"Year Eleven – A Gift from Heaven"
Pastor Tom Millner
Isaiah 53:5-6, I Peter 4:8-13, Philippians 4:8
August 9, 2009
SpiritSong Worship Center
Isaiah 53:5-6 "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
I Peter 4:8-13 "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."
Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Last week there was a rumor flying around that actually turned into gossip. You see, it started with another minister receiving an invitation to an LBGT clergy group for a brown bag luncheon here at SpiritSong Worship Center on the 18th of August. For some reason, that minister made a comment to someone about a "pagan" group of clergy meeting here. Before long, the story became that we were renting space to a group of wiccans! If you've for some reason heard this rumor, I want to dispel any concerns. We are not and never will "rent" space to any pagan group. The truth is, I've invited the ecumenical group (Christian, Jewish, Non-Christian) here to witness the presence of Jesus Christ at work in this place. Just as we saw in the video a few weeks ago when we talked about gossip, words of hearsay or gossip are like feathers blown from a pillow. Once released, it's impossible to retrieve all of them. Where our words fall on what may be tender and impressionable ears, we may not know. The result can be deadly for the listener. Scripture equates gossip to the same level as murder and thievery. If you've been a part of it, I ask you to now rectify your conversation to the truth.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."
Is gossip sin? You bet your bippy it is. And so is envy, strife, division, being judgmental (unjustly), arrogance, insolence… in other words, just about everything human. At the end of the day, we're each wearing dirty pants. Fortunately, because of the grace of Jesus Christ, we wake every morning to a clean pair when we acknowledge the dirty ones and seek the clean. Let's remember to love one another and not quarrel about petty things in this body of Christ – this family of God. The only people who listen to both sides of a family quarrel are the next door neighbors! "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." Our words and our deeds are our witness!
God has graced us with 10 years as a Church Body. How have we gotten here? By prayer in the presence of an all loving God followed by action to honor and worship Him! This week we begin year 11. How will we make it to year 20? By prayer in the presence of an all loving God followed by action to honor and worship Him!
In our scripture today from 1 Peter 4:8 we read: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
Let's look more closely at this scripture – for in these words lies the wisdom of God! "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." Let's translate that a bit further. "With the love that God has given to you, give to one another, for at the end of the day, we're all in need of a pair of clean shorts!" What does God's love look like? Mercy and grace – Mercy is not getting what we really deserve – Grace is getting what we really don't deserve! We all love to receive both mercy and grace from God, but what about the giving of them? Huh? What do you mean? It's easy to offer grace and mercy (love) to those we like –right? That's not what Peter is saying here…The love (grace and mercy) of God is extended to all…the good, the bad, the ugly – each one equally. That's the love He demands back from us. We love Him by giving His love to one another! But I don't always "feel" very loving, we say… I've been hurt by these people. I've been put upon, disrespected, not honored, not esteemed…! Let me ask you – do you think the man who was nailed to the not so glittery cross on that hill called Calvary was nailed in honor, respect, and esteem? Think He "felt" like being loving? God's love is not a feeling, folks – its HARD stuff! We've got to learn to overcome our feeling addiction… we often act like a bunch of emotion junkies… we're being called to recovery, here folks! Don't get me wrong – there's nothing wrong with savoring good feelings – when we put those feelings ahead of God's command – it's Idolatry –sin in its basic form! What's the consequence of sin? … separation from God, each other, and self! What's the cure? God's love in the form of mercy and grace….. Just for me alone to receive - NO… for you and me to give away, just as Jesus did. Got your heart set on feeling loved? Try throwing a little love in the direction of someone from whom you've felt hurt… that's putting your heart in the act of forgiveness… it's living God's grace as you have received from Him. Norman Vincent Peale said once: "throw your heart over the fence and the rest of your body will go along." Throw your heart in the direction of another's best interest and see the rewards of a heart filled with joy! "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." Don't be destroyed by the sin of Sodom! – Inhospitality!
Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of the 20th century – coach of the Green Bay Packers – in their hay day – was asked what he attributed as the secret to a winning team. Without hesitation he responded that it was the positive regard each player had for the other, both on and off the field. Each one always looking out for the best interest of the other! That's the "secret" to this winning team as well – loving is looking out for the best interest of the other. The secret to getting more love is to love more!
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." Grace – giving us what we don't deserve! Each of us has received one or more loving gifts from our gracious Father, God. The gifts are not for our personal consumption, though we receive personal joy in their presence. Those gifts are given to be used for the benefit of others…to provide to others what they don't deserve, haven't worked for, have no right to receive…that's loving as God loves – that's gracing as God graces!
There was a Puerto Rican lady living in New York City who started going to a Christian Academy on the upper west side that served a destitute and needy population. The woman, in broken English, said to the head master; "I need to give love somehow." The Headmaster wasn't sure what to do and the woman kept returning saying the same thing. Finally, the Headmaster said; "start riding the one of the school busses and give your love away." She did as she was told and on each of the several busses, she would express in the few English words she knew "I love you" to the students. One day, she announced she was going to ride just the one bus for the rest of the school year. She had found a child who didn't speak, who would lay his head on her shoulder as she whispered day after day "I love you" as she held him close. Finally, one day the boy whispered back to her; "I love you too." That was 10:30 a.m. At 9:30 p.m., that boy's body was found in a garbage bag near a dumpster, the victim of his mother's abuse. We never know the impact of using the gift we have been given in administering the Grace of God to others in its many forms!
Love is given when it is abundantly received! Jesus died as an act of love – saving us from what we really deserve and giving us what we really don't deserve – absolute forgiveness and a clean pair of shorts to wear before God! How much more do we really need to give it away?
L Be quiet and Listen
O Keep your heart and mind Open
V Remember you bring Value
E God's love is for Everyone
The second decade of our existence is contingent on our living out the LOVE of Christ in and through each other – testifying to the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. We're on the edge of a great revival in this community – will you LOVE it in?