This morning Pastor Rick preached about the ascension in a way that I had never heard before. He compared it to our fascination of stories of riches to rags and rags to riches. He put it in better ways than I ever could, so I’m going to leave what he said as is and talk about what I took from his sermon.
He talked about how unusual and rare it is for someone to have much wealth and choose to empty themselves of that wealth. That would only happen through great love and a passion for a great cause. He mentioned St. Francis of Assisi who was born into wealth and privilege, and through a vision of Jesus as a beggar chose to put aside all that he had for the greater cause of knowing Christ more. This is exactly what Jesus did. He had the wealth and riches of heaven, and chose to put it all aside for the great love He had for us. He entered our world, full of chaos, hatred, and rebellion and gave all that He had so that we might know Him. This redeeming love is the same love that we are called to demonstrate through our lives. How are we doing that now?
It’s such a simple and fascinating story, and like other stories sometimes we choose to close the book and put it back on the shelf. However, this story is real and is still being written in our lives. As I have been evaluating how I want the ebb and flow of my life to go, I am challenged by this love that gave all for me. How will I live my life? How will my story be set apart from the tens of thousands of Americans who are living the dream? I have been born to privilege simply by living where I am. How will I follow the example of Jesus by choosing to seek what is eternal over what is temporary? How will that affect even the smallest of decisions I make?
I have been thinking about how my time with my non-Christian friends has been changing me. I have had to rely much more on God to keep me close to His heart. However, I have felt the burden of a life lived without Him as I look into their eyes. I wonder how they see us Christians. Usually, I don’t have to wonder too much because they freely say what is on their mind. Much of what they say is true. Yes, there are a lot of issues in the church. There is a lot of hypocrisy. There is a lot of complacency. What’s the point? They’re judgmental and perfectionistic. They’re cliquey. Honestly, when comparing my time with church people and my non-Christian friends, often I will opt to hang out with my non-Christian friends, because I find a refreshingly raw honesty and transparency in their lives that is usually non-existent in the church. I wonder why this is? I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the hope of the world, yet the people who have this hope don’t show it in the way that they live their lives and how they love others.
How is my life going to be different? I could go on for a long time, and perhaps I should about how much we have forgotten what the Bible says. We have forgotten the example of Jesus. And you know what? It’s disturbing and uncomfortable. Who wants to give everything they have worked so hard to have? Who wants to spend all their time working with people who most of the time could care less? Who wants to be struck on the cheek and then turn the other one? It’s doesn’t make sense. However, until we see ourselves in the light of the amazing grace of God, we can keep asking ourselves what’s the point? The truth is, Jesus’ life challenges us to live a new way and follow a different road, and ironically makes a lot more sense than the way the church lives now. The way we’re doing it now, we’re saying one thing, and living another. That is simply unbelievable, no matter how you look at it. I wouldn’t want to follow that either. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel to all the world, and when necessary, use words.” We should all think long and hard about the message that is being preached through our lives.
Today as I was holding the communion bread and cup, I felt a strong conviction. Pastor Rick has said the past couple Sundays, “The world is filled with center-seeking people.” We all want the glory and the spotlight. However, the Kingdom of God calls us to empty ourselves for the love of God, just as He emptied Himself for us. It is not about us. It is about this amazing and redeeming love of God. For years through communion, God has spoken to my heart, “Don’t eat and drink this unless you mean it.” What does it mean to eat this bread and drink this cup? It means that I surrender all. It means that I will no longer seek the center, unless that center is the heart of God. It means that no matter what the cost, no matter where He calls me, no matter what I must sacrifice, I will give my everything to God. Because I have been loved with an everlasting love, I will pour my love out at the feet of Jesus.
I want my life to be believable. I want the words that I say to match the example of my actions. Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Every day I will remember the commitment that I make when I take the bread and the cup: the purpose of my life is to be poured out for love of my Jesus.
I am reminded of the old Steve Green song, “Broken and Spilled Out.” It talks about the woman who brought a jar of expensive perfume and poured it out on Jesus’ feet. One of the disciples was appalled at this, because surely there was much more productive and resourceful things that could have been done with this expensive jar of perfume. It could have been sold and the money given to the poor. However, Jesus defends the woman, because she understood the point. Just like the jar, our lives are expensive and bought with the ultimate price of Jesus’ life. Our purpose is to be emptied, or like the song says, broken and spilled out for love of our Jesus. Here are the lyrics:
One day a plain village woman
Driven by love for her Lord
Recklessly poured out a valuable essence
Disregarding the scorn
And once it was broken and spilled out
A fragrance filled all the room
Like a pris’ner released from his shackles
Like a spirit set free from the tomb
Broken and spilled out
Just for love of you Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on Thee
Broken and spilled out
And poured at Your feet
In sweet abandon
Let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee
Lord You were God’s precious treasure
His loved and His own perfect Son
Sent here to show me
The love of the Father
Just for love it was done
And though You were perfect and holy
You gave up Yourself willingly
You spared no expense for my pardon
You were used up and wasted for me
Broken and spilled out
Just for love of me Jesus
God’s most precious treasure
Lavished on me
You were broken and spilled out
And poured at my feet
In sweet abandon Lord
You were spilled out and used up for Me
In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee
This is the prayer of my heart.