34 My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:34-35 KJV

Over the past two weeks we have talked about “Serving Like Jesus,” and “Loving Like Jesus.” This morning we are going to talk about “Living Like Jesus.” When I say that we are to serve, love, and live like Jesus, I am not suggesting that we can be all he was and is.

In an ultimate sense, we can never be like Jesus.. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God and the ultimate revelation of God’s love for humankind. No name in the annals of time and eternity ever has been, or ever will be, more worthy of proclamation, honor, devotion, and praise.

In an ultimate sense, we can never be like Jesus. Yet, there is a penultimate sense in which we can be like Jesus. Let me make what I hope is a helpful and appropriate analogy.

An adult Blue Whale is the largest animal in the world today, and perhaps the largest that ever existed on this planet, one third larger than the largest dinosaur. That upset my grandson! A mature adult Blue Whale can weigh 420,000 pounds. By contrast the Blue Whale calf weighs just 5,000 pounds. A Blue Whale Calf is like an adult Blue Whale, but it falls far short of its parents in power and grandeur. Likewise, Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God, the Eternal Word made flesh. Like him, we are “the children of God,” though we fall far short of Jesus in power and grandeur.

Now some will doubt that we are “the children of God.” We need not! In 1st John 3:1 we read, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.” And in 1st John 3:2 we read, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him.” Or, as St. Paul says in Romans 8:29, those whom God foreknew God “…predestined to be conformed to the image of His son.”

Our conformation to Christ, our transformation, is a two stage process. Both steps in the process are concerned with righteousness, by which we mean the ability to fulfill the demands of our relationships with God, with ourselves, and with one another.

In the first stage, God declares us righteous. Before we come to Christ, we are dressed in sin and shame. Isaiah says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) When God looks at us, we do not look so good. Then by faith we come to Christ, and God looks at us and sees not our filthy rags, but the pure, clean righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is what the old African-American spiritual means when it declares, “All God’s children got a robe.” This is what Count Zinzendorf, the patron of the renewed Moravian Church, was getting at when he wrote:

The Savior’s blood and righteousness,
My beauty is my glorious dress
Thus well arrayed I need not fear;
When in His presence I appear.

First God declares us righteous, then God makes us righteous. God adopts us into his family, and imparts to us the righteousness and character Jesus Christ. Some will ask, “How is this possible?” It is possible because of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is also known as: the Spirit of God, the Counselor, the Comforter, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Adoption, and the Spirit of Sonship. This list is not complete. The important thing is that the Holy Spirit transforms us by his power. According to Acts 1:8, just before Jesus ascended to the Father, he told his disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them.

Now what form does that power take? Well, There are three things you should know about power.

First, power accomplishes work. The Greek word the book of Acts uses for “power” is “dunamis.” It is the same word from which we get our English word for “dynamite.” Horsepower drives a car at 100 miles an hour. Water power provides electricity, and electricity powers the world. James S. Stewart spoke of the Spirit’s awesome power in us saying we must remember that, “…the same power that took Jesus out of the grave is available to us today, not just in the moment of death, but in the midst of life.”

Second, there is plenty of power to go around. Pulitzer Prize winning author James McGregor Burns says that power is an expansive force, the more you give away, the more you have. People who have achieved true greatness understand this, people who set out to be great according to their own standards never do.

Third, there are two kinds of power. Harvard Professor and former Asst. Secretary of Defense Joseph S. Nye, Jr. says that power can be divided between hard power and soft power. Hard Power is the President of the United States ordering a strike against a terrorists’ camp, inspiring fear in the hearts of the terrorists and respect among the nations. Soft Power is Pope Francis kissing the cheek of an autistic child, inspiring love and devotion in the hearts of people, and hope among the nations. Nye says that any president, political, business, or religious leader would like to have more Soft Power, but few even understand it. Colin Powell did. When asked to define the difference between the two, Powell said that the US used Hard Power to win World War II, and Soft Power when we enacted the Marshall Plan at the end of world War II, helping to rebuild the nations of Europe, even those that opposed us, Germany and Italy. He said we did the same thing in Japan. Jesus exercised Soft Power when he said that he (the Son of Man) came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. The cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest concentration of Soft Power in the history of the planet. In Luke 7, Jesus tells us why that is so. Jesus says, “He who is forgiven much, loves much.” The power of love unleashed by the cross is immeasurable. Think of all that you do, simply because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. As the Apostle says in Romans 5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5)

