FACING THE CROSS (Part 6) Facing One Another Lent Week 5 Ephesians 4:31-32 Pastor Carey March 18, 2018

Have you ever heard of the Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Trophy? It is named for the founder of the modern Olympic Games, and is awarded annually to people in sports who have demonstrated nobility of spirit and fair play. One winner was Henry Pearce of Australia, who was competing in the single scull rowing event at the 1928 Olympics. He was leading when a duck and her string of ducklings came into view up ahead and Pearce realized that his boat would cut the string in two and sink a few ducklings in the process, so he pulled in his oars and stopped rowing. When the ducks passed, he began rowing again. Pearce still won. Some Fair Play winners did not win; such is the case for Luz Long who was awarded posthumously for his advice given to fellow competitor Jessie Owens in the long-jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany.  Owens won the gold medal, Luz Long finished second.

Former Dodger and Giant manager Leo Durocher once famously said, “Nice guys finish last” That might work well for motivating baseball players, but it is terrible theology for Christians!  And being a kind person to others is what Paul would want us to consider today.

I believe that Lent is our time to return to focusing on God more than we have. This 40-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday that is a time of penance by all Christians that invites us to “spring” into a deeper faith life.

This Lenten season we have focused our attention on how Jesus faced the cross and invites us to do the same to determine what is not in line with the cross.  What things need to be eliminated or crucified in us, what things need to be resurrected or begun in us to live into the disciple of Jesus calling upon all of us?  It starts with remembering who we are, who we are not, who we are supposed to be and whom we are called to follow.  Thus far we have looked inward – within ourselves and faced our sins, our temptations, our fears and our worldliness.

Today we do something different, let’s look outside of ourselves as we face one another to be reminded of how we are called to love, care for, care about and encourage others.  How kind are you to others; how compassionate are you these days; how quick are you to forgive? It is not easy.

When I was growing up, if I heard it once, I’ll bet I heard it 1,000 times my parents or grandparents telling me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” Or, “Be sure to treat other people the way you want to be treated by them.” Or, “Remember to respect your elders and say ‘yes sir’ and ‘yes ma’am’.” There was also, “Clean up after yourself.” But I’ll leave that for another message! I believe that this is still sage advice and absolute truth for all humans in our 21st century world, don’t you?

In Ephesians 4, Paul shares instructions for Christian living and his last words of the chapter is sage advice for everyone: 1) remove yourself from the worldly way of dealing with others (bitterness, anger, gossip and slander).  This should be in bold letters on every Facebook page before posting or responding; 2) be kind, forgiving and compassionate toward others – just like Jesus deals with us.

We are in an incredible spiritual battle every day, whether we know it or not.  It is a battle of who leads and who follows, and it starts within each of us the moment we wake up every morning.  Every day we choose to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the ways that we think, live, deal with others and reveal the difference Jesus is making in our lives. Or, we choose to be the Lord of our own life – also in the ways we think, live, deal with others and reveal Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus is to get right, every day, our status: Jesus first, never me first!

In reflecting on how we face one another – on how we respect, care for and care about one another, we must first get ourselves out of the way long enough to see someone else.  In the dichotomy of today’s world it seems that the one with the loudest voice wins.  So we learn that to be heard we must shout louder than others with differing opinions.  As Christians, we come to listen for the still small whispering voice of God.  There is a big difference between the two!

Paul’s simple, yet profound closing statements are literally apples of gold to a me-focused world screaming at each other: Paul says, “STOP IT!” Stop being angry and stop yelling and stop slandering one another!  No more cutting and backbiting and profane language.  This is not who we are as Jesus-people, Easter-people, recreated-people.  And if this is our normal lifestyle, it is time to determine if we are truly a disciple of Jesus at all or a disciple of self.  Where are you?  Where am I? Where are we? Let’s agree to STOP IT NOW!

John Wesley wrote to his people called Methodist the following Rule of Conduct: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.  Paul said something similar: BE KIND; BE COMPASSIONATE; FORGIVE – just like Jesus!  This is the meaning of the Passion. The crucifixion of Jesus is God’s conduct; it is the rule for our lives as long as we shall live.

Gracie Allen played a scatterbrained wife in the TV pioneer comedy team with her husband George Burns. Once, Gracie called in a repairman to fix her electric clock. The repairman looked at it for a while and then said, “There’s nothing wrong with the clock; you didn’t have it plugged in.” Gracie replied, “I don’t want to waste electricity, so I only plug it in when I want to know what time it is.”

That’s a good description of many of us. We save our discipleship for a rainy day. We go about unplugged and wonder why our lives are so devoid of power. How sad. Our Christian faith is not something to be plugged in when convenient or necessary. The Christian life must be plugged in daily. Sorry Leo, but nice guys DO finish first!

How kind are you to others; how compassionate are you these days; how quick are you to forgive? It is not easy. But God provides us daily strength to live it!  Just do it and glorify Jesus in the process.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>