Going Deeper 9-1-19

From our Gospel reading, these words of Jesus; "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.
We hear this kind of thing so much from Jesus.  Actually, we see this kind of thing so much from Jesus.  An absolutely core value of Jesus’ life and teaching is what inspires our little bi-line or mission statement or whatever you want to call it… you know, the part about being a “community of servants.”  I honestly don’t believe there is any other way for the followers of Jesus to understand ourselves.  We are called to be servants, for Christ’s sake.
In terms of His teaching, Jesus continually taught such things as “The first will be last and the last first,” and “the greatest of all must be the servant of all,” and “whoever does not receive the kingdom as a child will not enter it.”  Jesus modeled the concept of servanthood throughout His earthly ministry, and most poignantly when He took the role of a lowly slave and washed the feet of His disciples, saying that He did this to set an example for His disciples to follow.
Of course, the most powerful modeling of servanthood was demonstrated when Jesus fulfilled His teaching that “the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to lay down His life…”  Jesus both taught and lived out His definition of the greatest love, by laying down His life for those whom He loved.
Jesus also taught and modeled not only how we are to love, but who we are to love.  Of course, we are to love and serve our neighbor—and according to His parable of the Good Samaritan, our neighbor is anyone who needs our help.  Jesus made it clear that we are especially to care for those who are in greatest need, such as “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” He spoke of in our text.  And Jesus’ teaching and modeling would also focus on caring for the sinners and the outcasts.
Is there any doubt or lack of clarity on any of this?  We are called to be servants.  The tricky part comes in having this travel what sometimes seems to be a very long distance… the distance between our brain and our heart.  Think about it: is compassion really something that can be demanded.  Can Jesus simply say, “Thou shalt be compassionate servants of all… including those no one else seems to care about or even like!”?  He could command that, but can we do it?
Compassion is something which must grow organically from within. 
I will try to explain what I mean.  Last Sunday night as I was lying in bed waiting to drift off to sleep, a thought came to me that moved me deeply.  Here’s the thought: “Heaven must be filled with a lot of heartbreak!”  I realize that isn’t how we normally think of heaven, but here’s what caused such thoughts and feelings to come upon my mind and heart.
Heads up: This part of the sermon has the potential to be a little emotional for me.  
I was thinking about of couple of God’s children who I care deeply for, and both of whom are in rather uncertain situations.  
One is a young man, a friend of ours from Harvest Farm who has been part of our church family here for over a year.  He sat back at the controls on many occasions, helped with our youth ministry, and did quite a bit of volunteer work here and in the community.  After he left the Farm he went through a very rough stretch, but it started to look like things were coming together.  But now he has simply disappeared.  No one knows where he is or how to find him.
I guess I really need to learn to stop caring so much, or at least learn to not grow so attached.  I’m really quite heart-broken.  And speaking of being heart-broken after growing too attached to someone, Sara heard from the great grandmother who is taking care of the little guy that Sara and Michael provided wonderful foster care for about 7 months.  Grandma said he was asking about “Mimi and Papa.”  Ah, the heartbreak washed over me again.  
I’ve really got to stop becoming so attached. … Or do I?  Should I?  It dawned on me the other night as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with emotion that perhaps this provides me with an opportunity to experience— of course, on an infinitely smaller scale— the kind of heartbreak our heavenly Abba/Father feels when His children get lost or are drawn away from Him.  
And that is what I mean when I speak of heaven as being filled with heart-break.  I am no where close to being capable of loving as sincerely and as deeply as our Creator/Father is.  I simply—and literally—cannot begin to fathom how God most hurt and long for His lost children.  At times I have talked about how comforting it can be for us to understand that we have a Father God and Brother Jesus who understand how we feel.
This morning, I am encouraging us to think about how God feels.  In doing so, I believe that the soil of our spirit is turned and prepared for authentic love and compassion to grow.
Let’s ponder how God feels.  In the first letter of John, a lot is written about love, including this foundational description in chapter 4:8-- “God is love.”  For love to grow organically within us, we must experience God as love.  And for us to comprehend how profound God’s love is, we must first comprehend the depth and breadth of our sinful brokenness, and to understand that we are not merely flawed, but in truth utterly depraved.  
In other words, when we quietly ponder and publicly confess our sins each Sunday, we are not merely mouthing the words or going through the motions, but acknowledging the truth that we are sinners who still have not fully learned to love and serve God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, not other as ourselves.  We sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds, and we sin by the good we have left undone.  We continue to need a lot of grace.
And when we ponder the profound truth that our Father God so loved the world, that our Father God so loves you and me and all of His children that He sent His only Son to bring salvation, then the Holy Spirit can stir within us a love for God and for all of His children.  But be fore-warned… this love can bring some heartbreak.
Here is the bottom line: I have talked about what I see as being a need for Zion to do a better job with outreach.  What I am sharing this morning is the foundation for that.  When we begin to love as God loves, we begin to see how heartbreaking it truly is that so many of His children do not know of that love, and have not experienced healing grace.  At that point we see outreach as something we simply need to do.  May God touch us and fill us with love and compassion.