We can serve like Jesus, and we can love like Jesus, and we can live like Jesus, and in dramatic fashion, too. It is hard to believe but Jesus says that we can even do more than he himself was able to do in the days of his flesh, not just collectively, which is certainly true, but individually. In John 14:12-14 Jesus says:

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; 14 if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”

Some will object that it is impossible that our works should exceed the works of Jesus. I have always tended to agree, skipping by this first without much thought. Yet, Jesus said we could do more, so let’s think about it for a moment. Take the matter of feeding the hungry. All four gospels tell us that Jesus fed 5,000. Matthew and Mark add that on another occasion he fed 4,000 more. These figures account for men, women and children would add to the total. No doubt, he also fed several thousand other individuals over the course of his ministry. Let’s say that in his brief ministry he fed something like 30,000 hungry people. Now consider this. I have a friend that has been supporting World Vision International since 1975. He started giving $15 a month, and then gradually raised that to $50 a month. If you multiply the smaller figure by the 480 months that have elapsed since 1975, he has given at least $7200.00, and in reality much more. Today, it is possible to feed a child three meals for as little as 19 cents. That is fifteen meals for a dollar. Multiply $7200 by 15 meals and my friend has bought more than 108,000 meals. They may not have been great meals, but they were life giving meals. My friend said he hardly noticed that he did this, and that bothers him. He thinks he could have done more, much more. Jesus was right, we can do more, perhaps, because we have longer to do it in.. Of course, if we do what we do in Jesus name, the effect can be even more far reaching, for Jesus can multiply the resources we put into his hands as he once multiplied the loaves and fishes. Twice in three verses he says, “If you ask anything in my name, that is, in accordance with my character and will, I will do it.” That is quite a promise.

So, is some small way, we can, “Live like Jesus.” How then did Jesus live? I would mention three things:

1. Jesus had focus. He set his priorities, and he stuck to them.

Jesus spoke to his disciples saying, “My meat is to do the will of him who sent me.” That is from the King James Version. It may not be the most accurate translation of this verse, but I like it! Meat is the main course; everything else is a side dish, or, maybe, a desert. If the main course of a meal is bad, nothing can save that meal. If the main course is good, then nothing can take the pleasure of it away.

If we are to live like Jesus, God, and God’s will must be the main course in our lives, and this provides God with hands and feet in the world, and us with happiness. Indeed, in Matthew 6:33 Jesus said that if we will seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness—“God’s will” and “doing it,” all else that we needed will be added to us. I think this includes, “happiness.” Let me illustrate.

Some years ago I met with a woman who had made shipwreck of her life. Though she had no clinical reason, she was depressed and depressing. She drove everyone away from her, family and friends alike. She wanted my counsel, but she had already made up her mind about her problem. She said, “I am in the fix I am in because I have given too much of myself to others; but I am going to stop that. From now on I am going to look out for myself, first.”

By contrast I asked my 93 year old father what he had sacrificed for the sake of his service to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He thought for a moment, smiled, and said, “Nothing, nothing at all. Rather, I have gained everything.”

I think Jesus would have agreed with my father. In Mark 8:35 Jesus said:

35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

I know that, in this text, Jesus was speaking of eternal salvation, but our eternity begins with him. In John 11:26 he says, “he who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Therefore, we are not surprised that when B.F. Skinner, the Father of Behaviorism, was asked the secret of happiness, he answered in the words of Jesus. “He who gains his life will lose it, whoever loses his life will gain it.”

