Let's Faith It #3
There’s an old story about a little boy who was so excited about Sunday School and his church that decided to tell his neighbor all about it. This neighbor was sort of a Mr. Wilson kind of character, always grumpy, with a frown on his face most of the time, especially when this little boy was around.
The little boy rang the doorbell, the door opened and the little boy started talking about how much he liked Church and Sunday School and he said: “You ought to come mister.”
This old curmudgeon looked at the little boy and said, “I’ve been a member of that Church for over 30 years.” That news startled the boy who said, “So, you already know how Jesus lives in our hearts?”
The old neighbor said, “That’s right, I do.”
To which the little boy responded, “Well, gee, Mister, if Jesus lives in your heart, shouldn’t you let your face know it?”
Sometimes what we truly believe is written all over our face. But, as the opening video about the youth group and their Turkey Lock In shows, sometimes our love for God is Written All Over Our Faith.
Let’s look at the passage for this morning. Philippians 2:1-13 (NRSV)
 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,
 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
I. NOT OUR OWN:
A. Paul starts from one of the foundational statements of both Jewish and Christian theology: “We are created in the image of God.” Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Paul builds upon this foundation with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul calls us out of a me-centric point of view. He calls us to do nothing out of “selfish ambition” and to “look . . . to the interest of others.” Paul then calls us to be of “the same mind . . . that was in Christ Jesus.” Paul then concludes this thought by saying: “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure.”
In other words, we are not here for our own pleasure but for God’s pleasure. When we are faithful our lives in Christ bring Glory to God and become a strong witness to the power of God’s love in the world even today as the youth in the opening video so vividly showed.
B. Being “of the same mind . . . that was in Christ Jesus” means we live by a certain set of standards, some of which are completely opposite to what the world believes. One of the ways we maintain our connection to Christ and a Christ-like life is through the five simple vows we all take as United Methodist. We are asked to support the ministry of Christ, through the church with our Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service and Witness. All of these are ways we Glorify God. They also reveal how God is at work in us, enabling us to do God’s will.
II. GLORIFY GOD:
A. PRAYERS: Let’s look at each of those vows briefly. The first is prayer. Prayer is simply communication with God. It is praising God, listening to and hearing God’s will for our lives. Prayer is expressing our needs and desires as well as confessing those things we have done and those things we ought to have done, but didn’t.
A little girl was upstairs ready to say her bedtime prayers when she appeared at the head of the stairs and said, “I am ready to pray does anybody want anything?”
That might not be the right attitude, but it’s certainly the right spirit and the right faith. We need to give ourselves in prayer and especially prayers of Thanks Giving.
B. PRESENCE: Another way we Glorify God and show how God’s love is Written All Over Your Faith is in the stewardship of our presence. That simply means being here and participating. We are communal by nature, that’s how God created us. We need other people. We need interaction. And with the world as crazy and confusing as it seems to have gotten, we need the support that we can provide to each other.
I read about a man who entered a donkey in the Kentucky Derby. He didn’t expect it to win, but he thought the association might do it some good.
That may not work with donkeys, but when it comes to faithfulness and the Christian life, association with other Christians does us a world of good. We call that association various things like fellowship, worship, Sunday School, missions all those things we do in the Church. Your presence makes a difference. You may not think it so, but it does. Give yourself in gratitude through the stewardship of your presence.
C. GIFTS: A third way we Glorify God and show God’s love is Written All Over Your Faith is with our gifts. We always interpret this one to be about money. But it can be argued that gifts actually means talents and abilities. Therefore when we talk about gifts it encompasses all things. Money is just one aspect of the bigger use of our gifts as we Glorify God.
The Biblical witness concerning giving is the Tithe or Ten Percent. Malachi 3:10 (NRSV) is both a command and a challenge from God concerning the Tithe, through the Prophet God says: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”
Tithing is the expectation, but some people aren’t there. Some of the same people walk around feeling guilty because they haven’t given the Tithe. There are very simple way to get rid of that guilt and that is by challenging yourself to grow into the Tithe through Proportional Giving. That’s simply looking at what you give, determining what percent of your income it is and then setting in place a plan to grow your giving into the Biblical Standard of Tithing.
