Transcription details: Audio 05 20 2018 K.mp3
Input sound file: Audio 05 20 2018 K.mp3
Easter promises us a new life just like Jesus on Easter morning. There we are in the darkness of the tomb but the light is shining. There is a new day that is dawning, a new life that is possible. There is a new church that is possible and a new future, but we have to get up and move through the darkness toward the light because new life awaits us beyond the Resurrection. And so for seven weeks, 49 days, the early church prays as they wait for the day of Pentecost to come. And then the Holy Spirit comes down and the church begins to function, to live as the church is meant to live. We are still thousands of years later still in that day of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit comes down and lives in offerings through the church to do God’s will. We’ve talked about the overview that when you can watch life as if life was a football game. When you watch it from high up in the stadiums you can see everything that’s going on. Here is the overview I want to suggest to you, Romans 8:28, we know that everything God works for good. Now, please notice. It doesn’t say that everything is good, but we know that in everything God is working for good. God is working the lives of those who love Him. God is working in this world to fulfill his purpose. There is a plan. The Father knows the destination. You and I can let the Father drive because he doesn’t make mistakes. That has greatly comforted me because now if the slides don’t operate the way they should, if I forget and leave the clicker at the back, I just smile and I say to myself, “God had some kind of purpose. It wasn’t that I messed up. God had some kind of purpose. I just need to figure out what it is.” And you see when I understand what God is trying to do for those who love Him, when I understand what God is trying to do to fulfill His purpose in this world, then I have the privilege of being able to cooperate with God and let him do the heavy lifting while I get to say, “And I helped,” because here’s the peculiar, brothers and sisters, God has chosen to change the world we live in by working through people like you and me. When I take a good look at myself it makes me want to argue with Him, but that’s not very smart that I should do less and less so that he does more and more, but he desires our cooperation because God has chosen to work through God’s people. So when you can look down from above and you see everything that’s going on. So often we have an understanding, but real life is actually lived this way. It’s down on the field. It’s complicated. We don’t quite know what God is doing. We don’t know why things seem to go wrong. We don’t understand how God is going to use everything including how things go wrong to do right. What they say to the running backs? Is to look toward the goal and to run to daylight. And after running that ball forward thousands and thousands of times, they develop an ability to look down field and they just know if I go this way it’s better than if I go that way. They’re able to see daylight the way through what’s happening in the present moment. And they get as far as they can. And then, of course, they get up and they’re able to try again. But down on the field we don’t always see what God is doing. We don’t always understand.
Here’s another illustration of the same thing. I like you to imagine an orchestra. Some of you are the violins. Some of you are the woodwinds, the clarinet, the oboes, some of you are the brass, the trumpet. In the back row, always in the back row are the basses. I played the bass in the orchestra when I was in junior high. Tell you more about that in a minute. They never let me play what I wanted. But they put in front of me this sheet music by somebody named Beethoven that I’ve never heard of before. And they expected me to play what was on the music. And not only that I had to look at the music at the same time I had to look over the music at the conductor because the conductor would tell me how fast to play it. And at certain times if somebody had a special part to play the conductor would point that stick at a person who was going to play a clarinet solo or something like that. The whole group, remember we do it. Okay. It’s your turn. And not only that I had to look at my instrument where my left hand was and where my right hand was. And that was a lot to pay attention to. But here’s the thing. I didn’t have to write the music. God has written the music that we’re playing together. We can trust that God is going to make something beautiful. As we learn to play together. But as we’re learning to play together the one thing that’s important is we cannot be distracted. We have to pay attention to our part. Let me tell you about arguing about being the bass player. There would be this little black bar in the music, it’s called a full rest. And underneath it would be the number 35. Now in four-four time, there’s four beats per measure. So the basses, there’s about six of us, we’re in the back row– by the way you know the reason why you play the bass? The school buys the bass. Your parents don’t have to pay for it. That’s why you play the bass. But what that black bar in the [inaudible] is you’re back there doing nothing. Counting to four beats 35 times, because you know something? The basses are playing the right notes even when they’re playing nothing if that’s what the music calls for. Here’s my problem, I was not able to count to 35 by fours. I was always coming in too early or come in too late. I missed the conductor going, your turn. But Jesus has written the music. What we need to do is learn how to concentrate, learn how to pay attention to the music that Jesus has written. You’ll find it in the Bible. God’s plan for what a church should be doing is in the Bible. That’s the musical score. The conductor is the Holy Spirit, who says, “It’s your turn now to do something special.” And we have to be ready to do our part. Sometimes, we’re the solo, sometimes we’re playing the support. But if we play the music as God has written it, something beautiful will come out of our cooperating with each other. Because God wants to do something beautiful through us and through our paying attention.
I would now like to introduce you to Kathy, who’s going to talk to you about how she was paying attention when she went for a prayer walk. And you know, Kathy might as well start– what’s a prayer walk?
