Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Super-sized Love

I’ve been trying to clean up/organize the files on my laptop for the past couple of weeks. I ran across this sermon of mine called “Super-size Your Love” that I found encouraging (and I wrote it/ preached it?) and thought I would share it with you. Remember that this is just a cut and paste from my sermon notes, so don’t expect to flow perfectly grammatically. Hopefully, you will get something uplifting out of it.
To God be the glory!
We love the supersize don’t we? We want more and more and more. I promise you if they actually sold cokes this big people would buy them. Back in the early 1900’s cokes came in 8 ounce cans. In the late sixties 7 eleven introduced the big gulp. I don’t know if they ever came out with the gulp or if they went straight to the big gulp. If you think about it a gulp is only 16 ounces and a big gulp is 32 ounce then the 64 ounce is really 4 gulps and not a double gulp but rather a Quadra gulp. Some of you just looked at your watch and said to yourself, “well that is record time. Joel got off on tangent in less than two minutes.”

Today we are going to focus on the supersize concept but not as it relates to large quantities of sugar water. We’re not going to talk about French fries, or super cheeseburgers that come with a warning label that says, “Caution, eating this cheeseburger may result in instant blockage of all major arteries and result in instant heart attack. We are going to focus on the concept that bigger is better. No we are not going to talk about SUV’s, or 17 inch super notebook computers, or why big dogs are better than little dogs.

So what are we going to focus on today? I’m glad you asked.

Turn in your bibles to Luke chapter 7 verse 36.

Read 7:36-50

God has a supersize love for us. God’s love for us is so big that if the entire Pacific Ocean was drained it would not be a cup holder big enough to fit the cup of God’s love. And not only is the love that God has for us supersize he is asking us to have a love for him and for each other that is supersize.

Each Gospel has a story of an anointing of Jesus by a woman but this one in Luke is different from the ones in Matthew, Mark, and John. They refer to an incident in the last week of Jesus’ life. Luke’s account takes place much earlier. The other accounts deal with selling the perfume and giving to the poor – in Luke it is concerned with love and forgiveness.

So a Pharisee invites Jesus to a meal and a woman of the city described as a sinner, which most likely means prostitute hears about the meal and comes into the house. A meal such as this was not private and people could come in and watch what was going on. But a prostitute wouldn’t feel really welcomed so we are talking about some huge courage to come waltzing in there in the middle of a bunch of religious leaders. The alabaster jar was a flask with a goblet type bottom and a long neck. Some translations label the contents as ointment which is not a good translation. It was perfumed oil. Such oils were common at festive occasions. People reclined on low couches at festive meals, leaning on the left arm with the head towards the table and the body stretched away from it. The sandals were removed before reclining so the woman could approach Jesus’ feet without much difficulty.

She might have intended to anoint them or even his head which was usually the custom but got so overwhelmed with emotion that she just started soaking his feet with her own tears. She quickly wipes his feet with her tears which is another significant detail because Jewish ladies did not unbind their hair in public. This woman was completely oblivious of public opinion in the grip of her deep love for Jesus. This explains why she kisses his feet. There are other recordings in history of someone kissing the feet of a specially honored rabbi but it was far from usual. Finally she anoints Jesus’ feet with oil. This would normally be poured on the head. To use it on the feet was a mark of humility. To attend to the feet was a menial task, one for slaves.

Well, Jesus’ host sees this and he don’t like it. He engages in a little disapproving conversation with himself. Or at least he thought it was to himself. “If he was a prophet he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.” His internal dialogue is in the form of a conditional sentence and implies a.) Jesus ain’t a prophet and b.) He has no clue that a whore is touching him.”

Jesus answers him. That is awesome. Simon hadn’t spoken out loud but Jesus knows his thoughts and says, “Simon my boy, let me tell you something.” What is it? Is the literal translation. It’s polite but not really encouraging.

Jesus tells this little story about two debtors who were forgiven of their debts. One five hundred denarii, the other fifty (which was about a days wages for a laborer) It didn’t take a great deal of insight to recognize which one would love the benefactor more. Yet Simon’s reply was somewhat grudging, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.”

Then comes the application. Jesus turns to the woman and asks Simon, Do you see this woman? Did he? It is an interesting point. You see, I believe that the reason Jesus asks this question is that Simon could not see the woman as she was because he was looking at her as she had been.” Jesus proceeds to contrast her attitude with that of his host.

It now comes out that, thought Simon had invited Jesus to his home, he had not given him the treatment due to a honored guests. The host was supposed to provide water for his guest’s feet. Jesus didn’t get this courtesy but he did have his feet washed with the woman’s tears. The guest was supposed to welcome him with a kiss – but no kiss from the host. He did get his feet kissed from the whore. And Jesus points out that Simon didn’t even anoint his head with the cheap stuff, the common olive oil which was so plentiful, but this woman, this “terrible” woman had anointed his feet with the perfume which was rare and costly.