2. Jesus was like a fine wine, he had a good finish.

Jesus said, “My meat is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

In Mark 8, we read that during the last week of his life, Jesus set his face steadfastly toward Jerusalem. In Luke 13:32-33 we read that as Jesus drew near to Jerusalem he sent word ahead by one of his disciples, saying:

“Go and tell that fox, Herod, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course…for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”

In Luke 12:50 Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am constrained until it is finished.” Jesus knew he was headed for a cross, but he did not dodge his destination. The final word Jesus spoke from the cross was, “It is finished!” I love the passion hymn which declares:

“‘It is finished’ shall we raise,
Songs of Sorrow, or of praise,
Mourn to see the Savior die,
Or proclaim his victory?”

Lamb of God thy death hath given
Pardon, peace, and hope of heaven.
“‘It is finished,’ let us raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

St. Paul new the importance of a good finish. As he drew near to the end of his own life, he wrote:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have loved his appearing.”

Recently, When I was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, I thought I might be finished. In the hospital, I saw it differently, I started to worry that I may not be able to finish my commitments here, and elsewhere. The day I got out of the hospital it was raining. I was under my doctor’s orders to walk everyday, so I went to the YMCA. When I entered the lobby, there was a dish of epigrams on the front desk. Now a dish of M&M’s is tasty, and a dish of olives is heart healthy, but nothing satisfies my soul like a dish of epigrams. I reached deep in the dish and selected one. It may as well have had my name written on it. It read, “You can throw in the towel, or you can use it to wipe the sweat from your face.”

That message hit me like a ton of bricks! Maybe the choice is mine? My destiny is in my hands? Do I want to be finished; or, do I want to finish my course? I can throw in the towel, or use it to wipe my face.

This sermon is not just about me. The same is true for you. Most of you have faced difficulties in life. After each, you had a choice, throw in the towel, or use it to wipe your face. Likewise, some are saying that the church is finished, not just this church, but THE church. I don’t believe it for a minute. Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. The Church may take new forms, but it will not be finished until it has finished the work God has set for it to do.

3. There is a final way to live like Jesus. Do something.

In the text before us Jesus told his disciples not to sit around saying, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?” He said, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” The question is not what are we going to do to live like Jesus next year, or next month, or next week, the question is what are we going to do to serve, love, and live like Jesus, today.


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Today we are going to talk about, “Loving Like Jesus.” We will pay attention to what Jesus did and what Jesus said. What Jesus said is always illustrated by what Jesus did. He was throughly consistent. If Jesus said, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,” we can be sure that Jesus loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength.” This is demonstrated in the gospels by his dedication to prayer, and worship, and Scripture, and by his faithfulness unto death, even death on the cross. Likewise, if Jesus said, “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself,” we can be sure that Jesus loved his neighbor as he loved himself. Long before he was crucified, Jesus started making the small sacrifices that made it possible for those around him to live better lives.

Does that mean that Jesus was an easy-touch and a pushover? Not at all! Jesus was disciplined in his approach to himself, and Jesus was disciplined in his approach to others. On a day so special that it is remembered in all four gospels, Jesus fed 5,000 with just five loaves and two fishes. No doubt Jesus was always ready to share the least morsel of food with anyone who was hungry. Likewise, Jesus and his disciples kept a money bag, or a purse. From it, they sometimes made donations to the poor. I am quite sure that Jesus would have given money to anyone who could not work. However, I am equally sure that Jesus would have refused to give money to anyone who would not work. We believe it was the Spirit of Jesus who inspired the apostle when he wrote, “If anyone will not work, let him not eat.” (2nd Thessalonians 3:10)

That said, we need not be too judgmental when someone comes to us for help. There are times when our heart will bid us do things our head forbids. Sometimes the recipients of our generosity maybe undeserving; but, even so, our gifts are never wasted. In Matthew 25 Jesus put himself in the place of all who have real needs, and he says in doing for them, we are doing for him, and we will not lose our reward.

Now what can we learn about loving like Jesus from what Jesus said and did.

1. We can be sure that Jesus recognized misdirected love when he saw it.

Jesus told his disciples that it was impossible to serve two masters. He said we would love the one and hate the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. Above all, Jesus knew we could not serve God and money. Likewise, Jesus told his disciples that some religious people are more concerned with the opinion of others, than with service to God. Jesus pointed out how some religious people liked to have “the best seats in the synagogue,” and “salutations in the market place,” and “places of honor at feasts.” Jesus also pointed out that many religious people spend too much time majoring in minors. He said, “They are careful to give a tithe of the spices in their spice rack, but they neglect the weightier matters of the Law, like love, and justice, and mercy.”

