Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Bible reading: Romans 12:9-21
Surely the Apostle Paul can’t be serious. He must be thinking of some kind of utopia, not the real world of 2020.
How can he expect us to live like that? Don’t we have to compete with the world? Don’t we have to stress over prices and weather and our children and our superannuation and getting ahead? We don’t have time to love and to be hospitable do we?
Do you know what this sounds like to me? What Paul is talking about?
This sounds like fun!
Imagine living like that! How much fun we would have?
Sitting down to meals with each other, welcoming into homes, loving and not counting the cost, forgiving and not repaying with evil, not letting our lives be bogged down with revenge and recriminations. It is sailing free! It is having life, as Jesus said in John 10:10 in all its fullness. Life in abundance. Life that runs over!
What does it mean to have this life, life in abundance, life to its fullest? If you went down Cunningham Street in Dalby, and asked people to describe to you “Life in all it’s fullness”, how many of them do you think would mention Christianity? And why not? Where have we gone wrong that we who have this life already are the last people who would be suspected of it?
What do most people think Christianity is? It’s a normal life without all of the bits they enjoy. For most people, to be Christian would be to take something away from life. It is life minus fun. And for some Christians, they are right. These are the ones who concentrate on our own performance rather than on Jesus. But for those who have Jesus, that belief is wrong!
Far from being life minus fun, it is life plus fun plus a perfect life to come plus blessings in this life, plus a loving community that surrounds us in the church, plus….well, there is so much! To be Christian, to be in Christ is so much more! Life in all its fullness.
The movie, Mr. Holland's Opus, is the story of a musician who wants to be a composer. He takes a job teaching music at the local school, to give him time to write music while providing an income.
One of his students is a redheaded girl, who even though she practices constantly, plays the clarinet terribly. As Mr. Holland works with her, he learns she’s the youngest in a family where everyone excels except her. Because she’s tried so hard and failed, she considers herself a failure.
One day she comes and tells Mr. Holland she's giving up and if he knows anyone who wants her clarinet, he can give it away. As she walks off, Holland asks her, "Is it any fun?" With a shrug, she answers, "I wanted it to be."
"You know what we've been doing wrong, Miss Lang? We've been playing the notes on the page." Confused, the girl asks, "Well, what else is there is to play?"
"There's a lot more to music than notes on a page,” he says. “Playing music is supposed to be fun. It’s about the heart. It’s about feelings and moving people and something beautiful and being alive and it’s not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page. I can't teach you that other stuff. "
He takes her music away and tells her to try it again. She tries several times, each time coming to a point where her clarinet squawks and squeaks, and she kicks herself for failing.
"What do you like best about yourself? He asks. With a shy smile she says," My hair! My dad says it reminds him of a sunset." "Play the sunset." Holland says.
She closes her eyes, and begins to play, really play, not just the notes, but also the music. She’s so amazed when she does the hard part perfectly, her eyes pop open and she stops.
Mr. Holland shares her amazement, "Don't stop!" So, on she plays: eyes closed, head beginning to sway with the rhythm of it. And we know this time it’s fun.
Mr. Holland put her focus on something bigger than the notes; she was able to do more than that. She started playing music; it became something bigger than notes on a page.
Is that what it’s like to be led by Jesus? Is life without Jesus like playing notes on a page and not the music? With Jesus life is bigger; life takes on a whole different meaning and purpose. Sure, the rough parts will still be there, but Jesus sees us through them, helps us over them. Jesus helps us to play the sunsets. Jesus is all about life. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
Are we going through the motions a bit folks?
Are we playing the sunset or churning through the notes because we think that is all that there is?
Could you imagine, I mean really imagine a community that lived life the way that Paul is talking about? Loving each other in sincerity, not clinging to evil, but to what is good, honouring others above ourselves. We know all about Christian love, don’t we? It is a concept that is drummed into our heads from the day we enter the church. But love doesn’t come from the head. It comes from the heart.
Let’s keep trying to live it, to be a people that attract attention to their way of life, so that people say “Those Christians, they really have something!”,
Which is more attractive? Which is living life to the fullest, and which is just going through the motions?
There was a program run years ago in South Australian city churches called Jesus: All about life.” There were ads being shown on T.V., and banners up all over Adelaide, with the hope that people would put Jesus back into conversation, that they would see the banners and ask, “what is this all about?
What is Jesus all about to you? Does he improve your life, here on this earth, or would you be better off without the pain and deprivation that the Christian life apparently brings? Are you trudging through this existence stoically enduring a life you hate because you want a release from it one day in heaven, once you have waded through all this rubbish?
That’s not Christianity, that’s Buddhism.
Jesus promises us life welling up within us. When was the last time you felt the joy of having Jesus as a spring bubbling up inside you that comes out as laughter, love and a shining face?
There is nothing wrong with it. It is the way we are supposed to be. This is the joy of the Christian Faith. And it can be yours.
Let’s pray about that
Heavenly Father. Thank you so much for the gift of you. For the gift of your son, for the love which you have for us. Help the light that shines on us also shine through us to light up each other’s lives, so that this loving community is a beacon to the world of the overwhelming joy that is eternal life in us.