I want you to use your imagination this morning -- to pretend -- do you think you can do that? I want you to pretend you are a drop of water. Got it? Clean and pure and refreshing… right? Now without any fuss, or getting too close, can you put your hand on the shoulder of the people next to you? What happens when a bunch of water drops join together? [“They form a pool, puddle, etc”]. “We’ll use the word “pool”. [Pull out a couple clear bottles filled with water.] Can you see any individual drips in these bottles? No, all us drips are interconnected with each other. That means because we all in the same pool and connected, we have an influence on each other. Someone tells a really good joke and everyone laughs. I repeated one this week that said “Only one in seven dwarfs is happy.” Okay, some laugh and some groan… We don’t always get the response we expect. But it does show that -- we impact others by what we say and do. We can’t always see it, just like we can’t see it in these water bottles. So let me add a couple drops in a way we can see it. [Add drops of red food coloring and allow it to spread naturally throughout the water bottle. Do it again with green food coloring]. See how a few drops can spread through the all of us?! The question is not do we have an effect on each other, but what kind of effect do we want to have?
Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 4.
29 When you talk, do not say harmful things. But say what people need—words that will help others become
stronger. … 31b Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil. 32 Be kind and loving
to each other. Forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ. You are God’s children whom he loves. So
try to be like God. [Follow God’s example] 2 Live a life of love. Love other people just as Christ loved us. Christ
gave himself for us. (Ephesians 4:29-5:2 (ICB) [NIV])
What kind of example / influence do we want to be with those who are around us? Bad [Hold up the red “for stop” bottle]. or good? [hold up the green (for “go ahead”) bottle] [“Good!”]
Ephesians 4:32a says: Be kind and loving to each other. (ICB) (Repeat it after me. One more time. Let’s pray. Lord, sometimes people try to tell us that mean things are cool and exciting; but when we think about it - we know better because we don’t like it when people are angry and mean to us.
So help us to know what is loving and do what is loving to our parents, our brothers and sisters, our friends, our teachers, everyone who has entered into our [pool] even if they are just passing through. In Jesus name. Amen.
Today I have a treat that comes in a bunch of different colors, because we are all different people, unique and special. But even with all our differences, and different ways of doing things -- at the heart of it all we all have God’s good caramel center that he wants to leak out to make our “pool” better. Think about that while you eat these caramel centered M & Ms after the service, potluck, or when your guardian or parent says it is okay. One bag each…
Bible Reading From 2 Peter 3:11b, 1 Timothy 4:12b-16
Don’t you see how vital it is to live a holy life? We must be consumed with godliness. Be the example they need to see by being faithful and true in all that you do. Speak the truth and live a life of purity and authentic love as you remain strong in your faith… be diligent in devouring the Word of God, be faithful in prayer, and in teaching the believers. Don’t minimize the powerful gift that operates in your life… Make all of this your constant meditation and make it real with your life so everyone can see [your progress]. Give careful attention to your spiritual life and every cherished truth you teach, for living what you [teach] will then release even more abundant life inside you and to all those who listen to you. (TPT)
Message Reach Outward in Example
From John 13:3-5, 12-17, Philippians 3:17, 4:9a, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 4:29-5:2
If our faith is going to thrive, we must live out our core values, which for this series I have called “compass points”. Last week’s compass point was that God moves down the needle of the compass toward us and we also move up the needlepoint toward him. A second compass point for Christians is moving outward toward others as his representatives in the world.
I mentioned not too long-ago Jesus’ words about letting our light shine before people that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16) Jesus also explained just before he left this earth that we would be His witnesses in Jerusalem (than means locally) in Judea (that means in the region) and to the ends of the earth (and I think you know what that means) (Acts 1:8) So how do we positively impact others?
Example of godly living
First (for today), by living a Christ-like example. The Shema from Deuteronomy 6 (vv 4-9) tells us example setting begins in the home with parents doing everything at the disposal to instill in their children that God loves us and that we love God. And that has not yet changed. The synagogue / for us - the Sunday School developed to assist and reinforce parents in the task. As children grew they would step into the roles of faith needed to represent Christ in the local community. But our society has become much more mobile. Therefore, our children and grandchildren often move far away, and we can only hope and pray that wherever they move they will find a group of faith people that will model Christ for them, who will take very seriously their desire to welcome, respect, nourish, and put to fruitful service -- those strangers in their community - strangers who are our children and grandchildren.
Likewise, I am sure there are parents and grandparents praying that their heirs, young or grown; temporarily or permanently settling in the far away land of Copper Country will find a people who will welcome, respect, and encourage their offspring to grow or continue growing in the life of faith.
The Bible reading reminded us how critical it is for the faith that we live the faith inside and out. We will never succeed in being a godly example if that example is not who and what we are -- or at least -- what we are sincerely striving to become. The most powerful speech is not the words spoken but the life lived.
That is not to say we must or ever can be perfect. We all have weaknesses and flaws and struggles.
The first century Pharisees were self-appointed experts in discovering and throwing these shortcomings in the face of the people, even human-made and cultural rules and expectations which they often did not follow themselves. Jesus warned them that this was not helpful in moving the people to God; but only served to frustrate and oppress and defeat them. Jesus stood for a forgiving acceptance based on grace and a growing relationship. We are models of people who are ever growing with God on life’s journey, not of people who have already arrived at perfection. It doesn’t take too long to figure that out…
If we had to be perfect first, we’d never become examples. Erwin McManus talked about his guitar. He took good care of it, but it still got scratches and dents over time. Then he was gifted a new one. It was pristine (it was in perfect condition), and he wanted to keep it that way. So his children, though they were both learning to play, were not allowed to touch it. But after a few months, and with many, many, many warnings about care, he allowed his son and daughter to begin using it.
