Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
RISKING OURSELVES IN CHRISTIAN LOVE
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
4 MARCH 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Luke 6:27-28, 31
James 1:22, 27
Preparation Verses: (Luke 6:27-28)
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."
Calm us, Lord, and help us to shed any cares we may have brought here with us today.
Lord, we ask for your guidance so that our hearts and minds will be open and receptive to your promptings, so that our worship will be acceptable to You.
Hymn: Let Your Heart Be Broken.
At the end of the fourth verse of the hymn we have just sung we find the words, "Risk yourself for God."
It seems as though the word "risk" has been popping up regularly these past few weeks in Frank's and my life.
One such time was during the Seminary Retreat that we attended the end of January.
On the afternoon before going home, we were in our small groups attempting to summarize and discuss possible ways of putting to use what we had learned while there.
Our group talked about "making waves" instead of allowing ourselves to get caught up in a need to appear pleasant and well-liked in the face of injustices being committed around us.
Another way of saying this is that we are not to be "cowardly submissive" by going along with the crowd at the expense of what we know to be right.
During this exchange Dr. Bill Webber said, "If we take the risk we may find out the joy. Not to accept this is not to live fully."
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Jose Caraballo spoke of "risk-taking" and of being "dedicated to a cause."
At New York Theological Seminary we speak of intelligent "risk-taking" which is trusting in God "to enlarge our borders while protecting us from evil," to paraphrase Jose.
We do not speak of the macho exploits in beer commercials, gambling, or of "rushing in where angels fear to tread."
Our risk-taking bears the stamp of approval of a loving Creator who sent us a model of the ultimate risk-taker Jesus.
The Apostle James in Chapter 4:17, writes:
17. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Maybe this is the reason Bill Webber's "risk-taking" is rewarded with "joy."
If you, like me, have ever avoided doing what you knew had to be done, you have experienced that nagging feeling inside.
On the other hand, if you have done that good deed, you have experienced the joy that follows.
James says in verse 1:22,
22. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Further, James goes on to say in verse 1:27,
27. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
So how are we to respond to all of these admonitions?
We are to be advocates for those who cannot speak for themselves, which should include the animals along with the human beings.
We are to "bloom where we are planted," being a blessing to those around us.
In all of these activities there is an element of risk: the risk of being misunderstood, the risk of failure, the risk of ridicule.
The world has a way of labeling us, who truly try to follow the example of Jesus as "do-gooders," and of making the word "compassionate" sound like an insult.
But those who are willing to risk may be rewarded with a joy – in this life – beyond the comprehension of the world.
Hymn: Take Time to Be Holy
Reading in unison: Psalm 23.
This well-loved and ever-popular psalm continues to comfort thousands of people.
It paints a simple picture of God as our Good Shepherd leading us, His sheep, which was a common sight in those days that everyone could relate to.
Yet, even in these comforting lines, we are presented with a possibility of having to risk.
Note the words,
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...."
Walking through the valley may be risky. There are decisions to be made, illnesses, the deaths of loved ones – but the psalmist goes on to say,
"I will fear no evil,
for you are with me...."
Remember what Dr. Bill Webber said during our retreat? "If we take the risk we may find out the joy. Not to accept this is not to live fully."
In the last lines of the psalm, we are told what to expect when we risk to follow our Shepherd:
"Surely, goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
So, we are not only promised joy in this life, but for eternity.
If you risk for God, your chances of winning are 100%.
Hymn: Shepherd of Love
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:20-28
20. Now when evening had come, He was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.
21. And as they were eating, He said, "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me."
22. And being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, "Surely not I, Lord?"
23. And He answered and said, "He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.
24. "The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born."
25. And Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He said to him, "You have said it yourself."
26. And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."
27. And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you;
28. for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins."
Did you ever just want to stop all the hectic things that are going on around you and be able to have someone hold you in their arms and tell you that everything will be all right?
But sometimes, when people feel just like this, they also reject the very thing they really want.
They do this because they are angry or hurt or their pride is getting in the way.
But God made us with the capacity for love, and without it we cannot be whole.
God always reaches out to us with open arms of love to hold us and comfort us, and He lets us know when there is a better way of living.
Perhaps this is the reason why Jesus spoke the words of preparation verses (Luke 6:27-28):
27. "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28. bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Our enemies, like ourselves, need love; and perhaps the reason they are our enemies is that they lack true love.
But even if this isn't the case, it's worth trying to offer love and forgiveness and comfort.
It's as the Lord tells us in the "golden rule," verse 31:
31. "And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way."
This is exactly what Jesus was trying to show Judas, in the hope that he would understand and repent of the evil that was upon his heart.
Have you heard what Jesus is saying?
At the last supper, Jesus let all who were there know that He knew that one of them was going to betray Him.
The eleven who were not going to betray Him responded, "Surely not I, Lord?"
And Judas went right along and said the same thing. He didn't even just remain silent.
He had to know that the Lord knew he would betray Him, but because of the others present, he made himself out to be of the same mind as they.
But Jesus doesn't give up. He tries again.
This time He tells everyone, and Judas in particular, that the one who dips with Him in the bowl is the one who will betray Him.
We can assume that what He is dipping is the bitter herb that represents sin into the sweet mixture of fruit and nuts that takes away the sting of the horseradish.
The Lord is both telling and showing Judas that He will cover his sin, if he will allow Him to do so.
But Judas flaunts his sin in front of the Lord and says, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?"
And instead of being wrathful, as we would likely have a tendency to react, Jesus just calmly reminds him that he is condemning himself, for he answers, "You have said it yourself."
This time the other disciples didn't answer. It was only Judas.
Yet again Jesus doesn't single him out or condemn him publicly, even though He knew what he was about to do.
Instead, Jesus offers all who are gathered there, including Judas, the first communion.
He offers the bread and says, "Take, eat; this is My body."
Even more emphatically, when He offers the cup, "Drink from it, all of you...."
And we can still hear His words of love echoing today.
Drink from it, all of you....
All of you….
All of you….
Jesus risked His very life on Judas and never stopped offering him His love.
Shouldn’t we at least try to do the same?