Fourth Sunday Of Easter
1 John 3:16-24
16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts 4 do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
“Not Feeling Your Faith”
SERMON ON 1 John 3:16-24
DONOVAN A. DRAKE
How are you feeling today? On a scale of “one” being the poorest, and “ten” being the best, give me an indication. What do we have out there?
How you feel often governs what kind of day it is. Is it a good day or a bad day? It depends on how you feel. Never mind how the rest of us feel. Oh no, it’s all about you.
Now, how does that make you feel?
It seems to me that John is writing to remind us that when it comes to being a follower of Jesus, we need to cast our feelings aside. Because you remember Luke 25:7-8, and the crying of out of the lepers, “Have mercy on us, Son of God.” Jesus heard their cry and kept walking. Peter then said, “Jesus don’t you hear those who are crying out your name?” And Jesus replied, “I hear them, but I don’t really feel like being a savior today.”
Luke 25: 7-8. Look it up and you’ll find it’s not in there, because the Jesus we follow doesn’t walk by feelings. He walks by faith.
If he walked by feelings, it would change all the scripture. Tired from the ministry Jesus said, “Let’s go to a deserted place and rest awhile.” They got into a boat and went to the other side. Suddenly a crowd shows up, and Jesus said, “What’s with you people? Give me a break! Everywhere I go you want this, ask for that, need this, need that. I’m toast.” If he had that feeling, he pushed it aside.
John says it this way: “We know love by this…”
‘We know love by this… that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need, and yet refuses to help?
You can’t be the church only when you feel like it. So much of the time, we walk by feel and not by faith. “How are you feeling? You feel like going to church this morning?” I understand the feeling. But, when it comes to the question, “Do you feel like being the church this morning?”, we can’t be the church that says, “Do you promise to love these children and to tell them about Jesus?” Say, “Yes.” And then, not help in the nursery or teach the Sunday school, or support their trip to Montreat. We can’t be the church, and stand and say, “this is what we believe,” and not stand for that love when people cry out for it. We can’t sing “What a friend we have in Jesus,” and not be a friend to those in need.
As John says, “How does God’s love abide in those who see a brother in need and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” That’s why we’ll have faith works next Saturday. Sign up. We can’t just sit here! Let’s get in touch with the needs of others.
The times when this congregation really shines is when it sees a need and doesn’t think about itself.
Curry Ingram is a school, because before it was Curry Ingram, it was the Westminster School. Before it was the Westminster School, it was a cry from children who had a need, a special need. And this became a real, special place.
The refugees came to Nashville from all over the world. And for these people who had spent so much of their lives in terror and the unknown, we heard their cry. And we knew the love of God is what everyone needed. And born from folks in this congregation, Nation’s Ministry. It thrives because God’s love isn’t to be dispensed with a thimble, but with a firehose.
The rains pour down, the flood comes, and who in here said, “I’m not really feeling it.” No. We mucked out houses and opened our doors. And after the last flooded home was repaired, we still saw the need of all these people who wanted to stay in their homes, but might lose them because they needed a repair, and couldn’t afford it.
I don’t know about you, but I got my property tax bill and said, “That’s it. I’m not getting my hair colored anymore. You’re just going to have to see it all go gray. I’m sorry.” I’m joking, but I’m not joking that some people don’t have that choice. What happens is the leaky sink has no money to call the plumber. The rotten window just has to rot. The broken water heater, well, we boil water now on a stove. We couldn’t see a person in need and not do a thing. Born from this congregation – Westminster Home Connection.
Food banks running low… food drive… then loads of food from Westminster. Our church has signed on to be a Matthew 25 church. That chapter is in the Gospel of Matthew. Sheep and the goats, both saying, “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked and in prison?” The sheep were surprised that when they did the love, they were giving the love to the King of kings.
So it is, I want us to see the need of the public schools. I know. We’re a private school church. I know. When we came to Nashville, my daughter attended public high school, The Nashville School of the Arts. In Durham, she attended a public high school, The Durham School of the Arts, and the difference – pretty stark.
Public schools this year haven’t even been in school. So many have been left out and left behind. Can you hear the cry? Do we say to ourselves, “I’m not feeling it?”
This past week, we are beginning conversations with United4Hope, an organization that doesn’t want churches to fail in their desire to help in the schools. Many of our neighboring congregations are already involved. If you can read, you can read to a child. If you can clap, you can come to a class and cheer on a child who finished a project. Do you know there are children who aren’t even grasping the concept of a number? So if you can add two and two together, and if you know God’s love is abiding in you, don’t just feel your faith. You’ll hear more about our hopes are in the days to come.
Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” So many people just don’t want to feel a cross. Jesus lived a life that often, we don’t dare to live, and that’s what we call grace. Grace can feel like guilt. When you know the grace, you speak the grace, but living it out in truth and action – it’s so hard. Sometimes we just don’t feel it. Sometimes we don’t have to.
Chad Folk told a story in Bible Study this past Friday about coming home on a flight after a long week away, and he couldn’t wait to get home and see his girls. Long week. Coming home at night. Tuck his kids into bed…nothing better. “Jump into bed. Reading a goodnight story, say your prayers. It comes with the aroma of shampoo hair and sweetness. He merged off of 440 onto Hillsboro Road. And there was a guy with a disabled truck.
And if you know Chad, you know his family and his faith, and he’s all into our homeless ministry, Room in the Inn. He’s an Elder of the church. Took the vows to serve. He’s all in!
He merged off of 440, and said, “There was this disabled truck, but I had this overwhelming feeling of just wanting to be home with my kids.”
He went home. His girls. The love. Home. And yet, he had the guilt. I don’t know, maybe I would probably have forgotten about it. But Chad had wrestled with the decision…help or home. He had a history of getting up in the congregation and saying, “We need your help for the homeless…to try to get you all to feel for some homeless men.” He couldn’t forget about this guy he passed by.
Not to mention that each time he came to church or went to Bible study, there would be some scripture about how the church “devoted themselves to any who had need.” Except that guy in the truck. Hearing the scripture, “the priest passed by and likewise the Levite passed by on the other side,” and Chad passed by. He was haunted by his decision.
He said, “Two years later, I’m coming home from the airport. Merging on to Hillsboro Road, and there’s a disabled truck.” His redemption had arrived. He wasn’t going with his feelings, but with the Word of God. He’s ready to help! The love of God was all over him. And the guy, well, it was the same guy! And Chad said, “It became readily apparent that he was a scam artist. And I wasn’t ‘saving his day.’ I wasn’t the savior. I gave him some money and maybe a need.”
I asked him what the “take home” was.
He said, “I realized that it doesn’t take a disabled truck to tend to God’s flock. Nor does serving always feel good! I learned that loving in truth and in action is a lot easier when I realized I don’t have to know all the answers. I learned and am still learning that by the grace of God, there’s a Spirit that guides, and forgives, and walks me through various paths on my Christian journey.”
Faith isn’t a feeling. God is faith. God is the faithful one who journeys with us. God may even be the one pulling us home to be the love for a little girl who just wants her daddy home for a hug. And calling a good Samaritan to help this time.
Faith isn’t a feeling. Faith is trusting a God who will give us – not guilt – but grace. A God who will give us a second chance, or a third, or a hundred chances, or a million, billion chances of giving the inexhaustible love and grace away. I suspect we have been given a chance right now. A chance of love and mercy now. Truth and action now.
How are you feeling about the faith of our Lord and Savior on a scale of one to ten?
Copyright©Donovan A. Drake 2021