Then one day he noticed a scratch. So, he took the guitar and put it in the case, and put the case in the closet, and he locked the closet door. We do that sometimes, don’t we? We try to protect our perfect image, or those we are associated with by (like the water of children’s time) by extremely restrictive rules - guidelines, and even shutting down participation…
Erwin began to think about his still almost perfect guitar, sitting in the closet. Safe and locked away, yes -- but unable to fulfill its purpose. So eventually he took it back out, so he and others could make it sing again -- even with all its missed notes, scratches and dents it would inevitably receive - but it was fulfilling its purpose.
We need to overcome the discomfort of our own failings and our perceived shortcoming of others and confidently rely on God’s grace as we -- (as Paul puts it -- this way):
… Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ… and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.
(Philippians 4:9a, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Phil 3:17b (NIV))
What does that example look like?
A long time ago, a mother lamented to me about her efforts to model self-sacrificial giving to her rebellious teen-age daughter. She used this as an example: She said even though she wanted the last piece of toast, she would give it up to her daughter, so the daughter would learn the lesson… but the daughter simply selfishly took the toast without another thought for her mom. The daughter wasn’t learning the lesson, so the mom was exasperated, bitter, and angry. We’ve all been there -- as parents, and sometimes even as friends and associates. The learning of such lessons does not happen overnight, or in one dutiful event - especially if it is evident that is was a dutiful event and not a true act of self-giving. And if I could pick up on that when the mother was describing it to me later -- from her point of view, I’m sure the daughter could figure it out too). If we are acting to teach rather than acting out of who we truly are, then we are pretending rather than actually modeling love. This is why last week’s message is about moving upward toward God and he toward us and him filling us with his love is so important. We can’t do this (loving others by example), if we haven’t done that (moving close to God in a loving relationship). They go hand in hand. We have to be filled with God’s love before we can repeat genuine, loving acts over the long haul, and we do that because God has made us loving and giving people, not because we are trying to teach somebody how to be giving.
Of course, there are times when the repeated acts of genuine loving acts over the long haul are summarized in one rather significant special event that becomes what we call a “teaching moment” or an “Aha! moment”, and it finally sinks in, and the child begins to share. The Passion Translation makes it clear that this is the case in John 13 where it says, “All throughout his time with his disciples, Jesus had demonstrated a deep and tender love for them. And now he longed to show them the full measure of his love. (John 13:1b TPT)
Remember, Jesus had entered Jerusalem for Passover as a popular king, and the disciples believed they would soon be sitting beside him in his royal courts as leaders in this new kingdom. And as such, when they gathered in the upper room for this final Passover meal, and there was no servant provided to do the proper hospitality, the customary washing of the sand and dirt and dust and grit and other things that we don’t want to mention - off of the feet of the open sandaled wearing, dirt path / field walkers. They all took their positions around the table, because they had just had fight about who was going to be the greatest -- so none of them were about to admit they were the least of all of these by doing the washing of the other’s feet. And so Jesus -- took on the role. This is what it says: fully aware he had come from God and was about to go back to be with him. (John 13:3) So [meaning “therefore” -- now you’d think it’d say, “therefore, of all the people in the room, he should have been the last person in the room to do anything”, but that is not what is says. What it says is Therefore,
So he got up from the meal and took off his outer robe, and took a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ dirty feet and dry them with his towel… [and then he explains that if he is who he is, and has done what he just did, then] “you should follow the example that I’ve set for you and wash one another’s dirty feet.”
(John 13:4-5,15 TPT))
He probably didn’t mean that as a literal act - maybe in that time and that setting, but not for all time in all places; but what he is saying that if God is willing to stoop to do a menial job for your convenience, then what task or service for God or others could possibly be beneath you? And that is a principle that doesn’t change -- As this translation goes on to quote Jesus,
“I speak to you a timeless truth: a servant is not superior to his master, and an apostle is never greater than the one who sent him. So now put into practice what I have done for you, and you will experience a life of happiness enriched with untold blessings!”
(John 13:16-17 (TPT))
Now if you read on, and into Acts (See Acts 1:6), you will figure out -- that they still didn’t have their “aha!” moment from this special moment of teaching. It didn’t hit them till much, much later - probably after Pentecost - that it finally began to sink in. But the special teaching continued. It was later that night during that same meal that Jesus had to get up from and wash feet and then return to the meal, that he established a new covenant relationship with God through the sacrificial giving of himself - represented on that night and forevermore by the bread and the cup of the Communion table.
Prayer Lord, we crave to live in your presence so that we may learn to walk as Jesus walked, without blame for wrong, by doing what is right, speaking from the heart what is true; so that like Jesus, we speak no slander, wrong no neighbor, honor those who revere you, keep our promises even when it isn’t convenient, and are generous to the poor in their need, and do not accuse the innocent for personal gain.
We do this because we know every good and perfect gift is from you, and you are faithfully consistent and it is you who instruct us to be like you -- quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for you want to produce right living -- cleansing us from wrong and planting in us your word.
We long to do what it says because it instructs us how to present ourselves as your people like a mirror instructs us how to present ourselves physically.
Bless us in our practice of our faith in you and our love of others. (Prayer based on Psalm 15, James 1:17-27) We pray for each other because you have promised strength for the weak, rest for the laborers, light for the way, grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing empathy, undying love, and so help us to continue in your promises. Amen.
Closing Blessing Now as you move “true north” to Jesus, you will find full life in his direction as you go to scatter his joyous love to others.
Closing Hymn TFWS # 2241 (vv 3,4) The Spirit Sends Us Forth