Matthew 25:18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
Matthew 25:18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
I have been smitten! As most of you know, there is another woman in my life and she is absolutely gorgeous. A blue-eyed blonde, she already has me wrapped around her little finger. So it looks like Angela is going to have to share me, and she doesn’t seem to mind. No, we aren’t moving to British Columbia to join Bountiful! We have a new granddaughter. You didn’t seriously think the Penn would have been about anything else this week did you? And so it made sense that I would drive 4 ½ hours to hold Capri for an hour and then drive home again. As I held my granddaughter and looked at my daughter I realized that the tiny bundle I was hold was a link to both the past and future, she was a reflection of what was and what would be.
It also brought home the fact that God has no grandchildren. It doesn’t matter what type of relationship our parents had with God, each new generation has to start out fresh in their relationship with Him. Each of us has to accept his offer to become one of his children. Have you? Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.
You see them everywhere now, along the road, in people’s gardens, as jewellery, they are everywhere. Correct me if I’m wrong but most of us never knew what an inukshuk was before the Canadian Heritage commercials. But now most of us know at least “now the people will know we were here”, even if we don’t know what it is called.
And for those who missed out on that entire series of commercials the Winter Olympics probably brought the concept of the inukshuk to the world at large. But, you might be asking, what do they have to with church in general and the Kingdom of God in particular? Glad you asked.
A year ago when I was preaching my series on the Traveller’s Gift I came upon the statement that “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like. . .” was used 9 times in the New Testament, and I decided that would be a good series of messages. In particular I thought it would be a good series of messages for this coming summer.
Well, sermons are like sausages, in most cases you are probably better off not knowing how they are created, but we will open that door a crack for you today.
When I prepare to preach a series of sermons I usually file away random thoughts, quotes and scriptures for weeks and sometimes months before I actually start writing. Some I use and some I throw away. Then a month or two before we get to the series start date Jason and I usually lock ourselves in his office and brainstorm through the series, where do we want it to go? What do we want you to learn? What are the themes or big ideas and how will the messages fit together?
We talk about possible video items or dramas and what music might work or not work. And then we start playing with graphic ideas. Will we use banners? What will the bulletins look like? What about PowerPoint backgrounds? And then eventually I start production of the actual messages, and each one will take me about twenty hours to produce. Because you understand that every year I produce the equivalent of a 350 page book. You didn’t have a clue did you? Truthfully, you thought this was the only day I worked and I just stood up and talked for twenty minutes making it up as I went along. Be truthful.
See I told you it was kind of like making sausages.
Well this time when Jason and I were in the process of what this series would look like we determined that each sermon was kind of like a rock that you would add to one another to build something, but what would that something be? A wall, a fence, an altar? And then I had a flash and said “You know those silly things you see along the side of the road”, because if nothing else I am culturally sensitive. And he said “you mean an inukshuk.” To which I replied, “Yeah whatever.”
And it kind of progressed from there, usually at that point we start having fun and think up all kinds of neat ideas including ones that we would do if money was no object and kind of winnow them down from there. Sometimes in the process you will be so close to it that you don’t see the entire picture and you embrace some ideas and concepts that are really dumb, so after we played around with the Inukshuk idea and what we could do with it Jason suggested we talk to a few people to see if the idea was viable or if it was just way to abstract. And in most cases people would nod and say “Yeah, that would work.” So here we are; “The Kingdom of Heaven is like an Inukshuk.”
Because really Jesus would have said that if he had of been teaching in Nunavut instead of Palestine. You see, Jesus was a master of taking whatever was at hand and using it for an illustration in his teaching. He was incredibly relevant to his listeners. And so he said, “the Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .” And he looked around and what did he see, a fisherman casting his net into the sea of Galilee, a bird landing on a mustard plant, a farmer sowing his seeds, workers harvesting grapes.
So I would suspect, that had Jesus been teaching in the Arctic he would have made statements like, “the kingdom of heaven is like a man who was hunting seals”, or “the Kingdom of heaven is like an arctic tern” then perhaps as he cast his eyes across the bleak horizon “The kingdom of Heaven is like an Inukshuk.”
So with that in mind, join me on the journey. And if your knowledge of inuksuit, which is the plural of inukshuk, is limited to the Canadian Heritage commercial or the gnome and toadstool section of Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart, let me enlighten you a bit.
From my studies I have discovered that Inukshuk does not mean “now the people will know that we were here.” That may have been the purpose of the inukshuk but in Inuktitut (the Inuit language) Inukshuk means “likeness of a person” or in the larger definition “something which acts for or performs the function of a person.” Inuk meaning person and shuk meaning similar.
