Splurging in Acts of Love (John 12:1-11)

Sermon from a Midweek Lent service (2/25/15)

Text: John 12:1-11

Theme: Splurging in Acts of Love

            How much do you spend on an engagement ring?

It’s a 1st world problem. It’s not something being discussed in Syria or Iraq right now, but it is a question Americans spend time and energy answering.

How much do you spend on an engagement ring?

The general consensus (as far as I can tell) is somewhere between one and three months wages. Whatever you make in three months, that should be the ceiling on how much you spend on an engagement ring.

Well, back when I went shopping with my mom and sister for the ring Laura has on her hand now, that didn’t add up to all that much money. I was a fulltime student at the seminary, only part-time employed. Even adding up three months of part-time pay washing windows for Squeegee Squad didn’t amount to all that much…

So I broke the rule. I decided to splurge on the engagement ring – still something not unreasonably expensive, but more than three months wages because I was in love and I wanted to show that love in a tangible way, and I knew I wasn’t going to be working part-time washing windows forever. I was going to ask Laura to marry me and I wanted to splurge on this once in a lifetime opportunity to show Laura what she means to me.

That’s what you do when you are in love, right? You splurge in acts of love for the object of that love. You go over and above what is normal for you. And splurging doesn’t always just have to mean “spending more money.” You can splurge on something or someone by spending an unusual amount of time with them. You can splurge by paying particularly close attention. You can splurge just be being nicer, friendlier, more welcoming. Splurging is anything that you do that is over and above the normal for something or someone that you love.

Splurging, it’s what we see Mary doing in the Passion history I just read from John 12. Mary takes a jar of perfume worth an entire year’s wages and she pours it on Jesus’ feet and then uses her own hair to wipe Jesus’ feet clean.

Talk about splurging!

What do you make in a year? I don’t actually want you to tell me, but think about that number. Now, picture sitting down, writing a check for that much and dropping it in the offering plate when it comes around in a little bit – talk about splurging!

What Mary does here is even a step beyond that, isn’t it? Mary takes this extremely expensive jar of perfume and she doesn’t just give it to Jesus so he can use it later – she dumps the whole thing on his feet. To really do what Mary does here you would have to go to the bank, get your salary in cash, and then lighting it on fire and watch it burn here in front of the altar. It’s gone! A whole year’s wages, just gone – talk about splurging!

It’s an amazing, almost uncomfortable thing to see, isn’t it? To be allowed access to this supper where we see this shameless act of splurging, intense love for Jesus by Mary – it’s amazing. I mean, it doesn’t get much more real than this, does it? What we see here is someone desperately in love with Jesus and willing to do anything to show that love – it’s almost uncomfortable to see this extremely personal act of love.

It’s also a humbling thing, isn’t it? It’s a humbling thing to be a fly on the wall for this supper (one of the last ones Jesus would have on this earth) and to watch Mary splurge in an act of love for Jesus.

It’s humbling because all too often my love looks pitiful in comparison to this reckless love of Mary…

What or who do you splurge on in an act of love?

There are a couple slightly simplistic ways to find the answer to that question.

First, look at your budget. It’s tax season, that time when we look back over 2014, the money we made, the money we spent. What did you splurge on financially last year? What are the things you went over and above to spend money on because you love them? How much did you financially splurge on Jesus?

You should know the answer to that question. Jesus tells us to sit down and consciously plan out how much we are going to spend on him, so you should know how much you did or didn’t give to Jesus.

What are you splurging on with your money?

Second, take a look at your average weekly schedule. Where do you spend your time? What are the “must do” things on your weekly to-do list? How much do you splurge on Jesus with your schedule? You have 24 hours in your day. How many of those hours do you give to Jesus? How long do you spend in prayer? How much time do you spend reading his word on a typical day?

What are you splurging on with your time?

Third, take a look at your heart? What’s the most important thing in your life right now? We just celebrated Valentine ’s Day, right? Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, how much energy do you invest into showing the love of your life he or she matters? The things we love with all our heart are the things we do random acts of kindness for. They are the things that light up our faces when we see or think about them. They are the things that obsess us, the things we can’t get enough of.

