The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
March 8, 2020
A woman rushed into a restaurant, half an hour late, for lunch with her friend. She looked flustered and upset. “You won’t believe it,” she exclaimed as she fell into her seat. “I was walking here when all of a sudden I heard this squeal of breaks and the clash of steel upon steel. When I looked up, I saw people lying in the street bleeding and moaning with pain.” “How terrible!” her friend replied.
“Thank God you’d just completed a first aid class! Did you apply what you’d learned?” “I sure did,” the lady answered. “I sat down on the curb, put my head between my knees so I wouldn’t faint, and stayed in that position until the paramedics arrived.”
I guess the lady missed the session about using first aid to help others!
God gave Abram a great gift. It was given to Abram to bless him. But it was given not just for his sake. It was given that he in turn might bless others.
God told Abram that He, God, would make of the old man “a great nation”. God said to him, “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God gave His grace to a particular man so that he and his descendants would become the agents by whom God would give His grace to everyone. God loved that one man in order to love all men and women. God raised up through Abram a singular people for the benefit of the totality of humanity. That particular people is blessed, not to feel privileged, but to serve mightily.
We who follow Jesus are also the descendants of Abram. We who constitute His church exist to serve and bless, not just our fellow members in the church, but also our neighbors beyond the church!
Think of humanity as a group of cave explorers who have lost their way in a maze of subterranean caverns and find themselves trapped in a dead end threatening to entomb them in a cold dark death. Someone locates a narrow but promising tunnel through which only one member of the party is small enough to squeeze. She exits by that dangerous passage to reach the surface and call for help.
The point of her being singled out is not so that she alone gets saved, but so that she can bring deliverance to everyone else. Her being uniquely chosen is an instrumental choice of one for the sake of many.
The church is God’s instrumental choice of one community for the sake of many communities. We who make up the family of Jesus are meant to be those who bring God’s grace to any and every family. We are meant to be like a Christian named Todd Brown.
A 20-year-old named Hunter Shamatt, whom Todd didn’t know from Adam, was flying from South Dakota to his sister’s wedding in Las Vegas when he left his wallet on a plane. It held Hunter’s ID, debit card, $60 in cash and a signed paycheck. Hunter never thought he’d get any of it back, let alone it all back with interest.
By God’s providence, Todd spotted the wallet and mailed all its contents back, and then some. He included a note that read, “Found your wallet on a Frontier flight from Omaha to Denver, wedged between the seat and wall. Thought you might want it back…P.S. I rounded your cash up to an even $100 so you can celebrate its return!”
While others might have snatched the cash, Todd gave it all back and, in a gratuitous act of generosity, added some more just for the fun of it. Todd felt that, since God had been that generous to him, God would like him to be that generous to someone else.
If we believe God has blessed us as generously as the Bible says, we can afford to be as over-the-top generous as He, even with strangers.
Tim Keller gives an apt analogy. Imagine you are a billionaire, and you take an Uber for a short ride costing $10. Later, you look at your account and discover you were double charged and are out an extra $10.
Are you going to be that upset? Are you going to storm the Uber call center demanding reimbursement? You’re a billionaire, for Pete’s sake. It’s not worth your bother. You lost ten bucks. So what? You’re too rich to be worried about that small a loss.
This week maybe someone hit you up for money, and guilted you into giving more than you wanted to. Or someone treated you disrespectfully. Or someone talked badly about you behind your back. Though you’ve suffered some real harm, wouldn’t you, if you believe you’re fantastically rich in God’s grace, shrug it off as unworthy of much thought? Would you make a big deal over the equivalent of a ten buck loss? Would you let someone’s unfairness steal your happiness from a life lived with God? Would you be that disturbed by someone’s badmouthing you when God proclaims you are His dear child? If you would, you are failing to bear in mind how wealthy God’s blessing has made you. If you are kicking yourself for giving more than you intended, if you want to lash out at someone for hurting your feelings, if you are deeply distraught over a little diminishment of your reputation, you’ve lost touch with how you stand with the Lord. He’s made you a spiritual billionaire and thus there’s no sense in wringing your hands over the loss of some emotional pocket change.
When we recognize how greatly God blesses us, we not only won’t be much disturbed by mistreatment, we also won’t be hesitant to bless even strangers lavishly. We will stand ready to help whomever the God who blesses us puts before us to bless for Him. We will be happy to share God’s grace with whomever God drops on our doorstep.
Six Sundays ago, on January 26, a Presbyterian Church in Calabasas was engaged in its typical Sunday routines when its normalcy was shattered by the loud crashing boom of a helicopter smashing into the hillside across the street. Unable, due to the heavy morning fog, to see what happened, but knowing it sounded bad, several people called 911, others started to pray, and still others began to feel their way through the ground mists toward the site. Before they knew it, the neighborhood was run over with first responders, followed by wave upon wave of news reporters, camera crews and basketball fans.
Yes, it was the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.
The church scrambled to be hospitable and a source of comfort for all the strangers who showed up in its neighborhood. It offered coffee, water and fruit, opened its restrooms, provided outlets to charge electronic devices, and welcomed the grieving into circles of prayer and supportive conversation. It blessed everyone it could as God had blessed it to do.
Let us share what we have to share. Let us welcome with open arms and hearts whoever shows up. Let us make their concerns our concerns. Let us show them what God’s blessing love looks like. Let us imitate Abram’s people.