The most distant inukshuk from Canada would be one that was placed in Brisbane Australia in 1988 for the world expo; in order to go further than that you would have to put one on the moon.
We kind of think that the Inuit are the only people who built Inuksuit and that the only place there were built was the north, but the reality is that similar stone figures were made all over the world in ancient times, but the Arctic is one of the few places where they still stand. Mainly because there hasn’t been a lot of people or development to knock them down. And throughout history they have been called various names in various places but they all do the same thing.
The Old Testament tells a number of stories of stones being placed in piles for various reasons, the first time is in Genesis 31. The back story is that Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, had lived in the land of his in-laws for years and now the time had come to return back to Canaan, and as a part of that process Jacob sat down with his father-in-law to reach an agreement on his leaving, what he could take and what he would leave.
You know just like when your kids are going to college and think the family computer and flat screen would look better in their dorm room then the family living room. And we pick up the story in Genesis 31:44 – 47 So come, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and it will be a witness to our commitment.” So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a monument. Then he told his family members, “Gather some stones.” So they gathered stones and piled them in a heap. Then Jacob and Laban sat down beside the pile of stones to eat a covenant meal. To commemorate the event, Laban called the place Jegar-sahadutha (which means “witness pile” in Aramaic), and Jacob called it Galeed (which means “witness pile” in Hebrew). If they had of been on Baffin island they would have called it an inukshuk.
The next time we see this in the Bible is when the people of Israel finally cross into the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for forty years and we read in Joshua 4:1-3 When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.'”
And then a little later in the passage we read Joshua 4:6-7 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” What was he saying? “Now the people will know that we were here.”
And then in the book of 1 Samuel we read the story of how the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant, which some of you will recall was the sacred container that was used to carry the Ten Commandments, and others of you will recall was the focal point of the first Indiana Jones movie.
Regardless, the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant and under the direction of the Prophet Samuel the people of Israel were able to rescue the Ark, and it was at that point that we read 1 Samuel 7:12 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” And we are going to reference that in our last song, be looking for it.
And now we come to the “So what?” in the message. Well that leads us to a statement that Peter made to the early Christ Followers in his letter 1 Peter 2:5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.
You see if Christ had of simply come and lived for thirty three years, died on a cross and rose from the dead it would have meant nothing and would have been remembered by nobody, but he left behind an inukshuk, and that is us. We are the living stones that build the Kingdom of God and Jesus looks down at his church and the people who make it up and he nods and says “Now the people will know I was there.”
But the analogy only works if we can see the characteristics of the inukshuk in believers.
Titus 2:7 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. The Inukshuk Was Used as a Landmark Anyone here ever been to the Arctic? Between my second and third year in bible college I had a summer job on a salvage tug that took me to Little Cornwallis Island, which if we bring up a map is located right here.
And the one thing that you realize in the North is that there is a lot of nothing. And so in many cases the Inuit couldn’t say “walk three miles until you come to the big oak tree and take a left” You might be able to say, “walk three miles until you come to a polar bear, then run for your life.” But that would only work if the bear was still there and hadn’t eaten you the first time you saw it.
And so in a terrain devoid of features the inukshuk became the features, because they were different and they stood out. And so they became landmarks, “walk until you come to the inukshuk made of eight rocks then and turn east.”
2000 years ago Christians lived in a world that was radically different than the values that they embraced. It was a world of immorality and excess, and those believers were called upon to be examples, to be land marks in a world that was devoid of moral bearings.
Kind of like today, Christ Followers are called to be landmarks of morality and right teaching, we are called to be different, to stand out. Not in a bad way, you know some Christians think that by dressing and behaving strangely they accomplish that but we were called to be different in our behaviour. And the question would have to be: are we? Can people tell who we are and who we worship by what we do and don’t do? By the way we treat people and respect God? Are we moral landmarks in a culture devoid of moral landmarks? Because to quote Benjamin Franklin “Well done, is better than well said.”
Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. The Inukshuk Was Used to Point the Way Another purpose of the Inukshuk fit with the first, “When you come to the inukshuk made of eight stones you must follow in the direction of the short arm until you come to the inukshuk made of four flat stones.”
And so we are told that the Inuit people relied on inuksuit to provide direction in their travels. They followed in the steps of those who had gone before. I read somewhere “To Know the Road ahead ask those coming back.” Well when it comes to eternity we can’t ask those coming back but we have been given direction in God’s word. Part of our responsibility as Christians is to point people to heaven, if we truly believe that there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned then we should be at least somewhat passionate in telling people how to get to one and avoid the other.