Jesus then goes on to tell Simon that the woman’s sins are forgiven. He doesn’t gloss over the sins – he says many sins. Look at the words in verse 47 for she loved much. Jesus is not saying that the woman’s action had earned forgiveness, not even her love had earned it. Jump down to verse 50. Your faith has saved you. This is proof that she had already had an encounter with Jesus and had already been forgiven. The anointing was her response to God’s grace. Her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love.

I love what Jesus says to Simon and to (listen to me) to all of us, “He who has been forgiven little, loves little.” Jesus is saying that the reason we have such a hard time showing love to him and to the woman is because we have not been forgiven very much.

Of course the other guest apparently miss this point and start discussing whether Jesus can even forgive sins or not. Jesus, in classic fashion, totally ignores the “religious” ones and keeps his attention on the one who had her attention in the right place. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace. This is important because it shows us that our love for God and for others is the consequence, not the cause of our salvation.

Most translations say, “go in peace.” This is too bad. The Greek is literally, “go into peace’ Go in peace was something rabbi’s said when they were bidding farewell to the dead. To the living they would say, “go into peace.”

This woman had a brand new life of love ahead of her and Jesus told her to go get after it.

Usually, I make points in my sermons. Or at least I try to.

Today I don’t have any points. I do have some questions though. I believe that we cannot read this passage, dissect and dig into this passage like we’ve done without asking ourselves a few questions. And not just asking questions either. We must answer them. These questions demand an answer.

Let’s start with the last question and work back to the first question and then back to the last question. Sound confusing enough for you? Good.

How Big Is My Love?

Well before we can answer that we must ask another question. Just as Jesus pointed out in the story, you can’t talk about loving Jesus and loving others without talking about forgiveness. The size of our love is directly proportionate to the size of our forgiveness. Which begs the question:

How big was my forgiveness?

Now before we answer that we must answer another question. How big was my debt.

II. How Big Was My Debt?

You see just as the size of our love is directly proportionate to the size of our forgiveness, the size of our forgiveness is directly proportionate to the size of our debt.

So how much did you owe? How much did you owe the bank? Think about that for a minute. Better yet think about that every minute. Don’t ever forget your debt. For those of us who have accepted God’s grace and have been saved by it we must not ever forget that the debt that Jesus cancelled was not a small debt, not a medium debt, not a large debt, but rather a supersize debt. Just like there is no way I could ever drink this much liquid in a single setting there is not way I could, or you could, or anyone could ever repay God what was owed. The debt was too big.

We have Churches filled with people who think that they don’t have much to be forgiven for. We think that stand in front of the king too proud to bow. When the trumpet sounds our plan is to toot our own horn.

Some us might say well I don’t sin that much? I don’t need that much forgiveness. You and I sin all the time. Turn in your Bibles to Exodus 20:17. This is the 10th Commandment. You see you might not murder, or lie or steal, or commit adultery or disrespect your parents. Those are all external things. People can witness us murder or catch us in a lie. We can get caught stealing or having an affair. The first 9 commandments are internal. Not the tenth. That is a matter of the heart. And that is the one sin that all of us can’t hide. Just like Jesus knew Simon’s thoughts, He knows our thoughts. We covet all the time. A commercial comes on. The guy in front of us gets the green and we get the red light. Guys you see a woman walk by who is younger, hipper and doesn’t have a Capri sun punch drink squirted all over her blouse and sticky kids stuck to her sides and you covet. Ladies your in a restaurant and you watch a man pull the chair out for his wife your husband just pulled his cell phone out to accept a business call on “your” first date night in six months – you covet. Every commercial we see, every promotion we miss, every time we read about the guy who won 85 million in the lottery – we covet. Romans 7:8 says it best – “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.”

And if it is not coveting it is something else. The bible makes it crystal clear. Romans 3:23 states: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

When you are asking yourself “How Big Your Debt Was” I want you to think about the Grand Canyon. You see it’s like the Grand Canyon. Let’s say _________, and ___________, and __________, and I went to the Grand Canyon. We all took off running for the edge attempting to jump across the Grand Canyon. Well maybe ________ jumps farther than ____________ and _________ jumps twice as far as I do. It doesn’t matter. Because we all are going to fall short. And not just a little short. Impossible short.
You see, that shortfall is what we owed God. Without Grace we end up in the bottom of the canyon. Dead. We could try as hard as we wanted but it doesn’t matter. Our sins are too big and too many and too deadly. No matter how righteous we are we aren’t righteous enough.

We need to quit faking it. We need to quit forgetting that our debt was huge. We don’t need to become prostitutes and then ask for grace to realize the supersize of our sins. Whether we are the sinful lady or the snotty leader we can’t cover the check of sin. We all have insufficient funds.

And once we realize how big our debt was we can begin to appreciate the vastness of our forgiveness.

III. How Big Was My Forgiveness?

If thinking about the Grand Canyon will help us get our arms around our debt then thinking about Golgotha’s Cross will help us to begin to take in the amazing depth of the fathers love for us.

