Waynedale United Methodist Church
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!
   

May 29, 2016 Sermon

“Beyond: Families and Service”
Ezra 1:1 – 6
Ted Jansen  May 29, 2016  Waynedale UMC
 
1.)        Cyrus, a King who ruled over Babylon and Persia, in 538 BC, had a powerful experience.  Ezra tells us that Cyrus had his heart moved by the Lord.  Cyrus decided to proclaim a decree to all the people he ruled over. 
It was a decree telling the Jewish people who were living in Babylon about his plan.  The decree stated that Cyrus wanted a Temple built in Jerusalem.  All the Jewish people that wanted to go could.  He would send them as a part of his decree.  He also stated in his decree that those who did not go to Jerusalem could supply silver, gold, livestock and provisions for the work. 
            This decree was unusual and unbelievable since it had been 70 earlier the Temple had been destroyed.  The Jewish people had been in exile in Babylon, far from Jerusalem.  Life for the Jews felt as if Babylon was permanent for them.     
 
2.)        We then read in Ezra 1:5, 6, these words.  “Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites – everyone whose heart God had moved – prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.  All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.”  
            Families prepared to go to Jerusalem and build the temple.  God had moved their heart and God’s purpose was known.  We know that almost 50,000 people (Nehemiah 8) made the trip to Jerusalem to take on this work.    
            We also discover that it took 23 years for the Temple to be built.  There were challenges and struggled along the way.  23 years later amidst tough times and good times the Temple was finished.  Each family spent a long time serving and working and focusing their efforts and energy.   
 
3.)        The Lord had moved the heart of Cyrus and the Lord had moved the hearts of the families.  These families had an ongoing sense that they were doing God’s work in serving.  These Hebrew families knew God’s will and God’s glory was being expressed through their serving.  The families were strengthened as they served this “greater” need.  They were working for the glory of God.       
            As you think about your family, or your marriage, your group, do you have a sense of a “greater” goal or purpose?  Has your heart been moved by the Lord to serve the needs of others? 
           
4.)        I have chosen an image of a hand.  A hand is what we use when we serve others.  A hand can hold on to things, if it is not serving.  But a hand that is open and outstretched towards others is serving, it is giving. 
            If you have something in your hand that you want to hold on to your hand is clenched.  When you give something away you open up your hand to release something.   
            Let me illustrate this by holding on to these fruit snacks in my hand.  I cannot give them away until I open my hand and offer them to you.    
The fruit snacks can symbolize our time, our money, resources that we give or hold on to.    
 
5.)        An interesting thing happens when you open up your hand to give something away.  Your spirit opens up and makes room for a memory, a blessing, a joy that you give. 
When you give something away you might feel a sense of loss, but you gain a gift in your memory of serving.    
If you don’t share your service then you don’t get a blessing.  You have what you hold in your hand.  If you give, you also receive in your spirit. 
Let your memory go back in time and think about special times you served others and gave of your time, sweat, energy, prayer, love, money.  I was thinking about last time we had a Worship and Witness Sunday and I picked up trash at the Waynedale Elementary School.  I think about mowing grass for a neighbor.  I think about cleaning Mary Willis’s home in Tennessee.  I think about…   What are your memories?  (Ask people)  
            When you serve you meet a need and a person’s life is better and you have the benefit of a double blessing, in that you feel good.  Perhaps a triple blessing is when you remember what you did in the past for others.  We never know what our acts of service might mean to another person.     
 
6.)        Today is Worship and Witness Sunday.  We gather together to worship and then we give witness to our faith in some expression. 
            God wants to move your heart in such a way that another person will experience love.  Your unexpected service might be exactly what a person needs today.  May the Lord move your heart so that you give away your faith.  I pray that you would have fun as you serve.     
            Sue and I plan to clean some trails after worship.  We hope you can join us.  We also plan to bless another person when we go out to eat.  It will be fun to serve as we strengthen our faith.    
 