“Follow the short arm until you come to the inukshuk made of four flat stones.” Jesus gave us direction in John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. Jesus didn’t say he was one way he said he was the only way, he didn’t say that there were many paths to God he said he was the only path to God, and if we believe that then we have a responsibility to tell people, that is part of why we were left behind. The last instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples are spelled out in Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
He was telling them directly and us indirectly to point the way. Because if the church and the people who make it up are not pointing the way to heaven we are not fulfilling the instructions given to us by Christ.
Seriously, if there is no afterlife than the church is irrelevant, but if there is an afterlife and we aren’t telling people how they can get there then the church is irresponsible. It was D. T. Niles who said “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” If we know the way to God than don’t we have a responsibility to point others in that direction?
One source told me that when a inukshuk has a hole, that if you looked through that hole you would be able to see the next one. Which immediately reminded me of the old story of the mother and son who were sitting in church one day and the little boy was gazing in wonder at all the stained glass windows, and finally he asked his mother “Who are all those people?” to which his mother replied “Those are the saints.” As he continued to look at the windows his mother sensed a teaching moment and asked him “Do you know what saints are?” and the little boy said “Yep, they are people the light shines through.”
Good answer, is the light shining through you? When people look through your life can they see the Kingdom of Heaven?
So an Inukshuk is a land mark and it points the way, but there is still more to it, Hebrews 3:13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. The Inukshuk Was Used to Warn of Danger Perhaps at that particular point the ice wasn’t safe or maybe it was a place that polar bears frequented.
Years ago before you could be annoyed with a hundred bogus warnings a day in your email inbox warnings about dangers had to be conveyed in other means. There has been a story has been told for years in our family and I have no idea if it’s true or not but it’s a great story, it seems that my father’s great grandfather was fishing in the Bay of Fundy when he came across a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe far from land in his canoe. Wanting to be helpful my great-great-grandfather offered the man a lift to the main land and so other man asked his name, when he heard the name he said, and again I cannot guarantee this is true but it is a great story, “no, Guptill steal canoe.” I don’t know if that gentlemen had personal experience with canoe thieves or if he had been warned by others.
And inside of all of us there seems to be an inclination to warn others. We might not have unsafe ice and polar bears today and may not build an inukshuk but we do it through misguided emails, flashing your lights after going by a speed trap, or simply telling others about a craftsman who has done shoddy work.
Part of why Jesus left the church here has been to tell people the good news but there is also the other side and that is to warn people of danger. In a real way there is the danger of judgment, if we believe in the reality of hell, the reality of an eternal separation from God and from all that is good and all that is lovely then we need to warn people. That is the reason Cornerstone is here, to help depopulate hell.
But there is also a need for the church to warn people about the consequences of sin. I’ve mentioned before that people look at the rules set down in the bible and that have been preached by the church and think that God is simply a spoil sport, out to make sure we don’t have fun. But the reality is that God has put them in place for our benefit. To warn us away from actions that could harm us, physically, emotionally or spiritually.
Sometimes the problem is that we’ve added to the list with more lists and more warnings until it is hard to take serious the ones that are really dangerous.
Bjorn Bayley is the president of Ikea American and he said “In the US we find the label requirements are crazy. It is almost as if we had to label a bookcase with the warning ‘do not eat this bookcase — it can be harmful to your health’.” And for years that was the side the church swung to, don’t do this, don’t do that, this is wrong and so is this and don’t forget about that. And we warned people about dancing and playing cards and going to the movies, not that there wasn’t validity in some of those warnings, but in all of that the warning about things that were peripheral it got to the place that people no longer listened to the church about the things that were important. And we became like the little boy who cried wolf.
And it has made our job harder, but we are still required to do it because those warnings are important, both for the here and now and for the there and then.
And finally two quick thoughts to end on. We read in Romans 12:4-5 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Inuksuit are All Different But They are All The Same. If you google Inukshuk and look at the images you notice that while they are similar they are not identical. An inukshuk can be small or large, a single rock, several rocks balanced on each other, round boulders or flat.
They were each created unique by their creator. And we need to be reminded that within the church we are all called to follow Christ and be Christ like but we are still individuals. And we are all wonderful, beautiful creations of a loving and caring God. And if you ever find yourself in a church that dictates that everyone has to think the same, and dress the same, and worship the same and there is no room for individuality then, really it’s probably not a church you should be in.
And finally in Psalm 105:15 “Do not touch my chosen people, and do not hurt my prophets.”
Inuit Tradition Forbids The Destruction Of Inuksuit. As a church we cannot dictate how we will be treated by the world but we can be very careful about how we treat one another.
