Sermon – Feeding each other and Following God June 26, 2016, Lorraine Doeleman
Long long ago and far far away Confucius had a dream. He was swept up in a violent dust and windstorm and was carried to a different place. When the dust settled he saw that he was standing in front of a very large hall. Over the doorway he saw a sign that said in big letters “HELL”. Confucius went inside and what he saw made him very confused. Around the big hall were tables laid out and filled with all kinds of food but everyone in the hall was dying of starvation. On the wall was a big sign that told those present that they could eat everything they wanted with only one condition. The condition was that the food could only be eaten with five feet long chopsticks. He looked again and saw that those that still had the strength were struggling to feed themselves with the large chopsticks but to no avail. He was dismayed to see so much suffering amidst so much abundance.
He went outside and was immediately swept up in another fierce storm and again when the dust settled he saw that he was standing in front of another large hall. Over the doorway was another sign but this one said “HEAVEN”. Confucius went inside. The scene was very similar to the first one. Around the hall were tables filled with food. A sign on the wall also said all food must be eaten with five feet long chopsticks. But then Confucius noticed a very big difference. All the people in this hall were well fed and happy because, unlike the first hall he visited, here everyone was feeding each other.
Let each one of us be sure to be ever mindful of the needs of others.
Paul reminds us of these qualities when he writes to the Galatians in Chapter 5 – Verses 13 – 25. “You should love your neighbor as yourself.” He speaks about the works of the flesh as being the bad qualities of people – anger, jealousy and envy to name a few and then he speaks about the fruits of the spirit being the good qualities of people – love, joy, patience, kindness and faithfulness. Paul reminds us of the fruits of the spirit that just automatically blossom and come to fruition, like fruit on a tree, in a transformed life. This reminds me of all of the fruit that is growing and blossoming in our valley right now. Everything is ahead of schedule. Can we be like the fruit of the tree? Do we have love and faithfulness in our lives? Better ask ourselves the question: Are these things growing in my life, day after day, more and more? How can I help them along? What can I do better in my life?
Did you know that every Christian’s desire should be to follow Jesus? God has a constant purpose for our lives: to follow his Son and to share him with others. Every organization, activity, and thought should reflect this goal.
The Luke passage from today tells us about Jesus and his travels. It tells us that Jesus meets three people that all have excuses about why they cannot follow Jesus. One man said that he had to bury his father and Jesus said that the dead should bury their own dead. Another man said that he had to go say goodbye to his family first. Jesus told him that no one that puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God. Jesus is telling them that their first priorities should be to follow him and be obedient to him. Another word for this would be discipleship. Jesus feels that they should all follow him when he says so. Following someone like that reminds me of cults.
There was once a young man named Jim Jones who became interested in religion at about 10 years old after being taken too many different types of churches by a neighbor. He became so interested in it that he began preaching to other children about God and disapproved of teenage activities – drinking and dancing. He did not have many friends because of this. Jones in his teens worked at a hospital until he graduated early. He met his wife at the hospital and they married after he graduated and adopted several children. His religious desire continued until he was 21 and decided to enter the ministry. He held racially integrated services which white people did not appreciate. So he formed his own church – The Peoples Temple. In the mid 1960’s, he moved his congregation to Northern California. The people continued to follow him and listen to his religious beliefs. Jones also opened up a branch of his church in San Francisco after that. He held his people to strict rules such as discouraging romantic attachments outside a marriage – which he did not follow himself. Eventually, Jim Jones decided to buy land in Guyana, South America in 1974. About 1000 people followed him there. He continued to preach to the people and “brainwash” them. He ran the camp like a prison. The Guyanese government did not like them there after receiving many complaints from previous members and Jim Jones threatened suicide with his people. On November 18, 1978, The U.S. government sent a Congressman – Leo J. Ryan over to investigate. He came to the compound and told anyone there that they could leave with him if they were not happy. No one left with him. Jones was not happy about this and by the time Congressman Ryan got back to the airplane to leave, he was gunned down along with 4 other NBC reporters and workers. Back at the compound, Jones began his infamous suicide campaign. At the end of this terrible ordeal, more than 900 people died including 276 children from drinking a cyanide and valium punch. Jones was later found dead from a gunshot wound in the middle of some of his followers. A phrase that has later been coined from this is “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid”. “Don’t trust any group you find to be a little on the kooky side.”
Charles Manson also comes to mind who led a whole group of believers or his family as he called them in his religious teachings to commit murders of famous people in California in 1969. He had a belief in Armageddon and thought he was Jesus. His followers believed this and did anything for him. He is still alive at 81 and is in Corcoran State Prison in California. Both of these men and many more did all this in the name of Christ as they say. My question is – Why would they follow such men? What led them to believe everything they said was the truth?
