A week and a half ago, Susan and I travelled to the United States for a conference and a short holiday. And one thing that people must do when they travel to another country is to get some currency of the country to which you are traveling. Currency is how things are valued, currency is used to exchange things with others and currency can also determine actions. What I mean by that is this: When you are in a certain country and you determine what the currency of that country is, then, generally speaking, things go better for you when you gather more or at least retain as much as you can of that currency, because then you can do more things because you have more to spend. And if you want to bless someone, then you give them some of the currency of that country. And if you really, really want to bless someone, then you would seek out someone who really needs some of that currency and give it to them.
Currency is backed by the governing authority that issues it. So the governing authority is both the source and the guarantor of the currency. And usually a currency only has value inside the country that issued it. Has anyone here ever tried to use Canadian currency in the southern United States or in Mexico?
So you need to have and use the currency of the country that you are in. Would you agree?
So here is a question that I am inviting you to think about: What is the currency in the realm where God rules? Please keep that question in mind as take a few moments to reflect on God’s Word.
In Luke, chapter 15, Jesus tells three stories and all of them are in response to the condemnation muttered by the leaders of the established church in Jesus’ day when they said, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
In the first story, one sheep out of a hundred is lost. The shepherd, who knows each of his sheep personally, goes out to find it and when he does, there is great joy. Let me share with you Jesus’ second story in His words:
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)
Again we have someone searching for that which is lost, this time the ratio is one out of ten. The woman is probably poor, living in a small, dimly-light one-room house where a coin could easily become lost between the cracks of a stone and dirt floor. She grabs a broom and a lamp to sweep and search for the one that is missing. The light is dim and the work is hard, and the woman gets herself dirty in the process, but again there is great joy when she finds her lost coin. In fact, she has so much joy that she cannot contain it to herself. She calls together her friends and neighbours and invites them to rejoice with her.
In the third story, the ratio is one out of two, and this time it is not a sheep or a coin that is lost, but a son. What is interesting here is that there is searching that does not happen. It was the duty of the older brother to go look for the younger in cases like this, but the older brother in Jesus’ story does not search for his stray sibling. It is the father who watches and waits each day at the end of the family driveway, hoping that somehow, someway his youngest son would come home.
And at this point, we can stop and answer the question I asked previously. What is the currency in the kingdom of God? It is love. When you are living under the rule and reign of God, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to receive more and more and more of God’s love for you. You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. He already loves you infinitely and unconditionally. There is nothing that you can do that would make God love you any more than He already does, and there is nothing that you could do that would make God love you any less than He already does.
All you have to do is accept and receive the love that God already has for you. Maybe that happens for you when you for a walk in nature, or when you serve others, or when you pray, or when you work, or when you are in a small group with other Jesus followers, or when you journal, or when you listen to music, or when you play music, or when you read God’s Word. However it is that you feel God’s love, I strongly, strongly encourage you to make that part of your everyday life. We live in a world that tells us that we don’t have time for such things, and that is a damnable lie of the devil which we need to cast out of our vocabulary and even our thoughts. When we fail to receive the love that God already has for us, we cut ourselves off from the thing that we need the most.
You and I need to be filled with God’s love again and again. We need to be rich in God’s love so that we can then go out and bless others by giving them some of God’s currency, His love. And the greatest blessing that we can give is to search out and love those people that need God’s love the most. And who are the people who need God’s love the most? Those who are far from God.
In invite you to watch a video that is a cautionary tale about churches. And as you watch, I invite you to ask yourself, “What is the reason that things turning out this way?”
[Video clip: Life Saving Station – available here.]
I think that the reason that these life saving stations forgot about their real purpose is that they lost their love for the One who saved them in the first place. It would be so easy for Walnut Grove Lutheran Church to drift into becoming internally focused instead of externally focused. And if that happens, (and some might make the case that such a drift has already started), if we drift into becoming totally inward focused instead of outward focused, then we have lost sight of Christ’s mission, we have lost sight of our reason for being, and we have become a club for the comfortable instead of a life saving station for the lost. But the life saving work that we do, we do not do in our own strength, power and love. We love those who are furthest from God, even when they hate us, because we are filled with the love of the One who first loved us.
Today after the worship service, the Refugee Sponsorship Committee is going to pray and decide, on our behalf, whether or not to adopt a particular family that has been set before them. The family that the Committee will be considering is far different than any of us considered when we entered into this process. They are Iraqi and most of us were probably assuming that we would sponsor a Syrian family. Our intentions were to sponsor a family of 4 or 5, and this is a family of 8. The father of this family is disabled and needs a wheelchair to get around, and most of us were probably assuming that we would be sponsoring able-bodied people.
If the Committee decides to sponsor this particular family, this is going to be a test for Walnut Grove Lutheran Church. It will be a test of how much we are filled with God’s love and it will be a test of how much of God’s love we can share. It will also be a test of how much we are willing to have our lives formed by God’s Word. Did anybody else notice that the reading from last Thursday in our congregational Bible reading was Luke 10 which contains Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan?
I do not want to minimize in any way the challenges that will lay before us as a congregation if the Committee decides to sponsor this family. This is going to be very, very hard for us. Some people may leave this church because they don’t agree with the decision or because the challenges are too hard. To some of you, it may look like a good outcome is not even possible. I understand that.
But if we are going to be a church that only does what is possible, then there are some things that we must do. And the first thing that we need to do is move out of this building, because it is just not possible that a small congregation with $30,000 in the bank should be able to end up with a building for ministry like this one. And if we are going to be a church that only does what is possible, then I will have to dig a hole and bury my son Logan because it is just not possible that someone’s heart could be stopped for 40 minutes and they survive with no brain damage. And Logan is not going to like it very much if I try to bury him because he is still very much alive. And if we are going to be a church that only does what is possible, then I need to stop telling you that your sins are forgiven because it is just not possible that God would come down to this earth and become one of us in order to save us from our sins. And if we are going to be a church that only does what is possible, then I need to stop telling people at funerals that they will see their loved ones again because it is just not possible for people to rise from the dead.
We are a people who believe that all things are possible with God. We are a people who believe in God, and we believe in His love. God is the source of all love and God guarantees His love. And as we are filled with God’s love, we are going to seek out those who are furthest from God and love them with a love that is totally beyond ourselves. And whatever family we end up sponsoring, we are going to love them with God’s love, even when it gets hard, even when a good outcome seems impossible. This congregation is so rich in God’s love and we have so much to give to those who are hurting and those who are far from God.
Love is the currency of God’s kingdom. God’s love is what we need. God’s love is how we bless people. And filled with God’s love, we go and search for those who are furthest from God so that we can bless them with God’s love too. Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on February 28, 2016.)