So be mindful of how you treat other believers, be careful you don’t hurt them and that you don’t hurt their reputations. We are family and families need to care for one another and protect one another. Does that mean we ignore people’s sinful behaviour? Not at all, when someone falls you don’t pretend they didn’t fall you help them back up and deal with the consequences of their fall.
And just as important be careful of your own inukshuk, that is be careful in how you behave that you don’t destroy your own reputation and in so doing the reputation of your saviour. Because sometimes we are our own worst enemies.
Since deciding to use the inukshuk as a theme for our summer messages, we have been on the quest to find inuksuit. (Now you know what the plural of inukshuk is!) And I realized that in our culture a lot of people are familiar with the term. I wouldn’t have thought that at all. I was at Costco and had an employee ask if they could help me find something,( I’m not making that up about the Costco employee asking to help by the way!), and when I said we were looking for an inukshuk he said, “We don’t have any yet but we are expecting some later in the season.” Then I was at Kent and inquiring about Styrofoam, when the clerk asked what we were going to do with it so I told him “build a giant inukshuk!” To which he replied, “Cool”. Yet somehow, I think that the same references south of the border might have elicited the reply, “You shook your what?” That is not a slam at our neighbours as most of you probably don’t know what chitlins are.
Our church culture has words and phrases that we are comfortable with but if we are trying to reach those who don’t know Jesus we might want to translate. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.
Penn of Denn
It’s people like Lauren Rosenberg, who disprove evolution. The Utah woman is suing Google Maps, because she got hit by a car, while following walking directions provided by the free online service. Yep, Rosenberg claims that by following the directions on her BlackBerry, she ended up walking along a rural highway without sidewalks and as a result was struck by a car. Not her fault, no sir, the lawsuit alleges that the accident was “a direct and proximate result of Defendant Google’s careless, reckless and negligent providing of unsafe directions. . .” Had nothing to do with Rosenberg being an idiot.
I understand that it wasn’t Ms. Rosenberg’s intent to get hit by a car, but nobody put a gun to her head and made her walk on a dangerous highway.
I recall as a kid, being told to go play in traffic, but even as a kid, I knew that might not be the wisest thing to do and if I had of done it and got hit by a car, my parents would have said, “Denn use your head.”
Maybe if we all used the sense God gave us, we’d stay out of trouble and off the road. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.
And that is the sum of the New Testament teaching, All you need is love. Paul wrote exactly the same thing in Romans 13:8 without the catchy tune, Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbour, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. That’s what it boils down to. If you love your neighbour, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
How simple is that? Should be able to stop right there. Am I right? Here endeth the lesson. We could close our bibles and go home. As a matter of fact if we wrote that on a piece of paper and stuck it to our mirrors where we’d see it every morning and if we committed to live by that principle we’d never need another sermon.
And it wasn’t just Paul who said it. . . it was Ringo and George and John as well.
And from a Biblical perspective it wasn’t just the apostle Paul, the first time we hear the command comes from the top in Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” And in case someone misses it, Jesus reiterates it over and over again in the Gospels, for example in Mark 12:30-31 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” And listen to how James refers to it in James 2:8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
By the way and this is a comment without commentary: the principle of loving your neighbour is found throughout the bible, in both the Old and New Testament, but is absent in the Quran. Just saying.
So if it is so simple why is it so tough? One of the reasons is how we define love, for most of us when we think of love we think of a romantic love kind of like Wood Allen who said “I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox.” And so for most of us love is a feeling, an emotion and it’s hard to control or harness our emotions. And so if we don’t have an emotional bond with someone than we don’t feel that we can love them.
We’ve spoken before about how the New Testament was written in Greek and how that language tended to use more words to reflect the meaning of a thought then we do in English. When you think about it the English language is a really lazy language. For example the word fast, you ever think about what fast means. It can mean that you are quick, or it can mean that colours don’t run, or it can mean to tie something up, or it can mean that someone is morally loose, or it can mean to not eat, or it can mean that your watch has gained time or it can mean that you are loyal or it can mean that you are sleeping soundly, or it can mean that you are close to something. Kind of like I read the red book.
Another word like that is love. We throw the word love around to mean almost anything. I love my wife, I love “”Big Bang Theory”, the TV show not the concept, I love my little red car, I love flying, I love pizza, I love my kids, I love my parents, and I love all of you. But I love each of those things in different ways, but I describe my feelings with one word.
The Greek language however has several different words that are used to convey love for different things. First there is Eros, which is a sensual love, a passionate love that would be what Woody Allen was speaking of.
