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A Scout is Trustworthy

By Ray Trygstad
A Sermon for February 14, 1999: Scout Sunday
Wesley United Methodist Church, Naperville, Illinois, USA

Psalm 73:1-20: 1Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart. 2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. 3For I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4For they have no pain; their bodies are sound and sleek. 5They are not in trouble as others are; they are not plagued like other people. 6Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them like a garment. 7Their eyes swell out with fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues range over the earth. 10Therefore the people turn and praise them, and find no fault in them. 11And they say, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?" 12Such are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. 13All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14For all day long I have been plagued, and am punished every morning. 15If I had said, "I will talk on in this way," I would have been untrue to the circle of your children. 16But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. 18Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20They are like a dream when one awakes; on awaking you despise their phantoms.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Once again it is Scout Sunday, when we recognize Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire Boys and Girls, and Four-H members in our congregation and the blessings that Scouting brings not only to our congregation but to our nation and the world. To use the "official" term, the four organizations I have named are the "Civic Youth Serving Agencies" associated with the United Methodist Church. That's a pretty bureaucratic term that cannot even begin to describe the impact Scouting can have on a boy or girls' life. It was Will Rogers who said, "The only trouble with the Boy Scouts is that there aren't enough of them." If our Scout Sunday had been celebrated in Will Rogers' day, he would have said, "The only trouble with the Scouts is that there aren't enough of them." And when we consider the ideals instilled in the youth of our world who have participated in this great movement, we can heartily agree -- there aren't enough of them. Furthermore, it is not strange for us to lift up Boy and Girl, Cub and Brownie Scouts for recognition within the service of worship today, because the Scout movement maintains that no boy or girl can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. Last year in my Scout Sunday sermon I covered the final point of the Scout Law, a Scout is Reverent. Character development of Scouts is one of the primary aims of both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA, and this development certainly is wedded to the concept of an obligation to God. This year I'd like to examine another aspect of character, the FIRST point of the Scout Law:


And once again we turn to the Scout Handbook for a definition:

"A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him."

To help us understand what it means to be trustworthy, let's examine some folks who are not: the subjects of our Old Testament reading, Psalm 73. I read this Psalm in Disciple Bible Study recently, and it really struck a chord with me. What a poetic and remarkably contemporary view of bad people! I guess it just proves that while time marches forward, some things just never change. When the Psalmist looked at the arrogant, the wicked, he saw people with sound and sleek bodies, with no problems, always at their ease, increasing in riches. We see it now too. It often seems that "the wicked prosper". We see it all around us, in every direction. It's even hard to discuss this without treading into the realm of politics, but I purposely won't go there. (I don't really even have to anyway.) There is a certain pervasiveness of evil in our society, or at least there is in the mass media that shapes our views of our society. In our mass media casual wickedness sometimes seems to be the order of the day. It's easy to see how the author of the Psalm could be envious of these folks. It just looks like they have it all, and they can do anything they want to and never worry about the consequences. If it looks this way to the Psalmist, and sometimes to us as well, what must it look like if you're eight, or nine, or eleven, or thirteen? Forming a solid moral base, learning to be truthful and honest and dependable is a much greater challenge for a child today.

We do know that riches and fame and a sleek body don't bring happiness. We think they should but hopefully we realize that they don't. Everyone knows of celebrities who seem to have everything, every advantage, success and riches, who fall into a self-destructive spiral of drugs and alcohol, or a string of failed marriages, or a life that is just generally a basket case. We look at it from our perspective and think "such talent, such wealth, and yet look at what this person is doing to their life!" This is maybe not as much the result of evil as it is the outcome of an amoral striving for success, doing "whatever it takes" to be a success. In this striving, the striver learns to walk over whoever might stand in the way. The upshot? When you walk over others, you know that no one can trust you, and you can't trust anyone in return. When you can't trust anyone, you can't love really love anyone, and you can't really accept the fact that someone might actually love you, because—you would have to trust them. And trust is the core of faith as well. If you can't trust others, can you trust God? Trust is a key to true happiness and if you can't trust, it should be no surprise that you can't find real joy in life. It is as the Psalmist says: "Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin." To me, life without trust sounds like a pretty scary idea.

