An old man visiting his family asked his granddaughter if he could have the newspaper. “This is the 21st century, grandpa,” she replied. “We don’t waste money on newspapers. Here, have my iPad.”
The fly never knew what hit it.
When different generations mix things can get interesting.
A soon to be dad said, “After my wife had a sonogram, I asked my mother-in-law to guess the sex of the twins her daughter was carrying. “Two boys,” she said. I shook my head. “It must be two girls,” she offered. Again I told her no. “Well then what are they?”
Sometimes you can get one of each, I’ve been told.
I want to talk this morning about what makes you interesting. Perhaps I first need to ask whether you are interesting. It’s a good question, right? Are you special? What makes you special? Is it because you’re different from your siblings, better at something than others, act stranger than most?
How do you know you’re special? Or perhaps you don’t know that. Perhaps you’ve always doubted it, or really doubt it these days. Or perhaps you’re a mix. At times you can see what’s special about you and other times you can’t.
Someone put together a list of 35 things that make a person special. The first one is personality this list says. But it’s not just one specific personality that’s special; it’s all different kinds. Everybody is special because you’re special if you’re an idealistic Reformer, a caring Helper, a success-oriented Achiever, a security-oriented Loyalist, a spontaneous Enthusiast, a powerful Challenger, or a reassuring Peacemaker.
And one’s beliefs, it tells us, also make a person special. And then your thoughts—they’ll make you special, too. Are they daydreams, or thoughts focused on your current project? Is your mind usually focused on the past, on the present, or on the future? And so on, including your kind of creativity, happiness, and even your genetic make up.
Combine these attributes and you come up with a wonderful, individual, special composition. At least that’s the theory.
But I don’t buy it. You see, we’re not a collection of traits. Now I guess we might look like that to a therapist or a scientist or a doctor but we don’t live that. It’s certainly not what Jesus saw when he looked at Peter and Andrew and he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” It’s not how James and his brother John heard Jesus’ call to them. They didn’t leave their boats and their father because finally Jesus had come around like some kind of talent scout and recognized their specialness and value.
That’s not how it really works. And this is why we read our two passages like we did this morning. I wanted us to put them together in order to force us to connect the two. First comes Christ’s call to follow him then comes the part about being salt of the earth. First devotion to the Lord then light for the world. And nothing really happens between the two—other than following Christ.
It’s like peanut butter and chocolate—or some other crazy food combination you like that nobody should like—they’re not supposed to go together in our minds but they go together perfectly well in reality.
You see, we’re not already salt of the earth, and then Jesus picks us. We’re not already shining lights on the world stage and then Jesus says, “Oh, I could really use her or I need him for my team.” Christ calls you and me to follow him because we need to answer God’s call. It’s for our own good.
Too many people think they’re free agents for the Lord and when they got some time, when they can loan out some of their talent, when they can part with some of their own hard earned cash, then their faith can get their attention. How nice of us…. One could almost say, “With friends like this….”
I remember a PGA golfer who said what was important about his tournament victory was that he was a Christian and now that he was a winner on the world wide stage of the PGA tour he would be able to bring more people to Christ. God bless him but that ain’t scriptural thinking.
We don’t convince people that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life because we’re successful at some field or we’re more special than most. People follow people who are committed. People follow someone who is devoted, and who believes in what they believe in, and sacrifices to build it strong and alive and good.
Jesus calls each of us to greater devotion, to deeper faith, to stronger connection. Forget about whether you’re “special” or not. Christ calls. Forget about whether you’re going to become all you can. Christ needs you. Forget about the past, and what’s gone on. Christ wants you to build something now that will make the kingdom shine all around you, shine so bright the past will be healed, the present will be meaningful, and your future will have eternal purpose.
The truth is Jesus never asked anyone to get their act together before following him, or fix all their past mistakes or get a theological education before devoting themselves to his life. Jesus’ call was and always is this: Why don’t you get committed to me, and then you’ll see how everything else turns out much better.
In fact, the twelve men he got as his closest followers didn’t look anything close to perfect. Someone said very pointedly that they were closer to morons. I don’t know about that but they were egotistical—they actually argued among themselves who would be greatest.
They were overconfident—Peter told Jesus he would never be tempted and fail. They were chicken, or perhaps more kindly, they lacked courage. When Jesus was arrested, they all fled. Mentally or spiritually, they simply didn’t get what Jesus was telling them.
But they were good at hating, and being vengeful against their “enemies.” “They entered a village of the Samaritans,” we’re told, “but they did not receive him. . . And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’”
These are the kinds of people we’re talking about—hardly people with sterling character or special personalities—hardly salt of the earth or light of the world. But I bet they changed and grew over time!
Years ago an evangelistic pastor had the privilege, he says, of being “with Billy Graham at a crusade he was doing in Portland, Oregon. It was an amazing crusade, with an almost revival-like atmosphere…. I remember one night in particular, when God seemed to really bless Billy’s message, with many people coming to Christ.
We left the stadium together in a car, with Billy’s longtime friend T. W. Wilson driving, while I rode shotgun. Billy and his son Franklin were in the back seat. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I leaned over the back seat and said, “That was a great message tonight, Billy.” Billy looked at me with those steely blue eyes and said, “It’s just gospel.”