What do you love? There is a way to tell. Scott Peck says that we spend time with who and what we love. How do you spend your time?

On the one hand, most of us spend at least two hours of every week in church and Sunday school. Others spend additional hours serving boards and committees, and working as volunteers. On the other hand, the Nielsen Group has found that the average American spends 5 hours per day—35 hours per week watching television. 35 hours per week of TV is a great blessing for those who are homebound and alone. 35 hours per week of watching TV is a great burden for many of us.

Or what about this: Some years ago a prominent Christian psychologist made a survey of Christian men with children in their home. He asked these fathers to estimate the amount of quality time they gave each child each day. The majority of men who responded to the survey estimated that they gave each child 30 minutes of quality time each day. After a careful study conducted in hundreds of households, Dobson estimated that the actual figure was closer to 2 minutes.

Jesus said that our love is often misdirected. He said that we have a tendency to major in minors. The only way this will change is for us to make a conscious effort to change it. It is a fact that almost anyone can loose weight simply by writing down everything that they eat. Likewise, we can gain the time we need for important things by writing down all that we do; and putting it under careful scrutiny. We may want to repurpose our time.

2. We can be sure that he loved all the people whose lives touched his own.

Certainly Jesus loved his family. We know from the gospels that Jesus grew up in a large family. Mark 6:3 names four brothers, and says that he had “sisters,” too. We sometimes forget than in a life that spanned a little more than three decades, Jesus ministered not more that three years. That is he lived 1/10 of his life as a prophet and preacher; and 9/10’s of his life as a man with a family, and a job, and all the joys and difficulties and problems and possibilities that we have.

This does not mean that his family life was easy. Though at least two of Jesus’s brothers became eyewitnesses and apostles of the Risen Christ, according to St. Mark, there was a time when his brothers thought Jesus was beside himself, crazy. That said, it is obvious from the text that they did not cease to care for him; nor did Jesus cease to care for them, else he would not have appeared to them after his resurrection.

Jesus loved his family, but he recognized a family more important than that into which he was born. When his mother and brothers came asking for him, he said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Unlike many of us, Jesus did not limit his love to those who agreed with him, made friends with him, and followed after him. St. Mark says that when the man we call “the Rich Young Ruler,” approached Jesus, and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, “Jesus, looking upon him, loved him.” Jesus loved the rich young ruler, and invited him to sell his possessions and follow him, but he could not. The text says that the young man, “..went away sorrowful.”

We can be sure that Jesus was equally sorrowful, not just for the Rich Young Ruler, but for each of us who see the will of God for our lives, and fails to do it. The will of God is no small thing. In his book, “The Will of God,” Leslie Weatherhead says we treat the will of God like a mystery, yet it is easier for us to to discern the will of God for our lives, than it is for us to act upon the will of God for our lives. Likewise, in his book, “Revelation in Recent Thought,” John Bailie says that many of us spend our time seeking some fresh revelation from God, but it never seems to come. “It does not,” says Bailie, “because we have failed to act upon that Revelation which we already have.”

Jesus sought God’s will for his own life, and he acted upon it. When speaking to his disciples about his mission, he said, “The son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” When speaking to his disciples about his relationship to them he said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

One can only imagine how the disciples felt when Jesus said this. One of the disciples felt it so keenly that he referred to himself in the gospel that he wrote as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Does the fact that one disciple called himself “the beloved disciple” mean that Jesus loved that disciple more than Jesus loved the other disciples, or us? I don’t think so. I think that the beloved disciple simply expressed what he felt. You see, the amazing thing about Jesus is that Jesus loves all of us equally, yet Jesus loves each of us so intensely, that it is perfectly reasonable that each of us feels like he loves us as he does no other. In a sense he does: For Jesus understands us, and cares for us, from the inside out. That means he understands and cares for us, uniquely, as no one else can, not even those who are closest to us.

