Please note: This page contains a Children’s Sermon, an Introductory Worship Drama, and a complete Sermon.
The Children's Sermon
PEOPLE LOVING PEOPLE
HABIT # 8: SERVICE
Object: A picture of a missing child on a milk carton
Boys and girls:
One of the things that makes me very sad is to see a picture of a missing child. Anyone who loves children like I do hates to think of a child missing from a home. I can just imagine the pain and heartache that parents and grandparents and friends and other relatives are going through when a child is missing.
God feels that pain not only about children who are missing, but also about children who go to bed hungry each night, and those who are sick and those who don't have a warm, safe place to sleep at night. God also hurts for children who are very shy and those who feel like outsiders and those whom other children laugh at and are cruel to. You see, you can still be at home with your family and still be a very sad child, can't you?
Maybe you know someone in your neighborhood or at school like that. You may never be able to help find a missing child, but you could be kind to someone you know who feels left out and alone. You may never have much money to feed hungry children, but you could be a friend to someone who needs a friend. Even someone your age and size can do a wonderful work for God by finding someone who needs someone to care. One of the habits of highly effective Christians is service. Service is about helping others.
God cares about children. If you care too and you show the love of God to someone who is hungry for it, it's like finding a missing child. People can be lost on the inside, can't they, just as easily as they can be lost on the outside. Their picture may never be on a milk carton, but they are hurting just as much, and you and I can help.
The Introductory Skit
PEOPLE LOVING PEOPLE
HABIT # 8: SERVICE
(St. Peter walks up to the "Want Ad" booth to put in an ad. The ad agent stares in astonishment at his wings and halo.)
Agent: "M-m-may I h-help you?"
St. Peter: "Yes, I'd like to put in a want ad."
Agent: "Um . . . sure. What's your name, and what company are you representing?"
St. Peter: "My name is St. Peter, and I'm representing God."
St. Peter: "Yes. Do you need me to spell it for you?"
Agent: "No, that's okay. And how would you like your ad to read?"
St. Peter: "Wanted: People of all ages, races, genders, and abilities to do God's work. Must know how to love and give. Lots of risks, long hours, no pay, possible heartbreak. No experience necessary." That's all.
Agent: "That's your ad?"
St. Peter: "Yes. Now, how much do I owe you?"
Agent: "Um . . . excuse me, St. Pete. I'm not trying to criticize God or nothing, but do you really think anybody's gonna apply for this job? I mean, it sounds pretty tough to me. People won't exactly be beating down the Pearly Gates to apply."
St. Peter: "What do you mean?"
Agent: "Well, for starters, the job description is too vague. What does that mean, 'Must know how to love and give?'"
St. Peter: "That's the whole criteria for doing God's work. There are too many different jobs in there to list them all. For instance, visiting people in hospitals or nursing homes, serving meals at a soup kitchen, volunteering at a local school, cleaning up the church after services, teaching someone to read...and I could name a thousand more jobs. Really, God's work involves seeing someone in need and reaching out to help them. It's all pretty simple."
Agent: "Okay, I got that. But this 'Lots of risks, long hours, no pay, possible heartbreak'? What kind of sucker signs up for that?"
St. Peter: "That's just the nature of God's work. It's not easy loving other people. They may reject you. Or they may suck all the love out of you. They may never be able to give anything back."
Agent: "Then why do it?"
St. Peter: "Because it's what God does for us."
Agent: "Yeah . . . well, what about this 'No experience necessary.' All ages, all races, all abilities. You'll have everybody and his brother thinking he can do this job."
St. Peter: "Then everybody and his brother would be right. They can do this job. It doesn't take a college degree to dish out meals at a soup kitchen; it takes a pair of hands. It doesn't take any computer skills to visit with a prison inmate; it takes some ears that will listen and a mouth that will say encouraging words. It doesn't take any certain skin color or age to help those who are less fortunate; it takes having love in your heart."
Agent: "Hey, I've got love in my heart for those kind of people. I don't have any bad feelings for them. I just don't see why I can't love 'em . . . from afar."
St. Peter: "Aren't you glad Jesus didn't do that? He could have loved us from afar, too, but He didn't. Don't you think He knew what it was like to be hungry, or thirsty, or lonely, or in prison? You're talking about love as an emotion. Jesus talked about love as an action."
Agent: "I still say no one's going to sign up for a job where they don't get nothing out of it."
St. Peter: "The ad says '. . . no pay.' It doesn't say '. . . no rewards.'"
Agent: "Now you're talking. What's the reward?"
St. Peter: "You'll be pleasing God and serving Jesus, and in turn your heart will be filled with even more love for those around you. What could be better?"
Agent: "If you say so. You sure you want this ad to go in as is?"