And how does Jesus fit into that picture? Does your face light up when you think about coming to church to sit at Jesus’ feet? Do you obsess about Jesus? Do you splurge on Jesus with random, over the top acts of love?

What are you splurging on with your love and attention?

Now I realize this is a slightly simplistic way to go about it. It’s not a simple math equation: if you give x amount of dollars you really love Jesus… if you spend x amount of hours in devotion in a week, you must really love Jesus… but man, I look at this three step approach to answering the question “what do I splurge on,” and let me be the first to say… I’m sorry. Let me be the first to confess before you and before God that I have not loved Jesus with my whole heart, soul, and mind. Let me be the first to identify that Judas in my own heart that pushes me to love other things above my love for Jesus…

What’s my point in all this? Do I just want to browbeat you into giving more money (I sure hope you know that’s not my point)?

This is the season of Lent. We are walking with Jesus to his cross – to the place he was brutally murdered. This is a time for us to examine our hearts and see just what it was that drove him to that cross: my sin… your sin… all of those times you and I broke the first commandment and loved something or someone more than we loved Jesus. And what we see Mary doing at this dinner; it drives us to ask the tough question: what are we splurging on?

We see in Mary a reckless act of love that ought to make us sorry – sorry for all of the times we fail to love Jesus as we should.

But Mary isn’t the only act of reckless love we see at this dinner in John 12…

Mary poured out a jar of expensive perfume to show how much she loved Jesus. Jesus was about to pour out his life to show how much he loved Mary… and me… and you…

Jesus says of Mary’s splurging, “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” Jesus isn’t dead yet, he won’t be for another five days. But already Jesus is talking about his death as a forgone conclusion – He was as good as dead now, because he knew where he was going. He knew what was waiting for him when he got to Jerusalem.

Realize tonight that this is what drove Jesus to that cross – his reckless desire for us not to have to pay for all of our sins against the 1st and every other commandment.  What we see tonight from Jesus, what we see in Lent, is Jesus splurging in an breathtaking act of love for us!

This is how much he loves you! He would willingly pour out his own life on a brutal death on a cross to prove to you just how deeply and desperately he loves you.

It’s amazing and almost uncomfortable to see, isn’t it? To be allowed access to this last week of Jesus’ life, to see this shameless act of splurging, intense love for us – it’s amazing! It doesn’t get any more real than this! What we see here from Jesus is someone desperately in love with us, and willing to do anything to show that love – and if it weren’t so personal and perfect it would almost be uncomfortable to see Jesus loving us so deeply like this.

It’s also and inspiring thing, isn’t it? It’s something that fills our hearts so full of love that we too want to love Jesus back.

That doesn’t mean that I expect each of you to write a check for one year’s salary and put it in the offering plate – it is not now, nor will it ever by my job to dictate to you how you have to show your love for Jesus. But it is my privilege to remind you of the love that I know is in your heart – you do love Jesus! And it is my privilege to remind you to show that love!

Every day, we get to wake up and realize that we are soaking wet in the love that Jesus has poured out on us. And we get to be overwhelmed by Jesus’ love. We get to respond in love to that love! We get to turn each day into moments when we go over and above to say thank you to the one who poured out his life for us.

Every day we get to wake up and know that Jesus loves us. Every day we get to wake up and live a life splurging in our acts of thank-filled love for Jesus.

Amen.

The Christian Grabs Life by the Horns (I Timothy 6:17-21)

Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost (8/17/14)

Text: 1 Timothy 6:17-21

Theme: The Christian Grabs Life by the Horns

Part 4 of a sermon series identifying What Christians Look Like

            How many of you know the slogan of Dodge (the car company) of the top of your head? I’m sure you’ve all heard it before: Grab life by the horns.

            This year marks 100 years of Dodge selling cars in America, an incredible achievement. To celebrate they have put together a special commercial. Have any of you seen it?

            It’s really quite clever. Dodge, a 100 year old company, interviewed a handful of 100 year old people, asking them what they have learned over their hundred+ years of life.

            The sound bites they collected off these old folks create a powerful commercial that plays off the rebel in all of us that wants to grab life by the horns.

