“Not About What You Do”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 “Not About What You Do, But How We Love” 1-30-21
[Prayer] “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O’Lord my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
So I heard the Reverend Bill Gandy tell this joke one time. I don’t know where he got it from, but I still think it is hilarious. A man dies and goes to St. Peter at the pearly gates of heaven. The man - let’s call him Bob, Bob walks up to St. Peter. St. Peter tells Bob they they are going to look back over Bob’s life together, and using Bob’s life they have to come up with 100 points in order for Bob to be able to enter heaven. Bob is a little nervous. Bob’s palms start to sweat. Bob starts thinking really hard, and biting his thumb. St. Peter says, “Comm’on Bob. I’ve got a long line of folks behind you and hell is impatient.
Bob sputters out, “All through high school I mowed the lawn at the church every Saturday!”
St. Peter says, “You were getting paid for that Bob. One point.”
Bob thinks to himself, “Oh man. I thought that would have been worth at least five.” Then Bob remembered, “I helped my wife every Saturday night get the materials together for the Children’s Sunday School class for years.”
St. Peter says, “Yes, you did Bob, and you complained about it every week. One point. 98 points to go. Is that all Bob?”
Bob says, “I served on the Trustees for six years fixing up stuff around the church.”
St. Peter says, “Uh huh. Yes. I see it here. You broke quite a few things you tried to fix Bob, but I’ll count it. Your heart was in the right place. One point. 97 points to go.”
Then Bob says to St. Peter, “During the Covid pandemic I helped hand out food to the poor and working poor once a month.”
St. Peter says, “Very good, Bob. That was really swell of you.” Bob starts to get his hopes up when St. Peter says, “That’s one point. 96 points to go”
Bob was frustrated. Bob was so frustrated and desperate he wanted to scream. Bob muttered to himself, “The only way I’m gonna get in here is by the grace of God.”
St. Peter exclaimed, “96 points for grace! Please step this way, Bob. We’ve been expecting you.”
Ninety six points for Grace. I love that joke; and while I tweaked it slightly the point is the same. We cannot earn our way into heaven. There is no way to work our way into heaven. There is no way to volunteer our way into heaven. There is no way to pay our way into heaven. I’m sorry my brothers and sisters, that is just not how it works. The only way to get into heaven is by grace. We offer works of mercy and works of piety because of the work God is already doing in us.
If you think about it, that's kind of nice. We don’t have to be worried about doing everything. We don’t have to be worried about doing enough. Salvation is not about checking off enough boxes to get by. Salvation is about love; God’s love, for us. Which means salvation is not about doing. Salvation is about being with God. Salvation is about the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. Salvation is about God’s love for us, and the way we share God’s love with others.
Sometimes we share God’s love through words of wisdom, words of knowledge; words compassion. Sometimes we share God’s love through medical expertise and healing, or wealth management, or offering protection as a police officer or soldier. Sometimes we share God’s love through music and song, or art or dance. Sometimes we share God’s love through prophetic voice, or sharing God’s messages with God’s people. Sometimes we work with children and share God’s message by being a mentor or teacher. The truth of it is this. Love must be the reason we do everything we do, and God’s love has to be seen and felt by all we serve in all we do.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). I think y’all know I am a big fan of the band Third Day and one of their early big songs is “Carry My Cross.” The chorus goes like this.
“So I’ll carry my cross
And I’ll carry the shame
To the end of the road
Through the struggle and the pain
And I’ll do it for love
No, it won’t be in vain
Yes, I’ll carry my cross
And I’ll carry the shame.”
Jesus was sent to earth because God loves us. Jesus gave His life on the cross because Jesus and God love us. Yes, Jesus scolded the scribes and the Pharisees, but Jesus still loved them. Jesus hates sin, but Jesus still loves all of us. Jesus ate with sinners, and tax collectors, and the poor, and the rich. Jesus fed thousands. Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. Jesus did not do it for personal riches and glory. Jesus did all of these things because of the love of God. Think about that. (pause) Do you know what that means? (pause) It means Jesus loves you. Jesus may not love where you are, but Jesus loves you just the same. Jesus died loving you; and me and everybody else when we were actively shouting with the crowd, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him. Crucify Him.” Jesus loves you. What are we doing to share the love of God with other people? Who are we loving? In all of our doing, how are we showing the people outside of this church that God loves them, and we love them?
I was recently in a meeting where it was pointed out that our congregation is not doing enough to engage and reach out to people in the community. It’s not hard to see there aren’t as many people sitting in the pews as there once were. A fear is starting to creep into the hearts of some people in our congregation about the future of our church. Do you know what we need to do about that? (pause) Do you have ideas about how to address the lack of connection between the people of our church and our community at large? (pause) This is what I think. We need to allow the love of God to take hold of the rudder of our lives. We need the love of God to guide our tongues and to put empathy in our mouths for the people around us. We need to care about the people every bit as much as we care about filling the need. We need to stop pushing so hard to get what we want done, and do a little more to hear what are the challenges others are facing. My sisters and brothers, you just might be surprised to learn that sometimes the very best thing we can do is listen - listen in love - listen with empathy and care. When we listen to people and try to identify with what they are dealing with we share God’s love. We make new friends. We discover new opportunities to grow our congregation and the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. What does our church need? Our church needs to find new ways to reach more people for Jesus. There are people in our community who do not have a church home. We just need to get on the stick to find them. The real trick is this. Make new friends. Get out there and meet new people. Take a look at these confirmands. Half of them came from the U12 soccer team. Where is the rest of the team, you may ask? Some of them already had a church home, but the truth is I needed a few more of you on the sidelines to help bring them in. There’s still time to make new friends. The soccer season is just around the corner. If you like baseball go to some SDYS baseball games. If you like football; flag football will be starting up soon. We cannot right away go and try to make them members of our church; but we can make new friends so that together we can grow more in love with God. Falling more in love with God is the best way to do a better job of loving our neighbor as ourselves. When others see the love of God in our hearts, they will want a little more of God in their lives. When the focus is on sharing the love of God the opportunities to invite come much more easily.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
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