Meadowbrook Congregational Church
“The Twelfth Point”
February 9, 2020
Luke 10: 29-37
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen
You may have heard the story of a Chicago publisher who was visiting in London, England after the turn of the last century. He was walking around in the notorious London fog, looking for a particular office building in the center of the city. Nearly at his wit’s end, he stopped a young man to ask how to get to the building he was looking for. The young man not only gave him directions, but led him to his destination to make sure he wouldn’t get lost in the fog again.
Thanking the young man profusely, the man offered a tip to the young fellow to show his gratitude. The young man refused, however, and when asked why he turned down the payment, he replied that he was a Boy Scout and taking payment would violate his Scouting code and negate the good deed he had just done.
The businessman, William D. Boyce, was suitably impressed and had to find out what this Boy Scout thing was all about. Boyce and others back in the United States had a keen interest in youth development, so he sought out the founder of the Scouting movement in England, Lord Robert Baden-Powell of Gilwell. The two made plans to bring Scouting to America. Back at his Chicago office, Boyce started the procedures for the organization and incorporation of the Boy Scouts of America, which took place in Washington, D.C. on February 8, 1910.
Despite some early splintering and disagreement among its founders, the organization grew and expanded nationally over the next decade or so. Young men keen for a sense of adventure and the outdoors joined in towns and cities far and wide.
Around the same time, a woman in Savannah, Georgia, who had also lived in England, met with Baden-Powell and saw what his organization was doing for boys. Descended from a long line of strong and independent women, Juliette Gordon Low saw the possibilities that the Scouting movement could have for young women, since the Scout organizations in both England and the United States were for boys only. Affectionately known as “Daisy” by her family and friends, Low gathered eighteen girls from Savannah to share what she had learned about this new outdoor and educational program for youth. With that, the Girl Scouts of the USA was born two years after the founding of the Boy Scouts. In a time when women didn’t even have the right to vote, these girls blazed trails and redefined what was possible for themselves and for girls everywhere. Besides hiking, swimming, camping and learning about nature, these girls offered a helping hand to those in need and worked together to improve their corner of the world. And like Boy Scouts, the Girls’ movement expanded worldwide, also known as Girl Guides in England and many other countries.
Service to others was a founding ideal and continues in Scouting today. Much like in the story from Luke that Lee related for us about the Samaritan, who stopped to help the man beaten and robbed by thieves while others ignored him, Scouts make it a habit to help others. Learning as youth, these values are instilled, and the joy of helpfulness is carried for life. Indeed, the mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make moral and ethical choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law, which includes “to help other people at all times” and “A Scout is Helpful”, among others. And the Scout slogan, “Do a good turn daily”, helps remind young people to make helping others a daily habit.
Here in the US, Scout Sunday is observed on the Sunday closest to the February 8 anniversary of the founding of Scouting in America. It’s an opportunity to recognize Scouts and the blessings that Scouts bring to our nation and the world. And although Scouting is not a religious organization, Baden Powell emphasized that the whole of Scouting is based on religion in the form of the realization and service of a higher power. Explaining further, he said “I have been asked to describe more fully what was in my mind as regards religion when I instituted Scouting and Guiding. I was asked, ‘Where does religion come in?’ Well, my reply is ‘It does not come in at all. It is already there. It is the fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding.’” Summing it up, Baden Powell explained that religion in Scouting is a simple thing: First, love and serve God; second, love and serve your neighbour.
Members of the Boy Scouts of America are expected to adhere to its Declaration of Religious Principle: “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.”
In my service on the committee of our Boy Scout troop, I had the honor and good fortune to interview dozens of Scouts seeking rank advancement, the final step of which is the board of review that committee members conduct. I asked many of them about their interpretation of the various points of the Scout Law, especially the twelfth and final point: A Scout is Reverent. There were many different replies. Some would say it meant going to church. Others would pray or say grace at meals, or attend religious education classes. Occasionally, though, I’d get an inspiring response that showed that the Scout understood that being “reverent” meant believing in a higher power and that belief should serve as a guide for how we live our lives.
We also helped Scouts see the distinction between duty and responsibility when it came to religious life. Often on weekend campouts, some Scouts would leave a little earlier on Sunday morning so they could get home in time to attend a Catholic mass, as it is considered an obligation to do so in that faith. For others, the Scouts often held their own worship service. It was usually brief, held around the campfire, and most often consisted of prayers or other inspirational readings, or just impromptu thoughts or stories. We had many faiths in our troop and it was enlightening to hear how other faiths prayed, since whether one is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or any other religion, we all worship the same God. Scouts are made aware of how other faiths worship through these “Scouts’ Own” services at campouts, at summer camp, and through observation and celebration of Scout Sunday, Scout Sabbath and Scout Jumuah.
Indeed, Scouting is a worldwide movement, founded in part on the religious principles that help tie the rest of the Scout Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan together. These principles are that a person should be considerate of others, be helpful to all and be responsible to oneself. The first seven points of the Scout Law deal with duty to others – helpful, friendly, courteous – the next four with duty to self – cheerful, brave, clean – and the twelfth point with duty to God – A Scout is reverent. Some have said that observing the twelfth point will also ensure that the other eleven are obeyed as well.
In this day and age, the proportion of young people in America choosing to do what is wrong is alarmingly high. Sometimes even basic values such as honesty and respect for others seem to be the exception to the rule. A poll taken a few years ago showed that half had cheated on homework or a test, a quarter had been drunk or shoplifted and one-fifth used drugs – figures that may very well be higher today. Even adults have morals and values that fall below the ideal. Only one-third strongly agree that helping others should come before one’s own interests, and a quarter strongly agree that being honest is not something that pays off in the kind of world we live in.
Scouting is a powerful force to counter these attitudes, and faith in God is at the heart of the programs. In the Scout Oath, Scouts pledge first to serve God. Why should a Scout pledge a duty to God? Once again, Baden-Powell put it plainly: “Religion is essential to happiness. This is not a mere matter of going to church, knowing Bible history, or understanding theology. Religion means recognizing who and what is God; secondly, making the best of the life that He has given one, and doing what He wants of us. This is mainly doing something for other people.”
A Scout is Reverent. Reverend Ray Trygstad observed that these are important words expressing an important concept that many may never have known before joining Scouting. It is the clearly stated goal of Scouting that every Scout should develop a personal relationship with God and we play an important role in making that happen. Scouts may not realize for a while who has been walking with them and guiding their growing knowledge, wisdom and faith, but one day, they will feel the presence of a greater power in their lives, setting their moral compasses and inspiring them to do a good turn for others at every opportunity, just as the Samaritan stopped to help the less fortunate citizen, not because he had to, but because he could.