01-14-2007 Sunday AM Sermon How's Your New Year Going
How’s Your New Year Going?
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13
—One day at a particularly quiet moment in the normally noisy newsroom where he worked, young H. L. Mencken suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs, “It’s coming in the doors!”
—Needless to say, everyone stopped and looked in his direction.
—“It’s up to the bottom of the desks!” said Mencken as he rose to his feet.
—“What are you talking about?” asked one of his colleagues.
—“It’s up to the tops of our desks!” shouted Mencken as he jumped up onto his desk.
—Then the whole newsroom practically in one voice shouted, “What do you mean?”
—“Mediocrity!” came the reply.
—“We’re drowning in mediocrity!” he shouted over and over as he jumped from the desk and ran out the door never to return.
—Well, H.L. Mencken was a prophet far ahead of his time.
—If ever there was a shout that would ring true for our world today, it this one, “We’re drowning in a sea of mediocrity”
—Who can name, for instance, a worthy role model for our young people?
—Who can name a politician they admire without reservation?
—Who can even find a decent, as far as entertainment is concerned, show to watch on television?
—We flip through 70 or 200 channels with our remote controls and what do we end up saying? “There’s nothing on TV!”
—This has given rise to a whole generation of “channel surfers.”
—We ride the waves of channels for hours gleaning little bits here and there.
— We begin each new year in a similar way. We have a thousand things that we want to accomplish or correct in our lives, but is seems that we can do very little.
—Thus Paul’s words at the end of the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians should be sweet to our ears.
—Did you hear it?
—“But I will show you a more excellent way.”
—Thank God! In this shallow world of mediocrity, false promises and failed resolutions, how our hearts yearn for a more excellent way.
—Listen a minute again for Paul’s formula for excellence:
—Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have to the poor, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
—Now, let’s make sure we understand this.
—Paul seems to be saying for example that as a minister I could preach the gospel eloquently and our worship services could be broadcast by satellite around the world, but if I have a heart full of hatred and indulge in gossip, lying and character assassination, I am nothing but a bunch of noise.
—I can have my Ph.D. in nuclear physics, be a Nobel prize winner with many books to my credit, but if I’m not able to relate to my family, I’ve accomplished nothing.
—I can be a world class athlete, totally committed to being the best I can be, but if I don’t love others, my gold medals are nothing but a sham, a waste and meaningless.
—Isn’t that basically what Paul is saying in more modern terms?
—This is not the message that the world today has to offer us. It is the message of me first, it doesn’t matter about anyone else but me.
— I am all that counts.
—But here is the first thing Paul says to us:
I. The only excellence that really counts in life is excellence in love.
—Over the years, I have kept clippings of a newspaper column that was a staple of about every newspaper in the country. Of course I am talking about the “Dear Abby” column. In one letter, a girl by the name of Amy Mulrooney wrote to Dear Abby hoping the stranger who helped her at a busy airport in Washington State would see her letter and know how much she appreciated his generosity.
—It seems that Amy flew to Pullman Washington for an interview for admission to Washington State University’s veterinary school.
—Before she left she made reservations for a rental car and a motel room.
—She had everything planned out, hoping to have a couple of hours of peace and quiet in her hotel room before her important interview.
—That wasn’t how things turned out, though.
—At the airport Amy went to the rental car agency, intending to pay for it with her credit card.
—To her horror, her credit card was not accepted.
—It seems she had made a payment five days before and was certain that the payment would clear by the time she arrived in Washington, but it didn’t.
—Amy had no other way to pay for either the rental car or the motel room.
—“So there I was, Amy wrote, “stranded at the airport.”
—She went immediately to a pay phone to call her roommate back in California.
—By the time she got through to her, she was upset and crying.
—It was while she was on the telephone that she felt a tap on the shoulder.
—She naturally thought that it was someone who thought she was taking too long on the phone.
—But it was a man who had been listening and very matter-of-factly handed her a one hundred dollar bill and walked away without saying a word.
—Amy never even got the chance to find out who he was and to thank him.
—He simply disappeared into the crowd without a saying a thing.
—Amy wrote to Dear Abby, “I want him to know that I was accepted in Washington State’s veterinary school.”
—“So, not only did this anonymous benefactor make it possible for me to arrive on time for my interview, he made it possible for me to get into veterinary school.”
—Amy will remember the experience for the rest of her life. His quiet act of love made a lasting impact.
