We are continuing to define LHH culture today and its’ importance in our lives.
By living, breathing, and being the culture God has envisioned for this church, we are guaranteed to see the faithfulness and blessings of God. And, I’m not saying this will be easy and that there won’t be any roadblocks we will have to overcome. I am saying that the blessing will come in our perseverance and the joy of living a life well lived. And as said last week, the first and utmost important piece for this church is to bask in the LOVE of God and then show it to others.
Love must be evident in our lives. And there is no way to show the unseen God to this world if we’re not living in love with one another and our neighbors. Where our nature says “hate”, God’s nature says “love”. And so by living in love, we are assured that God is living in us.
Living in love totally contradicts our desires and replaces them with God’s. And there is no greater way to live.
In Matthew 20: 20-28 we get to read Jesus’ words in response to the favor requested by the mother of James and John, two of His disciples. And God’s Big Idea from this passage is pretty clear: SERVING PLACES OTHERS ABOVE YOURSELF.
This is so hard to do because we have been trained to fend and take care of ourselves from a very young age. In fact, parents’ have a goal for their children – that is to teach their children to be independent of them so that one day, when the children are grown up, they can take on the sole responsibilities for the lives they live.
Yet what is rather obvious to me in this passage is that we see the nature of humankind, the “what’s in this for me” attitude, coming out in the request of the mother.
I often wonder when I read this passage if the boys went to their mom and said, “Can you go talk to Jesus for us? We’re afraid to ask to be his right hand men because he probably won’t hear us out. But you, you’re a woman and our mother and He just might listen to you.” And then their mother obliges and says, “Sure sons’. You deserve that right because you’ve been better disciples than the other ten. In fact, this will look pretty good on the pocket book and our prestige in the community if you two can be in positions of power.”
And so mom walks up to Jesus with her two sons lagging behind and makes her request “Grant that one these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
But Jesus doesn’t jump for joy at the request saying, “Wow! I finally got someone to volunteer to help me run my Kingdom. I’ve been waiting for someone to step up.”
Instead, Jesus rebukes the request by saying to James and John, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
And they say, “Yea”; thinking, that was easy.
And Jesus says in my paraphrase, “You guys should have thought that one through, because I’m not talking about drinking the King’s beverages. Yea, you’re going to get what you agreed to. You will indeed drink from my cup, the cup of suffering, and as far as position in my Kingdom, my Father will determine who sits where.”
But then the other apostles get wind of the conversation and request that James and John had made to Jesus through their mom. So Jesus has to calm the storm – put out the fire. Needless to say, they were a little hot.
Jesus abruptly says, “You know how the Gentiles rule – how they use their authority to get what they want? Well, my disciples will not be this way. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be a servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become a slave. So follow my example, I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.”
This is what LHH will be – A community who follows JESUS’ EXAMPLE– A community of believers who come together, not to be served, but rather to SERVEone another and the people God brings into our sphere of influence.
Why? Why would God have this vision for this church – His Church? It’s because He knows people. He knows that in order for people to truly become His disciples they must have humility. And the way to have humility is through service to others.
How does this work? How does service to others bring about humility? It works because service to others causes me to WORK FOR OTHERSwhen I feel like having them work for me. It works because it causes me to see others as MORE IMPORTANTthan myself. It works because it is voluntarily MY CHOICE to do what is needed to be done and not something I’m forced to do. It works because it is Jesus LIVING IN ME and through me, and Jesus was purely humble.
Let me share with you a story of a young lady named Sarah. The story is entitled
Sarah’s Vase by David Cerqueira
Sarah’s parents were new to town, and she was just getting to know her classmates at church. As a second grader, she was full of energy and beaming with naughtiness. As Sarah’s Sunday school teacher, my wife provided me with a limitless supply of funny stories – Monday night dinner was usually served with Sarah’s latest antics. Everyone at church seemed to like her. She was simply an easy kid to fall in love with.
One Sunday my wife had prepared a lesson on being useful. She taught the children that everyone can be useful – that usefulness is serving God, and that doing so is worthy of honor. The kids quietly soaked up my wife’s words, and as the lesson ended, there was a short moment of silence. Then Sarah spoke up. “Teacher, what can I do?” I don’t know how to do too many useful things.”
Not anticipating that kind of response, my wife quickly looked around and spotted an empty flower vase on the window sill. “Sarah, you can bring in a flower and put it in the vase. That would be a useful thing.”
Sarah frowned. “But that’s not important.”
“It is,” replied my wife, “if you are helping someone.”