We just spent twelve weeks on the cross so I’m not going to going into great detail on the forgiveness that God so lavishly gave to us on the cross. I do want you to take a minute to listen to the words of a song and contemplate the question “How Big Was My Forgiveness? Now this might be a bit uncomfortable for some of us. We like to sit back and watch on Sunday’s. We’ve been working all week and we don’t want to think about such tough stuff. It might not be easy, but then again neither was the cross. We love to say, “When He was on the cross I was on his mind.” Well let’s not forget that while we were on his mind our sins were sins were on his back? Think about how much God forgave us on that cross as we listen to the words of this song.

Play the song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.

His wounds paid my ransom. That is the depth of God’s love for us. Wounds that marred the chosen one bring many sons to glory. That is the completeness of his forgiveness.

When we realize how big our debt was we can begin to understand how much we have been forgiven. When we truly understand just how much we have been forgiven we can then and only then begin to love Jesus and others as we should.

The religious guy, Simon didn’t get it. The town whore did. One is full of conceit and one is full of contrition. The best the church going guy could muster up was a small cup of respect for the Son of God and a large cup of rejection for the sinful woman.

I wonder, do we ever do the same? You see we hate to do it, but we have to do it and that is ask the tough question.

IV. How Big Is My Love?

How big is my love for what? You might see it as a two part question? How big is my love for Jesus? How big is my love for others? It’s not a two part question. Look at this verse: “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When you spend time this week contemplating how big your love is I want you to think about the Great Commandment. That is the standard. That is the type of love that comes as a result of being connected to Jesus the vine.

I have some real fruit up here. And I have some fake fruit. Its plastic fruit. Now from a distance it might be hard to tell which is the real and which is fake. How could you tell which is real and which is fake? You could hold it. You could smell it. You could cut into it. You could put it into an oven. Baked apple – good. Baked plastic apple – bad. No not just bad. We’ve all smelled burnt plastic. It’s horrible.

Church when our love is not real but rather fake, when our love is small, when our love is not the supersize love that God created us to have it is a stench in his nose. God will not be pleased but rather disgusted. You see God created us to produce fruit. And the first fruit of the Spirit is a first fruit of the Spirit. A byproduct. When we realize how much we’ve been forgiven and how enormous our debt was we will produce the fruit of love. And we won’t be content with just any kind of love. We will ask God to develop in us an order of love and we will say, “make that supersize”

Lisa Laurent was having a discussion with two of our members and was describing life in the Bay Area from her point of view. She said, “we are all caught up in own stuff. We too busy with all the details of our lives to have deep relationships. Instead we just settle for superficial ones. We are so busy that we miss the fullness that loving relationships bring to our lives. She said, and I quote, “We are getting ripped off.” Lisa visited other Bay Area churches before coming to Redwood Church and she found that the culture in the church was not much different from outside of the church. In fact her experience at one church caused her coin a new term for superficial, fake love. She called it, “acquaintance contentment” I was so struck by that comment that I called the people she was talking to and then contacted her. In the course of the conversation she shared with me that prior to coming to Redwood Church she was “church hoping” in search of a church that loved each other and interacted on a deeper level. I asked her how we compared to the other churches she visited and I loved her reply, and I quote, “we were hugely better” Hugely better – I’ll take an order of love – Make that Huge!

V. Response
Most every week we invite people to respond. Today is going to be different. People will respond. I have set this microphone up here for anyone who wants to come forward and just simply tell someone else in the church that they love them. You don’t need to make a long, eloquent speech. You don’t need to go into details if you haven’t always felt that way but if you did that would be ok too. You see a lot of the time we are just like the “religious” leader and we miss an opportunity to express our love. Maybe we are embarrassed, maybe we don’t want be real. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it is a hard heart. Maybe we are too self-centered to love on Jesus. Maybe we are content with being acquaintances with Jesus and one another but we don’t want to experience real love. Maybe we have forgotten the size of our forgiveness or the size of our debt.

When was the last time you told Claud Dunn that you love him. Maybe you’ve thought about it and just haven’t had the time. You do now. Worse yet, maybe you haven’t even thought about it because you’ve been so busy. You have the time now.

You see Jesus is calling us to open our hearts to him and express our love to him. How we do that best is by opening our hearts to others and by expressing our love to others.

So the microphone is up here. Come on up and tell someone you love them.

We just had church. I don’t know about you, but fake fruit doesn’t fill me up. That was real fruit. That was real love. That was not just acquaintance contentment. That was hugely better. That was some supersize love. Praise God.

Remember the words of Jesus, her many sins have been forgiven – for she has loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

In a moment we are going to stand and sing. Jesus is here with us. We have a choice. We can focus on the sins of others or we can focus on holiness of God. We can worry about what people are thinking about our worship, about our singing, and we can miss an opportunity to express our love. Or we can be just like that sinful, yet forgiven woman and we can bend down with hearts empty of pride and eyes filled with tears and we can pledge our love anew to Jesus.

No comments: