Thursday, August 24, 2017
Content To Serve (Luke 7:36-50)

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

November 17, 2013

 

Series: “Content”

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

 “Content to Serve”

(Luke 7:36-50)

INTRODUCTION:

     As goofy as some of those “Words of Wisdom” are, the point is this: we all have certain maxims and ideas upon which we base our lives and our actions. There are sayings and phrases, sometimes passages of Scripture that guide us and guide our lives. Some may be as simple as “Success is the greatest revenge.” On the other hand, some may be as difficult to live up to as: “Love your enemies” “Forgive as you have been forgiven” or “Turn the other cheek.”

     The point is that these words and phrases, these passages of Scripture guide us and guide our lives. Why? Because the Contents of our Heart and Minds control our thoughts and our actions and thus the Content of our Hearts and Minds controls our lives and determines how Content we are.

PRAYER  

     In Luke 7:36-50 (NRSV), we can see exactly what it was that controlled the life of Jesus.

[36] One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.

[37] And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that Jesus was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.

[38] She stood behind Jesus at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.

[39] Now when the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him — that she is a sinner."

[40] Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," Simon replied, "speak."

[41] "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.

[42] When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?"

[43] Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly."

[44] Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.

[45] You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.

[46] You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

[47] Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."

[48] Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

[49] But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

[50] And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

     We can see clearly into the heart of Jesus and what controlled his life in that story. He came to serve.

     Do you remember the musical, “The Music Man?” Professor Harold Hill came to a small town in the Midwest to sell musical instruments. He gets the town’s attention by pointing out the trouble a pool hall could cause, “Ya got trouble, Trouble in River City, Trouble with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for Pool.” Well, today “We got Trouble. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pharisee.” You see, the Pharisee, didn’t see what we see or Jesus saw.

     When Simon and the others seated at the table looked at the women with the alabaster jar of ointment, all they saw was a sinner. But when Jesus looked at her, He didn’t see a sinner, He saw a child of God, He saw someone worthy of love. He saw a woman in deep need of forgiveness. He saw someone with faith deeper than anyone else at the table.

     When we look at Jesus in this passage you can see clearly that his heart was filled with love and compassion. His life was driven and controlled by the need to Serve.

I. WHAT GOES IN, COMES OUT:

     Have you noticed, whatever a sponge picks up is exactly what you get when you squeeze it out later. What goes in, comes out. If you wipe up clear water, you squeeze out clear water. If you wipe up red stuff, you squeeze out red stuff.

     Our hearts, and minds and souls are like sponges. All of the events of life are soaked up. If our life is filled with sin;, if it’s filled with gossip, pornography, drunkenness, drug abuse, child abuse, anger, pettiness, all of those things that tear down the spirit and build walls of separation, then when the going gets tough and we are squeezed by the pressures of life, all that will come out will be the garbage we have absorbed.

     But if our lives are filled with prayer and the study of Scripture, with worship and songs of praise; with the love, mercy, grace and the forgiveness of God, then when the pressures of life squeeze us what comes out is the clear, clean goodness. What comes out is the grace and love of Christ which we have absorbed. We’re embarrassed by the other, but because it’s clear and clean and reflects the love of God in Christ we want to share it. We want to do something with it.

     It’s important that we be concerned about our spiritual diet; what we feed our hearts, minds and souls. That’s why Bible Study, worship and prayer are so important. They feed our souls. They feed our minds and our hearts and prepare them for Service. Our spiritual diet is important. What we hold in our hearts and minds and spirits is very important.

     Because, WHAT GOES IN, COMES OUT.

II. WHAT DO YOU HOLD IN YOUR HEART:

     WHAT DO YOU HOLD IN YOUR HEART? Do you remember the 4th & 5th grade. Boys and girls were just beginning to discover each other and LIKE the differences. There was an electric thrill of suddenly liking that little red haired girl. Or that little blonde haired boy. Notes were passed. Silly little notes. Sometimes they included a multiple choice question. Do you like me? Yes, No, Maybe. Circle the right one.

     If you sent one of those notes, the palms of your hands got all sweaty until you got that note back. Then there was a fluttering of the heart as you slowly unfolded the page. It took all the courage you could muster to look at the answer. If it was “Yes,” you nearly swooned with joy. If it was “No,” your heart was broken and you felt crushed.

     You know, what we were really seeking wasn't love, but acceptance and assurance that we’re acceptable. You see, some of us grew up doubting our acceptance, Maybe it was because of what had been said to us by our family of origin. Maybe there were other issues. Maybe it was something we had done but had never truly felt forgiven. Maybe it was unfairly comparing ourselves to images we could never live up to.

     Whatever it was it put doubts in our minds and our hearts. We walked around just like the woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears. She didn’t feel like she belonged. She was an outsider, an outcast, a sinner, a woman of ill repute and yet when she saw Jesus something inside changed profoundly. She fell at his feet and served Jesus in a way which the host of the meal hadn’t even done.

     It was the host’s responsibility to not only wash a guest’s feet but to anoint their heads with oil as a sign of hospitality. It was a major social faux pas if the host didn’t that. And Simon failed to do it.     Like Jesus, this woman, this sinner had a heart to serve. And in so doing, she received not only the blessing of forgiveness but the blessing of acceptance in the Kingdom of God.

     You see, for us, Jesus is the answer to that note we passed around. It was written for all of humanity. Circled in bright red, and in hand written letters is the greatest love note of all. It can be summed up in one word, “YES.” It is the greatest and largest “YES” you have ever seen. And it’s written in Jesus’ own hand. Yes, you are loved. Yes, you are accepted.