—Albert Schweitzer was once asked to name the greatest person in the world.
—The doctor replied, “The greatest person in the world is some unknown individual in some obscure corner of the earth who at this very moment has gone in love to be with another person in need.” Could that be something that some of you are called to do?
—So the first thing Paul says to us is:
—The only excellence is excellence in love.
II. The second thing Paul says is that love is more than an emotion.
A. “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.”
1. Is that the kind of love you have for others? Can you say no to feelings of jealousy? Can you avoid bragging? Can you get behind the wheel of the car with patience and kindness? Does incompetent service cause you to become arrogant or rude?
2. Do you have the kind of love that gives to others with the expectation of something in return?
B. Again Paul says: “Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
—There was a man who several years ago had a blood clot on his brain. It required surgery.
—The doctors then had to remove the part of his brain which deals primarily with communication skills (reading, writing, speech).
—He had what is referred to as Aphasia. It is very difficult for him to communicate.
—He had to learn to read and write all over again. Speaking was also very difficult for him.
—Now, when he wrote letters, it could take days to finish just one letter.
—He wrote one of his daughters a letter.
—And in that letter, he recorded a memory that has been stored in his brain since he was three years old.
—We hear so much these days about repressed memories of childhood trauma, but this memory was very much different.
—Here is what he wrote (remember he is writing under that cloud of Aphasia):
—“I can remember the many times when ‘Colly’ (his father) proved his love to his children.
—“Like when I was age three, Sandhill, Carrol County (Georgia), late at night—cold winter—no electric lights or electric or water except a well—and at night the bucket had slivers of ice—no heat in the house except the fireplace—covered with ashes to keep enough to warm the baby—Jesse (the Aphasia man’s first name) was thirsty—3 a.m.—a sound—‘Daddy, Daddy, I’m thirsty.’ In a flash a match was struck—and as magic (no electric lights) light appeared from kerosene lamp—I could hear my daddy walking toward the kitchen—then smash some ice—and in a flash I had stood up—in a minute—an angel of mercy without any fuss—with one hand on a lamp and the other hand holding a glass of fresh cold water—hold a glass for a boy—and the same hand, so warm, holding the dripping of water under the boy’s chin—‘Thank you daddy’—No kissing, not necessary—only a warm feeling of being loved.”
C. Now that’s love isn’t it? I hope you have experienced that kind of love...
1. Love that’s more than an emotion.
2. Love that’s based in concrete acts of caring.
3. Love is the only excellence that matters...love at the end of the day is all that matters.
III. But there is one more thing that Paul says to us: Love is eternal.
A. “Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge it will pass away.”
1. If you think about it, love is the only thing in this world that is eternal.
2. Think about that! Everything else that you will accomplish will one day be left behind.
3. So you have your body in great condition, wonderful! But it is at best only temporary.
4. And one day you will leave that body behind.
5. Or you have worked your way up to the top of your corporation.
6. Wonderful...enjoy it while you can. Because at some point, that too will be gone.
7. As far as I know, there are no corporations in heaven.
8. So you have mastered the study of microbiology. Terrific. Unfortunately, such knowledge belongs to the physical realm and not to the spiritual.
9. I’m not saying that these things aren't important, I am saying that they pale in comparison to your relationships with other people—for the true love that we have for other people are the only things in this world that are eternal.
—It’s a little like a group of soldiers who were released from prison camp at the end of World War II.
—Because transportation was very limited and bad weather threatened to cut off the port, the remaining soldiers who were to board the last boat were told they could only bring one piece of baggage.
—Two soldiers had been together throughout their tour of duty and had looked out for each other faithfully.
—When one was selected to be released and the other was forced to stay behind and wait for the later boat, the first man turned over his duffle bag, spilling out all his worldly possessions onto the ground, then told his friend to step into the bag.
—He then with more than a little effort, hoisted his friend on his back and carried his most important item of luggage onto the ship—his friend.
—Now that was a real act of love.
—Would you have thought to do that for a friend? Would I?
—Only two things really matter in this world—our relationship with God and our relationships with others.
—This is true excellence.
—Love is more than an emotion; it is concrete acts of caring concern.
—And it never ends.
— How is your new year going? Are you really focusing on the most important thing in this world?
—Love is the only thing in this world that is eternal. And we have a new and unique opportunity in this new year to give the eternal gift to each other, to those around us during the week and especially to those who need to be part of our family at FBC Fairchance.