Sermon: Scouting Sunday

Scouting Sunday
26 March 2017

What makes scouting stand out in comparison to other young people’s organizations? It is the emphasis of God. For example:

  • The Brownie Promise: “I promise to do my best, to love God and my country…”
  • The Cub and Boy Scout Promise: “I promise to do my best, to do my duty to God and my country…”
  • The Girl Scout Promise: “On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country…”

Scouts gives our young people the opportunity to build their lives on timeless principles. And as they grow older, it will serve as a guide on important issues.

John Wayne, the famous American actor, was a Boy Scout in his younger days. Later in life he was honored by President Ford at a black tie benefit dinner.  When it came time for Mr. Wayne to speak, he recited the Boy Scout Law, which says: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” Mr. Wayne spoke about the final point, being reverent: “Keep God at the top of what you believe in. With Him, life can be a beautiful experience.  Without Him, you’re just biding your time.”  Well said.

I want you to note that all levels of scouts (under the umbrella of girl scouts: Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors; and for the boys: Tigers, Cubs, Boy Scouts, Venture Explorers) include God in their promises or oaths. It is similar to what Jesus said in Luke 10:27 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

Whether you are a scout or not, that one scripture can easily be the spiritual foundation of our faith in the Lord.

Baden Powell, who was instrumental in starting a scouting program, believed that duty to God should be at the heart of all scouting. He said, “Religion means recognizing who and what God is, second it is making the best of the life He has given us and third it is doing what He wants of us. That is mainly doing something for others.”  Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, saw her organization as a means to show the wonder of God in nature and good works to the community.  Through their goals and practices, both of these organizations sound a lot like the United Methodist Church.

Lord Powell, who grew up as a minister’s son, recognized that when a young man or lady includes God and service to others in his or her life, it is a life well lived.  Along these lines, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church explained the outgrowth of Christian discipleship as this: “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, as you ever can.”

One person who discovered the power of service to others was a 13 year old Boy Scout named Frank Wilson. This story takes place on Christmas Eve.  Frank was depressed because it was the first Christmas without his brother Steve, who lost his life in a car accident.  It was especially painful because Frank and his brother were very close.  On that Christmas Eve afternoon, Frank, in his despondency, needed to get away from the house.  He put on his new winter coat, put all of his Christmas gifts on to his new sled, tied them down and began to walk.  As he went through a rundown section of town, Frank looked in the window of a house and saw a crying woman who appeared to be as discouraged as he felt. On impulse, Frank knocked on the door and told the woman, “Choose any presents you would like for your children from the sled.” The lady was astounded and said, “Why God bless you” and selected some candies, a game, a toy airplane and a flashlight.  As he was about to leave, she asked his name. Frank answered, “Just call me the Christmas Scout.”  Frank left with an unexpected flicker of joy in his heart, but he was not finished.  Along the way, he found other needy people and gave the rest of his gifts away, including his new winter jacket.  As Frank made his way home, he knew he was in trouble.  And sure enough, his parents were highly upset at their son’s erratic behavior; they were convinced their son had made some poor choices and ruined the family’s Christmas.  Frank, on the other hand, felt alone and confused.  He thought he had done the right thing when he did his good turn and his duty to God.  He didn’t expect that type of family fall out.  The next morning, the local television reported the following:  “Crippled boy has a new sled, another youngster has a fine winter jacket and several families report that their children were made happy last night by gifts from a teenage boy who simply called himself the ‘Christmas Scout’.”   Frank’s mom and dad realized the Christmas that started out on a bad note was really one of the best.

What Frank had done was a clear example of duty to God.

Our duty to God includes, first and foremost, that we follow and live by the teachings of the Lord. We must live our lives with honesty and service to others.

As a boy, I too was involved with the scouts and, for the most part, I had great memories. I was fortunate that my parents sent me to summer camp.  In the midst of all the wonderful activities of boating, fishing, swimming, camping, camp fires, and earning badges, I attended the chapel services overlooking the lake.  As I look back on it, the oaths, the promises, and the ideals of scouting nurtured me in my faith.  When I was older and served on staff at a Boy Scout camp, the chaplain had to resign for health reasons, and I was pressed into service; I preached my first sermon ever under some pine trees.  I did that for three years.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way that they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.

What I take from that passage of scripture is do not underestimate the role parents have with their children. Even today, I still go to my 89 year old father for advice.

Let me share with you a paragraph from today’s bulletin insert. It is called:
For every 100 girls who join Girl Scouts:

  • Four will earn the Girl Scout Gold Award-the highest award for girls.
  • Twelve will have their first contact with a church.
  • Five will earn their church religious award.
  • One will be brought before juvenile court.
  • One will enter the clergy.
  • Eighteen will develop hobbies used during their adult life.
  • Eight will enter a vocation that was learned through the badge or patch program.
  • Seventeen will be future Girl Scout volunteers.
  • One will use her Girl Scouting skills to save a life.
  • One will use her Girl Scouting skills to save her own life.

For the boys, the results were similar and that is a pretty good return on an investment in scouting.

Let me close: How many of you were in scouts?  Good memories?  Helped you in your faith in God?  Any thoughts or comments?