given on Sunday, March 29, 2009
When I was in high school, geometry was one of the most frustrating classes I ever tackled. In fact, during elementary school, I had developed a strength in math and even went through a self-paced advanced math that came out in the early 60’s. I did not fear math and usually did pretty good until I hit geometry. Geometry changed everything I knew about math and math anxiety moved in. What got me? I had no idea, but after going through my specialized training in dyslexia, I think I have figured it out. Dyslexics do not always have the typical logic pattern in their brain and geometry is the one math that is based on logic, the type of thinking inside the box rather than the lateral thinking that is often referred to as “thinking outside of the box.”
I am sure you are wondering just what in the world does geometry have to do with today’s message. Well, I see today’s message as a geometric proof—dyslexic style. You see, we are not dealing with math today, we are dealing with my personal style of logic. I am going to try and share my thinking much like I would work through a geometry problem where you have to show your process in a proof. You probably already saw the bulletin and wondered what in the world is she doing this time. Hopefully, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, you will see how serving is loving, loving is God, so serving is God’s love.
First, we must establish the postulates. The first one is that God is love. We study the scriptures and we talk about how God is love, but sometimes we fail to operate as though this is the one irrefutable truth for all of Christianity. God is love. It is such a simple premise and still many do not believe this truth.
Now we have to sort out how we know that God is love, and over the past months—even through the generations since Jesus was born—we have read how God loved us so much that he gave his only son so that we might have eternal life. That action, that gift, should be all that we need to understand or yuughfto fully comprehend that God is love. We are parents. We know how precious our children are to us, so how in the world can we doubt that God loved us that much that he gave up his only son! Even Abraham, one of us, trusted God so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own son. I doubt that any of us would even consider our faith to be that strong.
Thankfully, we have never been asked to follow Abraham’s instruction. We no longer have to make any blood sacrifices to demonstrate our loyalty to God because God himself did it for us. How can we doubt God’s love for us, if he is willing to send Jesus to be our teacher, to be the ultimate sacrifice for us? This is first step in the proof that God loves us. Our next step is to see that God taught us how to love one another.
The second postulate to add in the proof is that God’s son Jesus was sent to teach us one simple rule: love one another. Abraham was operating under the Old Testament rules, and offering sacrifices was one of the methods the Jewish followers used in worship. Jesus taught us that life only needs one rule—love one another. The whole premise of Jesus’ ministry was to show us how to live simply using one rule—love one another.
The question now is how in the world do we love one another. Today’s life-enriching practice is “serving our neighbor.” This practice is the method that carries God’s love into concrete actions that demonstrates our one rule of loving one another. Serving our neighbors is what we have read over and over in the Gospels. Jesus moved from one town to the next demonstrating how to love one another. He showed the people and the disciples what love is by each action he took. When he stopped to heal someone who was hurting, he was serving his neighbor. When he stopped to feed the multitudes during the Sermon on the Mount, he was serving his neighbor. He loved them. When he felt the tug on his robe as the woman reached up to touch him, he had the empathy to stop and serve her. He loved her, his neighbor who was in pain.
In Henry Knight’s book, he provides support for the proof that God is love and that serving is love:
“We are created to love. We are meant to give of ourselves to others. E. Stanley Jones believed it is encoded in our very being. ‘The most miserable people in the world,’ he said, ‘are the people who are self-centered, who won’t do anything for anybody, except themselves.’ In contrast, ‘the happiest people are the people who deliberately take on themselves the sorrows and troubles of others. Their hearts sing with a strange wild joy.’ There is no richer or more fulfilling life than one in which love is put into action.” (p.103)
The key to living the Christian life then must be serving others. By serving others we are loving one another, we are God in action here in our very own communities.
The geometric proof should be complete, but as always, we need to work the examples to check and see if the proof is going to hold up under the tests of time and application. The concern then shifts to how. How do we serve others? How do we work as God’s love on this earth, in our lifetime? The answer is so simple that it almost seems silly to mention. We serve each time we do anything for someone else.
In Matthew 25: 34-40, Jesus is asked how God makes the final judgment. He answered:
“…‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Apparently the disciples still did not understand the answer very well, because when they asked Jesus how they would know this, he replied:
“…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
These few verses summarize all the parables and all the stories in the Gospels of Jesus’ ministry. These few verses truly explain how we serve others and in so doing fulfill God’s purpose for us to love one another.
The depth of God’s love is so difficult to understand, and these weeks of Lent are to remind us of that ultimate act of sacrifice that God carried out just so we could have eternal life. In John 12:20-33, Jesus himself explains why he must die. Even though the Greek people have requested to meet Jesus, Jesus has to tell them that he has no more time:
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. …”
These words, written as an analogy, tell us that Jesus’ life on this earth was the seed for a truth that could only grow if the seed dies. In Jesus’ death, love grew.
Knight has given us the tools we can use today to really enrich our Christian lives. He takes the scripture and shows us how easy it is to live out our beliefs. This seventh practice, serving our neighbors, is a call to action. We are asked to serve as an expression of God’s love to our neighbors, to live out the Greatest Commandment. It does not have to be difficult, it can be as simple as offering a drink to someone who is thirsty. It can be as simple as providing a meal for someone who is hungry. It can be as easy as offering a coat to someone who is cold. All we are asked to do is serve others.
In the Purpose Driven Life, one chapter is devoted to John Wesley’s motto: do whatever you can for whomever you can, in all the ways that you can as long as you can. One of the premises behind a purpose-driven life is that when you see that whatever you do is done to serve others you will have an enriched life. I find it interesting that whether you read Knight’s book or Warren’s book, they both emphasize that serving others, in any way that you can, is a life-enriching practice. Now it is time to review these points again:
∑ Step 1: Pray.
∑ Step 2: Read the Bible.
∑ Step 3: Worship.
∑ Step 4: Participate in renewal and healing services.
∑ Step 5: Remain in Christian community by meeting in small groups to study and worship.
∑ Step 6: Live the Christian lifestyle that Jesus taught us (Keep it simple, Sinner).
∑ Step 7: Serve others
The geometric proof is completed. We live the examples of God’s love each and every day of our lives. I think the theory that God is love and that serving one another is God’s love in action has been proven. The challenge now is whether we can check ourselves. Are we following the practices to enrich our lives? Are we serving our neighbors? Does our service to others provide us “a strange, wild joy?”
Thank you for giving us the way to live our life so that we experience a “strange, wild joy.” Thank you for all our neighbors who we love and who love us. Thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus. Help each of us learn to serve others as part of our daily lives. Help us share with others the joy we experience when we serve others. –Amen