Sermon from October 3, 2010

THAT’S WHAT CHRISTIANS DO

Luke 17:5-10

Why do you do what you do?  Just suppose someone were to do a really incisive reality show on you.  Not a shallow whats in it for me thing or a spectacular ohh look at me thing, but a really incisive show that cut through all the bull and bling of life and got down to the crux of the matter.  They followed you around and filmed you and someone interviewed you in your most unguarded moments all around the question why, what do you do and why do you do it.  Motivation and action, heart and life, Why do you really do what you do?  If they did a reality show on you, what would be the theme and how would they answer the question: Really… why do you do what you do?

Here in Luke 17 Jesus in some ways is continuing to answer the questions, what do my followers do, and why do they do it?  What do Christians do and why do they do it?  And he is talking about a community of people transformed by mercy into something new and he uses parables to talk about inner motivation for outward actions.  What do Christians do and why do they do it?

A colleague grew up in the bible belt south but he never went to church, wasn’t aware of any of the stereotypes, never heard of any televangelist and spectacular falls from glory, couldn’t begin to define the word hypocrite meant let alone could spell it.  When he was twelve he was in the hospital for two weeks getting surgery to repair his hip.  Had two visits the whole time he was there, one from the part time pastor of his aunt and uncle.  The other was a church youth group; they brought him a cute little soap and washcloth set.  For the rest of his life his impression was: that’s what Christians do (Greg Carey. Online: www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=10/3/2010).  They help scared lonely kids and it has something to do with God and Jesus.  Later in life he studied theology in graduate school yet and read and wrote some of the most erudite stuff ever composed on paper.  Yet whenever he tried to answer that question, what do Christians do and why do they do it, he always ended up talking about a kind old preacher some kids who cared enough to give him a little bar of soap when it meant more than the world to him.  That’s what Christians do.

You see Jesus is talking here about what Christians do, they’re tender hearted toward the needy and they forgive and forgive and forgive and here in today’s passage the disciples say, whoa Jesus, this sounds really difficult, we don’t think we can handle it, please give us more faith.  And Jesus responds by getting at this matter of inner motivation and basically says, look more faith isn’t what you need.  Even if you have just tiny faith you could do something really spectacular and showy like taking a tree and throwing it into the ocean.  But here is the thing, following me, faith in me is not about show offy, spectacular look at me spirituality is not the point.  Between vss 5 and 6 in Greek its called an adversative de, he is saying, you could do that but that’s not the point.  Then he tells another parable about servants not demanding thanks or recognition or payback because they are just doing what they are supposed to be doing.  That’s what servants do.  Faith in Jesus is not about spectacular spirituality whoa everybody look at me!  And its not about a selfish what’s in it for me spirituality.  Its about letting go of all of that stuff, and following this guy Jesus to the cross and beyond.

When I was in high school I remember our youth group and this guy John talked a lot about Jesus and what he did for us and that was ok but at first I wasn’t real impressed.  Then one day he said ok we are going to this nursing home and we’re going to sing for them lets go.  So we did and I was frankly scared of old people and I’d never set foot in a nursing home and it was weird and awkward and smelled funny and then we started to sing and the peoples faces just lit up.  And it hit me.  This is what Christians do.  And I remember a friend he was shyer than me and he went up to this older woman in a wheel chair and held her hand and actually talked to her.  John didn’t bribe us to do this with a trip to an amusement park.  We weren’t doing it to advertize ourselves and get recognition.  It hit me.  If you’re going to follow a guy who went all the way to hell and death and back for you, and he come up to you and says, ok, now I want you to love each other and reach out to the world – you don’t ask ok what’s in it for me, or what kind of recognition can I get, you just do it.  What do you do and why do you do it?

Charles Wesley has a great line he left his fathers throne above, so pure, so infinite his grace, emptied himself of all but love, and died for Adams helpless race, tis mercy all immense and free, for O my God it found out me!  Tis mercy all immense and free, for o my God it found out me.  What do Christians do and why do they do it?  They just let the love that took Jesus to the cross and raised him from the dead find them out.  They let Jesus do his thing in and through them.  They simply reflect Jesus.

And that brings me to chrome.  Christians, routinely, like Jesus, empty themselves of all but love.  I know some of you like chrome others don’t, Some of you bikers have your whole bike slathered in it; some of you are chrome wont get you home people, some of you are in between people but I want to suggest chrome has something to teach us.  You see chromium ore when it first comes out of the ground is like the human heart.  It has all kinds of motivations mixed up in it.  There is a capacity to reflect pure love but all kinds of other impure motivations too.  Chromium ore has the capacity to be transformed into chrome but has all kinds of other lesser impurities in it too.  There is this process where, similar to all refining of precious metals, all the other stuff is gently heated and its called roasting and leaching and everything else is separated and emptied out of the ore till only the chromium is left.  When we say yes to God’s love in Jesus for the first time what happens is a gentle warming and refining process all other motivations beside love get emptied out and it is as if God puts this protective coating of chrome on our hearts, not just a decorative bling thing, but an internal protective reflective thing.  However you feel about chrome if it is properly separated out and applied it creates a reflective ability where you can take a yardstick and read it clearly in the reflection as far as it goes, unlike any other metal.  So whatever protective reflective coating you prefer to apply to your vehicle God makes your heart able to reflect the sacrificial love of Jesus and to empty out all other motivations.  Christians reflect Jesus.

If you’ve never allowed the love that took Jesus to the cross and raised him from the dead to find you out and get to you at the level of your inner motivations, I want to invite you to simply let him do so for the first time this morning.  And then, for all of us, right now and in the week to come, take some time every day through prayer just to say, Lord, I want to reflect you, I want you let you do your thing in and through me.  And ask him to take all your other inner motivations that are in there and leach them out or wipe them away and leave them again at the foot of the cross, and just shine.

Why do you do what you do?

A story is told of two persons standing on a shoreline looking out at the glistening sea on a moonlit night.  One stuck her hand in the water and shook off some drops back into the sea, she think of how many drops there are in that sea, sometimes I feel like one of those drops, so small and overwhelmed and absolutely insignificant.  The other simply put his nail printed hand into the water and gently shook off several drops into the sea, and said, yeah, but look, some of them shine.  Starting right now, better than purest chrome, reflective of the love inherent in those nail prints, in the real reality show of your life – you too can shine.

October 3, 2010

Asbury United Methodist Church

Smyrna, DE

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