Hardheaded people. You may know some of them. You may even be one of them. Hardheaded people like to have the last word about whether a glass of water is half full or half empty.
Here are some phrases that will let you know if you are speaking to a hardheaded person:
- I would agree with you, but then we both would be wrong.
- I am not hardheaded. I am just right.
- I am not lost. I am just not sure where I am.
Ron Lee Davis, in his book Mistreated writes about a millionaire who owned a lot in an exclusive residential area of a large city. The lot was only a couple yards wide and nearly a hundred feet long. There was nothing the millionaire could do with such an oddly proportioned piece of real estate except sell it to one of the neighbors on either side of the lot. He went first to the neighbor on the east side of his lot and asked if he was interested in buying it. The neighbor said, “Well, only as a favor.” Then the neighbor offered a ridiculously low price for the lot.
The millionaire exploded and said, “Why, that’s not even one-tenth what the lot is worth!” He then went to the neighbor on the west side. To his dismay, the neighbor on the west side bettered the previous offer by only a few dollars. Then the neighbor smugly told the millionaire, “Look. I’ve got you over a barrel. You can’t sell that lot to anyone else and you can’t build on it. So, there’s my offer. Take it or leave it.” The millionaire was beside himself. Within a few days, he hired an architect and a contractor to build of the strangest houses ever conceived. Only five feet wide and running the full length of the property, the house was little more than a row of tiny rooms, each barely able to accommodate a stick of furniture. The neighbors complained that the bizarre structure would blight the neighborhood, but city officials could find no code or regulation to disallow it.
When it was finished, the millionaire moved into his uncomfortable and impractical house and stayed there for the rest of his life. The house, which became known in the neighborhood as “Spite House,” still stands as a monument to hardheadedness.
Today’s scripture reading from Exodus 12 is about Pharaoh and the final plague that resulted from Pharaoh’s hardheaded refusal to grant freedom to the Israelite slaves. Each time Pharaoh defied the demand for freedom by Moses and Aaron, a plague would be experienced as Pharaoh became more hardheaded. As a result of Pharaoh’s hardheadedness, ten plagues descended upon Egypt. Now there is the 10th and final plague of death as the first-born of all living creatures in Egypt will be struck by the angel of death if Pharaoh continued to refuse to grant freedom to the slaves.
Moses and Aaron went to Pharoah and warned him about this deadly plague. You would think that by the time Pharaoh had gotten word of this plague he would allow the Israelite slaves to leave Egypt, but remember Pharoah was hardheaded as he attempted to have the last word with God. Through the 10 plagues, Pharaoh discovered that it is not a good idea to be hardheaded with God. Through the 10th plague Pharaoh experienced the deadly consequences of thinking he could have the last word with God.
Today’s scripture reading from Exodus 12 tells of how God faithfully provided for the angel of death to pass over the homes of the Israelite slaves through the institution of the Passover meal as the blood of the Passover lamb was placed on the two doorposts and lintel of the houses of the Israelite people. From that time forward, every time Passover is celebrated, the people of Israel acknowledge God’s faithfulness as they gather in community to eat the Passover meal and actively remember when hardheaded Pharaoh tried to have the last word with God.
Today’s scripture reading from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 18:15-20) is about followers of Jesus gathering in community and remembering that God has the final word for life. In these six verses, we remember that our calling as disciples of Jesus is a call to:
- live together in forgiveness through Jesus
- be bound together through faith in Jesus
- be united in the name of Jesus
- remember that when two or three gather in Jesus’ name, Jesus is there among us
Rev. Michael Renninger offers these reflections on Jesus’ words about gathering in community.
“Loving those with whom we disagree is a hard Gospel task. I suspect that Jesus knew that his disciples would hear these words and wonder – is this really possible? Can we really do what he’s asking? Can we do it? Not if we rely simply on our own strength, our own wisdom, our own ways. Maybe that is why Jesus includes this thoroughly encouraging sentence in the midst of this challenging teaching. Jesus says – If two of you agree on earth about anything for which you are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. Jesus never asks us to do anything alone or in isolation. He reminds us that the kind of healing, honest conversations he’s describing will only be possible if we root those conversations in prayer. I, myself, can’t do what Jesus asks in today’s text. But he’s not asking me to do it by myself. He’s reminding me that HE can do it in me, and through me. It all starts with prayer. He shows us the way. He teaches us how. And in his word and sacrament, he gives us the grace and strength we need, to begin…”
And I would add that Jesus gives us the grace and strength we need, even when we might be hardheaded.
by Pastor Marc Brown
September 10, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Exodus 12:1-14, Matthew 18:15-20
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for September 10, 2023
Scripture Lesson Exodus 12:1-14, Matthew 18:15-20
The Good News “Hardheaded”
Music “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” Hymn #340
Closing Music “Meditation on Surrender” by Bonnie Barrett