Rise Up To Raise Up – 11.08.2020

[Luke 10]

          A good leader inspires other men with confidence in him, but a great leader inspires them with confidence in themselves. And today what we are going to find is that by this measure, Jesus was the greatest leader that ever was. I read a book a couple of months ago, from a pastor named David Platt. David Platt is well known as the youngest mega-church pastor in America. He took the helm of his first mega church when he was just 25 years old, he’s also probably best known for his best selling book “Radical” – which is incredible, if you ever get the chance to read it, do so. So anyways, when I see a book with his name on it – I usually make sure I pick it up. Most recently he wrote a book called “Something Needs to Change” and basically David Platt goes on a missionary journey to the Himalayas, to the poorest and most remote parts of India. And in the book we get to journey with him on this trek he went on. And all throughout this story David is musing over a classic Christian dilemma – what is the most important thing that people need? Do we need to care for people’s spiritual needs or their physical needs? What is the MOST important thing? And all throughout the book, he is torn back and forth in seeing how important each side is. Spiritual needs are so incredibly vital, but so are physical needs. And ever since I read that book, I can’t get that question out of my head. What’s the most important thing the church does? Filling spiritual needs? Or filling physical needs?

          Today is part two of our sermon series: A Look Into the Mirror, where we are continuing our journey with Jesus into chapters 9 through 12 of the book of Luke. Last week Jesus laid it out bare – what does it take to follow me, and it’s a lot. Let’s see what Jesus has for us this week.

          [read v.1-2]. Jesus has been doing his ministry thing for a couple of chapters now, and he takes a team of people and he sends them out into the world. I think a lot of us forget that that is the point of coming here – to prepare ourselves to go out there. He uses the metaphor of a harvest to talk about saving people’s lives. We know about the saving, transforming grace of Jesus Christ. In this place we preach salvation, and the transformation that happens when we give our burdens to Jesus. And there are SO MANY people out there in our community of Flushing Michigan that do not know what that salvation feels like. The harvest is plentiful, and the laborers are few. What he’s saying is that there’s a lot of work for all of us. Nobody gets to sit on the sidelines, we need everybody to bring this good news to the world.

          He keeps going, [read v.3-4]. Jesus is not real big on the pep talks. I’m sending out like lambs in the midst of wolves. The world can be harsh and violent, and we need to be innocent and pure. We need to be an alternative to the world. Like, there’s the way the world does things – and it’s a mess. But we here in the church, we need to be different. And did you notice what he said? Bring NOTHING! No bag, no money, nothing. See, here’s what I think happens in the modern church. It’s a little scary to share grace with people. To tell someone, “hey, I know you’ve got some struggles in your life, but there’s this God who really loves you and he’s offering you grace” – to reach into somebody’s life like that. It’s intimidating. And so churches, rather than going out into the world and actually sharing Jesus with people – we became obsessed with TRAINING. Got to be trained to do things. So we put our people through a training. And then we did another training. And then we did another bible study. And then there was a district training. And then there was a webinar training. And we train and we study and we train some more but we never actually DO. Or worse, we think the only person who is qualified to tell people about Jesus is the professional up front. Me. And that’s all well and good – I like reaching people. But here’s the problem – I’m one guy, how many people do you think I can reach by myself? And there’s nothing wrong with training, but here’s what I want you to notice, ask yourself: how much training did these seventy folks have? How many seminary educations did we have in this group? Maybe we don’t need another bible STUDY group, maybe we need some more bible DOING groups. The only training they had, was that they knew Jesus and they listened to his teachings. If you know Jesus, then I am calling you this morning to be a laborer.

          And what are they called to do? Verse 9, [read it]. Cure the sick, and say to them “the kingdom of God is near.” Do you remember my question at the beginning? Which is more important – physical needs or spiritual needs? Jesus says – both! Cure the sick – take care of their PHYSICAL needs. And SAY TO THEM, “the kingdom of God is near” – take care of their spiritual needs. We are called, every single one of us who loves Jesus, we are called to take care of people’s needs – what they need physically, and what they need spiritually.

