Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SERVE: Is there a servant in the house?

SERVE: Is there a servant in the house?

RUMC 4/8/12


Easter is what makes Christians different from all other people. 

·        The father of Judaism, Abraham, died 4,000 years ago. 

·        Buddha died 2,500 years ago

·        Mohamed Died 1,400 years ago. 

·        Jesus died 2,000 years ago

but he

·        "lives again our glorious king." Easter means that we don't serve a dead savior-

·        "we serve a risen savior."  Easter means that

·        "He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today."  And

·        "because he lives we shall live also."


Last summer Noah and I planted pumpkins in our little vegetable patch out here.  Noah wanted to grow his own Jack-O-Lantern.  We had done it the year before.  So we were watching our pumpkin plant grow, and bloom, and a little pumpkin set on.  We continued to watch it until the pumpkin got a little bigger than a softball. 

One day one of the stems on the other side of the pumpkin vine started to turn brown, then it turned mushy.  Within a day the brown mushiness oozed its way to the center of the plant.  A little green worm was chewing its way through the stem of Noah's pumpkin plant.  I found the worm, but not before it got to the heart of the plant.  Within another day all the rest of the stems were wilting and turning brown.  I kept hoping it would come back.  I kept hoping that there was still life in it, but it wasn't long before I accidently put my thumb through the mushy skin of the little pumpkin.  It had become nothing but a round ball of stinky slime. 


Think about that pumpkin and listen to the key line of this morning's scripture. 

I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

What difference does it make that Jesus was raised from the grave?  What difference does Easter make?  Easter is the difference between me being a 200 pound ball of stinky slime; and me being a living, breathing, growing, and serving disciple of a living God.

If Jesus were not raised from the grave the branches (we) would be

·        Withered and dead. 

·        Our blooms would be wilted, and

·        Our lives would bear no fruit. 

·        There would be no Easter. 

·        There would be no church. 

·        There would be no eternal life. 


          We want to be Easter people but Like our pumpkin, the Christian life will not last long if we don't stay connected to the vine. 

·        There is NO new life in Christ for those whose memories of Easter fade as fast as the blooms on the Easter lily. 

·        There is NO forgiveness for those whose faith is not grounded in the truth of God's Easter victory over sin and death. 

·        There is NO promise of eternal life for those who do not stay close to the living vine of Jesus Christ. 

Not only is there no promise of eternal life, there is quite the opposite.  Jesus says, "Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned." 



How do we do that?  How do we "abide" in him?  How do we stay connected to the living vine of Christ?

1)            Verse 10 gives us the first answer.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. 

·        Keep my commands. . . like "love the lord your God and your neighbor as yourself."

·        Keep my commands. . . like "do unto others as you want others to do unto you."

·        Keep my commands. . . like "do this in remembrance of me."

·        Keep my commands. . . like "forgive those who trespass against you."

·        Keep my commands. . . like "you must be born again."

·        Keep my commands. . . like "go into all the world."

·        Keep my commands. . . like "to be the greatest of all you must become a servant of all."

THERE IT IS.  You knew I was going to come around to servanthood didn't you?  Of course . . . because if you have been following this series of sermons, you know that I believe we are having a servanthood crisis.  You know that I believe that there is no greater danger to the church of Jesus Christ than the attitude of entitlement that is creeping from our culture into our pews. 

The greatest danger to the church is not secularism, or the decline of denominational loyalty, or membership.  The greatest danger to today's church is that sinister little worm that burrows into our heads and keeps repeating "It's all about you.  It's all about you."

Notice Jesus does not tell you to follow your commands, your interests, your needs, your wants, your priorities, your hopes and dreams, or your goals.  Jesus commands."If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love".  If you keep his commands, you will remain connected to the vine which is life itself. 

If you let that insidious little ego-worm burrow into your brain and your heart, you will wither, and die, and become a 200 pound ball of stinky mush. 

2)    Jesus goes on to give us another answer about how to abide or stay connected to him.  In verse 13 he says, "Love one anotherGreater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."  In order to stay connected to Jesus we DO AS HE COMMANDS US especially LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  Loving others as Jesus loved helps us to stay connected to Christ.  There is no better way to love Jesus than to love those whom he loves. 

