While attending a Marriage Seminar dealing with communication, Dick and his wife Ellen listened to the instructor, “It is essential that husbands and wives know each other’s likes and dislikes.” He addressed the man, “Can you name your wife’s favorite flower?” Dick leaned over, touched his wife’s arm gently and whispered, “It’s Pillsbury, isn’t it?”
Wrong flour—I don’t think I’m feeling the love here.
There is more to marriage than being well-fed—I’ve heard. Just kidding.
Since I start out every message with a joke and as this morning’s joke poked fun at marriage, I thought I would change things up with a second story about commitment and marriage that is simply sweet, with no punchline. And it’s true.
At a formal banquet in London, Winston Churchill and his wife Clemmie were sitting next to each other when the dignitaries were asked the question, “If you could not be who you are, who would you like to be?” Naturally everyone was curious as to what Churchill would say. When it was finally his turn, he rose and gave his answer. “If I could not be who I am, I would most like to be…” and here he paused to take his wife’s hand, “…Lady Churchill’s second husband.”
What a smooth, smooth husband and man. But much more important than this, Churchill was someone who could make a commitment and stick with it, no matter what.
I want to talk to you this morning about making and keeping your commitments, especially your commitment to the Lord. Proverbs 3:3 says, “Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Here’s the deal: We’re caught up in the idea that we ought to follow our feelings. We think if we can’t feel our religion, feel our faith, then we don’t have to follow it or keep at it. And if you think about it, it’s like we’re
blaming God for not making us feel our faith more so that we would be more faithful. You feel me?
Look, feelings are important but everyone who has gotten past the hormonal stage of growing up knows it’s not all about feelings. This life, your faith, takes heart, not feelings. Commitment requires courage, not emotion.
1Corinthians 16:13 says, “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” This warning reminds us that commitments can slide through fingers like grains of sand, quietly, easily. They’re discarded and replaced with things or opportunities that are, let’s say, chunkier, weightier, easier to grab hold of, things that feel good or powerful. It’s very easy to get caught up in a lot of the excitement and activity that surrounds us at all times.
Without courage to remain loyal to our faith, our heart for the Lord beats weaker and weaker. It’s up to us to keep our faith burning. Fortunately, most people’s walk with the Lord lasts longer than a few days one week.
Palm Sunday is the day in the church year when we mark Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem for the last, short week of his life. It’s an event of great insight and great misunderstanding. The great insight was that this Jesus really is “the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” He was the Messiah, the Son of David, the long-awaited Ruler of Israel, the fulfillment of all God’s promises. But the great misunderstanding was that he would enter Jerusalem and by his mighty works, take his throne and make Israel free from Rome.
For three years, Jesus had performed one miracle after another. For three years Jesus had attracted growing crowds and taught them how God’s reign was not to be found only among the powerful in Jerusalem but for the needy everywhere. And more than about week before this, he had gone to the home of Mary and Martha and raised their brother Lazarus from the dead. By the time he entered Jerusalem the crowd was seriously primed.
They wanted a king, a king who would not only sit on the throne of David but lead the people in battle against the hated Romans and the Empire. And Jesus was everything you could hope for in a leader. He was
charismatic, decisive and powerful. Since he was capable of feeding thousands of people at a time, think of it, he would feed thousands of soldiers. He could heal the wounded, perhaps even raise the dead. What army on the face of the earth could stand against such a king?
Still, it wasn’t to be. Jesus wasn’t who they wanted him to be—but he would become much more than what they imagined was possible.
Let me tell you a story.
As you know, the Roman Empire was one of the “greatest” to rule the world. For hundreds of years the Romans dominated the Mediterranean, building magnificent cities, roads that remain today and imposing their “peace” upon those they conquered. During Jesus’ time and in the centuries after Rome’s power seemed unassailable. By the fifth century after Christ the citizens of Rome had enjoyed eight centuries as a superpower.
Then in 410 C.E. they awoke to find Alaric, king of the Visigoths, standing at their gates with his army. Envoys were sent out to conduct negotiations to have him move away. They began with threats—an attack on Rome would be met by the almighty strength of her innumerable warriors.