Well, you know, I didn’t have a clue what–
You might want to wait until you get up to the microphone or they won’t even know what you’re saying.
I didn’t have a clue what a prayer walk was, not a clue, didn’t know, but I decided I’d come. And I had no plans. I didn’t know if I could walk. I had decided probably a week before that I was going to start walking every day. So I left my house and started down Main Street and got as far as the store and my knee gives completely out. I didn’t fall, but it sure stopped me in my track. And I stood there for quite some time thinking, how am I going to get home. I didn’t have my phone to call Steve. So I very carefully started walking again and I went around by the gas station and the city park and I slowly made my way home. Well, that was the end of my walking because I was afraid to walk until the prayer walk not too many days later. And I thought– I really don’t know why I went on the prayer walk because most times I would say, well, I can’t do that because my knee won’t work and I can’t walk. But I came, and I had no plan, didn’t know how to pray, who I was going to pray for. But we divided, Tim and me, in four different parts, and we each took a section. Luckily, my section was the section that I lived in. So we took off and I started down the hill towards the tracks. First thing, here comes a train. Sure. That’s just great. I was upset because a train had stopped me. Everybody else was going to get their walk done and be back and I’m going to be standing here waiting on this train. But as I stood there, I could feel the Holy Spirit saying, “Pray for those people on that train. Pray for all those railroaders that your husband, that you know because of your husband, all those railroaders that have been hurt through the years. Luckily, my husband was one of the few that was never hurt, but a lot of them who’re hurt could never could work again or whatever. But I stood there and prayed for those railroaders and before I knew it, the train was passed. I went across the tracks and I went by the little Pentecostal church down the street here, and I prayed for them. I didn’t even know if I could pray and walk at the same time [laughter]. Lot of things, I can’t do at the same time. But every house I walked by, I knew most of those people and I knew exactly how to pray for them. Somebody I knew had had cancer and survived that so I prayed for her, her family. I prayed for all the cancer survivors and victims as I went through town. I knew exactly who lived in town. I knew exactly how to pray for them, and it was easy. I mean, I just prayed and walked, and I never thought about my knee again, about how I might not make it. A lot of things happened on that prayer walk. A lot of things I can’t begin to tell you. That day, it was really overwhelming and when we got back to the church and started telling– I can’t wait to go again. I really can’t wait. But it taught me a lot about because I live here in town and because I’ve lived here all my life and I do know a lot of the people, you get kind of blind to what’s around you when you see it every day. But that prayer walk really opened my eyes to really look and notice my neighbor and to know how to pray for my neighbors and not to just drive by and not see them or not notice what they’re going through. So it was definitely a blessing that day, and I thank God that I got to go on that walk.
Thank you. If you will pay attention. God will speak to you. I’ve already shared that God is working in our midst. Here’s what I want to suggest. When we notice God at work, it touches our hearts and causes us to love God more and more. The commandment is that we should love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. And when you open your eyes– and the Holy Spirit will help you open your eyes. When you open your eyes, you can see God working and you can see the needs for prayer. And you can be part of the prayers for God to love the people around you. When you notice God at work, when the Holy Spirit shows you God at work, your love for God will deepen and grow. But not only that. What is God’s work? It’s God’s desire to love the people. And when you notice God loving people, you want to love them, too. You want to cooperate as God loves people. The second half of the commandment is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. If you want to do God’s will, it’s both of these. And when you open your eyes to see God at work, you will see how much God loves you, but you’ll also see how God is loving other people and you then begin to pray for them because, particularly, if you live in this town, you know the people and how they hurt. You know the people and how happiness comes to them. You know it’s this person’s birthday. You know it’s that couple’s anniversary. Your heart opens up when you pray, and God’s love flows through you into the lives of others. Acts 1:4. And while staying with them – this is before the day of Pentecost – Jesus charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which he said you heard from me. Verse five. For John baptized with water, but for many days, you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will surround you. The Holy Spirit will fill you. The Holy Spirit will flow into you and overflow out of you. And that’s how God works through us.
What do we see when that happens? Well, some of you are farmers. I know you have never planted corn and gotten beans. I know you have never planted beans and gotten corn. What you sow, you’re going to reap. So if the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and generosity and trustworthiness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, that’s what’s coming toward you from God. That’s how God loves you, with great kindness and gentleness, but not only that. As God fills you up with that, it’ll overflow into the lives of other people. If you want to hear what the Spirit is saying to you, the Spirit is saying, “Be joyful. Be loving. Make peace. Be kind.” When the Spirit fills us, this is this what flows out to other people. And it changes the lives of everybody around us. Jesus goes on to say, verse eight, that, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea, all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth, going outward from where you live.” The very first place for God to use us is right here, and then to spread out from there.