Eros isn’t actually used in the Bible. The next form of love was Philio and this is the warm fuzzy feeling we have for those nearest and dearest to us. This is friendship. Have you ever wondered why Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love? Then there is Storge, and this is affection, what you feel for your parents or children. My sister gave my mother a plaque that says “I love you more then you love me, because you have only loved me for part of your life and I have loved you for all of mine.” Cute.
But Paul doesn’t use any of those words for love instead he uses the word Agape. And agape is less a feeling of the heart and more a feeling of the mind. It is as much an act of the will as an act of the emotions. It is a choice we make. It is why Jesus can tell us to love our enemies. It is a conscious action, something that you decide to do and something that you cannot do without the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Remember the sum of Jesus teaching is to Love God and to Love Others. Which is why when there is a disaster, on the other side of the world, happening to people we don’t know and might not like if we did know them Christian relief organizations are there firstest with the mostest. And you have to wonder what would happen if everyone lived by those principles?
It was Napoleon Bonaparte who wrote “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.” And the foundation of Jesus’ teaching? Love for God and Love for People.
So it goes back to: what is love? And I think we all know what love is supposed to be but that seems way too hard so we try to define what love is and what love isn’t. Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan? Do you remember how it started? A man came to Jesus and asked the question
Luke 10:25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” And so Jesus said you know what you are supposed to do, what is it the Law says? And the man replied by saying
Luke 10:27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'”
Simple enough right? That must be what Jesus thought because he replies by saying Luke 10:28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” Simple, right? Apparently not because in the next verse we read Luke 10:29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” And that’s when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan ending with the question Luke 10:36-37 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Simple right? Obviously not as simple as one would think because throughout the New Testament love is constantly being defined, spelled out and clarified.
Paul tells us in Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
And so Love is Defined by How You Don’t Behave This is probably the easiest way to define love and the easiest way to display love. Love does no wrong to others.
We have all heard about the Hippocratic Oath, even if we don’t know what all is in the Hippocratic Oath, and what we do know is delivered through television and is wrong. We hear TV Doctors say “remember what it says in the Hippocratic Oath “First do no harm”” but that isn’t in the Hippocratic Oath, that is just an old Latin saying.
The Hippocratic Oath is the Oath Historically taken by Doctors and it was written by a Greek Doctor named Hippocrates 400 years before the birth of Christ. And the first part of the oath states: I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.
So really if we took a similar oath to never harm anyone we would be well on the way. It is interesting that for over two thousand years that statement was part of the oath but it’s no longer there, possible because there is another portion that is now missing and that is the portion that says: I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a potion to cause an abortion.
Interesting. Paul had just spelled out this concept of Love in the verse before this one. He has reached back into the Ten Commandments and pulled out four of the last five commandments Romans 13:9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” So from this reference anyway love seems pretty simple. You demonstrate your love to your spouse by not sleeping around on them. You show you love to your annoying neighbour by not choking them to death while they sleep or poisoning their strawberries. You show your love to the rich man down the street by not stealing his shiny new car. And you do this by not coveting what doesn’t belong to you, not his wife, not his life and not his possessions.
This is the type of love that is demonstrated in the Ten Commandments, You do remember the Ten Commandments don’t you? Pop quiz, in your minds or on a piece of paper how many of the 10 Commandments can you remember?
1) Do not worship other gods.
2) Do not make idols.
3) Do not misuse God’s name.
4) Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to God.
5) Respect your father and your mother.
6) Do not murder.
7) Do not commit adultery.
8) Do not steal.
9) Do not tell lies about others.
10) Do not want anything that belongs to someone else.
If we were to take a closer look at the Ten Commandments we would discover first of all that the first four deal with our relationship to God, they are vertical commandments, then we would discover that the next six deal with our relationship to our fellow man, they are horizontal commandments. And with the exception of honouring our parents they tell us what not to do.
But when you stop and think about it, if that is all there is to loving someone all you would have to do is avoid them. If you have no contact with people then you will not steal from them, lie to them, murder them etc. etc.
By that definition of love the first two men who came upon the traveller in the story of the Good Samaritan loved the man, because they did not kill him, they did not steal from him or lie to him or rush home to sleep with his wife.
So the most loving people in the world would be the hermits who retreat from society, and maybe that’s why they do it’s just easier to be nice to people when there are no people around.
But for most of us that’s not an option.
So in the real world our love is not only defined by how you don’t behave, more importantly it is Defined by How You Do Behave Probably the greatest definition of love written is in 1 Corinthians 13 and this is what Paul writes 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
This is how we show love in the everyday, nitty-gritty world we live in. This is how we display the love we show to our family our friends and the strangers we come in contact with every day. Maybe it could simply be redefined as respect.