St. Peter: "Yes, I'm positive. As is."
Agent: "Well, okay. Good luck on finding people."
PEOPLE LOVING PEOPLE
HABIT # 8: SERVICE
Do you know why climbers making their way up steep, treacherous terrain tie themselves together with rope? One cynic said it is to keep the sensible ones from going home. Actually, they bind themselves together for protection, security.
There are invisible ties that bind us together with one another in the family of God. "Blest be the tie that binds," we sing, "our hearts in Christian love." I hope we realize, however, that Christ has forever bound us not only to one another but also to every man, woman and child upon this earth. Today's message is a celebration of love in action. THE EIGHTH HABIT OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE FAMILIES IS SERVICE.
A seven-year-old girl wrote Dr. Michael DeBakey, the famed heart surgeon in Houston, Texas. Referring to a plastic heart Dr. DeBakey had recently implanted in a patient she asked this question, "Does a plastic heart have love in it?"
Dr. DeBakey replied:
"Yes, a plastic heart has love in it, a great deal of love.
The love in a plastic heart comes from many people who love other people, and don't want them to die.
"So these people work all day and often all night to build a heart that will make people live longer.
"If you think of how much love there would be in hundreds of hearts, then that is how much love there is in a plastic heart."
People loving people all people, everywhere.
Did you know that the famed writer Robert Louis Stevenson spent his last years in Samoa where his genuine appreciation for the Samoan people was reciprocated with love and admiration?
When Stevenson died, a group of Samoans who were very close to him bore his coffin to the place of interment on the mountain top. A stranger appeared at the funeral, to which only close personal friends were invited. The man was a Scotchman who explained that some years before, Stevenson had met him on the road on a day when he was contemplating suicide. Stevenson talked him out of it. He owed Stevenson his life.
The Samoan chiefs also counted themselves privileged to have known this writer and compassionate human being. They tabooed the use of firearms on the hill of Robert Louis Stevenson's grave, that the birds might sing there undisturbed.
This message is a celebration of that kind of love. It begins with a Roman centurion who had a servant who was very dear to him. The servant was critically ill. The centurion was deeply concerned. He heard that Jesus was teaching nearby, so he sent some respected Jewish leaders who were his friends to plead earnestly with Jesus to come help the servant.
The Jewish leaders did as they were asked. "If anyone deserves your help," they said to Jesus, "it is he for he loves the Jews and even paid personally to build us a synagogue." Wouldn't you love to have a man like this as a neighbor caring toward his servant and generous to the local synagogue, even though he was not of the faith?
Jesus knew this was a special individual. He went immediately with these Jewish leaders to see what he could do. Just before arriving at the house, however, the centurion sent some friends to Jesus to say, "Sir, don't inconvenience yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of any such honor . . . " Can you believe this man compassionate, generous, and deeply humble as well? "Just speak a word from where you are," he continued, "and my servant will be healed. I know because I am an officer. All I have to do is speak and my men obey. So just say, 'Be healed!' and my servant will be well again!"
The Bible tells us Jesus was amazed. Turning to the crowd he said, "Never among all the Jews in Israel have I met a man with faith like this." The amazing thing, of course, was the fact that the man was not a Jew. He was a Roman. Compassion, generosity, humility, faith--DID YOU REALIZE THAT SUCH PEOPLE AS THIS CENTURION EXIST EVEN TODAY?
Do you know about Sister Antonia Brenner? According to Parade magazine, her primary mission is to prisoners at La Mesa Penitentiary in Tiajuana, Mexico. Upon arrival at the penitentiary, each inmate is introduced to his overseers through a humiliating ceremony called grito, Spanish for "scream." Alone, he is paraded between rows of guards and prison officials as he repeatedly calls out his name, his crime, the length of his sentence and his aliases.
Before being led to grito, however, the prisoner is briefed by a white haired, blue-eyed, Sister Antonia, known as "La Sister."
"Do not be frightened or embarrassed," she says to them. "The Lord was a prisoner, just as you are a prisoner. You have something in common. Remember that when you go through grito."
Her words, a former inmate recalls, affected him deeply. "I'm not a religious man," he says. "I'd spent two years in another prison before being transferred to La Mesa and had turned off all my feelings, turned off the world. But when she spoke mister, she's the most warm, caring person to walk the face of this earth. Her love changed the life of every prisoner she met." (1)
People loving people. Paul M. Stevens in his Book Gathered Gold tells about a Japanese magazine that had a picture of a butterfly on one of its pages. The butterfly was printed with special inks that appeared to be a dull gray until it was warmed by the touch of a hand. If you touched it with your hand, the chemicals in the ink would react and the dull gray would be transformed into a rainbow of colors.
