The Main Thing Part 1: Love
Matthew 22:35-38; Psalm 24:1
Rev. Morris Brown
Matthew 22:35-38 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
A number of years ago, Steven Covey released a bestselling book entitled, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In the book, Covey explores a number of traits highly effective people have in common. And one of these traits is that highly effective people are people who understand that “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!”
In other words, Covey argues that people who are highly effective in life are people who’ve defined their core values, and they keep those values at the center of everything they do. They allow their core values to be driving force of their lives; define what they will spend their time, energy and resources on; determine what they are and are not willing to do.”
Well, it seems to me that what’s true for highly effective people is also true for highly effective churches. In other words, highly effective churches are churches that understand “the main thing is to make the main thing the main thing”! They are churches that know what their core values are, and they let them be the driving force of their life together.
Well, last Spring, after much prayer and discernment, the leadership of our church decided that “the main thing” at Christ Church is to be a church that’s focusing on three core values: love, grow, and serve. We want to be a church that’s helping people: love God (2) grow in Christlikeness and (3) serve our church, community and world.
We decided that’s what God wants us to spend our very best time, our very best energy, and our very best resources doing. The question, of course, is how do we do that? How do we “keep the main thing the main thing?” Well, that’s what I would like us to explore together over the next three weeks through a worship series entitled, The Main Thing.
Over the next three weeks, I want us to examine our three core values – love, grow and serve. Now, I know Mike Bailey shared a series on our core values last spring. But as one leadership guru says, “Vision leaks!” In other words, “We’re quick to forget!” So, I not only want to refresh your memory concerning our core values, but give you my spin on them.
Today, we begin with the first core value, love. Jesus said, “The most important thing we can do with our lives is love; love God with all that we are, and to love others as ourselves.” And he’s right! So, how can we be a community of faith that helps people love God? What does that look like? This morning, I’d like to offer you some suggestions.
One way we are to love God and help others love God is to encourage them to spend TIME with God. A number of years ago, in a movie entitled Wall Street, Michael Douglas played a ruthless wall street investor named Gordon Gecko. In one scene of the movie, Gecko talks with one of his Wall Street colleagues about life’s most valuable assets.
He says, “You know, the most valuable asset in life is not money.” With a surprised look on his face, Gecko’s colleague says, “If the most important asset in life is not money, what is it?” Gecko smirks and says, “The most important asset in life is time! If you lose money, you can always make it back. But time is something you can’t retrieve.”
Gordon Gecko is right, isn’t he? In the fast-paced world we live in, time is one of our most important assets. And one of the ways we show people that we love them is to spend time with them, to give them our time. My wife reminded me of this the other day. As you know, I’ve been transitioning into Christ Church the last few weeks.
Now, that has involved a lot of meetings and events throughout the day and many evenings. And my wife, Pam, has been very patient and supportive of this. As a teacher who goes through the hectic first few weeks of every new school year, she knows what that’s like. But, last Friday (which is my day off) she caught me working on some church things.
Well, when she did, she didn’t get mad. Very graciously and calmly, she walked up to me, gently closed my laptop, and said, “Listen Morris, Sunday through Thursday while you’re at work, you belong to Christ Church. But, you need to remember something. Until school starts, on Fridays when we are together, you belong to me! Your time is mine!”
Now, what Pam is saying is that one of the ways I can show my love for her is by giving her some of my most valuable asset – my time. Well, our relationship with God works the same way. If we want to express our love for God, one of the best things we can do is intentionally spend time opening ourselves up to God’s presence.
How do we do that? Well, there are a number of ways. (1) We can spend time with God by making sure we come to worship on a regular basis. As we gather with others each week to worship, God we are showing God our love. (2) We can carve out a few minutes each day to reflect on a passage from scripture and offer our prayers to God.
As we spend this time with God, we show God that God is important in our life, that we love God. (3) We can spend time with God by exposing ourselves to the beauty of God’s world. By simply taking a walk or sitting on a bench in a park or tending a garden, we offer our love to God by appreciating the beautiful world God has given us.
There are many ways to do it, but one of the best ways to nurture our love for God, one of the best ways to express our love to God, is to give God some of our most valuable asset – to give God our time! As the Irish rock band U2 has God say to us in one of my favorite U2 songs is, “All I Want is You!” So, we love God by spending time with God.
Second, we can love God, and encourage others to do the same, by investing our TREASURE in godly endeavors. We can invest our financial resources in efforts that are transforming the world for love. You see, time may be our most precious resource, but it’s followed closely by our money. If you are like me, you tend to spend money on things you love.
For example, we spend our money on our families. Why? We love them! We spend our money on tickets go watch our favorite sports teams. Why? We love them! We spend our money on our favorite music. Why? We love it. You see, how we spend our money has a lot to say about what is really important to us, about what we truly love in life!
Jesus reminded us of this when he said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also!” So, if we want to express our love for God, one of the best ways we can do it is to make sure we’re investing some of our financial resources on God endeavors, on missions and ministries that are helping transform God’s world for love.
And, many of you are already doing that! When you give of your financial resources to support our church operating budget, you invest in missions and ministries that transform God’s world for love! You enable us to provide compensation for our excellent staff, programs and materials for children, youth, adults and senior adults.