It is more about what you do do than what you don’t do. In this case love becomes work. It goes beyond avoiding a problem and it corrects the problem.
It is love that forgives, it is love that goes the extra mile, it is love that prepares meals for Ronald McDonald House, and love that puts on work clothes and helps clean up the back yard at Phoenix house.
And it’s the little things, holding the door for someone when you go into a store, from my vantage point at Tim’s I am amazed at how few people exhibit even that basic common courtesy. Giving someone a break in traffic, giving the homeless guy a buck and not lecturing him on his behaviour, how about giving someone a smile. Carol Burnett said that her philosophy in life came from Beverly Sills who said “I’m not always happy, but I always try to be cheerful.”
It’s easy to love those who love us, Jesus tells us that in Luke 6:32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! Hitler probably loved his mother.
But this isn’t about loving Osama Bin Laden, or Paul Bernardo, or the crazy pig farmer from BC, well it is kind of but that is pretty abstract.
This is about demonstrating the love of Christ to those we come into contact with every day, the staff at Tim Horton’s, the homeless guy on the street, the person you work with, your spouse and your kids.
How about the parent who abused you? The boss that passed you over for promotion? The bully who picks on you? What about the jerk that cuts you off in traffic and decapitates your inukshuk?
Luke 6:33-35 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. Not just avoid doing them harm but do good to them.
That’s tough, and it will be a choice that you make, you will either do it or you won’t do it.
2000 years ago Jesus told his disciples in John 13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
So ultimately we not only define love by what we do and don’t do We Are Defined by the Way we Love by what we do and don’t do.
Jesus told us that when people see our love they will know that we belong to him. Do they? And John writes in 1 John 3:14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. And Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
And I know as Christians that we blow it from time to time and there are always people around to point a finger and say “and you call yourself a Christian”. And that’s good because we need to be reminded occasionally that we do call ourselves Christians and with that comes responsibilities. And the greatest responsibility that we have as a Christ follower is to love. Because ultimately Jesus said that people would know that we follow him, not by our wealth, and not by our theology, or by the translation of the Bible we read, or the church we attend but by the way we love.
So the bottom line is this “If people had to guess who you were following by your life and your behaviour what would their first guess be.
And then Paul closes by reminding us in Romans 13:11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Every one of us is older today then we were yesterday, and yesterday is gone, you can’t change how you loved people yesterday but you can decide how you are going to love them today and tomorrow.
And so I close with the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh “Love is a force that enables you to give other things. It is the motivating power. It enables you to give strength, freedom and peace. It is not a result; it is a cause. It is not a product, it produces. It is a power, like steam or electricity. It is valueless unless you can give something else by means of it.”
If there is one concept in the bible that seems to be foreign to us in 2010, almost to the point of incomprehensible is the concept of sacrifice.
Not the concept of making sacrifices for something or someone, we all do that on a fairly regular basis. As parents we make sacrifices for our children, we give up things that we could have for ourselves in order to provide them for our kids. Whether that be in the form of material sacrifice, what do you give up so they can have . . . whatever, or in the form of giving up our time for our children. You might make sacrifices for your career, or for your education there are those here today who are pursuing a degree or upgrading and in order to do that they are making sacrifices, both financially and personally.
We all make sacrifices, a priority for Angela and I is our annual winter vacation south and so we sacrifice things like birthday gifts and Christmas gifts so we can make that trip each year.
So we all know what it is to make sacrifices after all we make them on a daily basis in our lives. The concept that seems foreign to us is the concept of offering something to a deity as a sacrifice. From movies and novels we’ve heard of human sacrifices, virgins being thrown into volcanoes or people being buried alive to appease their gods, but that was then and this is now unless of course . . . Clip from Joe vs the Volcano
In the Old Testament we read about animals and birds being sacrificed in the temple as a form of worship, and we can’t even get our head around it, it seems so wrong. And part of that is we are looking at it from a 2010 perspective and of course it’s wrong today, but 3000 years ago . . . maybe not so much.
But it’s because we can’t understand the concept of sacrifices being made to God in such an extreme way that we have a hard time with the concept of offering ourselves as a sacrifice. In our world a sacrifice is something that we voluntarily give but more importantly today a sacrifice is something we can take back, if we decide that we don’t want to keep making that sacrifice anymore.
But in the biblical sense the incense was burnt, the animal was killed, the blood was shed and the sacrifice was made and it was done and it was irretrievable there were no give mes or do-overs or take backs or mulligans.