Sure enough, the next Sunday Sarah brought in a dandelion and placed it in the vase. In fact, she continued to do so each week. Without reminders or help, she made sure the vase was filled with a bright yellow flower, Sunday after Sunday. When my wife told our pastor about Sarah’s faithfulness, he placed the vase upstairs in the main sanctuary next to the pulpit. That Sunday he gave a sermon on the honor of serving others, using Sarah’s vase as an example. The congregation was touched by the message, and the week started on a good note.
As a pediatric physician, I have developed an uncomfortable feeling about telephone calls. During that same week I got a call from Sarah’s mother. She worried that Sarah seemed to have less energy than usual and that she didn’t have an appetite. Offering her some reassurances, I made room in my schedule to see Sarah the following day. After a battery of tests and days of examinations, I sat numbly in my office, Sarah’s paperwork on my lap. The results were tragic.
On the way home I stopped to see Sarah’s parents so that I could personally give them the sad news. Sarah’s genetics and the leukemia that was attacking her small body were a horrible mix. Sitting at their kitchen table, I did my best to explain to Sarah’s parents that nothing could be done to save her life. I don’t think I have ever had a more difficult conversation than the one that night. Sarah’s mom looked me in the eye and with tears asked, “How can this happen? Why would God allow this?”
As doctors, we try everything to save a life. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing to trade our life for that of one of our patients, especially when they are as dear as Sarah. But sometimes, nothing can be done, and a tragic end is only a matter of time. Sarah was to have such an ending. Such a beautiful life, ended by such pain and anguish. It became difficult not to question the goodness of God in Sarah’s life.
Time pressed on. Sarah became confined to bed and to the visits that many people gave her. She lost her smile. She lost most of her weight. And then it came: another telephone call. Sarah’s mother asked me to come see her. I dropped everything and ran to the house. There she was, a small bundle that barely moved. After a short examination, I knew that Sarah would soon be leaving this world. I urged her parents to spend as much time as possible with her.
That was a Friday afternoon. On Sunday morning church started as usual. The singing, the sermon – it all seemed meaningless when I thought of Sarah. I felt enveloped in sadness. At the end of the sermon, the pastor suddenly stopped speaking. His eyes wide, he stared at the back of the church with utter amazement. Everyone turned to see what he was looking at. It was Sarah! Her parents had brought her for one last visit. She was bundled in a blanket, a dandelion in one little hand.
She didn’t sit in the back row. Instead she slowly walked to the front of the church where her vase still perched by the pulpit. She put her flower in the vase and a piece of paper beside it. Then she returned to her parents. Seeing Sarah place her flower in the vase for the last time moved everyone. At the end of the service, people gathered around Sarah and her parents, trying to offer as much love and support as possible. I could hardly bear to watch.
Four days later, Sarah died. I cancelled my morning appointments and sat at my desk, thinking about her and her parents, hurting. I remember the funny stories that my wife told about Sarah. I remembered the sweet sound of her laughter. I remembered that telephone call that brought the sadness.
Tears filled my eyes as once again I struggled not to question the goodness of God in allowing Sarah’s life to end in such a horrible way.
I wasn’t expecting it, but our pastor asked to see me after the funeral. We stood at the cemetery near our cars as people walked past us. In a low voice he said, “Dave, I’ve got something you ought to see.” He pulled out of his pocket the piece of paper that Sarah had left by the vase. Holding it out to me, he said, “You’d better keep this; it may help you in your line of work.”
I opened the folded paper to read, in pink crayon, what Sarah had written:
This vase has been the biggest honor of my life.
Sarah’s note and her vase have helped me to understand. I now realize in a new way that life is an opportunity to serve God by serving people. And, as Sarah put it, that is the biggest honor of all.
LHH must be a culture of love and service.
As Caroline and I sat in a Church Planter’s Bootcamp, I dreamed of a phrase that would encapsulate my passion for growing people in the likeness of Christ.
And God gave me the phrase that is on the front of your bulletin – Loving and Serving to Know Christ.
God made it very clear that if the people of LHH were to know Christ – to know Him intimately – they must learn to LOVE AND SERVE as He did.
So how do we do this? How do we serve?
There’s no magic formula or special assignment for serving. Rather, it’s as simple as OBSERVINGthe needs around you and ACTING to meet those needs. It’s as simple as practicing HOSPITALITY. It’s as simple as being KIND. It’s as simple as HEARING that still small voice stirring inside you to do something and OBEYING it.
In conclusion, LHH will be a culture of service. And the more we model service to our community and our children, the more we RESEMBLE Christ.
Remember, serving others is as simple as consistently placing a yellow flower in a vase, even when your body is shutting down, because it’s important and God has called you to do it.