You enable us to provide a beautiful facility that provides space for all kinds of community events that impact people in incredible ways. You enable us to fund missions endeavors that impact folks locally, across our state, and around the world. Every time you invest your financial resources in this community of faith you’re–in essence–loving God!
A few years ago, my son Zach worked for investment relations firm in NYC. Part of his job was to research small companies on The New York Stock Exchange. When he found a company that had great potential, he would contact investors and ask them to invest their financial resources in that company, because it would make a difference for these companies.
Well, let me tell you. There is no greater investment of our financial resources we could make than in the things of God. When we invest our treasure, our money in our church, and its missions and ministries that make a positive difference in the lives of people in our church, community and world - we are expressing our love for God!
Third, we can love God and help others love God by committing TANGIBLE acts of compassion toward other people – especially those who are less fortunate. Do you remember how Jesus put it in our scripture? He said, “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” 1 John 4:20 puts it another way.
John says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’ but doesn’t love other people, he or she is a liar. For if you don’t love people that you can see, how can you love God whom you can’t see? The command from Christ is clear, ‘Loving God includes loving other people!” John says we love God by loving others, by showing them with tangible acts of compassion.
I love the story of the man who was putting a new driveway in at his home. The concrete had been poured and smoothed out. It was beautiful! As he stood back and admired his work, a group of neighborhood children suddenly came running around the corner of the yard. And before he could stop them, they ran right through the wet concrete.
Well, the man was beside himself. He started yelling at the kids! About that time his neighbor walked outside. And when she saw the man yelling at the kids, she said, “Hey, I thought you loved children!” Fuming, the man turned to his neighbor and said, “I do love children in the abstract but not in the concrete!” Here’s the point!
If we want to love God, we can’t love God in the abstract! We must love God in the concrete! We love God by committing tangible acts of compassion toward real people – especially those who are less fortunate. Sometimes we do this by participating in one of the many mission and ministry opportunities available to us through the life of our church.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been amazed at the opportunities we provide to love others in concrete ways! There’s our Literacy Ministry that supports children and their families at Hampton Elementary School. There’s our Prayer Shawl Ministry that prayerfully knits shawls that will be given to folks who are going through difficult times in their lives.
There’s our Lumberton Disaster Relief Team that’s helping people effected by Hurricane Matthew put their lives back together. There’s our Habitat Building Team that’s getting ready to build an affordable home for a family in our community. And there are our youth and adult mission projects in SC and GA, Africa, Guatemala and the DR!
Sometimes, however, we love God by simply committing tangible acts of compassion toward people who cross the paths of our daily lives. We love God by taking time out of our busy day to listen to a person at work who is struggling with some difficult situation in their lives. We love God by buying a simple meal and giving to a person who is homeless.
We love God by visiting an elderly person who is no longer able to get out of the house. We love God by befriending the kid at school that’s different, that nobody else likes. No matter how we do it–through the mission of our church or the mission of our daily lives–we love God by loving humanity, real people in tangible, concrete ways!
Finally, we can love God and help others love God by TAKING care of all creation.
Theologian John Stott once said, “Our care for creation reflects our love for the Creator.” And he’s right! The book of Genesis reminds us that God has given us this incredibly beautiful world. And God wants us to enjoy it. Psalm 24 remind us of something else.
The psalmist reminds us says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and those that dwell in it.” The psalmist reminds us that the earth and everything in it (plants and animals) still belongs to God. And because the earth and everything in it belongs to God, we express our love for God and for others by caring for that which God has given us.
Let me see if I can give you an “earthy” (pun intended) illustration that can help you understand what I’m trying to say. Last fall, my parents down-sized and moved from Asheville to Greensboro. As a result, they had to get rid of a lot of furniture. One of the things they passed along to me was my great-great grandmother’s wicker rocking chair.
Now, the rocking chair wasn’t in the best of shape when I got it. Mainly because it was made in the 1800’s. And yet, because it belonged to my great-great grandmother, then my great- grandmother, then my grandmother, then my parents – I am doing my best to take great care of it as an expression my love – as an expression of my love for my ancestors, and as an expression of love for my parents.
But I’m also taking care it so I can pass it along as an expression of love for my children, and hopefully their children, and their children’s children. Here’s my point: that wicker rocker doesn’t belong to me. It’s simply been entrusted to me. I get to enjoy it and care for it as a way to express my love.
In the same way, creation doesn’t belong to us. But, God has entrusted it to us. And as we care for it by reducing what we us, recycling what we can, and reusing what can be reused - we express our love for God, for the generations who cared for the earth before we did, and for the generations that will follow us. We love God by caring for creation!
So, at Christ Church, we want to “keep the main thing the main thing.” And our main thing is our core values – the first of which is to be a church that’s helping people love God, others, and all creation. How do we do that? We do it by spending TIME opening ourselves to God’s presence each day, by investing our TREASURE in godly endeavors. We do it by committing TANGIBLE acts of compassion toward those who cross our paths each day. We do it by TAKING care of all creation, which belongs to the Lord and not us.
So, there’s only one question left. How do we need to express our love this week? As we come to our Lord’s Table this morning, why don’t we ask God to show us.