·        This love, however, is not just a passing nod.  He did not say "Greater love has no one than to acknowledge the existence of his friends."

·        This is not the love of a superficial emotion.  He did not say "Greater love has no one than to feel warm and fuzzy toward his friends."

·        This is not the love of an easy acceptance or mere tolerance.  He did not say "Greater love has no one than to put up with his friends."

No, the love Jesus commands is a sacrificial love.  The love of servanthood." to lay down one's life for one's friends".  WOW.  To lay down one's life! 

Do you remember we talked about this passage at length a few weeks ago saying that although for a few of us laying down our life might mean dying, or laying it down all at once.  For the vast majority of Christians, however, it means laying down our life one little act of kindness, one little act of love, one little act of compassion, one little act of service at a time.  Day by day.  Hour by hour.  Minute by minute.  Laying down our lives by serving our friends in the name of Jesus Christ."  Greater love has no one" than to put someone else's interest ahead of their own in all the little ways, over and over, and over.  Instead of laying down the entire value of your life in one transaction, you are laying down your life 25¢ at a time.  In the very act of serving others, we are giving our lives to Jesus Christ, and staying connected to the living vine. 


I said in order to be Easter people. We must stay connected to Jesus Christ.  Staying connected is really not that complicated.

·        Love him by following his commands

·        Love those whom Jesus loves by serving them.

Today it is as though Jesus stands on the other side of a great river, beckoning us to join him.  Do you see him over there motioning for us to come abide in him?

·        Showing up for Easter worship doesn't get us there. 

·        Even being in worship every week doesn't get us there.

·         Even being on a committee

o   and teaching Sunday school

o   and mowing the church lawn

o   and changing the light bulbs do not in themselves create the intimate connection Jesus wants us to have

Because, you see, even though all of those things might be the actions of a servant, our actions do not make us servants.  The only way to the other side is by having a servant heart.

Ah there's the problem? 

·        Between us and Jesus is the raging water of self satisfaction. 

·        Between us and Jesus is the wild current of self help. 

·        Between us and Jesus lies the eddy of entitlement that sweeps so many of our friends helplessly down the river. 

·        Between us and Jesus lie the class 4 rapids raging between the twin hidden obstacles of pride and pleasure. 

·        Between us and our Christ lies the dangerous torrent of self service. 

And here we sit. 

o   Afraid to cross. 

o   Afraid to give up our entitlement.

o    Afraid to give up our privilege.

o    Just Afraid


Max Lucado in his book, Six Hours One Friday, tells the story of a missionary in Brazil who discovered a tribe of Indians in a remote part of the jungle.  They lived near a large river.  The tribe was in need of medical attention.  A contagious disease was ravaging the population.  People were dying daily.  A hospital was not too terribly far away—across the river, but the Indians would not cross it because they believed the river was inhabited by evil spirits.  And to enter its water would mean certain death.  The missionary explained how he had crossed the river and was unharmed.  But they were not impressed.  He then took them to the bank and placed his hand in the water.  They still wouldn't go in.  He walked into the water up to his waist and splashed water on his face.  It didn't matter.  They were still afraid to enter the river.  Finally, he dove into the river, swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side.  He raised a triumphant fist into the air.  He had entered the water and made it through.  It was then that the Indians broke into a cheer and followed him across.  Isn't that what Jesus did?

He did exactly what he is calling us to do.

He made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself


He set aside the glory to which he was entitled, and became a servant to you and me.  He risked his own existence to plunge into the icy waters of the tomb just to serve us sinners, and almost unbelievably emerged from that stone cold tomb as our risen and victorious servant savior. 

        Now he stands calling.  Calling you and me.  Calling all of his disciples to step off the off the shore of safe and selfish discipleship into the water of servant discipleship. 

·        Trust him.  Take his hand and step into the icy waters of servant discipleship.

·         Place your faith in the one who has been here, lived as a servant king and rose victorious on the other side.

·        Place your life in the pierced hands of the one who loved you and served you even unto death.

·        Place your heart in the powerful hands of the only savior, one who is powerful enough to win against death. 




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