          So he sends these guys out, and he warns them – not everyone is going to accept your teachings. And then in verse 16 he says, [read v.16]. Now I want to show you something very important. There are two ways to read this verse – one that elevates us, and one that elevates Jesus. Jesus says whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me. Now some people hear that and think, “yeah, I’m a Christian and so everyone should treat me like Jesus. The stuff that comes out of my mouth is holy and perfect, and you better like it or you’re rejecting Jesus.” Some folk use these words to elevate themselves. But there’s another way to interpret it. What if rather than giving us a reason for pride – what if Jesus is giving us a warning in these words? What if Jesus is reminding us that we represent him in the world? Jesus tells them, “Whoever listens to you, is listening to me – so make sure you use my words. If they reject you, they’re going to end up rejecting God – so make sure you use the best methods to reach someone.”

          First he sends them all out there, and then they come back. [read v.17-20]. So these seventy people that he sends out, they come back whooping and hollering because they just had the time of their life. Man that was so much fun! We got out there, and we made a difference in people’s life! Even demons listened to us. And Jesus says, “yeah, I gave you that authority – but don’t get excited about that. The thing you should be excited about is the fact that your names are written in heaven. See, this is kind of an important reminder. These seventy went out, and they were successful at connecting with people. But in our lives, when we reach out into the community, when we share love with people – we will not always be successful. Our job is the be faithful in loving people – meeting their spiritual and physical needs. But success is not guaranteed. Jesus is kind of grounding them in reality. Don’t make success the reason you love someone. Because that turns love into a transaction, rather than a gift. It turns grace into a product we sell people, rather than a gift we offer unconditionally. They’re all pumped up because it feels like Jesus gave them super powers – you get to change people’s lives. But the reason for our joy is not success, joy comes because our names are written in heaven.   

          I love the next verse so much. Listen to this, [read v.21]. In case you missed it, this is sort of a sick burn from Jesus. Jesus takes these seventy disciples, sends them out into the world – take care of people’s physical and spiritual needs – they come back all fired up. He gathers everyone together, and says, “I am so glad God didn’t use smart people. I’m so glad God used you instead.” Do you see it? Thank you that you have hidden these things from wise and intelligent people. You revealed yourself to these people instead! And then he calls them babies. Infants. Now I need you to understand, this is the best news you’re going to hear all morning. It sounds insulting, but it’s not – it should fill us with relief. Jesus doesn’t use wise and intelligent people. Jesus uses idiots like you and me. (Don’t take yourself too seriously).

          You ever look at something that needs to be done in the church or even in your personal life, and think – I don’t know how to do that. I’m not good enough to do that. I could never be as good as that person. But Jesus takes a moment to stop and rejoice. Jesus takes time to praise the Father in heaven, giving him thanks that he does not limit his work to the best and brightest. They have their place, but God thrives through the average work of the normal person. In fact, Paul is going to tell us later in scripture that God is made strong through our weakness. God loves taking someone who thought they could never do it – and raising them to the challenge. God PREFERS to work through the everyday efforts of the average, normal person. So if you are here this morning feeling insufficient, feeling like you are not enough in your life – what I’m trying to tell you is that you are perfect for the job.

          We finish up the chapter with two stories about taking care of people’s needs. Two stories – one about caring for people’s physical needs, and one about caring for people’s spiritual needs. Verses 25 through 37 is a very familiar story called the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer comes to Jesus and asks, “what do I have to do to get to heaven?” And Jesus asks him a few questions and they agree “Love the lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself – do this and you will live.” And then we get to verse 29 and it says, [read v.29]. Jesus has just said “you need to love God and love your neighbor.” And the next line it says, “but wanting to justify himself” – he asks the question about who is my neighbor because he wants to justify the life he lives, the people he ignores, the decisions he makes about who he loves and how he loves. He wants to justify his life, to make it okay to pick and choose who he loves. So Jesus replies with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A story that pushes the boundary of loving neighbors to include people we don’t like. Jesus puts it out there, [read v.36-37]. The Samaritan went out of his way to help a stranger. Used his oil and wine to bandage the man’s wounds, used his money to pay for the man’s room, used his own donkey to transport the man. First Jesus raises us up, he calls each of us to follow him. And the first task is to take care of people’s physical needs.

          And that is immediately followed by a story about taking care of someone’s spiritual needs. The last couple verses of the chapter Jesus visits a woman named Martha and her sister Mary. And Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to what he says, but Martha is too busy for that. She is so distracted by all the doing, that she has forgotten to rest. Forgotten how to take care of her heart. She even complains to Jesus about it, [v.40-42]. Let me ask you, if Jesus was here sitting next to you in the pew this morning. Could he look at you and say, “_____, _______, you are worried and distracted by many things”? [say the names of a few people]. My challenge for you this morning is to let Jesus finish that sentence. Because maybe you are here this morning and you are worried and distracted by many things, but I want you to hear the next thing Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; but there is need of only one thing.” And that one thing you need is a spiritual need. The one thing you need is the presence of Jesus Christ.

