One day a man stopped in a convenience store to get a newspaper and noticed that the owner of the store had tears in his eyes as he kept looking out the window. He asked what was going on. The store owner said, “Do you see that bus bench over there? There’s a woman who comes there every day around this time. She sits there for about an hour, knitting and waiting. Buses come and go, but she never gets on one and no one ever gets off for her to meet. The other day, I carried to her a cup of coffee and sat with her for a while. “Her only son lives a long way away. She last saw him two years ago, when he boarded one of the buses right there. He is married now, and she has never met her daughter-in-law or seen her grandchild. She told me, ‘It helps to come here and wait. I pray for them as I knit little things for the baby, and I imagine them in their tiny apartment, saving money to come home. I can’t wait to see them.'” At that particular moment, the three of them — the son, his wife and their small child — got off the bus. The look on the woman’s face when this small family fell into her arms was one of pure joy. And this joy only increased when she looked into the face of her grandchild for the very first time. The store owner commented, “Wow, I’ll never forget that look as long as I live.”
The next day the same man returned to the convenience store. The owner was again behind the counter. But before the owner could say anything, the customer said, “You sent her son the money for the bus tickets, didn’t you?” With eyes full of love and a broad smile the store owner replied, “Yes, I sent the money. And I’ll never forget that look as long as I live.” From a generous and serving heart, that man had discovered a measure of the abundant life.
These six weeks from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday are a time for us to make a self-evaluation of our Christian life. Just as a doctor or nurse will check vital signs of a patient to help them to diagnose their condition, the same holds true for Christian disciples. How do our faith-based lifestyle vital signs look? Is our faith life growing and healthy? Are we making an impact for the glory of the Lord? Are we living alive? Today let’s look to see if our signs of life reveal serving and generous hearts.
Paul reminds us in today’s scripture passage that humble service in the body of Christ calls for love in action. In fact, the greatest sign of new life in Jesus Christ is a life of humility and love. To do this Paul tells us that it starts with staying balanced through God’s gracious love.
As humans, we discover balance as we first begin to walk and then again as we learn to ride a bicycle. But perhaps our greatest lesson of balance comes from not thinking too highly or lowly of ourselves. When we recognize that our value comes not from our accomplishments, accolades or recognition, but from the fact that we are loved and known by the creating, redeeming and sustaining God we develop spiritual balance. And when we come to discover and believe that God’s love for us will never diminish regardless of our faults, failures and defeats we develop even stronger balance in our faith journey.
Paul then tells us to stay connected through serving. As a member of the Body of Christ, each of us has a vital part to play in God’s plans. Each of us belongs to God and to one another as well. Together we can do incredible things through the Holy Spirit for Christ. Paul tells us to stay connected by using our spiritual gifts. We all form one body and are gifted by God’s grace to serve – so serve cheerfully! One day Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn’t. “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asks Linus. “These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.” “Which channel do you want?” asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”
Finally, Paul tells us to stay joyful through being generous by sharing with others. He tells us to love others and to practice hospitality. We do this when we truly love just as God loves and stay devoted to faithfully and joyfully serving Jesus every day! Have you noticed that hoarding people never seem to have enough and are seldom joyful? It seems that there is always something missing that they believe that they need to possess. On the other hand, have you also noticed that generous people seem to exude a spirit of joyfulness? When we come to the place of understanding that everything we have is from God and belongs to God and is to be used for God’s glory we discover that generosity is the way to share God’s grace with others. When we are generous, we are living as God intended us to live – sharing the blessings and gifts God first gave to us with others and revealing to them the Christ that dwells in us.
This is what the store owner understood as he felt the pain and loneliness of the woman at the bus stop. His generosity was meant to bless that poor family, but he was the one blessed as well.
Being generous and serving others in Jesus’ name reveals that there are spiritual signs of life in us that reveal to others – and ourselves that we are truly Easter people. When that happens Jesus is glorified and honored.