3. We can be sure that Jesus did not limit his love to family and friends, and those who loved him. Jesus loved even his enemies.

In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus says:

“You have heard that it was said,” You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In asking us to love our enemies, Jesus does not ask us to do anything that he himself has not done. As Jesus hung upon the cross, he looked around at those who despised, rejected, and crucified him, and he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!”

From time to time, I have known people who took literally the command of Jesus to love our enemies. When I was at the Little Church on the Lane, I knew a woman who had been a Radio City Musical Hall Rockette. She married a World War II fighter pilot, and for many years they lived a storied life. Then a man killed her father in a robbery. He was found out, caught, and put on trial. The trial dragged out for months. When at last the man was sentenced to life in prison, she asked the authorities to see him. The permitted her to do so. She wept as she told me how she went to the cell of the man who killed her father, shared her faith in Christ with him, and forgave him. She said that the man had wept to receive her forgiveness. Each time I remember this story, I am reminded of how Jesus said that those who are forgiven much, love much; and those who are forgiven little, love little. For years, I thought this woman’s story was unique. Then I went to Unity Synod. At Unity Synod I met a Moravian Pastor from Tanzania who told a still more marvelous story. He told how his young son had been killed by members of a neighboring tribe, who lived just across the river from his own. It was after this tragedy that he started attending a Moravian Church, accepted Christ, and declared himself a candidate for the ministry. For a time all went well. Then after his ordination, much to his chagrin, he was sent as a missionary to the same tribe that had killed his son. Not only did he go, but he planted a church, and it thrived. He said, “It was not natural; but I can testify that Romans 5:xx is true, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through he Holy Spirit which God has given us.”

How then will you love like Jesus? Will you seek to better love your family and your friends? Will you seek to love your neighbor as yourself, meaning not just the people who live near you, but those who are your neighbors in need? And Will you love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you?

I have told you before about the pastor who said that he used to think that his life was like a $1000.00 bill given to him by God. For years and years he looked for a way he could spend so precious and valuable a gift. He never found it. Then he went to God in prayer and asked God to give him change for the $1000.00 bill, in nickels, and dimes, and quarters. Thereafter, each time he engaged in some small act of love, he saw it moving up toward the grand total. That, I think, is how the most of us will love like Jesus. We will gladly do the thousands of little things, that total up a life lived for him.


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This morning we are talking about “Serving Like Jesus.” Jesus decided the issue of service early on. Right after his baptism, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, where he was tempted by Satan. In chapter 4 of his gospel, St. Luke tells us that, at some point, in some way, Satan “took (Jesus) up” and gave him a vision of “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” Then Satan said:

“All this authority and glory has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.”

And Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

Few people set out to serve Satan. Mostly, we set out to serve ourselves. Like Frank Sinatra we want toarrive at the end of our lives singing, “I’ve done it my way.” Unfortunately, in making ourselves our top priority, we find ourselves in opposition to God. In his temptation, Jesus chose to serve God, not himself. In refusing Satan’s offer of authority and glory, Jesus uses two powerful words. First, he uses the Greek word “proskuneo,” here translated by the English word “worship.” Proskuneo means to prostrate, or humble one’s self before God, as before a king. Second, Jesus uses the Greek word “latreuo,” here translated by the English word “serve.” Latreuo describes the the kind of service that we render to the one to whom we have given our allegiance. In point of fact, either Greek word can be translated by the English word “worship,” for each describes a stage of worship. Our worship always begins with submission, but true worship always issues in service.

Jesus settled the issue of his personal submission to God during his temptation in the wilderness, and he never looked back. All of his life and work was lived in submission to the will of his Father. When Jesus knelt in the garden he prayed,“Not my will but your will be done.” Jesus lived his commitment to the bitter end, forcing a conflict with the authorities who arrested him, gave him a mockery of a trial, and crucified him between two outlaws.

Few of us settle the issue of submission like Jesus, “Once and for all.” Many of us go through life “limping along between two opinions.” Somedays we serve God. Somedays we serve ourselves. The people who really change the world are those who, like Jesus, settle the issue once and for all, and then, never look back.