But that exactly what Paul was calling the early Christ followers to become when he wrote Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. And just in case they didn’t get what he was saying he adds: Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. And so the first thing we need to look at is: The What What was it that Paul was asking these folks to do? Well the short answer was to become a sacrifice.
But what does that mean or more importantly because the letter wasn’t written to us originally what did it mean to the people it was being written to 2000 years ago? When this letter was read aloud to the Christians in the city of Rome, what came to their minds when they heard this phrase? Historically we are told that there were a plethora of Roman gods and each one required specific sacrifices. Add to that the fact that each year Roman Citizens had to make a sacrifice to Caesar and declare their loyalty by stating Caesar is lord and I’m sure those reading this letter knew exactly what Paul was trying to convey.
And so it is interesting that Paul doesn’t tell those who worshipped in Rome what to do, he doesn’t command them to make themselves living sacrifices instead he writes “I plead with you”, interesting. But Paul knew that unless it was done willing it wasn’t a sacrifice, that when you are forced to give a gift it’s not really a gift.
It was Ghandi who said “The mice which helplessly find themselves between the cats teeth acquire no merit from their enforced sacrifice.”
You know what I’m talking about, there have been times in your life that for whatever reason you were compelled to give a gift. It wasn’t that you wanted to it was that you had to, for whatever reason you didn’t have a choice. It may have been a reality or it may simply have been a perception that you had but you were giving the gift out of a sense of obligation.
And what was Paul pleading with these folks to do? Well he said Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.
Give your bodies! That is worthy of note because Grecian thought and philosophy had permeated this area for over four hundreds of years since Alexander the Great had claimed it as part of his empire. And for the Greeks in general and the Gnostics in particular the body was evil and only the spirit was good. At its very best the body was seen as a corrupt vessel that held our spirits.
And because they drew such a clear line of delineation they could separate their physical behaviour and activity from the spiritual side of things. This is the body and this is the spirit and they really don’t concern each other because ultimately the body will be gone so how can it effect what will live on.
But for the Christian the body is a part of the total package, after all if God created our bodies how could it be evil? Remember back in Psalm 139:13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it. These fragile shells were given to us by God himself crafted by him with love and care.
Not only that but if God himself, creator of the universe could take on a human body how could it be evil? And then we are told in 1 Corinthians 6:19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?
2 Corinthians 7:1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
The people that Paul was writing to had already committed their spirits to God, they had done the spiritual thing but they were still struggling with the physical side of the relationship. But God doesn’t just want a part of you and a part of your life he wants all of you and all of your life. The inside and the outside. The temporal as well as the eternal.
And so Paul is telling those early believers: I beg of you, do not use that which God has gifted you with for evil, instead present it to God as a whole, and make your entire self a sacrifice. A living sacrifice, but we all know the problem with living sacrifices right? Yeah, they keep crawling off the altar.
And Paul continues: Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. So here we have The Why I mean it’s all well and good that we be asked to do something but deep down inside we are really like kids in our relationship with God. And what do kids ask when we ask them to do something? Why? How come? And the Romans must have been the questioning type because throughout the letter we find Paul answering questions even before they are asked. So let’s look a that verse again Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God (and before they can ask why he tells them) because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. (and again he jumps into to answer the why) This is truly the way to worship him.
So the question has two answers. The first one is an expanded “because”. Really as parents isn’t that our favourite response when we are asked “Why?” “Because” or if we are feeling particularly wordy and feel that our children deserve more of an explanation we sometimes expand it and say: “because I said so.”
So Paul tells them: Think about it, after all God has done for you, including but not limited to the death of his Son as a sacrifice for you, isn’t this the least you can do for him? Paul could have been a travel agent, specializing in guilt trips. But guilt trip or not it is reality. Without God where would we be? Without even getting into grace and our salvation, look around at all God has done for you as an individual, your home, your family, your health and a great country to live in. And before you start with the yeah buts you know that whatever your circumstances you could have it worse.
But it’s not just a matter of obligation because Paul continues and tells his readers Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Our commitment to anyone or anything is ultimately not measured by what we say but by what we do. We can talk the game but unless we are actually in the game what difference will it really make? Because it’s not what you say and it’s not what you say you’ll do it’s what you do that counts. The New King James Version says it this way Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Which is your reasonable service, I love that because he is saying “It’s the least you can do.”
What is worship? What is your reasonable service? Jesus tells us very simply that it is obedience. John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.