I turned back around, feeling a little awkward. I was just trying to be friendly. I remember thinking to myself, “That didn’t go very well. I will say something else.” Turning back around again I said, “Billy, I love the point when you said Christ will re-sensitize your conscience. That was a great point.” Again, Billy looked at me and said, “Well, He can.” I didn’t turn around again on the ride back to the hotel!
What I learned that night was that you couldn’t pin a compliment on Billy Graham. It was like water off of a duck’s back, and he really didn’t want to hear it. His attitude was, “I just did my job. I’m a delivery boy, and I gave the message. Now the results are in the hands of God.”
As God’s spokespeople, we don’t take the credit and we don’t take the blame. We just deliver the goods.
I think we’re too caught up in performance, in needing to succeed. We ought to be more concerned with being faithful, devoted, committed. Forget whether or not the person you invite to church actually comes to worship. Invite anyway. And don’t stop. Don’t worry if your kindness isn’t the one that changes someone’s life forever. Do kindness anyway. It’s not about your performance. It’s about Christ’s call to you to do what ought to be done.
Of course we need to do what we do to the best of our ability. This doesn’t have anything to do with slacking. It’s simply that results aren’t in the front of your mind when you serve the Lord. Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Free yourself from performance stress and you’ll get better results anyway.
Someone wrote, “I committed my life to Christ at age 17. Did I miss anything? I suppose I did. I missed a lot of parties, a lot of experiences that other kids my age had. Now, over 40 years have gone by and I look at what their choices and experiences have done to them. Some are in their fourth or fifth marriages. Some are still addicted, still living an empty life. When I think about those things I ask myself, did I really miss anything?
For me, life has gotten better. Not easier or less complicated or less pressured or more trouble-free. But definitely better, sweeter, richer, deeper, more satisfying. Every day, every month, every year of walking with Jesus,” he says, “gets better and better.”
Now don’t think this message is just for young people who’ve got their lives in front of them still. It’s for everyone, at every age, because until we get this right, we’ll still cling to the idea that we’ve got to do something to be special, that we’ve got to be somebody to have a life worth living. The God-given truth is that you can’t do something to really feel this way. You can’t finally deserve it. You can’t win it. You can’t be better than someone and finally be good enough.
I know that’s what they keep telling us. I know they say if you work hard enough, or you practice long enough, or you’re smart enough, or you’re successful enough, or you run fast enough, or you sing well enough—then you can look yourself in the mirror and say you’re really something. But don’t fall into that trap. Don’t build your life and your happiness on sand. Build it instead on solid rock. Build your life on a devotion to Jesus Christ.
It’s God who calls us in Christ, who calls us when we’re just fishermen, or fisherwomen, just regular people, up sometimes and down the next, but it’s Christ who calls you without knowing anything about you, who doesn’t need to know anything about you so you don’t worry if you really fit
in or whether you really can do the job; it’s Jesus who says, “You’re on my team—I want you’” and that tells you and persuades you and finally lets you hear and trust that because you belong to him and are living for God you are salt for others and you are light to shine that will make a difference.
Follow the call.
Growing up an as orphan in Honduras, Yuri Lopez shared a toothbrush with 550 other kids. She had no comb to smooth the clumps in her hair and couldn’t always count on a pair of shoes to play in the rocky soccer field at the orphanage.
She was separated from her twin sister and three other siblings and raised in 14 orphanages. She lived mostly without electricity or running water. But at age 6, Yuri got her first gift: a shoe box stuffed with notebooks, pencils, candy and pink gummy toothpaste she confused for candy and quickly devoured. “I finally had my own things,” and that changed everything, said Lopez, now 25 and a full-time missionary who lives in Atlanta.
Even years later, when the candy and school supplies were gone, she says she took solace in her shoe box and the photo of her donor, a girl with coffee-colored hair. “I knew that girl took her time without knowing me to go to the store and buy all those things. I knew that God, through that little girl, was showing me he cares for me, even when I was feeling hopeless. We might not change the entire world sending shoe boxes, but with one shoe box we can change one kid’s life.”
Operation Christmas Child has sent 100 million boxes, according to their website. Perhaps we just found our 51st Good Deed.
Now did you hear that? “Without knowing me, I knew that girl took her time to go the store and buy all those things.” Without knowing me! Without having to prove her worth or value, she cared for me, she called me to hope. And Yuri Lopez answered with complete commitment.
It wasn’t something or some part of that little girl that was better or special that made her worthy. That’s the way the world thinks, that’s the way the world works. The world separates the kernel from the shell and throws
the shell away, but the shell is you also. We’re left feeling used, burnt out, un-whole because it only wants what it can use. That’s why it’s so difficult to feel in our souls that we’re doing something of lasting and true service when we do it with just a part of ourselves or for money or we’re not really invested in it.
God doesn’t work that way. God wants all of us because it’s all valuable. God asks you to follow Jesus fully, committedly, devotedly because there is no part of you that is throwable, disposable. God asks for it all because all of you is the only way the Lord knows how to see you and love you and save you and heal you and guide you and give you life that is true life, life that is his life, the light of the world.
Follow the Lord. Devote yourself to God. Commit yourself to Christ, his call to be his, fully, through and through. Can anybody say Amen?