Cruising on the Disciple Ship #3
My wife, Mary, used to have a cookbook titled “The More With Less Cookbook.” It was written to challenge North Americans to consume less so others could have enough to eat. The book has sold nearly a million copies since its release in 1976. The current version (available at amazon.com or Barnes and Noble) contains 500 recipes from Mennonite kitchens that tell us how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources. All the recipes have been tested by professional home economists.
It had recipes like Puffy Green Bean Cheese Bake, Greens in Peanut Sauce, Juliana Soup from Guatemala and a number of dishes using alternative protein sources like peanut butter and lentils.
It was a great title and a great concept but when I looked for the cookbook Mary said she gave it away because the boys and I didn’t want to give up meat, or make those kinds of changes.
The reason I tell you that is because a lot of us are like that. We look at certain aspects of our faith and think “Wow, that’s great concept.” But we don’t want to make the changes necessary for it to become a reality in our own lives. It could be the diet the doctor told us we needed to go on or lifestyle changes because of health issues or even something as simple as how we live out our faith. In a sense, we want More With Less.
Of course truly getting more with less is almost impossible in the real world. At least not without certain consequences. But in the spiritual realm, in a life of faith we can get more with LES as we live out our faith by Living With LES. This LES I’m talking about is the next three letters in the word Discipleship. But before we begin to unpack this portion of our steamer trunk, let’s pray.
How do we Live With LES? Well I think much of the “how” is described in the passage from Luke.
Luke 6:35-38 (NRSV)
 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;
 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
As we look at our acrostic, so far we have DISsed the World by Denying Ourselves, reminding ourselves It’s Not About Us and by Serving the Savior. We’ve Taken a CIP through Commitment, Involvement and Practice. Now we’re challenged by LES to Lead with Love, Encourage Others and Sacrifice Willingly.
I. LEAD WITH LOVE:
In the movie Family Man starring Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni, which is a new spin off the old classic It’s A Wonderful Life, Jack Campbell, is a single, wealthy Wall Street trader living the high life in New York City. All that magically changes one morning when he wakes up in suburban New Jersey and finds a wife and two kids he never had – the life he would have led if he had made different choices as a younger man.
As he tries to live both his other life and this new reality, Jack wants to take a dream job in New York City, which would mean moving out of their suburban home where they’ve always lived in as a family. That discussion is a key scene in the movie which changes everything. WATCH
“I will take these kids from a life they love…and I’ll move wherever you need to go. I’ll do that because I love you,” says Kate. Do we ever talk to God like that. Do we ever just say, “I’ll do it because I love You,” like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed?
As Disciples, we’re called to Lead With Love in everything we do. We’re called to share the love of Christ not just in word but in our actions. In how we do little things. How we treat people, especially the manner in which we treat our enemies and those who have hurt us. In spades you lead with trump, in boxing you can lead with your left but as Disciples we’re called to Lead With Love in how we treat our family and friends. We’re called to Lead With Love in everything we do.
II. ENCOURAGE OTHERS:
A. And when we do, then we are able to Encourage Others in their lives and especially in their faith. In a small treatise, “The Character of a Methodist,” published in 1742, John Wesley attempts to describe what he means by a disciple of Christ perfected in love. It’s an incredible portrait of both the power and simplicity of faith, deeply rooted in Scripture, but dominated by the image of growth in grace and love.
Wesley is honest and realistic about the sinful nature and limitations of the human condition. But what shines through is a profound optimism in what God’s Grace can accomplish in the life of any individual who desires to be a disciple and strives to live as Jesus taught. In nearly all of his writings on the idea of Christian perfection, Wesley paints a simple portrait of the mature Christian. Those perfected in Christ “love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength” and they “love their neighbors as they love themselves.” This duality of love, as Charles Wesley sings, “Sanctifies, and makes us whole;” it “forms the Savior in the soul.”
Simply following the two greatest commandments draws us closer to God, helps us become more like Christ and Encourages Others in both their lives and their faith journeys.