“Live for now, because life is good – you make it good. Don’t complain. Don’t be afraid. Don’t always do what you’re told to do. Don’t be a sissy. Suck it up. Hesitate and you lose. Be a bad boy. Raise hell. Put the pedal to the medal. Live fast. Grab life by the horns.”

I couldn’t help but think about this Dodge slogan when I read the lesson from Timothy for today, because Paul (the author of Timothy) says essentially the same thing, doesn’t he? Paul encourages us to “take hold of life” – which sounds an awful lot like grab life by the horns, doesn’t it?

But there’s a difference, isn’t there? Continue reading

Selfishness Exposed: Only Jesus Can Give You What You Want (Romans 8:1-10)

Sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent (3/31/14)

Text: Romans 8:1-10

Theme: Only Jesus Can Give You What You Want!

            The character is a familiar one, I’m sure. Even if you have only seen a few of the movies that have graced the big screen during the last half century you know the character I’m talking about. It’s that character in almost every movie and play that has their priorities mixed up, but through some traumatic experience they realize the error of their ways.

Just yesterday I sat down with my bride and watched a good old-fashioned chick flick. While You Were Sleeping was the title of this heartwarming love story from the mid-90’s. In that movie there is a character named Peter who was living a life long on success but ultimately short on meaning. He had the penthouse in Chicago, the successful career, the tall-dark-and-handsome good looks, the plastic surgery enhanced fiancé, but it wasn’t until he woke up from his near-death-fall-induced coma that he realized that though his life was full of things, it was empty of purpose. He needed to reprioritize his life. Just plain selfishness (getting and doing whatever he wanted) wasn’t cutting it.

Now stop and think about it – how many movies have a character just like Peter? How many movies have a character that needs to have his priorities reordered? How many movies have a character that needs to realize that selfishly seeking everything he wants isn’t going to give his life meaning?

I don’t have any official statistics, but I would say that almost every movie made has some character searching for meaning – some character that needs to reprioritize his life and stop being selfish. From Scrooge in A Christmas Carol to Anakin (aka Darth Vader) in Star Wars, Hollywood preaches the message that there is such a thing as too much selfishness – there is such a thing as mixed up priorities.

And in general, we love these movies. Hollywood keeps making them. We keep watching them.

I think that part of the reason we enjoy watching these selfish people become less selfish – these purposeless people find purpose – is because we can all relate. All of us have chased life down a road that we thought would give us meaning and purpose – leave us feeling fulfilled – only to realize that we needed to make some serious course corrections because the life we hoped to find wasn’t there and the peace we wanted wasn’t found.

I think we enjoy watching these movies because they give us hope that we can find purpose, a full life, and peace just like those people on the big screen.

But there’s a problem with this hope, isn’t there? The problem is that real life isn’t like the movies. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any real people who reprioritized their lives, found true love and rode off into the sunset never to experience doubt again – perfectly happy and at peace once they started making the right life choices. Continue reading

Why Christ Our Savior? Because He Is the Way, Truth and Life (John 14:1-7)

Text: John 14:1-7

Theme: Why Christ Our Savior? Because He is the Way, Truth, and Life

Intro

Why are you here this morning? Why are you here instead of say, Community Lutheran Church just around the corner? Or why aren’t you at the Jehovah’s Witness’ place just down the road or Riverside Presbyterian on south side of 7? Why Christ Our Savior over the Baha’i Temple just east on 7 or Our Lady of Hope off Algonkian?

Why are you here? Why Christ Our Savior? There are thousands of different church bodies across our nation and dozens of churches within twenty miles of here, what makes this church any different from any of those other churches? What makes this church worth attending?

Maybe you chose Christ Our Savior because you grew up going to a Lutheran Church, so it’s what you are comfortable with. Maybe the Fall Festival we had yesterday brought you here. Maybe it was because the pastor here kept bugging you about coming to church.

Whatever your reason for being here today, let me suggest one more reason that should keep you coming here. Why Christ Our Savior… because Christ Our Savior is the place where your troubled heart can be completely stilled, where all of life’s problems can be put into a proper perspective.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? I can offer you this because it what Jesus offers. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he said. Continue reading