Craig C. Christina writes in Ministry Matters – To be a true follower, Jesus demands that we recognize a consistent purpose, reorient our thinking to a Christ-centered perspective, and pay the considerable price of placing obedience to him as our top priority. Most Christians claim to follow Jesus.
The Spirit of Power and love that we receive is not like the human power that we recognize as strong. It’s a power unlike anything we can do on our own. We put our trust in God or a power to help us along and follow it. Austin Mansfield (Sermon Central text illustrations) tells this story:
A young man growing up in the wrong part of Houston became a bully. He would get in fights in school, in the neighborhood, and began mugging people to get spending money. He even beat up people just for the sake of doing it.
He learned to box, and became pretty good at it. He began to make a lot of money and could have almost anything he wanted. One day, during his training session for an upcoming bout, he heard his mom talking to his sister on the telephone about his favorite nephew. The young boy had had a seizure and now lay in a coma in the hospital. Doctors said he would probably die, but that if he came out of the coma he wouldn’t be able to move his limbs, or speak, or do any of the human functions we consider part of living.
He ran into the room where his mom was on the phone and shouted, “Momma, call the hospital and tell those doctors to give him the best of everything. Tell them I’ll take care of all the bills, to fly in the best doctors from wherever they have to. Tell them who I am, and that I’ll take care of everything — whatever it costs.”
His mom spoke to the doctors, and then told him, “Son, you’re just going to have to pray.”
He realized then how grave the situation was. When someone tells you the only thing you can do is pray, things are looking pretty bad.
Then it hit him: All of his money, his fame, his influence, his friends — none of that could solve this problem. It was out of his hands, out of the doctor’s hands, out of everyone’s hands. For the first time, he was totally powerless.
And for the first time, George Foreman dropped to his knees and prayed.
He wasn’t sure God existed, but he knew that when all else failed, people prayed. He asked God, if he really existed, to help his nephew. Then he got back in bed. A few seconds later, he got back on his knees and offered to give up all his wealth if God would heal his nephew. Then he got back in bed again. A few seconds later he got back on his knees a third time and got angry at God for letting this happen to his nephew, a child who hadn’t experienced life yet. George told God to take his life instead. Let the boy live and take George’s life instead.
The next morning George’s sister called from the hospital. His nephew had woken up and could move his eyes, but the doctors said he wouldn’t ever walk again.
She called later that day, and the boy had begun moving his toes. The next day the boy was talking, and a week later he was on his way home, “walking, talking, and back to normal.” The doctors had no logical explanation. But George Foreman knew God had just given him a miracle.
Three months later in March 1977, George Foreman “died” in his locker room after fighting Jimmy Young. He collapsed in a heap, and entered what he describes as “a deep, dark void, like a bottomless pit.”
In his book, “God in My Corner — A Spiritual Memoir”, George wrote “I knew I was dead, and that this wasn’t heaven. I was terrified, knowing I had no way out. Sorrow beyond description engulfed my soul, more than anyone could ever imagine. If you multiplied every disturbing and frightening thought that you’ve ever had during your entire life, that wouldn’t come close to the panic I felt. …
“I screamed with every ounce of strength in me, ‘I don’t care if this is death. I still believe in God.’
“Instantly, what seemed to be like a giant hand reached down and snatched me out of the terrifying place. Immediately, I was back inside my body in the dressing room.”
George accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and devoted himself to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He realized his human power, his money, and his prestige, were worthless in the next life, and meant to be used as tools to lead others to Jesus during this one.
He went on to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World twice. He was ordained as an evangelist in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and became pastor of a small church. He also became involved in prison and hospital ministries.
You probably know him best for the George Foreman Grills that continue to sell around the world. And he recently baptized his own 23-year-old daughter who finally decided to dedicate her own life to Jesus. George now continues to preach, write cookbooks and religious books and joined HBO’s Sports Boxing Broadcast team. He also has 10 children – 5 of which are boys who are all called George.
That’s God’s idea of the power of love and faithfulness. It is the idea of following his word and remembering to use the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, patience and kindness. Try to use them on your friends and family. A kind word goes a long way. If you are following God, remember to commit to him and listen to him. Let each one of us also be sure to be ever mindful of the needs of others.
Allyson Felix – American track and field sprinter states “The most important lesson that I have learned is to trust God in every circumstance. Lots of times we go through different trials and following God’s plan seems like it doesn’t make any sense at all. God is always in control and he will never leave us.” Amen!