B. Encouragement makes an incredible difference in people’s lives. The movie Martian Child is the story of a man becoming a father and a boy becoming a son. David Gordon is a recently widowed science fiction writer who forms an unlikely family with a young adopted boy who has some special emotional and abandonment issues that he copes with by claiming to be from Mars; spending most of his time in a box; and wearing a belt made of batteries so he won’t float away. As they grow up together and grow into being father and son, they both discover that it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you find out where you belong! WATCH
Encouragement does wonders. We are called to Encourage Others, which means that sometimes in order to encourage others, we may have to Sacrifice Willingly.
III. SACRIFICE WILLINGLY:
As Disciples we ARE called to Sacrifice Willingly. It’s part of who we are and how we show our love for God and our thanksgiving for the salvation we have received through Christ. We all make those sacrifices whenever we give to support the work and ministry of Christ’s Church.
We all sacrifice in some way. We all give, at least something. And we all give for different reasons. Some of us give because we want to get something done, so we give to a purpose, a cause or a mission. Some of us give because it is Biblical and we want to be obedient to God. Some of us give because it helps build relationships with each other and with God. We give because we love each other, we love God and we want to see the Church prosper. Some of give because it draws us closer to God; our giving is as much a part of our spiritual discipline as is Bible Study, prayer and worship. Some of us give for all of these reasons.
Our motivations may be different, our amounts may be different but when we give with equal sacrifice, it changes us and changes the world. It empowers ministry. It touches lives. When we give God honors our faithfulness and honors our obedience by blessing our gifts and allowing us to be a blessing for others.
When we give, through the Lord’s Acre, through our weekly and monthly financial commitments; through our second mile giving and special offering, it encourages others through our leadership. When we give, we are being faithful disciples. When we give, it moves us closer to that image of Christian Perfection Wesley talked about so much. When we give, we reflect the Sacrificial nature of God and the Sacrifice Christ made for our sakes.
When we give through our Willing Sacrifice, we’re Leading With Love and Encouraging One Another to do the same. And in a sense, we seal it all with the sacrament; a little bread, a little wine and a whole lot of mystery.
We share in a meal which is both a memorial and celebration that reminds us how God Leads With Love, how God Encourages Us and how God Sacrificed Willingly because God loves us so much. It’s a meal which challenges us to do the same.
Chaim Bialik was born in Russia in 1873. He was a Jewish teacher and poet and was Israel’s national poet at one time. He wrote a poem about his own life, before he died in 1934. At the beginning of the poem he asked the question: “Do you want to know why there is a sob in my heart, why there are tears in my eyes?” And then he went on to give the answer and tell the inspiration behind the poem.
His father died when he was very young. His mother slaved every day in a little store to support the family. Evenings was the only time she had to do all of the household chores: cooking, cleaning, sewing, baking. One night little Chaim boy got out of bed and saw his mother cooking in the kitchen. In utter exhaustion she wept as she kneaded the dough for bread. By the candle light, he saw that her lips moved in prayer. She told God she was exhausted. She told God how lonely she was. She told God she didn’t know if she could go on. Then her prayers changed. She began praying for the children. “May I bring up my children to be God-fearing. May they be true to Torah.”
As she prayed for each of them by name, her tears rolled down her sweet, tired lonely cheeks. She did not realize it, but her tears mixed with the dough. Little Chaim saw this heart-rendering sight and went back to bed. The next morning he ate that very bread.
The bread that held the tears and the prayers and the love of his mother. And he ended his poem this way:
“As I ate the bread, I swallowed my mother’s tears.
Part of my mother was in that bread.
And now you know why there are tears in my eyes,
why there is a sob in my heart,
why there is a sigh in my breast.” (1)
So, here we are today, ready to share in bread made for us by God’s own hands. Bread that is filled with the tears, and the prayers, and the love of God. This little bit of bread isn’t much of meal or feast by worldly standards. This little bit of wine or juice wouldn’t be enough for even the smallest of parties in the world’s eyes.
But when we come as Disciples seeking to be perfected by the Grace and Love of God in Christ, it’s more than enough. In this case, LESS Is More. And this little bit, this small morsel, allows us to Live With LES. So, come and feast. Allow God to draw you closer so you can Lead with Love, Encourage Others and Sacrifice Willingly.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg www.jewishsurvivors.blogspot.com