a name we call:
The Lord, the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
It is this confession that a Christian clergyman, John Clover Monsma, gathered from 40 scientists and printed in 1958 in the book, “The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe.” Since its first printing, it has been updated with ongoing scientific writings, which, along with merit badges, become a reference for a Scout and everyone else to say what we already know and have heard, that:
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth…;
evidence Scouts uncover when digging in the earth, or plotting a course by the stars.
The rest of today’s Old Testament lesson goes on to list a specific requirement that most be met to qualify for Isaiah’s merit badge. As the description is read, specific words stand out and take on special meaning:
He (God) does not faint or grow weary; and He gives power to those who do:
Scouts and leaders on the 50 mile cycling trip, white water rafting; hiking the trails in the once-in-a- life time Philmont experience, when:
Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted.
A Scout Master and Dad, who is looking forward to his second trip to Philmont, along with his son and the troop, said he’s busy working at getting in shape for hiking and climbing and all the rigors of the trail and camp outs. He knows firsthand what it is to feel faint, be weary, and fall exhausted into bed at night, or maybe along the trail, long before getting to the campsite. A feeling anyone may know without going to Philmont.
A pastor tells of passing by a Sunday school classroom door where parents of pre-schoolers meet. They had decided to give their group a name and post it on the door. Ideas such as “Searchers” or “Learners” were considered. The next Sunday when the pastor walked by, he saw a laminated sign announcing their choice: “Tired Parents Class.” (The Rev. Dr. James E. Lamkin, Senior Pastor, Northside Drive Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA.)
It is then that Scouts who want to qualify for Isaiah’s merit badge, and all the rest of us who are exhausted and stressed out by everyday life, need to turn to and trust Isaiah’s counsel that is really a promise:
those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.
There is a prayer-exercise that invites us when we don’t have the strength to take another step, our muscles can’t pedal one more turn or paddle one more stroke, or the know-how to know how to get out of a crisis isn’t there to retrieve from our brain, or when feeling like we are being squeezed into nothingness, or, when at the end of our rope of strength or solutions, are told to “tie a knot and hold on” only to see the fraying rope is about to break and drop us into a swamp filled with hungry alligators;
when that’s how we feel, that’s the time to breath in the word “wait,” then “for the Lord,” then “to renew strength.”
The “wait” that has us confessing we are not superheroes, we are not invincible, and with that confession we “wait,” we yield, we submit to the trust that God Who has given us our breath, will give us the strength to be like an eagle – resting on the winds; like a runner- stopping and breathing in that second breath.
Scouts who wear the lifesaving badge know in a water rescue you must convince the drowning person to stop struggling – or both of you will be pulled under. “Rest,” you say, “rest on me, trust me.” Practice for trusting in the words:
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
And when we do, all of us qualify to wear the patch that is Isaiah’s merit badge. Amen.
Sunday's "Prayers of the People" based on the Gospel: (Epiphany 5 - Mark 1: 35)
Eternal God, we hear how, when you walked among us in Jesus Christ, a busy and hectic pace was followed by a night’s rest, and then, first thing in the morning, a quiet time in a deserted place, an isolated quietness for prayer.
We would have our day begin in that same way, as we come to this holy, quiet place where others have paused in years past and now we take our turn.
Here, we quiet our cell phones and pages, our racing thoughts working out today’s already overloaded schedule; here we open ourselves to receive your Word beyond our words as you speak to us through Scripture and song, and now – in prayer.
Here we release into your care and keeping: our financially and physically chaotic world, those who are the problem and each who is struggling to find solutions;
here we release our inner struggles and hopes, our fears and our joys;
here we release names waiting to be given to you…
Here we release ourselves to be caught up in your love and purpose for this congregation and each of us, and the ministries that happen within these walls and beyond them.
Here, this day we give ourselves to you to be shaped and used by you, for you, through Jesus
Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.