It might be you’re giving 4%, then challenge yourself to give 5% next month. In a couple of months bump it to 6%. Keep that some pattern until you’ve reached the Tithe. Make it a spiritual goal.
III. SERVICE AND WITNESS:
A. SERVICE AND WITNESS: The last to vows deal with service and witness. While they are different they are two sides of the same coin. Witnessing can be your form of service just as serving can be your form of Witness which Glorifies God and shows that God’s love is Written All Over Your Faith. Actually, our service may be the most powerful witness we can have. You may not think your witness can have much effect, but it does.
B. I read about a Church member from Boston who years ago said to himself, “I can’t pray in public or preach. I can’t do many things in Christian service, but I CAN set two extra plates on my dinner table every Sunday and invite two young men who are away from home to eat with me.”
And for years, that’s exactly what he his wife did. Through their Sunday evening conversations over dinner, he lead many of these young men to Christ. When he died, he was to be buried in another city. Because he was a well-known Christian, a special bus was chartered to convey the funeral party. It was made known that any of the young people who had become Christians through his influence would be welcome. They had to hire extra buses, because over 150 people came to honor the man who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ as translated by two extra dinner plates. God’s love was Written All Over His Faith.
C. There’s a story about a Methodist layperson who, in the early 1920’s, gave $100,000 to build a college in Liberia or Zimbabwe as it’s called today. By the late 40’s the college had grown and was meeting the educational and spiritual needs of many young Africans. On a special anniversary of the college’s founding, the administration decided it was time to make a formal Thank You to its benefactor.
It took months for our General Board of Missions to track down that Methodist layperson. It turns out He had lost everything in the crash of 29 and was living in a little house on the south side of Chicago. Twice he refused to see representatives from our Board of Missions, but finally he agreed to see them. At their insistence, he was flown to Africa for a gala celebration of the college’s anniversary. As he looked over the campus filled with hundreds of students with smiles on their faces and tomorrow in their eyes, he whispered to the college president, “The only thing I have kept is what I gave away.”
We never know how God’s love, Written All Over Our Faith, through our service and witness, will make a difference but it does.
D. Do any of you remember the Richard Dreyfus movie Mr. Holland’s Opus? If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a great movie about a young man, Glenn Holland, whose goal is to write one memorable piece of music to leave his mark on the world. He realizes that he can’t support a wife and child on what musicians make, so he also got a teaching certificate. Reluctantly, he began teaching High School music to pay the rent.
The movie is the story of his life. Mr. Holland discovers that ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ and the difference his life made in the lives of others. In the name of necessary budget cuts, the music program is cancelled and Mr. Holland retires at the age of 60. He believes that his former students have mostly forgotten him. As he’s leaving the building that last day, this is what happens.
Did you know there is a Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation? It keeps music alive in our schools by donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs, giving youngsters the many benefits of music education, helping them to be better students and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music. They believe that kids thrive when given the chance to learn and play music. Putting an instrument into their hands improves the quality of their education and their lives. The window is brief and all kids deserve a chance to play music in school!
I think the character Mr. Holland, and the Foundation which was named after the movie, shows God’s love, Written All Over Their Faith, through their service and witness. It makes a difference.
E. We have no idea how we will touch the lives of those who come to the Thrift Store, those who come to the Food Bank and those who come to us for help with utility bills. It may be the first time they’ve been treated with dignity or love. It may be the first time they’ve had to ask for assistance. It may be a hundred other things, but when God’s love is Written All Over Our Faith and all over our face, then our Service is truly transformed into a powerful Witness.
That’s what our youth, and sometimes the adults, discover and learn on mission trip. Their face has been told and it knows that Jesus lives in their heart.
All that we have, all that we are is really God’s. We have received everything through God’s Grace. Our lives have been enriched by the gift of Grace through Jesus Christ. Living out our vows of membership and being good stewards, is simply means by which we can be drawn closer and closer to God. All of stewardship helps us be “of the same mind . . . that was in Christ Jesus” so that “God who is at work in us, can enable us both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure.”
The question becomes, “What can I give or do to serve God? What can I do to transform my service into a powerful witness? What can I give to help others? What can I give to help the ministry of this Church.” “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” and let God’s love be Written All Over Your Faith.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.