Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Robyn's January 16 Sermon

"I just can't help it"

Mike and Libby Flowers are missionaries serving Children of the Harvest Ministries in North Dakota.  One of their ministries is Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.  One of their first projects at Spirit Lake was what they call Sidewalk Sunday School.  In the middle of a circle of 30-40 homes there is a playground.  On the playground Mike and Libby set up an old green trailer.  They started playing Jesus Loves Me loud over a boom box and waited for the children to come.  Except the children did not come.  They were just about ready to give up when finally one little girl, named Amber Rose, came up.  They offered her a bologna sandwich, a bag of chips and some grape soda donated by Wal Mart where Mike was at one time a district manager.  Amber Rose ate, perhaps the only meal she had that day.  Mike and Libby waited for other curious hungry children to come.  They did not.  About the time they were ready to call it quits again, Amber rose left and returned with her brothers and sisters.  They ate.  At the end of the day Mike and Libby had fed 20 children and told them Jesus Loves them. 

Why did Mike and Libby sleep on army cots in a school gymnasium and eat nothing but bologna sandwiches for their first 8 weeks at Spirit Lake?  Because of Jesus.  Because the good news of salvation is too good to keep inside.  Mike and Libby just can’t help but to tell others who need so desperately to know the love and mercy of God.

Their witness drives home the point of how enthusiastic we Christians are (or ought to be) when we really commit our lives to Christ; then, we can't sit still. We become so excited, so thrilled, so grateful for our new life in Christ that we can't help but love Him, praise Him, serve Him, and share Him with others.

This is precisely what happened to Andrew. He found the Messiah, he encountered Jesus - and he was so excited he couldn't sit still. Immediately, gratefully, excitedly, he ran to share the good news with his brother Simon. It reads like this in the first chapter of John's Gospel:

"(Andrew) first found his brother, Simon and said to him: 'We have found the Messiah'" Then Andrew brought Simon Peter to Jesus. This was the greatness of Andrew. He was the man who was always introducing others to Jesus. Three different times in the Bible, Andrew comes to center stage and each time he is bringing someone to meet Jesus.

Here in John 1, he brings his brother Simon Peter. In John 6, Andrew brings to Jesus the boy with the five loaves and two fish. And in John 12, we find Andrew bringing to Jesus the enquiring Greeks who wanted to meet Jesus and visit with Him. Andrew's greatest joy was sharing the good news of Christ and bringing others into the presence of Christ. Having found Jesus, he could not sit still, he could not help it. He had to share Christ with others.

A minister friend of mine tells about a woman in his church who is so excited to be a Christian. She has a shady past and had pretty much hit bottom when a friend reached out to her and brought her to church. The church member welcomed her warmly and loved her into the circle of their love and God's love. She started going to church faithfully. She joined a wonderful Sunday School class. She began studying the Bible daily. She started praying regularly and in the process was converted. She realized for the very first time in her life that God loved her, even her! She came to understand that even though she had done all those sordid things in her earlier life, that God still loved her, forgave her, accepted her, valued her, treasured her. She was absolutely bowled over by that "Amazing Grace" and she committed herself to Christ heart and soul. Recently she said to her minister, "I'm so excited to be a Christian, that I've got a strong case of the "can't help its.”

 Andrew was like this.   He, too, had a strong case of the "can't help its." He was so grateful, so thrilled, so excited about Christ that he just could not sit still. He could not keep Jesus to himself. You know, as I think about this and as I think about my own personal life and spiritual pilgrimage, I can tell you that I also have a strong case of the "can't help its." It goes with being a Christian.

I can’t help it.  I have to sing.  I hear music everywhere. I hear the rhythm of life all around me.  Sometimes I’m not sure if this is a blessing or a curse, but when I walk down the street I hear the rhythm of my feet hit the sidewalk and a song pops into my head.  I bump along Highway 63 and the beat carries my thoughts away to some song.  I can be shopping in a department store or walking down the street, but many is the time I have embarrassed my children (and maybe even Noah Michael) by suddenly and spontaneously bursting into song.  Now if the song happens to be something from KNWS that one thing, but it might just as easily be “At the Copa, Copacabana the hottest spot north of savannah” or “I’m back in the saddle again.”  And, I admit, that IS embarrassing, but that’s what it’s like inside my head.  God has put music in me and it just won’t be still.  I’ve heard one other person say that this is how they experience life also.  He was the choir director from Asbury UMC in Bettendorf.  He seemed otherwise very normal to me, so I took comfort in the belief that hearing music in my head and soul 24/7 must be normal after all, at least for the wonderfully unique and loved person God has made me.

I can’t help it.  I gotta’ serve.  It’s harder to describe this one.  I just know that since the time I was very young I have known that I would devote my life to helping others—because of Jesus.  People thing the particular types of service I am often involved in are difficult….and sometimes they are.  But I find joy, yes, even pleasure in my work.  I like helping other people find the hope and faith that is within them at times when they need it the very most.  Last Sunday I worshiped in Jesup so I could learn more about volunteer mission opportunities at Spirit Lake Reservation.  At some point during the preceding week I had a thought, not even fully formed, but something like “They are going sing “Here I am, Lord” and then I will have to go.  They did, and I plan to.

Long ago I used to read stories in the Readers Digest. One was entitled “I am Joe’s Big Toe.”  Well this is what it is like to be Robyn’s hands and feet.  Driving- a lot.  Punching addresses into my Garmin, a lot.  Keyboarding, a lot.  Knocking, a lot.  Climbing stairs, walking through snow and occasionally through unmentionables animals have left behind—a lot.  My hands and feet get me in the door.  Hopefully my heart touches lives with the good news of hope—because of Jesus. 

What about you?  Do you have a case of  “Can’t help its?”  -because of Jesus?  How would you complete this statement, “I just can’t help…? Because of Jesus.”

Write responses.

On that playground back at Spirit Lake Reservation is a basketball court.  On the first day of Sidewalk Sunday School Mike and Libby found the ball court covered in obscene graffiti, so terrible Mike says some of the words he had never even heard during his life in the Air Force.  They determined to power wash away the graffiti.  Weeks later they realized just how great the need on the reservation and how very, very busy they were going to be.  It just didn’t seem like sidewalk Sunday School was making a difference and they were so busy they decided they would discontinue it.  One day, Mike couldn’t find Libby.  After quite a long time he found her, standing on the basketball court weeping.  They had not found the time to clean up the graffiti, but there amidst all the obscenities was some new graffiti –the words:  “Jesus Loves you”

Side walk Sunday school was making a difference.  And one of those kids had a new case of “can’t help its”.  That child got so excited they just had to tell the good news of Jesus love in the best way they knew how:  spray painted graffiti on a basketball court.  In 2010 over 1000 children participated in the ministry of Sidewalk Sunday School. 

Praise God.  Amen.

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