29 Sep 2013

A young man saw an elderly couple sitting down to lunch at McDonald’s. He noticed that they had ordered one meal, and an extra drink cup. As he watched, the gentleman carefully divided the hamburger in half, then counted out the fries, one for him, one for her, until each had half of them. Then he poured half of the soft drink into the extra cup and set that in front of his wife. The old man then began to eat, and his wife sat watching, with her hands folded in her lap.

The young man decided to ask if they would allow him to purchase another meal for them so that they didn’t have to split theirs. The old gentleman said, “Oh no. We’ve been married fifty years, and everything has always been and will always be shared, fifty-fifty.” The young man then asked the wife if she was going to eat, and she replied, “It’s his turn with the teeth.”

I want to talk to you this morning about how important it is to recognize you’ve got what it takes. Perhaps I know better than some others that we each, all of us, have what it takes. I have five children. I can see in them their different abilities and aptitudes. I can see where each one is gifted. I can also see where one may not have as much ability or aptitude as another. But no matter what, each of them has what it takes to do what God asks of them. Each of them has enough to make good on their dreams and hopes, on God’s grace and love for them. The only thing that will stop them is if they lose sight of this for themselves.

And it’s no different for any of you, for any of us.

The Lord has what you need already figured out. Jesus points out that, “(A)ll humankind scratches for its daily bread, but your heavenly Father knows your needs.” Lk 12:30 The well-known author and pastor Max Lucado observed, “I get one hour, really 25 minutes in a sermon on a weekend, to combat all the hours of the week that people are told you are what you have through billboards, commercials, and sitcoms, and so forth. It doesn’t seem to be enough to do the job.” And it’s definitely not true.

Do you remember as a kid wanting to buy something at the local store but not having enough money to do it? I can remember one of my brothers and I would start to look in the couch to find a coin or two. We’d search in the closet on the floor, and we’d check every old pocketbook of my mom’s we could find. We might even look in my dad’s special change cup for change he wasn’t using at the moment. We’d scrounge up enough to ride our bikes over to the grocery store and buy bubble gum or something like that. We’d put together just enough to have what it took to get what we wanted.

When you’re feeling run down and run over, you’ve got to take some time to scrounge around, to dig deep, to collect yourself again, and find you’ve got what it takes to get what you want. God hasn’t left you impoverished. God has given you what it takes.

Our scripture reading tells us there was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. His “purple and fine linen” cloths are the most expensive fabrics, top-of-the-line clothing of his day.

For food, it says he “feasted.” But, wait, there’s more. He “feasted sumptuously.” No, wait, it says even more than that. He “feasted sumptuously every day.” Jesus piles up the phrases to emphasize how this guy piled up the delicacies on his plate. This rich man had the finest cut of beef and the most expensive bottle of wine, and not just for a super-special occasion once every few years. This was his ordinary, everyday fare. He had it oozing out of his pores.

The story continues by telling us there was someone outside, at his secured and ornate gate that was his opposite in this regard. Lazarus was in pitiful shape, covered with sores, wanting nothing more than bread crusts from the rich man’s table. So pitiful was Lazarus that even dogs had mercy on him and licked his sores–but not the fellow behind the gate; not that he was supposed to lick his sores or anything.

The poor man in the story is lacking basic necessities. He doesn’t have food. He doesn’t have much clothing. He doesn’t have decent shelter. He doesn’t have anybody to help him out, either. He’s in as much need as Dives, the rich man’s name as he has been traditionally called, is in abundance. The imbalance here is so overwhelming that it’s clear a grave injustice is occurring. And in God’s creation, such injustice will be addressed.

Proverbs 28:27 says, “If you give to the poor, your needs will be supplied. But a curse upon those who close their eyes to poverty.” The story tells us the rich man will be cursed. The picture is of him receiving his punishment in the next life. Whether you want to take Jesus’ story as a description of the life after this one, I will leave up to you. Rarely was Jesus interested in portraying this, though he does a tremendous job of it in Matthew 25. He preferred to focus on finding and defining faith on earth, among us, here and now.

Jesus knows an injustice when he describes one, and he knows the Lord our God like a beloved and loving son knows his father. He also knows a man who has lost his way, lost God, and spent his entire life entrapped by wealth and imprisoned in an impoverished soul of his own making.

The rich man didn’t think he had enough. He believed he had so little he couldn’t even share a crust of bread to a man without a morsel. He refused to see his wealth as the means for doing something God wanted done. Dives didn’t have his eyes closed just to Lazarus’ poverty. He had his eyes shut tight against his own riches. Dives had everything he needed—to do well—but instead lived contrary to God’s blessings.

Don’t be ignorant of your gifts. Don’t refuse to believe God has given you so much. Open your eyes to the wealth of God’s giving. You’ve got what it takes to make the most of what is yours.

