Life In His Name - Week 4: Live
Over the next several weeks we'll not only be celebrating the season of Easter--which will continue until Pentecost in May--we will also be seeking to answer a very important question. The question that we'll be wrestling with is simply this: Jesus is risen, now what?
We celebrated Easter, we got excited, we sang, praised, proclaimed and otherwise lifted up the notion that Jesus is risen. But what does it mean that Jesus is risen? What does the Resurrection mean to you and to me--especially during this time after the big celebrations, after the build up and the big event?
I believe that we are Resurrection People called to live in the name of Jesus. We are called to live abundant, purpose-filled joyous, intense, engaging lives--lives lived in hope. As we learned last week, those who have hope must live different lives--a life lived in hope will inherently be different as opposed to a life lived without it.
How do we live into the hope of the Resurrection on a daily basis? Well, as we noted last week, the answer to this question is to live our lives in the name of the risen Jesus.
Which is why we called this series, "Life In His Name." When we live our lives in the name of the risen Jesus--we find joy that we never knew was possible.
And we also express that joy in interesting ways. We might sing, for example or dance or play or simply live. Over the course of this series, we are going to explore what it means to live into the hope of the Resurrection to fulfill our destiny as Resurrection people--to sing, dance, play and live.
Today we're going to step into the next installment of this series, a sermon entitled: Live.
The one thing that I want you to remember from today's teaching is simply this: Living in the name of Jesus makes your ordinary, extraordinary.
I want you to do me a favor. Take one of the sheets of paper near you and a pen or pencil and jot down your normal, every day schedule. Just outline how you spend an ordinary day in an ordinary week. What are the things you do? Take a couple of minutes to write all of it down.
The fact of the matter is that no one wants to be ordinary. Ordinary is boring. Ordinary is forgotten. Ordinary doesn't matter. We hear all of the time how we need to transcend the ordinary and be extraordinary people. The stories we love to hear are about ordinary people who become extraordinary through their extraordinary accomplishments.
And the reason why most of us love these stories is because we don't feel all that extraordinary. Think about it. You could outline your ordinary day because most of us do the same stuff pretty much all of the time.
I read this article about being extraordinary this week in a online magazine. The author stated right off the bat, "If you want to be extraordinary, do extraordinary things!" Yeah right. I would love to do extraordinary things all of the time, wouldn't you? But the fact of the matter is that most of my life is spent doing pretty ordinary stuff.
In fact, if you start to think about it--it can be kind of sobering when you realize just how much of our lives are just ordinary, despite how the self-help gurus and our cultural influencers try to tell us they should be.
When I was a younger guy back in the 80's there was this band called the Godfathers who had a song that came to my mind when I was thinking about the sermon this week. The title of the song was Birth, School, Work, Death--and it highlighted the very ordinary sort of way that most of us live our lives. We're born. We go to school. We work. And then eventually we die. Pretty ordinary.
Here's what I would like for you to do now. I want you to take your weekly calendar that you worked on just a bit ago, look at the things you wrote, and then turn to the person next to you. I want you to ask them the following question--do this in pairs: "Jesus just came to hang out with you on a normal, ordinary day during the middle of an ordinary week. What would you do differently?"
Let's have a couple of groups share what they would have done differently.
Let me remind us once again about the main point that I mentioned at the beginning of our time together: Living in the name of Jesus makes your ordinary, extraordinary.
The reason it feels sometimes like there is something working against us living joyous, abundant, hope-filled Resurrection lives in the name of Jesus is because there is. Jesus himself talked about this very thing with his disciples:
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
The images that Jesus uses here to teach are of ordinary things--shepherds and sheep. But then he introduces some competing entities into the illustration--the shepherd and the thief. The thief comes to destroy, but the shepherd comes to give full life. He even goes on to say that the "good shepherd" is willing to give his life to his sheep, to make them safe, to provide and protect them from the thieves of the world.
So many times I think that those of us who follow Jesus get caught up in some wrong notions about the whole point of following Jesus. Following Jesus isn't about going to heaven when you die--that's only part of it. Jesus never really taught this, to be honest. Jesus wanted his followers to know that the full life he wanted for them was eternal life that begins now--and continues to "then."
Jesus was essentially teaching here that the thief comes to destroy your "now," and ruin the full life that he wants for you. A life where the ordinary is made extraordinary.
So, let me ask you. Where is the thief showing up in your life? Take a look at the calendar you sketched out. Is the thief showing up in your work--is the thief stealing your joy in your work, or creating an idol out of it that destroys family life, wrecks your Sabbath rest and diminishes the shalom of God?
Or maybe the thief is showing up to steal the joy of your meals--scattering your family, making them solitary moments eaten in front of a TV rather than around the table with family, friends and loved ones.
Perhaps the thief has showed up in your schedule, and has stolen your joy through busyness, ruining your rest, causing you anxiety--making you feel that you aren't enough, you don't have enough, there will never be enough...
In the Hebrew tradition there is this incredible notion of what is known as the Tikkun Olam or the "repairing of the world." Tikkun Olam is the act of doing ordinary things to bring about the shalom or peace of God to the world.
Tikkun Olam teaches us that through work, through Sabbath rest, through meals, through giving of ourselves and what we have... we can heal the world, we can help bring shalom. It teaches us, and I think that Jesus lifted up this same teaching over and over again, that doing ordinary things in his name has eternal implications.
Living in the name of Jesus makes your ordinary, extraordinary.
If you feel as though the ordinary is just ordinary. That your joy has been stolen from you in the ordinary things that honestly have eternal implications---I am here to tell you that there's another way. When you surrender every aspect of your life to Jesus, when you dedicate yourself to living in his name--those ordinary things that have been stolen from you can not only be returned, they can become extraordinary in ways you might have never thought possible.
I want you to close your eyes and listen to this poem written by William Martin. It helps us to see more clearly the eternal, life-giving aspects of ordinary life:
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
As we close today and you come up for communion. I want you to find one of the stations that speaks to you. Maybe you have been struggling to find the extraordinary in your ordinary work. Or the extraordinary in your every day meals, or the Sabbath rest that you know that you so desperately need.
These river stones represent the Sabbath rest--take one and take it home with you. Think of how that stone rested beneath the rushing waters of a river, and remember how extraordinary your ordinary rest can be when it heals your soul, and the world.
These unbelievable cinnamon rolls represent how meals can become extraordinary moments of joy and glimpses of heaven itself. Take a bit of one home or eat it now and let the sweetness of it bring back your joy of ordinary meals made extraordinary by the grace and peace of Jesus, from whom all good things flow.
These small tools represent your work. Take one home with you if you need to be reminded of how important, holy and extraordinary even the most ordinary job is when it is done in the name of Jesus for the glory of God.
And hold tight to this true thing: Living in the name of Jesus makes your ordinary extraordinary.