REFLECTING RESURRECTION…IN OUR GIVING
April 29, 2018
Here’s a groaner from the Preacher’s Cheesiest Humor Book, 1983 Edition from chapter 19, devoted to bikers:
A hip young guy is at a stoplight in his brand new pimped-out sports car. An old man, looking to be about 90, putters up beside him on even more ancient-looking red1967 Honda S-90 motorcycle. He inquires, “What kind of car you got there, son?”
The young man replies, “A 2015 Dodge Viper GTS. It cost me $118 grand.” “Why so much?” “Because it’s got 10 cylinders, 645 horses under the hood, 600 lbs. of torque and it’ll go 0-100 mph in under 7 seconds!”
The old man leans over, takes a peek inside. “Yep, she’s a beast!” Just then the light changes. The hipster decides he’s going to show the old codger what his Viper can do. He puts the hammer down and peels out, laying down rubber and smoke.
Suddenly he notices a dot in his rearview mirror. It seems to be getting closer! He slows down to see what it could be. Whoosh! Something whips by him! “What on earth could be going faster than my Viper?”
Then ahead of him he sees a dot coming back toward him, headed in the opposite direction. It almost looks like the old man on that Honda S-90, but it can’t be! That old beat up motorcycle can’t outrun him!
Again he sees a dot in his rearview mirror. It’s gaining. The kid slams on the brakes. Kablamm! It plows into the back of the Viper, demolishing the rear end!
The young guy jumps out. It’s the old man!!! The bike and the elderly fellow are pretty mangled. The young man observes, “You’re hurt pretty bad, old dude! Is there anything I can do for you?”
The old codger groans, “Yes, there is something you can do for me, son. Unhook my dang suspenders from your sideview mirror!”
Over the past few weeks we have be talking about Easter being more than just a day or a season…it’s a lifestyle. Yes, resurrection is not something to be mentioned in some creed—it’s to be reflected on a daily basis. If we would meet the risen Jesus, then we much learn to reflect his resurrected presence- in our thinking, in our witnessing, in our relating, in our dying…and today, we are going to explore what it means to reflect resurrection in our giving.
Check out this account involving folks in the early church, living in the light of our Lord’s resurrection:
32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). 37 He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
I believe that to practice resurrection in our giving is to ask the question Is it all about me or is it all about us?
IS IT ALL ABOUT ME?
As most of you know, WalMart is my least-favorite shopping destination. I’d rather go get a colonoscopy than go to WalMart.
But I must admit the experience has gotten much better since they installed the self-checkout area. You no longer have to stand in line for three hours.
However, the other day when I was pushing my cart up to the last available self-checkout register, this very aggressive young woman Dale Earnharted past me and plopped her bottle of Pantene shampoo down on the scanner without so much as an apology. Without even looking at me she snapped, “I’ve just got this one item and I’ve got to get back to work!” And I was too speechless to cuss…
Without a doubt, we are living in entitlement times. Self-absorbed times. Me-times.
People live with the attitude: Everything ought to go my way. I’m entitled to be smart, attractive, wealthy. I’m entitled to live in a McMansion of a home and to own a Dodge Viper. I’m entitled for all the traffic lights to be green when I drive in to work in that Viper. I’m entitled to the maximum paycheck possible for somebody as wonderful as me. I’m entitled to get my own way in relationships. I’m entitled to be first in line at WalMart…. I’m entitled….
That’s how some people really feel. So when they hit a bump in the road, when life gets hard and circumstances turn, they sulk and pout and throw hissy fits.
Can we say Alex Rodriguez? Talk about the poster child for entitlement! Even now that he’s a Sunday night baseball analyst for ESPN he’s still keeping the attention on himself and not the game!
But that’s the society we live in. For many, life is one big selfie with everyone else cropped out of the picture. You simply look out for number one and no one else.
How did the famous preacher of the early 20th century, Harry Emerson Fosdick, once put it? “Persons wrapped up in themselves make very small packages.”
Jesus had quite a bit to say about such me-centeredness also. Check out Luke 12:15-21 (The Message):
15 Speaking to the people, Jesus went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”
16-19 Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’
21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
That’s a sobering word for you and me today, is it not?
Yes, to reflect resurrection in our giving is to ask the question: Is it all about me…
OR IS IT ALL ABOUT US?
