Sermon: Good Neighbors
Scripture: Titus 2:1-15
Just Like Jesus
God Loves to Renovate - In his book, Just Like Jesus, Max Lucado speaks of how his wife likes to renovate. She loves changing the curtains, painting walls, rearranging furniture. He says that it’s a passion of hers, and that their house is al-ways changing. He says that once they bought their house, he thought that it was all done...that after the negotiating and moving in, they could just relax...Not so...immediately there were remodeling projects and a concerted effort to make the place better.
And has time has gone on, he’s begun to appreciate this about his wife...he even goes so far as to say that she picks up this trait from her Father...Her Heavenly Father! He says, “God loves to decorate. God HAS to decorate. Let him live long enough in a heart, and that heart will begin to change. Walls of anger will be demolished and shaky, fearful foundations re-stored.
God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way...He wants you to be Just Like Jesus.
Something Better - A father tells the story of a how he and his toddler daughter would go to the park together. They would play, and play. After a while, he would go and buy her an ice-cream cone. One day, he bought the cones like normal, but he noticed that his daughter, who had been asking intently for her ice cream, was now shoving sand into her mouth...
Where he intended delicacy, she was shoving dirt. Did he love her with dirt in her mouth. Of course! Was she any less his daughter? Of course NOT! But, he had to take her over to the water fountain, clean out her mouth, and teach her not to put dirty sand in her mouth...
It’s the same with God. God has taken us to the fountain of His love is washing our lives clean. He says to each of us, “I have something better for you...and so he cleanses us of our filth...of our immorality, our dishonesty, our prejudice, our bitterness, our greed.
And while it may not always feel good, and the renovations might be a bit disheveling, We can rest assured that God has something better for us....much better.
Salvation is Here!
New Life - Rabbi Beryl Cohon has been one of the most ex-pressive thinkers in Judaism. Rabbi Cohon used to love to walk down the bank of the Charles River in the Cambridge-Boston area. One day he saw a number of boys sailing toy sailboats. They had seven little boats in the lagoon. Some were moving faster than others; one or two capsized and had to be pulled out and righted; one struck the embankment and had to be pushed off. Some barely had enough wind in their sails to drift along. A few were moving very fast. The same wind, blowing from the same direction, caused some to capsize, some to stall, some to move fast, and some to move in circles. They all were turning in different directions when the same force was playing upon all of them.
The explanation, of course, lies in the set of the sail. As the sail is adjusted, so does the boat travel. If the wind is caught, the skillful sailor can even guide a vessel in the very teeth of the storm.
Live Wisely – Paul is calling us to live wisely. Jesus said, “Be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” Part of the Christian faith, of being a Jesus follower is using our heads. To understand wise living. To make good choices. To under-stand that there are easy ways that fail and hard ways that suc-ceed. For example, too many people want to get rich quick and so they fall into the “5 easy steps to wealth” stuff…or they buy with credit cards to “pay it off later” or they buy homes with variable rate mortgages, not understanding that if rates go up they’ll be unable to afford their home! Instead, God calls us to lives of saving, living within our means, of buying only what we can afford, of earning all we can, saving all we can, and giving all we can.
God calls us to live wisely in all parts of our lives, and unfortu-nately, there’s a part of Christian culture that assumes that brains don’t matter…that using our heads isn’t important. I remember in our college ministry there were students who didn’t care about their grades or about learning, and it always made me mad because our professors saw it as a weakness of our faith…that someone being a Christian encouraged us to not think. On the contrary, we are called to be wise.
Filled with Love - In an age when the word 'love' is greatly abused, it is important to remember that the primary compo-nent of biblical love is not affection but commitment. Warm feelings of gratitude may fill our consciousness as we consider all that God has done for us, but it is not warm feelings that Deut. 6:5 demands of us but rather stubborn, unwavering commitment. Similarly, to love our neighbor, including our enemies, does not mean that we must feel affection for them. To love the neighbor is to imitate God by taking their needs seri-ously. [p. 260]
Integrity – We must live with integrity…To be honest, to be trustworthy, to live at home like we profess at church.
No Slandering (Gossip) – You can’t love your neighbor if you are talking about them behind their back. You can’t love someone if you’re assassinating their character. You can’t for-give or not judge someone if you continue to bring up their mis-takes or their moral failures again and again. Jesus followers don’t gossip. They don’t slander. They encourage and edify and build each other up.
1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE. "If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."
2. My mother taught me RELIGION. "You better pray that will come out of the carpet."
3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL. "If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"
4. My mother taught me LOGIC. "Because I said so, that's why."
5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC. "If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."
6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT. "Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."
7. My mother taught me IRONY. "Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."
8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS. "Shut your mouth and eat your supper."
10. My mother taught me about STAMINA. "You'll sit there un-til all that spinach is gone."
11. My mother taught me about WEATHER. "This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."
12 My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY. "If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!"
14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION. "Stop acting like your father!"
15. My mother taught me about ENVY. "There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."
16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION. "Just wait until we get home."
20. My mother taught me HUMOR. "When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."
22. My mother taught me GENETICS. "You're just like your father."
25. And my favorite: My mother taught me about JUSTICE. "One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!"
By Life - Deut. 6:4 - I say it alot, but it’s true...the most impor-tant thing we can do is to teach our children when we get up in the morning, when we lie down, when we’re at home or even on a journey, all of life should be spent teaching our children about life and faith. About God and how to love each other. All of life should be an exercise of teaching life. We are called to be teachers, teachers through the way we live.
By Example - We Need People to Teach us what to learn!
A man, returning from a business trip, was met at the airport by his wife. They walked from the gate together and were stand-ing waiting for the baggage to be unloaded. An extremely at-tractive stewardess walked by. Suddenly, the man came to life. Beaming, he said to the stewardess, "I hope we can fly together again, Miss Jones."
On the way home his grew suspicious, "How come you knew the name of that stewardess?" she asked.
The man replied smoothly, "You see, my dear, her name was posted right up front in the plane, under the names of the pilot and co-pilot."
To which the wife replied, "Okay, now give me the names of the pilot and co-pilot."
Sometimes, don’t even know what we need to learn, so we need someone to teach us what to learn. Older adults, we need you. We need your voice in the church. We need you to be active and teaching because you’re experiences and lives can teach us…teach us not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to teach us about what works…about how to slow down and take time for our families…for our faith…for our lives. We need your wisdom and your experience to teach us. And we younger adults need to listen and open our ears to what we might learn.
By Word – God’s word is our authoritative guide of faith. This is why a sermon is such a large portion of worship. As Protestants we believe that in learning from God’s Word, our lives our changed and we allow God’s Spirit to transform our hearts and minds.
But in knowing God’s Word, we also become teachers our-selves. We are ready to help others live the life of faith. We are able to share why we believe what we believe. Why God calls us to lives of purity, etc.
[Apology: I didn't have the ending of my sermon in notes, and I don't remember what I said!]