          The good news this morning is that Jesus raises us. If you remember last week, it was all about giving up your entire life for Jesus. Take up your cross daily, and that can be hard to hear. Last week was the death sermon, last week was the heavy. But Jesus raises us from the dead – raises us to NEW life, new purpose, new work that we have to do. We say you have to die to the world, so that you can rise into a new life, with new priorities and new values focused on loving and serving Jesus. And making the world a better place. Jesus raises us, because we have work to do.

And here’s the thing I hope you’re picking up from this sermon. If you’re waiting to feel ready, you’re wasting your time. If you’re waiting to feel totally prepared, like you’ve got a good handle on this – then you’ll never stop waiting. This is COVID 2020. There’s no training for this. There is no “ready”. There is no “Expert”. There are those who try and those who wait. So stop waiting. Rise up. Jesus has called you to be a laborer, and the harvest is plentiful.

          There’s two parts to the application and I hope it’s really obvious what I’m about to say. First, meet people’s physical needs. We have a calling from Jesus to be God’s hands and feet out in the world. We need to be a people who are known for our generosity. Food, water, shelter, education, clothing and more. This is what we do as Christians. Every single Sunday we talk about how we are here to grow close to God in order to transform the world. I don’t think that’s just a cute phrase that sounds inspiring. I believe from the bottom of my heart that this is an instruction from God. We are here, doing this Christian thing, in order to actually transform the world. Do you remember like 20 years ago, when Detroit was bottoming out? I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. I can’t tell people I grew up in Detroit, because I grew up in a very safe little town on the edge of Detroit called Troy. But I remember growing up what it was like to live on the edge of a city that was crumbling. Now I went off to college during the reconstruction period, but a lot of my friends moved into downtown Detroit and got to work. I heard about friends who were doing urban planning, rooftop gardens, non-profits were tearing down crack houses and rebuilding real estate. And since that time Detroit has come a long way. It’s not perfect, far from it – but when you hit the bottom that’s when the world changers spring into action. I think if we stretched our imaginations really hard, we could think of another great city in the beautiful state of Michigan that has recently bottomed out. And just maybe on the edge of that city is a safe, beautiful little town. And in that town maybe there’s a small church filled with world changing laborers. Maybe Flushing United Methodist Church is the place God plans to plant a seed of Revival. For Flushing. For Flint. For Genesee County. For everyone. First we are called to meet people’s physical needs.

          But here’s the problem – physical needs are easy. Taking care of physical needs is something the United Methodist Church has always been good at. But just as important – the second part of the application today is that we need to take care of people’s spiritual needs too. 2020 has been a really tricky year, but a lot of people have figured out how to take care of their immediate physical needs. But on the other hand, the emotional toll of this year has been heavy. The negative effects on people’s psychology, children, business owners, the loneliness of isolation, the difficulties of visiting people in the hospital or in the nursing facilities. It’s a lot to deal with. So many people in the world are Martha. Worried and distracted by many things. But we need to have the energy of Mary. The ability to sit still in the presence of God and let his assurance wash over us. We need to be the candle that does not waver in the dark. The light that gives hope to the broken world. Jesus Christ is the son of God and savior of the world, and he is holding on to you so tight right now. We’re about to head into winter, the days are getting shorter, and seasonal affective disorders are going to be a big deal this year. and I think one of the best things we can do for the world is to share what Mary knew. The worries and distractions of this world are very real, but there is peace to be found at the feet of Jesus. There is a God in heaven, and he knows what he is doing and he is with us every step of the way. Jesus raises us up, and I think more people need to hear about that light in the darkness.

          David Platt, in his book “Something needs to Change”, asks the question “Which is more important? Caring for physical needs or caring for Spiritual needs? And I was distracted by that question until I realized Jesus doesn’t bother to answer. He just says, “get to work.” You see, if the hope that comes from this world needs to die, let it die. It wasn’t strong enough. But in it’s place I pray that the hope of Jesus, the true light in the darkness, begins to shine. May Jesus raise you up to a new life, out of the death that is so common in this world. May you care for people’s physical needs, and love your neighbor. And then may you care for people’s spiritual needs by helping them find true peace at the feet of Jesus. Amen.

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