From the time of the Early Church until today, the defining hallmark of Christian people has been generosity toward others, putting the needs of others before our own.
In that passage from Acts, we hear of Christians giving “testimony to the resurrection” of Jesus. How do they do this? Through practical deeds of kindness. It’s as simple as that. Doing the little things, the caring things, the good things for another human being.
I love the account in Mark 2:1-12. Jesus is back in Capernaum. He’s teaching in the living room of someone’s house. A flash mob has gathered. The house is crammed with people. They are even standing 4-5 deep around the outside perimeter listening through the open windows.
Suddenly Jesus hears a scratching noise from above. He looks and gets dirt in his eyes. “What the…” And then a hole starts opening up in the thatched ceiling above! And before Jesus can say anything, a paraplegic man is lowered down on a mat tied to ropes from the roof above, all engineered by four of his friends.
Jesus is so astounded by their compassion in bringing their handicapped friend to him that he immediately heals the guy. And the entire house erupts in laughter and joy. These four fellows would let their friend down, yes, but they would not let him down. They carried him many miles and they hoisted him up on a rootop and made darn well sure he would get the attention of the Master.
Is it all about me or is it all about us? Am I such a giving individual? Would I go to the rooftop for someone?
It’s all about living with an intense sense of selfless responsibility for others, is it not? Caring enough to get involved and to give of ourselves.
Like what happened between 1-3 am this past Tuesday morning in Detroit, MI:
While the city was sleeping, a unique act of kindness took place along I-696 in metro Detroit.
A line of 13 truckers, with assistance from Michigan State Police, created a wall on the I-696 freeway near the Coolidge exit to help prevent a man threatening suicide from jumping off of an overpass. It started with one truck Then state police waved 6 or 7 of the truckers through on the eastbound side of the freeway, then did the same thing on the westbound side.
The disturbed man could not believe someone cared about him to do something like that. The police were able to talk him down from the bridge safely and get him help. Chris Harrison said one of the highway patrolman walked to each truck, shaking the truckers’ hans and thanked them profusely for their assistance.
Yes, it’s all about living with an intense sense of selfless responsibility for others, even strangers along life’s highways and bridges.
We certainly are grateful when God puts such good, decent, Christ-like folk in our lives.
Just ask Doug Hill. Doug is a well-respected, retired UM minister who was the former pastor at Asbury UMC. A very buttoned-down fellow, you’ll never find him without a bowtie, oxford shirt and khakis.
Doug loves to tell about the time he, his wife Janet and his two children had gone to inspect the area they were going to be moving to on the Northern Neck of Virginia. It was a 2-church charge in a very rural area near a crossroads called Lively.
Janet was not too happy that Doug had accepted this appointment an hour away from the nearest civilization, and the kids were downright crying over leaving their friends. It was not a happy gang rolling down the highway, and to top it off, Doug got lost. He was driving down a narrow, remote secondary road when he rounded a curve and ended up in about a foot of sand and muck on the bank of a river. The wheels were spinning but there was no traction. Doug was panicking, wondering how he was going to get the car out of this mess.
Things went from bad to worse. A deafening rumble shook the car. Doug looked in the rearview mirror. A motorcycle gang on Harleys was rounding the curve. They stopped. Doug’s heart stopped. The leader got off his bike and was approaching their car. Janet whimpered, “We’re going to die! And they’re going to throw us in the river! And no one is ever going to find us in this God-forsaken place!” The kids were really screaming by now.
Doug cracked the window. The well-leathered, well-tatted leader in the do-rag inquired, “Sir, looks like you’re in one hell of a mess!”
Doug nodded, too scared to get any words out. The leader motioned for his colleagues to dismount their Harleys. Twelve or so ominous biker dudes surrounded the Hill’s Buick. They grunted and lifted the car up and set it back on the pavement. They waved and bid everyone a good day, and they rumbled off.
Doug Hill and his family were left shocked and speechless. He would later comment on this act of kindness, “All my life I had preached on being the Good Samaritan, but that was the first time I ever knew what it was like to be the guy in the ditch!”
Yes, Doug Hill and his family were so very grateful they encountered a gang of bikers who lived by the motto that it’s all about us instead of it’s all about me!
Praise Jesus, that’s what it means to reflect resurrection in our giving!