Get involved in the world around you. It’s all about the kingdom. Be ready to serve the Lord. In today’s scripture Jesus is saying NOW IS THE TIME. I’m up… “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” I’m dressed… “because he has anointed me” “I’m here” to preach…to proclaim…to heal…to release…to declare…
When I was the pastor in S.F., a former pastor and his wife, Pastor and Mrs. Olson, an elderly couple, occasionally showed up for the Sunday Service. A very nice couple. As it happened, Mrs. Olson died. About three months later, I see Pastor Olson arrive late for the morning worship service, but then, inexplicably, he left early before the service ended, so I never got an opportunity to talk to him. Very strange. That week I made a phone call to talk to Pastor Olson. Pastor Olson explained that he no longer drove, so he had to take the bus, transferring several times across several cities to get to the church. He came late because of the bus schedule, and then had to leave early in order to reverse his route and make it home. That all made sense, but it made me wonder if it was worth it, why go through all that hassle only to arrive late and leave early? I’ve always kind of admired Pastor Olson’s response, the answer was really more simple than you could possibly imagine. Why did he come to church on that particular Sunday? Many months earlier, Mrs. Olson had written it on the calendar. Pastor Olson’s life had changed, he didn’t want to be lost, he did not want to give up on life after his wife died, he wanted to get up, get dressed and show up, his wife kept a calendar of plans and activities for months and months ahead of time, so he followed it through. what a terrific example… Get up, dress up and show up, even when it makes no sense, even if you’d rather stay in bed, even if your world is falling apart… the simple question I’ve asked a 1000 times around here after stress has set in… what’s the alternative to going on? What if you just don’t get up?
A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers all around the front yard. The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house; there was no sign of the dog.
Proceeding into the entry, he found a bigger mess: A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was littered with toys and clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.
He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or something serious had happened. He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, and more toys over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls.
As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, 'What happened here today?' She again smiled and answered, 'You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?' 'Yes,' he replied with a bit of hesitancy. She answered, 'Well, today I didn't do it.'
Now or Never is the calling: get up, get dressed, show up…there is something you need to be doing. It’s between you and God. Get out of bed. Get dressed. Show up.
There is a warning in this scripture about staying focused when it’s hard to get up, and three transforming truths that give you the ability to live with the attitude of Now or Never.
The Warning. If you show up to be available for God’s kingdom work everyday, not everyone is going to be supportive. Perhaps you are part of a community that if you suddenly start going to church, your friends will not understand. Change your patterns, change your behavior, start behaving more ethically, change what’s important to you, start taking a risk, decline opportunities because no longer does the old pattern fit your new commitment, and the world will not necessarily be all warm and fuzzy and supportive. Even in the Christian community there are many people that have problems if the place you suddenly show up is too risky, or the pattern you change too hard…
In the first part of today’s scripture, Jesus is in the synagogue and he reads this amazing passage of scripture, applying it to himself. We’ll look at what he says in more detail, but in essence he is saying, It’s now or never, because the work of God is now beginning – get up, get dressed and show up, because God is on the move… Luke 4:15 says, “everyone praised [Jesus].” Everyone is excited, local boy makes good, he is the guest in church in his hometown, everyone is thrilled READ Luke 4:22…
But then something happens. In just a few verses everything changes, and the same people who were just praising him are ready to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:29). What happens between v. 22 and 29 for such a dramatic shift? Warning, warning, warning… people are more than happy to have you serve God by their standards////, but your calling is to be faithful to God, not your friends, not other people… READ Luke 4:23. The people said wonderful to Jesus, serve us, enrich us, work your wonders among us; they are like the boy who sees a beautiful butterfly and wants it for himself, so he reaches out to grab the butterfly, and the worst thing that can happen is if the boy succeeds in his quest and clenches the butterfly in his fist. The townspeople try to control Jesus, limit him, keep them for themselves…
Here’s what happens to Jesus: the people love to hear him saying he is going to heal people, preach, release prisoners, all kinds of good stuff when he speaks in the synagogue… wonderful they say, but then when he in pressed as to what this means, in Luke 4:24-27, Jesus tells them his calling is to go to others, to the gentiles, to those who are different… Jesus is praised as long as he fits into the box of what people want and expect from him, but as soon as he starts to get outside of the box of expectations, he is reviled (READ Luke 4:28).