I know someone who did very little for his children, his son and daughter. Oh, he loved them but what did that mean to them when he didn’t spend time with them, when he was drunk or high, when he didn’t help them with their homework, shop for them, help them with problems they were having. It was like he was their dad in name only.

When things got to their lowest, when he finally faced the possibility of losing everything he valued, he decided to give away everything he had become and become a new person. He gave his life to the Lord. And the Lord gave him everything he needed to become the man and dad he wanted to become, and his children needed him to become. This man accepted God’s word in place of every other word he had been following, and with it, through prayer, and by reading scripture, he has found out that he has what it takes to be a really good man and a really good father.

We have what it takes to do what God needs us to do. In Christ we can do so much good. Choose the Lord. Choose what is better. Practice generosity, hospitality, kindnesses of all kinds. Pour out in your life what God has poured into your heart. Only by sharing God’s riches can we continue to be enriched.
I read something that doesn’t seem like much but it’s stuck with me. Nathan Weaver’s college project was supposed to help him learn how to help the box turtle population, but he ended up collecting data on how awful people can be. Weaver, a senior at Clemson University, placed a “realistic rubber turtle” in the center of a highway and observed it in the hopes he would get ideas on how to help them cross the road safely. Instead, he was horrified to see drivers swerving intentionally to run over the fake reptile. A second test yielded the same results. “They seem so helpless and cute,” Weaver said. “I can’t understand … why you would swerve to hit something so helpless as a turtle.”

The issue is not what we have been given, it’s what we use.
In the Second Letter to Timothy Paul instructs his spiritual son Timothy to rekindle the gift of God that is within him. Paul laid his hands on him years before, imparting the gifts through the Holy Spirit and prayer, and so now he wants to make sure Timothy understand he has what it takes, and it’s up to Timothy to rekindle God’s gift in him.

The Lord has given us all we need. God has given us his Spirit. God has given us the Word. God gave us our breath and our strength. We need to stir up God’s gift. Kindle the flame in you. Don’t let the fire go out. Stir up the coals of God’s gift. Don’t burn out.

Now I know nobody wants to lose the fire. Nobody wants to feel all run down or dried up. It’s not God’s hope or dream for you, but you can’t expect God to stir you up. If you’re waiting for the Lord to fire you up again, then you waiting on the wrong one. You’ve got to rekindle the gift. We’ve got to remember to claim our spiritual life and strength and purpose.

Let me tell you something. A waiter brings you an iced tea. You taste it and it’s not sweet. It’s not sweet because all of the sugar is on the bottom of the glass. Now the waiter has brought you the tea and given you the ice and poured in the sugar but you turn to the waiter and tell him to stir up your tea. What’s the waiter going to say? He’s going to say, “No, I have given you everything you need. I brought you the glass. I got you the tea. I put in the ice. I poured in the sugar. Now you’ve got to stir your own tea.”

Whatever it takes to stir up your gift, do it. Don’t let it sit on the bottom of your soul. Don’t let joy sit on the bottom of your heart. Make your life sweeter. Stir it up. Stir up your peace. Stir up your love. Stir up your patience. Stir up your generosity. Stir up your forgiveness. Stir up your devotion. Make your life sweeter.

Now, now, if we aren’t there quite yet, then perhaps we’re more like Henry, or we might be. Henry was a guy who always worried about everything all his life. But one day his coworkers noticed he seemed like a changed man. They remarked he didn’t seem to be the least bit worried about anything. They found Henry at lunch time and they asked him what was so different in his life these days.

Henry told them he’d hired a professional worrier and no longer had any worries. “A professional worrier?” they asked. “What does that cost?” “Two grand a week.” “Two grand a week! How on earth are you going to pay him?” “Who cares,” Henry replied, “I’ll let him worry about it.”

I don’t think that’s exactly what I’m saying….

There is a story that says the great painter and artist Picasso was touring a school with someone who wanted to know why the institute of education was failing children. Picasso asked a roomful of six-year-old children, “Who here is a painter?” All hands went up. “Who here is a dancer?” “Who is a singer?” All hands went up. “Who here is a storyteller?” All hands went up. He walked down the hall to where the seventeen-year-olds were and he asked the same questions. Few, if any hands went up. “There’s your problem,” said Picasso.

Don’t let the dreams slip away. God is a God who dreams big, builds big, believes big, carries through big. And we’re created in his image. Stay big inside.

Someone put it this way: “This life is for loving, sharing, learning, smiling, caring, forgiving, laughing, hugging, helping, dancing, wondering, healing, and even more loving. I choose to live life this way. I want to live my life in such a way that when I get out of bed in the morning, the devil says, ‘aw (crud), he’s up!” Steve Maraboli

Believe you’ve got what it takes and you’ll never run out of the spiritual riches God blessed you with in Jesus Christ. Bless those around you with hospitable hearts and generous giving. You’re someone God is counting on because you’ve got what it takes. Can anybody say Amen?

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