Fourth Sunday of Lent

Text: Luke 7:11-15

Theme: “Love of Another Kind” (Part 2 in sermon series)  

love

 

rob2

How do episodes of TV soapies begin?  Like “Home and Away”, or “The Bold and The Beautiful”?  I’m told – I mean, I wouldn’t know from personal experience – but I’m told that they begin with a 1 minute compilation of the previous episode.  10 second grabs of the previous episode are shown – one after another – so that, even if you missed that episode, it gives you enough of the action to make sense of the present episode.

Since we’re in a sermon series – this is the 2nd in the series – I thought that a 1-minute compilation might be helpful. That way – if you missed the previous sermon – you should still be able to make sense out of this one.

Well, in the first message we saw that love is at the heart of an extra-ordinary church, that when a church is alive and effective and impacting, you can be sure that love is flowing through the lives of its members.  Not an ordinary kind of love.  Not a human kind of love.  But love of another kind.  The kind of love that Jesus showed as he rubbed shoulders with people.  And we looked at the first person in Luke chapter 7 that Jesus rubbed shoulders with – the Roman soldier who had a sick servant.  And the main point we learnt was that – while human love is so often limited, bound up by filters and conditions – Jesus’ love, the love he wants us to show, it’s unlimited, filter-less, unconditional.

That pretty much brings us up to speed and to day’s message.  The 2nd person in Luke 7 that Jesus rubs shoulders with almost happens by accident.  Jesus is going on a journey, and he gets 1 suburb away, and he’s got plans and he’s going somewhere, but his path is interrupted by a funeral procession.  Did you ever have your path, your journey cut short because you had to wait for a funeral procession?  It’s what happened to Jesus.  He’s going through a little town called Nain, and he comes across this funeral procession with a woman walking behind a casket.

What do you do when you’re in a hurry, when you’ve got some important business to attend to  . .  and somebody interrupts your plans?  What do you do?

I probably shouldn’t say this – because it doesn’t reflect too kindly on me – but I remember some time ago when I was interrupted by a funeral procession.  I was in a side street and I wanted to turn out onto the main road, and this funeral hearse drove slowly past.  And I remember looking down the line of cars to see how many friends this person had, hoping he or she didn’t have many . . . ‘cause I had to get to the office to talk to some people about Jesus . . . .  Curious, isn’t it!!  I got impatient, upset  . .  because I got interrupted by that funeral.

That’s . . .  that’s me at times.  What about you?  When you’re leading a busy life, when you’ve got appointments or a job and people expect you to be efficient and punctual  . .  what do you do when interruptions and complications and delays come your way?  What happens to your heart and mine, what happens to love of a human kind when something or someone gets in our way?  This is what often happens to our heart.  If our heart is normally this big, when someone interrupts our plans, our heart shrinks real fast.  In a matter of seconds, we can go from being calm and kind to being irritable and selfish.

Want an example to test this out?  Let’s suppose, let’s imagine that you’re at Woolies and you’ve gone there to stock up on some extra supplies in case the Covid-19 really runs rampant.  And you’re making your way up and down the aisles when a voice comes over the store intercom: “New stocks of toilet paper have just been put on the shelves.  But there is only a very limited supply.  Enough for the first 30 customers only.  Oh, and it is first come, first served.”  And you just happen to be standing right in front of those newly stocked shelves.  And you know there are at least 100 other people in that store.  And you know you probably don’t need any more rolls; you’ve got dozens stockpiled at home.  But you can hear the stampede coming your war.  And you can sense their urgency.

Now, what’s going to happen to the size of your heart?  Is your heart going to get big?   Are you going to step aside and say; “Oh please, you . . .  you go first.  Your need is greater than mine”  Probably . . . . probably many of our hearts would be shrinking.  Probably we’d be jumping forward and grabbing a pack with our right hand.  And then grabbing another pack with our left . . .  just in case!  And that would be love of a human kind  . . love of a human kind.

What did Jesus do in Luke chapter 7?  He’s busy.  He’s heading somewhere.  He’s just given his tremendously successful Sermon on the Mount, and lots of people thought that he was a big-time star.  So, he’s going along, and he gets interrupted by this funeral procession, and there’s some woman walking behind the funeral casket.  What does Luke 7 say Jesus did?  Jesus stopped  . . and he saw that woman’s broken heart.  Her son – her only son – was in that casket.  Vs 13 says, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her.”  In a sense, his heart grows.  And then you know what he did?  He made his way into that procession and he touched the casket and he raised her son, and he gave him back to his mother. 

Now it takes a lot of power to pull off a resurrection!  But what really hits me in this story is not Jesus’ power, but his love.  What really stirs me is the love behind this miracle.  Jesus didn’t let this interruption shrink his heart.  Instead, he saw this interruption as an opportunity to expand his heart, to share his love with someone in need.  And that’s a powerful, powerful lesson for people like you and me.  Jesus is showing us – by example – that if you’re busy, if you’re going through the day and someone throws a spanner in the works, somebody interrupts you, there’s a complication  . . and you have love of another kind operating in your heart – then you look for the person or the people or the opportunity in the middle of that interruption.  What’s first on your mind is not “What am I going to miss out on now?”, but “Who might need my love right now?  How might I show it to them?”  Instead of shifting up a gear and trying to escape the interruption, you find yourself open to a change of plans.

I realize only too well that this is no small ask.  The pace of life for most of us these days – even for those of us in retirement – is frantic  . .  and we need interruptions like a hole in the head.  But there are times each week when I’m convinced that God arranges things, when he puts us in situations with other people who need the kind of love that we can uniquely give.  They are ‘divine interruptions’, ‘divine opportunities’.  And if we have Jesus’ love operating in our hearts, we can make such a difference to people’s lives, we really can.

Can I – in closing – can I ask you this week – each day this week – can I ask you to be on the lookout for interruptions, for complications.  And the numbers of those are certain to escalate in the times ahead as the tentacles of Covid-19 reach further and further out.  When those interruptions, those complications occur, can I encourage you – before your heart shrinks and you get hot under the collar – can I encourage you to ask yourself these questions: “Lord, is this an opportunity for love of another kind?  Is this one of your divine interruptions?  Did you arrange it?  Lord, should I be putting my plans on hold here and focus on the person?  How can I show love to this person right now?”

They’re mighty important questions when interruptions come our way.  And if we can respond to those interruptions with love of another kind – with Jesus’ love – we can bring some mighty important blessings into people’s lives.

May God bless you in your interruptions this week.  Amen.

Pastor Rob Paech

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