It is a shame we vacillate so. When we seek God, and God’s will for our lives first, God handles the rest. Jesus was crucified by the hearts and hands of sinful men; but the cross was not the end of his story. On the third day God raised Jesus from the dead, and exalted him to a position of power and glory that far exceeded anything he could have achieved in partnership with self and Satan. In Philippians 2 the St. Paul describes both the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus, and he urges us to follow his lead of service to God. The apostle writes:

Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking the form of a servant, and being found in human form he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” to the glory of God the father.

Jesus humbled himself before God. He settled the issue of submission, and then he served God in all that he did. He looked into the face of his Father, and then he looked into the faces of the world, and he spent his life, and his death, bringing us back together.

Jesus has a lot to teach us about service.

First, in Matthew 6:24 Jesus teaches us that it is impossible for us to serve two masters. He says that we will hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. Then he sums up by saying, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Now you know that Mammon means not just money, but money and the whole money system. You also know that this is not supposed to be a stewardship sermon, but a sermon about “Serving like Jesus.” However, we cannot talk about serving like Jesus without listening to what Jesus has to say about service. And one of the few times Jesus talks about serving, he points out that we cannot serve God and money.

Does this mean that we should not be interested in money? No; that is not right. In complex societies like the one that Jesus lived in, and like the one we live in, money is a necessity. It has replaced barter as a medium of exchange. Without money our lives would be much more difficult. Can you imagine trying to trade your latest apple harvest for a new tractor. You do have an apple harvest don’t you? It may be possible to make such a trade; but it is not easy. Money is a good thing, and I believe that John Wesley was absolutely right when he spoke to the early Methodist about money saying, “Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”

When Jesus says that we cannot serve God and money, he does not mean that we cannot use money, he means that we must not allow money to use us. That is, we cannot make all our decisions based on money. We put money in its proper place when choose between two jobs, and take the job that offers less pay, but more opportunity for doing the things we want to do for the people we love. We put money in its proper place when we make some promise involving money, and then keep that promise, even when it cost us more than we thought it might. Psalm 15 says a person is righteous when “ he swears to his own hurt and does not change.” We put money in its proper place when we pass up some luxury that we have promised ourselves, so that someone else might enjoy a necessity.

When Jesus says that we cannot serve God and money, I do not think he means that we cannot use money. Nor do I think that Jesus implies that every contest for our affections would be between God and money. In Romans 16 St. Paul says that some of us serve our own appetites. Our appetites are many. In 1st Thessalonians 1 the apostle says that believers in Thessaloniki turned from idols to serve the living God. Ordinary, Paul defines an idol as a false God, made of wood, or stone, or some precious metal. Yet, he knows, and we know that there are idols of many kinds. In fact, there are so many idols, that my idol and your idol may not even resemble one another. The thing that is wrong for me may be right for you, and vice versa. Here is the kicker: Money is one of many idols, but money is often what we might call “the gateway idol.” If we have plenty of money, and if we allow it to control us, rather than putting it into its proper place, we often end up serving the idol or idols of our own choosing.

I think one of the best ways for us to insure that we have put money into its proper place is the tithe. The first month of our marriage, Elayne and I did not tithe, and we finished the month in the red. We spent every dime we had. The next month, we started tithing, and immediately, our money seemed to go further than it did. In those days, as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marines, I made $430 a month, and right off the top we gave $43 dollars to God’s work. Elayne was a Baptist and I was a Moravian, so we split our down the middle. We gave $35 dollars to the Moravian church and $8 dollars to the Baptist church. Of course, the tithe is just the beginning. In order to keep money in its proper place, we will eventually want to give more. We may up the percentage of our gift. We may even find ourselves engaging in spontaneous acts of charity. When we start spontaneous acts of charity, we discover the truth of the scripture, “It is better to give than to receive!”