WARNING, WARNING, WARNING… you’ll get a lot of accolades when you show up and don’t do anything too radical… but your calling may be to do something more radical, that may stretch other people’s ideas, but you need to follow the calling God places upon you, even if others don’t understand…
7-8 years ago I was a chaperone to a huge regional gathering for youth, Acquire the Fire in the Tacoma Dome. One of the bands was Delirious. The lead singer, and writer of many of their songs: Martin Smith. I learned a lot from that man… the organizers invited the youth pastors and leaders to meet Martin Smith – probably 500 of us went. The man was so reserved when he met us, he could not even speak, he had to have one of the other band members come stand beside him for moral support and to provide answers to questions from the audience. What a contrast a half hour later to see him with a guitar in front of 20K youth getting them to jump and sing and shout in worship to God… But here was the answer that amazed me, that makes so much sense, “how to you handle the fame?” was the question. Martin Smith said something to this effect: “when you write a hit, the critics praise you up and down, we can do no wrong. If we go through a spell where we aren’t performing, no new songs come forth, the critics start writing about how we were yesterday’s news and all washed up. We cannot allow ourselves to listen to closely to either side,” he said, “we have to remember that we are only here to glorify God.”
Jesus is praised by men and in just a short time he is threatened to be thrown off a cliff by the same people. He can’t get caught up listening to either side; his calling is to get up, get dressed and show up so that he is available and willing to do the work of God. We, too, cannot listen closely to those who praise us or those who criticize us, but we, too, must remember it is God’s calling that is most important! Get up, get dressed, show up. If you listen to the praises of men too closely you may compromise God’s agenda for you, that’s what they wanted for Jesus. if you listen to the critics, the fear of being thrown off a cliff might keep you in bed.
Three transforming truths that give you the ability to go forward with the attitude of Now or Never. These come from Jesus words in the synagogue in which is quoting Is. 61:1-2.
A. Get Up. Live by the Spirit. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Jesus says. The Spirit is present. The Spirit of God. God himself. It is our promise too. To live by the Spirit, guided by the Spirit. Not in my strength, not my wisdom, but the wisdom and strength of the Spirit.
B. Get Dressed. Live in the NOW. Get ready for today because today is the only day you have. The time of studying is over. The time of self-improvement is over. I encourage Bible studies, I encourage small groups, school if that is your calling, but even then, the challenge is to take the opportunity as you read the Bible to listen for God’s calling. We are called to serve others. Everything Jesus says is to go out… to preach… to proclaim… to set free… recovery of sight… it’s now. I am so thrilled to be a part of a church that spends more time outside of our building than in the building, going out, helping, being available to the community. Now is the time… everything Jesus says is NOW, Live in the Now.
We are not called to wait… I love the story of the pub in Florida that has a sign on the outside that says, “Free Beer Tomorrow.” After six years the pub still had not dispensed a single drop of free beer. But they will tomorrow. I’ll get up tomorrow. I’ll get dressed tomorrow. I’ll figure out where God wants me to show up tomorrow. Tomorrow never gets here. Live in the NOW.
C. Show Up to be an instrument of God’s blessings to others. There is only one reason to show up available to do God’s Kingdom work. The summary statement of this scripture: “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” A season of blessing. God wants to bless others through you. This was Jesus calling, and since we are commissioned to be Jesus hands and feet, this is our calling as well. What an awesome privilege, wherever you go to be able to proclaim that God wants to bless those whom you meet/serve… it might take a million forms, but the message is the same, the Clothesline is there to bless people, the new SOH gathering, the soup supper, the helping hand offering, the singing of a songs, the WOW coffee ministry, the Sunday School, the people you meet…
Get up, get dressed show up. Warning: don’t live to please those who praise you because you may compromise God’s calling and don’t stay in bed if others disagree with your new way of life and you are afraid of being thrown off a cliff. It’s now or never: Live by the Spirit, live in the Now, spread God’s blessings to others. It’s God’s calling. Amen.