Truthfulness. Honesty. Dependability. These are the character traits that Scouting strives to build in our youth. These days it seems like truth is a slippery thing. People haggle over the meaning of words like "is" in an attempt to dodge having to tell the truth, and use what I like to call "weasel words" to avoid the truth. What can the kids think?

Scouting is not the ONLY answer. I certainly would hope that along with a reverence for God and a joy in our salvation through Jesus Christ, our children are learning the same character traits of trustworthiness that Scouting tries to impart. It's for those who might not have the reinforcement of religious growth in a community of faith that Scouting is so critical. These are the children, the boys and girls, that need the reinforcement of these moral values that Scouting brings to them.

Our support of Scouting is a key to the success of the program. The United Methodist Church is the largest religious chartering organization--that is, sponsor of Scout units--in the United States. If we are going to provide this positive reinforcement of values taught by the Scout law and promise, our ongoing support is a must. It's certainly something I want for Andrew, Blair, and John, which is why Lynn and I give so much of our time to Scouting. Our continued support of our Troop 100 is every bit as much a ministry as any other activity of Wesley.

This religious basis for the values of Scouting is firmly established. When asked where religion came into Scouting, Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, replied "It does not come in at all. It is already there. It is a fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding". Ideally this exposure helps shape a Scout's view of the world, and helps him realize that "Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart." As Scouts grow in character, we need to remember that the model for character is God Himself. God created us according to His character. True character is not determined by the changing values of society; it is measured by the absolute standard of who God is and what He's like. True character is the assimilation and expression of God's likeness. We were created as vessels fit for noble purposes, to grow in His character. Scouts (and all of us) should know God's traits, seek to conform their character to His, and learn a verse so that there will always be His reminder in times of decision. Here's a guide for Scouts on the subject of being trustworthy:

God is true and honest. I'll always tell the truth, even when it's hard, and be honest with everyone I meet. I'll make sure that the way I tell the truth is kind and loving. "Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ" (Eph. 4:15). God is trustworthy and faithful. Anyone who knows me will be able to trust me. I'll always do something kind. I'll do the right thing. I'll never do anything to hurt people intentionally. If I say I'm going to do something, I will. I'm faithful. I keep my word. That's what God is like and that's what I'm like. "This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus" (Rev. 14:12).

Let's all remember to strive to model ourselves on the true model of character: our Lord, and not conform ourselves to things of this world but rather be transformed. Despite the apparent success of evil in this world it is still possible to be TRUSTWORTHY.

Great Master of all good Scouts, we pray that Thou will make us trustworthy, for there are those who trust us. Make us loyal, for through loyalty we reach our highest ideals. Teach us to be helpful - through helpfulness we forget ourselves. Make us friendly - there are so many who need friends. Train us in courtesy, for courtesy is the carpet on life's floor. Make us kind - the fields and woods are full of Thy creatures. Insist upon our obedience, for success comes only to him who first learns to obey. Make us cheerful, for cheerfulness is the green grass near the pebbles in the road. Train us in thrift, for thrifty habits enable us to be generous to those in need. May we be brave - brave in the darkness and brave in the light, but save us from becoming fakers of bravery. Help us to be clean - in though, in speech, and in deed; and may we remember that our bodies are Thy holy temples. Above all, Father, help us to be reverent - not only toward Thee but toward all things Thou hast made. We ask Thy guidance in all these things and may we never forget the Promise to which all Scouts are pledged. Amen.

Copyright 1999 Raymond E. Trygstad; all rights reserved. May be copied and distributed freely in its entirety if accompanied by this statement.

Copyright 1999 Ray Trygstad, Naperville, Illinois
Email: trygstad@trygstad.org
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