There is a second point that Jesus makes about serving. He sets an example of service, and he says that it is through the service we render to others that we achieve true success for ourselves. Now this must be hard to understand, for not even the disciples of Jesus fully understood it. In Mark chapter 10, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?”And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” And Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten remaining disciples heard this, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them:

“You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. And then Jesus pointed to his personal example. He said, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45 RSV)

Jesus returned to this theme several times. He told his disciples that it is only those who humble themselves, who will be exalted. Likewise, in John 13, Jesus took a towel and washed their feet, saying, “14 You call me your Master and teacher, and so I am , if I then, your Master and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” I have never participated in a foot washing, but one day, I was helping my father, in a way that he could not help himself. I was embarrassed. Then I realized it must be worse for him. I said, “I have never been to a foot washing, but I suppose this is like a foot washing.” He said, “I suppose it is.” The tension was broken, and somehow, God was there.

The Twelve did not learn this lesson of serving one another as easily as we might have hoped. In Acts chapter 6, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the apostles are working hard at doing lots of things in the church at Jerusalem. They often find themselves waiting tables, because the Jews and Greeks are jealous of one another, and they want the disciples to exercise portion control. The Twelve think they are not making good use of their time, so they approach the congregation at Jerusalem saying, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” It was after this appeal that the church elected seven men to be deacons, including Stephen the first martyr of the church, and Philip the great Evangelists. I think it is interesting that two of the seven deacons achieved more prominence in the history of the church than all but three of the original twelve disciples, Peter, James and John. It may be that the disciples should have kept serving tables, while they preached the gospel. We might have a better memory of them.

Of course, in saying this, I am preaching to and perhaps, against myself. I have never been afraid of serving tables, or of setting tables up, or of taking tables down. However, there are some things I have left undone. For instance, several years ago, a person approached me and asked, “Worth, why don’t you go on mission trips?” I answered that I had gone on several mission trips, and would like to go on others, but I did not consider it my primary tasks at New Philadelphia. On another occasion, a pastor asked me why I did not seek a more prominent roll in our community, volunteering as a chaplain at the hospital, or volunteering to serve on various boards and with various agencies. I gave him a more detailed answer. I said:

“Well, just before I went to seminary, I was a rifle platoon leader in the Marines. In the Tactical Basic School they taught us that platoon leader’s weapon is not the rifle or pistol he carries, but his whole platoon. Then, in seminary, I discovered that the book of Ephesians makes a similar analogy about pastor-teachers. In Ephesians 4 we read that the role of the pastor-teacher is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” I believe a pastor’s role is two fold. 1) As a pastor he or she is supposed to care for the congregation, both individually and corporately. 2) As a teacher he or she is supposed to prepare the individuals in the congregation for life and witness.”

Now I think I have done o.k.with the pastor part. And I think you have done a great job with the life and witness part. Many of you are involved inside and outside of this congregation. Not only do you “serve one another” within this church which is Biblical and right, but you “serve your neighbor” in our community. You work for Sunnyside Ministry, and Laurel Ridge, and Crisis Control, and Samaritan Inn, and HOPE (Help Our People Eat), and others besides. You have done a good job, but I have not. I have allowed the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I have waited for perfect conditions and they have not come, so I have often left the teaching part undone. I have often tried to do more myself, without helping you to do more, because, quite frankly, it was often easier to do it myself. That is a wrong attitude on my part; and you know it, and you have started to say it. Not long ago, I was speaking to a young man saying how much opportunity we had before as a congregation, and how I was going to turn things up a notch and do more. He said,“I don’t want to know what you are going to do; I want to know what I need to do!”

I suspect that is true for many of you. You want to do more, and you want to know how to do it. You want to serve like Jesus because you already know that it is in the service of others, that we find fulfillment for ourselves. Not only so, but in serving others we often discover that our own faith grows by leaps and bounds. When John Wesley questioned his own faith, he approached, a Moravian brother, Peter Boehler, and asked him if he should leave off preaching. Boehler said, “No, John Wesley, preach faith until you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” I will say the same thing about service, if you lack faith, then serve until you have faith, and then because you have faith, you will serve. In Matthew 25 Jesus promised his disciples and us through them that in serving others, we are serving him, and sometimes, as we serve others, he allows us a moment of recognition so clear, that we are never the same again.


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