So we have the “what” Give yourself wholly to God. And we have the “why” Because. Let’s keep reading: Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
So here we have The How If you have been with us through this series you know that I am going to tell you that it is a choice you have to make. It seems to be a recurring theme, but not a theme that is real popular in 2010. And that is the fact that we are all responsible for the choices that we make and that our lives are a result of the choices we made. Today we want to be able to abdicate our responsibility for where we are in life and who we are in life. Well not entirely we like to take responsibility for being successful, for being good parents and doing well in school.
But the other stuff, the part where we blow it and the part where we hurt those we love and don’t measure up, those aren’t our fault. It is the fault of our parents who did a rotten job parenting us, or of the school system that did a rotten job educating us, or of our friends who led us astray or society, or the the economic downturn or global warming. You get the picture.
But the reality is this: we are the product of choices we make. You chose whether you’d apply yourself in school when you were a kid, you chose what you’d do after high school, what you would do for a living and who you would marry. And you will choose how passionately you will serve God.
And the great thing about that is that once you acknowledge that you are responsible for the decisions you made yesterday, whether they were good bad or indifferent than you realize that you are responsible for the decisions you will make tomorrow and do you know what that means?
It means that you are in control, that you will determine your future and your destiny.
When I was growing up I remember one of my Dad’s favourite poems was Invictus by Ernest Henley and in the last verse Henley writes “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
I don’t want to get into all the theological implications of that statement but I do know that too often we abdicate responsibility for our life and our decisions to others.
And so here is the decision that Paul tells us that we have to make:
Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
By now you should know 2 Corinthians 5:17
by heart, but just in case you don’t here it is: 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Paul is telling us that “the how” is radical, it’s not just a minor course adjustment this is a dramatic change in direction, he is telling us that we can’t just change our behaviour a little bit instead this is major change, a whole new beginning a whole new direction.
The New King James says it this way Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, Do you see the difference, conformed is passive, it’s something that happens to you, while transformed is something you do, a choice you make.
You can be squeezed into conformity or you can choice to be transformed.
Let’s go into the original language here for just a minute, the Greek word that Paul uses here to be conformed is συσχηματίζω suschematizesthai (soos-khay-mat-id’-zo) but I’m sure you knew that, but what you might not know it that it’s root word was σχῆμα schema. Which roughly translated means fashion, something that changes. So Barclay tells us “A man’s schema is not the same when he is seventeen as it is when he is seventy; it is not the same when he goes out to work as when he is dressed for dinner. It is continuously altering.”
But the word used for transformed is the Greek word is μεταμορφόω metamorphousthai (met-am-or-fo’-o) and it means ones being, not what they are on the outside but who they are on the inside. And it comes from the root μορφή Morphe, which means the essential unchanging element of something. And so again we turn to Barclay who tells us “A man has not the same schema at seventeen and seventy, but he has the same morphe; a man in dungarees has not the same schema as a man in evening dress, but he has the same morphe his outward form changes, but inwardly he is the same person.”
And ultimately what is this called? This, being transformed by the renewing of your mind, this embracing the things of God instead of the things of the world? It is called holiness and it is embracing the things of God instead of embracing the things of the world. The author of the book of Hebrews writes Hebrews 12:14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
John Wesley defined holiness this way “Holiness is having the mind that was in Christ and walking as Christ walked.” And only happens when we’ve been transformed when we become different.
Which of course leads us to the last part of verse two Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
The Result It was Mother Theresa who said “Holiness is the complete acceptance of the will of God.”
Bottom line is this, you need to sell out to God. You take everything you have, ambition, work, hobbies, house, car, family, pride and everything you are and you pile it up before God and when you get everything on the pile you find a ladder and you climb on top of the pile and you say “Ok Lord, I’m yours.”
Have you done that? Have you chosen? Chosen to be transformed into a new person changing the way you think? Today is the day
Penn of Denn
My inukshuk had been decapitated. And I was cranky, maybe even a little angry. How, you might wonder, had my inukshuk been decapitated? Glad you asked. My summer series of messages will be based on, “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like an Inukshuk.” (You will have to be here on June 20th to hear more.) Back to the story, I had purchased a garden inukshuk, made out of resi,n not rock. It was perched on the floor of my car and while I was driving to the church, a truck pulled out in front of m. I slammed on my brakes; my laptop flew off the passenger’s seat and voilà, a decapitated inukshuk. And I was a little cranky. I blew my horn; I scowled, I did not cuss but I was grumpy for the rest of the day.
How often do we let outside circumstances or people determine whether or not we enjoy life? Because of something they said or something they did we relinquish control to them. Really, the guy driving the truck probably enjoyed the rest of his day, didn’t even give the incident a second thought. And I probably shouldn’t have either. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.