Alaric’s reply was simple: “The thicker the grass the more easily scythed.” He couldn’t be fooled by their empty threats.
What then would be the price of his departure? Alaric explained that his soldiers would move through the city taking all the gold, silver and anything else of value that could be moved. They would also take with them every barbarian who had been enslaved. The envoys became hysterical. “But what would that leave us?” they demanded. “Your lives” Alaric replied.
And with that Rome’s centuries as an apparently unbeatable superpower came to an end.
How many of you had heard of the name Alaric before just now? Not many I imagine, just some history buffs among us. Now how many in the world for the last two thousand years have heard of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ? Billions upon billions.
Sometimes the lesser turns out to be the greater, and the greater fades away. Don’t get caught up in the mere moment. Hang on to something that
really will last. Stay loyal to God’s will. Keep hold on your commitment to Christ’s teachings, Christ’s life in you. As Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”
After being rejected by several companies such as Atari and Hewlett-Packard, Steve Jobs sold his Volkswagon and Steve Wozniak sold his calculator, and with the $1300 that gave them they formed Apple Computers. The company was named Apple in memory of a happy summer Jobs had spent working in an orchard. And Apple took off.
But Jobs soon discovered that if his vision was to reach fruition they needed greater management expertise. So he approached John Sculley, then President of PepsiCo. There was absolutely no reason why Sculley would leave a highly paid position in a leading worldwide company to go work with a bunch of computer nerds in a fledgling industry. Not unsurprisingly he turned Jobs down. But Jobs wouldn’t take no for an answer. He approached Sculley again and passionately presented his visionary ideas.
But this time he also asked Sculley a question, a question that has become almost legendary. The question to the President of Pepsico was: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
It’s loyalty to a higher cause that really makes our lives worth something.
Many of those who gathered to throw their coats and palm branches onto the street and who shouted praises did so because it was the popular thing to do at the time. Now of course some began doing it with sincere motives, but others soon did it because others were doing it. And then they stopped, their loyalty run out; their commitment dried up.
Don’t stop short. Holy Week isn’t Palm Sunday alone; it isn’t Maundy Thursday or Good Friday alone; nor is it even Easter alone. It takes a week. God’s life for you takes more than one day to unfold; it requires more than one experience, one way of looking at things, more than one attempt.
Doing the Lord’s will takes better than a little effort, a little wishing, a little praying, a little struggle, a little happiness. It takes more than what
you’re at first willing to give. Don’t give God just a day, one little part of yourself, one corner of your life. To do God’s will for your life takes more than you can reasonably see doing in your life.
Someone said, “People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.”
There’s a legend about an ancient village in Spain. The villagers learned that the king would pay a visit! In a thousand years, a king had never come to that village. Excitement grew! “We must throw a big celebration,” The villagers all agreed. But, it was a poor village, and there weren’t many resources. Someone came up with a classic idea. Since many of the villagers made their own wines, the idea was for everyone in the village bring a large cup of their choice wine to the town square, “We’ll pour it into a large vat and offer it to the king for his pleasure! When the king draws wine to drink, it will be the very best he’s ever tasted!”
The day before the king’s arrival, hundreds of people lined up to make their offering to the honored guest. They climbed a small stairway, and poured their gift through a small opening at the top. Finally, the vat was full! The King arrived, was escorted to the square, given a silver cup and was told to draw some wine, which represented the best the villagers had. He placed the cup under the spigot, turned the handle, and then drank the wine, but it was nothing more than water.
You see, every villager reasoned, “I’ll withhold my wine and substitute water. With so many cups of wine in the vat, the king will never know the difference!” The problem was, everyone thought the same thing, and the king was greatly dishonored.
It ought to be wine that we pour into our faith. Don’t give water. Don’t give the minimum. Put forth more than what is merely required. Offer more than what others do who are only getting by.
The Lord’s will asks for more than your mind can see, more than your muscles can do, more than your spirit can grasp, more than your heart can bear. This is why God shows us only one day at a time, and this is why Christ promises to be with us, by our side. Walk in faith, a committed faith
that sees beyond the immediate, beyond just this moment, and listens to more than just the cheers and excitement of the crowd, and that trusts that God’s good will has the final and glorious say.
Can anybody say Amen?