     Yes, you are forgiven.

     Yes, you are a child of God.

     Yes, you are a friend of Christ.

     Yes, God is your heavenly parent.

     Yes, you are a child of the Kingdom.

     Yes, in place of all your doubts.

     Jesus is “Yes” written on our hearts and in our minds and in our very souls. Every breath we take is a reminder of the “Yes” of God in Christ.

     And as that “Yes” lives in our hearts, our hearts yearn to give back, to Serve the one who changed our lives. And because the love of Christ is now the Content of our heart, soul, mind and strength, we become Content to Serve.

III. CONTENT TO SERVE:

     A. So, let’s look at some of those who were Content to Serve. Service is what God is calling you to do with the blessings God has given you. 

     There's a story that I read that came out of the San Francisco Examiner. The newspaper story also contained a photograph of a sixty-seven-year-old black man with a smile that went from ear to ear.

     The writer described the light shining in this man’s eyes as "extraordinary." The story told about this man who had been a longshoreman all his life and had retired at the age of sixty-five. He was an alcoholic who visited the same bar every day. One day he found that he was bored and decided to ask the universe for help. He didn't really expect an answer but he says he heard a little voice inside him saying that he should go out and buy a broom and a cart. 

     There was no doubt in his mind that for the first time in his life he had heard God's voice. He was then instructed to spend each day sweeping the streets around Mission High School. He did just that, and he stopped drinking. It wasn't long before he discovered that he had become a surrogate grandfather for many of the students. The kids dearly loved him and his wonderful smile. After getting to know this man, no student would have dared to throw trash in the street, not because of any threat but simply

because of their deep love for him.

     The exciting thing about this story is that this guy wasn't after any recognition; he only wanted to do God's work. He says that he has never felt as peaceful and happy as he does right now. He knows that his mission in life is to be a messenger of God's love. And he is Content to Serve by sweeping the streets and becoming friends with the students at Mission High School.

     What is God calling you to do? Where is God calling you to Serve?

     B. In a Time/CNN poll of 500 adults, 69% said they would "like to slow down and live a more relaxed life." In a similar survey of 5,000 children and youth ages 5 to 17, kids were asked, “If you could have one thing from your parents, what would it be?” The overwhelming answer was time. Ninety-three percent of these kids said they wanted to spend time with their parents. Not time in the car going from activity to activity or time playing some sport or performing in some event while Mom and Dad watched. But time together. These kids spelled love T.I.M.E.

     One of the ways you can Serve God is to spend more time with your family and with your Church family so they know the acceptance which the woman who washed Jesus’ feet came to know. Spend time with your family as a way of Serving God so your children will know what it means to be Content. We have to be Content to Serve at the most basic level.

     C. When the Content of our heart is filled with the right things, when we have a Servant Heart, those contents spill over into everything we do. They show the Contentment we get from serving. They show how Content to Serve we truly are. Not not only that, it show how one act of service can change a life and touch multiple lives

     Robert Greenleaf, born in 1904, coined the phrase “servant leadership” in a small essay in 1970. He died in 1990, yet he continues to teach even in his death. On his tombstone are the words: “Potentially a good plumber ruined by a sophisticated education.”

     His whole concept was that if you’re called to serve by plumbing, then plumb to the best of your abilities. You can serve God in any job, any position and anywhere God calls you to be a servant. Being a servant isn’t easy, but is absolutely essential to our faith. Jesus said, “Look at me, I didn’t come to be served, I came to serve. I serve God. I serve you by ransoming my life for your sake. I’m your best example, and my secret is service. Wrap your heart and your mind around that and follow me”

     Jesus wants us to be ready and willing to Serve by being Content to Serve.

CONCLUSION:

     I want to close with another example of this concept of being Content to Serve. A hospital nurse saw a tired, anxious young man sitting outside the room of an elderly man. So, she took his arm, ushered him to the older man’s bedside, stooped down and whispered in the older man’s ear, “Your son is here.”

     She repeated this several times before the patient’s eyes opened. He was heavily sedated and he dimly saw the figure of the young man standing beside the bed. He reached out his hand, and the young man tightly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing a message of encouragement.

     The nurse brought a chair to the bedside and, all through the night, the young man sat there, holding the old man’s hand, and offering gentle words of hope.

     The dying man said nothing. As dawn approached, the patient died. The young man gently placed the older man’s now lifeless hand on the bed. Then he went to notify the nurse.

     The nurse began to offer words of sympathy to the young man, but he interrupted her. “Who was that man?” he asked. The puzzled nurse replied, “I thought he was your father.”

     “No,” the young man replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”

     Horrified, the nurse asked, “Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”

     The young man replied, “I sensed that he really needed his son, and that his son wasn’t here. Then I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son. And I knew how much he needed me.” (1)

     That young man had a Servant’s Heart. He was Content to Serve and in so doing, he became a powerful instrument of the Incarnation. Christ entered that hospital room in the flesh through that young man’s presence, actions and willingness to serve.

     God wants to use us the same way. God wants us to have Servant’s Heart. True Contentment comes from surrendering yourself completely in humble Service to God through Christ. But first you have to be Content to Serve.

     What are the Contents of your heart? The challenge is to fill it completely with Jesus or as John Wesley said, “to know nothing but His love.” I would add and everything there is to know and love about Jesus.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

Bibliography

1. Author Unknown    

2.   

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