People, reaching out to people. The centurion sent for Jesus to heal his servant. His act of compassion was but one of many in the New Testament. Andrew heard Jesus preach and he ran to get his brother Peter. Four men removed tiles from the roof of a house where Jesus was speaking and lowered a man through the ceiling so that Jesus could touch him. Do you know anybody like that with that kind of concern, that kind of compassion? Hopefully you are that kind of person. There are many people like that still around in our world today.
THEY WILL TELL YOU THAT LOVING PEOPLE IS ITS OWN REWARD. That is the second thing we need to see. Helping others is its own reward. You will never get closer to heaven than when you help one of God's children. "When ye did it unto one of the least of these," said Jesus, "ye did it unto me." Oh, I am not saying that helping others builds up brownie points in heaven. We do not have a "works" theology. I am saying, however, that showing love to another human being, has its own reward.
Anderson. Between the fifth and sixth
games of a World Series many years ago, a newspaper reported an experience of
Sparky Anderson, then manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Sparky had attempted to
win the World Series twice before and failed, but winning it this time was not
nearly so important to him as it once had been. The reason for his changed
outlook was a friend named Milton Blish, who lived in Southern California.
Sparky had discovered, through a letter from a friend, that
Every day during the play-offs and the Series, Sparky Anderson called Milton to ask him how he was getting along, and to tell him he was thinking of him. To the reporter who was interviewing him, Sparky said, "Somehow, winning the world championship doesn't have the intense attraction that it once had for me. Now I see what life means in a deeper dimension. Now I've somehow discovered what is really there. And win or lose, there's a new peace in me." At a time when Sparky needed help, Milton had given Sparky a job. Sparky never forgot his kindness. Calling his friend day after day enabled Sparky Anderson to put his own life into perspective. (2)
A faithful missionary was asked, "What pay do you receive for the hardships you undergo and the sacrifices you make, living and working among these people?" The missionary took a note from his pocket, worn by much handling and read two sentences from it written by a Chinese student: "But for you, I would not have known Jesus Christ our Savior. Every morning I kneel before God and think of you, thank God for you, and pray for you." "That," said the missionary, "is my pay."
Helping another human being is the most rewarding experience life has to offer. It can almost be a purely selfish experience--we help because it makes us feel so good.
There are still people around who know how to love other people. Some of them are in this congregation. They will tell you it has its own reward.
BUT CHRIST TELLS US THAT IT NOT ONLY HAS ITS OWN REWARD, BUT THAT IT IS ALSO THE MAJOR RESPONSIBILITY OF US ALL. It is not enough to speak piously about God's love, we are called to transmit that love through concrete acts to specific persons.
Some years ago the readers of Charles Schultz's Peanuts comic strip saw Snoopy shivering out in a snow storm beside an empty food dish. He was looking longingly, expectantly toward the house. Lucy came out and said, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled!" And then she turned and went back into the house and slammed the door. In the last frame you saw a confused Snoopy looking toward the house, shivering and hungry and utterly baffled.
Of course, Charles Schultz's message was taken straight from the book of James.
In the third chapter of John's first epistle we read these words paraphrased in the Living Bible: "We know what real love is from Christ's example in dying for us. And so we also ought to lay down our lives for our Christian brothers.
"But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well and sees a brother in need, and won't help him how can God's love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people, let us really love them, and show it by our actions." Specific acts for specific persons--that is the kind of love to which God has called us.
Dr. Andrew Blackwood once described a lady in his church who had that sense of responsibility for others. He writes, "She kept her eyes open for the moving van. The same afternoon she would send one of the children across with a pie warm from the oven. Before Sunday she would call and invite the friends to come with her and her husband to church, as well as Bible school . . . Kindness on the part of a woman with tact and charm unlocks many a heart. When the mother across the way is pining for friends whom she will seldom see any more, a cheery call by a winsome neighbor is a boon from heaven."
People loving people. That is what our faith is all about. Where there is hunger, bringing food. Where there is loneliness, bringing love. Where there is doubt and despair, bringing hope and assurance. Where there is conflict, bringing reconciliation.
Have you trained your children to serve out of a loving heart? Have you shown them by example the rewards that come from serving others? Have you lived out your responsibility to the least and the lowest? Children must have models for caring. The eighth habit of highly effective families is service.
people love other people because God first loved us all. This Roman centurion
was a good man with many good traits. But notice that even he felt unworthy in
Jesus' presence. No one ever cared for people like Jesus cared. But because he
cared, we too must care and we must teach those we love to care. Because it is
rewarding, yes, but also because it is our responsibility as followers of the
1. 1-19-86. pp. 14-15.
2. Bill J. Vamos, The Life That Listens (Waco: Word Books, 1980).