I know where this picture came from. This is a homeless person on a Sunday morning in the streets of Minneapolis. The wind chill is 40 below 0. You know what’s in that cup? Love. There’s something hot, huh? Coffee is in that cup. Now, I’m a kind of intellectual guy. What I would love to do is take a sermon and fold it up really tiny and put it in that cup because we all know that sermons are good, right [laughter]? Sermons are good but sometimes people don’t need words. They need love. We have some little New Testaments. And by the way if you don’t have a New Testament if you don’t have a bible in your purse if you don’t have a bible with you if you don’t have a bible to give to someone else who needs it, I just bought 50 of them. So that you can have one not only to read for yourself but you can give away and I could fold that New Testament up and stick it in that cup because everybody knows the bible is what people need. But what if this person can’t read? Sometimes people need to read the bible in the form of a person who lives it because they can’t read the print in the bible.
I will tell you with the greatest sincerity scientists have studied this. Wherever you find that a person has been genuinely converted to Christ what you will find is that their closest friend is a living, practicing example of what it means to be a Christian. And the greatest reason why the church is declining – why there are fewer people attending – is because there are lots of people out there who don’t know anyone who in their presence, lives a genuine Christian life. Now, I’m not saying that you’re not living a genuine Christian life. I’m saying that we need to find ways for God to use us and live it out there. The whole focus of our denomination in so many churches is what we want to do is get all those people out there in here and then get to know them. When you think about it it makes sense. We save a lot of time if we don’t waste time with those people who aren’t already interested in church. Let’s only focus on the people who are in church. Let’s not look for the sheep that’s lost. Let’s focus on the ones that are here. And you know what happens? The number gets smaller and smaller.
Jesus wants us to love people who are there. And as much as I hate to admit it sometimes what they need is not a sermon. Sometimes what they need is not information. Sometimes what they most need is to meet a person that causes them to think this faith in Jesus must be real. Sometimes what they need is a loving caring person just like you at your best. There’s an old saying somebody told me a long time ago nobody knows– or excuse me, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” And I wanted to argue with this person, “No, it really is important that you know how much I know and that you care about how much I know.” And she smiled and said, “No, I don’t want to know what you know until I know that you care.” And so, therefore, when we are out there and in here when we’re out there, let the spirit flow. Because as you walk down the street, as you’re stopped by the train, whether you’re in your car or walking, instead of cussing out the train– you might do that from time to time unless you’re a perfect person. You might pray for those railroads. Maybe you know someone who is [inaudible]. The Spirit will give you opportunities to pray for people. You’ll walk by a house. You’ll know that that person went through a difficult illness. You can pray for them and the Spirit will flow out of your heart toward them. But you know something? If they’re out in the yard raking, you can walk up to them and say hi and they’ll feel that love in the same way. Sometimes the most important witness that people need are not our words, but simply for us to be the loving people that Christ asked us to be.
Now I would love to change that commandment. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and preach at your neighbor until they come to church. I want to make that change, but God knew what God was doing when God said, “The main thing I want you to do is love me, love yourself, and love your neighbor.” And we seem to want to go right past that to all kinds of other things that we think are more important. I have a good friend who’s now in heaven. Jack Kaley was the football coach at Eastern Illinois University. He said, “Dave, we always began the first practice of the season– we’d line up the whole team and I’d stand in front of them and I’d say, ‘This is a football.” Because he said you never want to begin anywhere except at the beginning. Brothers and sisters, this is the beginning. The commandment is that we love one another, that we love ourselves, and our neighbor as ourselves. The songs we sing are a way to do that. The sermons you hear are a way to do that. Even the coffee in the kitchen is a way that we do that. And what we do that loves people spreads out from here and, when it happens out there, the Holy Spirit will use the loving prayers that come out of your heart and bring warmth and faith into the lives of people all around you. Some of them will go be a permanent Deacon in the Catholic church or they’ll go back to the Baptist church, but you know it doesn’t matter. It was our job to love them and it’s still our job to love them. That is our version as the church of, “This is a football.” We’re here to love people and to let God love people through us.
So this is what Pentecost is about. God’s power flows into us not to stop there. God’s power flows into us so that God’s power can flow out among us. Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, on the day of Pentecost you had prepared the people of Israel for over three years. You had gotten them ready. They had information about you, but on the day of Pentecost, Lord, everything that you had done all of the sudden blossomed and thousands of people came to Christ. And the disciples that you had trained were ready to take care of them and teach them how to love one another. And now, Lord, thousands of years later, we ask that you’d open our hearts and teach us in the same way how to love one another, how to allow the Holy Spirit to nudge our attention to what you’re doing in the lives of people around us so that we can pray for them. Maybe we can lend a hand. Maybe just so that they know that when they go through difficult days they are not alone. And so, Lord, I pray that Pentecost would come to this church and that your love and grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit, would flow through us to all those around this church. And we ask this is in Jesus’ name. Amen. Let’s stand and sing. Please sing this as a prayer. [music]