7.)        I want you to look at 2 – 3 people near you that are not your family.  Do you know their names?  If not find out their name.  Take a moment to say hello.  Now that you know their name I want you to say a silent prayer for them. 
Then I want you to think of something practical you can do to serve them.  It could be give them some water, pick up some groceries, mow their grass, or put some gas in their car.  Then I want you to think of something you could say to bless them.   What do you appreciate about them?  What are you thankful for in their life?  You might simply say, God bless you today.    
            For example I would look around and I would see _____ who is close to me.  I would offer a silent prayer as I said, “Lord, I pray for _____ today.   Let your love and peace be close to ____ all day.   In Christ’s name I pray.  Amen.”   
            Then I could do this.  “_____ here is a bottle of cold water for you to enjoy today.”   This is something practical and personal.   Then from my heart I would say something like this. “ ______ I really appreciate your faith, smiles, and being in worship.  You encourage me when I see you.   Blessings on you.   Have a great day.”   (Give people time to “practice” with each other.) 
 
8.)        Let us keep this same model of Pray, Serve, Bless, when we go “out” in the community and beyond this sanctuary.  Let us consider the 2 – 3 people who are closest to you in a geographical sense.  So, when you are at the store, or ballpark, or walking in the neighborhood consider the 2 – 3 people that you see and are near to you.  You might even pray that you would see who it is that God wants you to be aware of. 
As God moves your heart do these three things for the people who are nearest to you.  Pray for them in silence.  Serve them with a practical need.  Bless them with words. 
            God might move their hearts by your service and they might ask you “why are you doing this?”   That is the time you can share with them that “God wants me to serve others in love and you were near to me.”  As you share in conversation share your faith in Christ and your life. 
           
9.)        I want to tell you story about a man who served in a simple way.  As you serve in simple ways, God will use you. 
            “The war had been long and hard, scarring the countryside, the villages, and the people --both soldiers and citizens. Finally, it was over..... though some claimed victory, no one really won except the winter which now held them all prisoner.
A lone soldier, trying to return to his far-away home, had wandered through the cold and snow for days. He was tired, but more than that, he was literally starving. At last he came upon a village. He picked a house and knocked on the door. When someone came to answer, the soldier explained his plight and asked for a little something to eat. The little man behind the door shook his head saying that he had a family to feed and they were hungry themselves and they could give him nothing. The soldier pleaded that he would eat any scraps, but the villager again said he had nothing to spare --there were no scraps. This scene was repeated house to house but always the answer was the same.
It had been a hard winter and the soldier found that the villagers were all hungry too.  The soldier had a thought, and then it somehow formed a plan. He looked about, and spotting something nearby, his eyes brightened. He quickly went off to the nearby woods. Soon, he returned with all the sticks and pieces of wood he could find and built a campfire in the village square.
Then he went over to the large, black iron pot resting against the wall of the empty blacksmith shop. Dragging the pot over the fire, he filled it with snow. At this point he had drawn a large crowd of onlookers who stared at him with curiosity. They talked among themselves and wondered what he was going to do with the pot of now-boiling water. Then the soldier ferreted about the ground below the eaves of the villagers' cottages until he had gathered a dozen or more smooth, dark stones. He inspected each closely, smelled them individually, sometimes comparing one stone's fragrance to that of another.
When all was done, he had kept only a few. He polished them with snow, wiped them clean, and then placed them gingerly, one by one, into the pot. Now the onlookers were really getting curious --more than that, they were sure the soldier was mad with hunger. The soldier then took a big wooden spoon from his knapsack and began stirring the water in the pot and occasionally taking a taste. ''Mmmmmm,'' he finally said, ''this is the best Rock Soup I have tasted in a long time.''
The villagers couldn't believe their ears. Rock Soup? Surely he was mad! The soldier took one more taste and then said, ''This is good soup but it needs something, perhaps a carrot..... Yes, that's it, a little bit of carrot would make it perfect!'' An elderly villager stepped forward, looked into the pot, leaned over and inhaled deeply. When he stood up, he closed his eyes and remembered the aromas of soups and stews long gone. The villager paused a moment, then said, ''I think I might have a couple of carrots in my cellar, I will bring them.''
On his return the carrots were added to the Rock Soup. Again the soldier continued to stir and taste and stir and taste. Finally the soldier said, ''This is pretty good Rock Soup, the carrots made it better, but it is still missing something. Perhaps a few onions would make it even better.''
No sooner had he said it, than a few villagers scurried off. Upon their return, the soldier was given more than a few onions --but it was a big pot, so in they all went. Again the soldier continued to stir and taste and stir and taste. The soldier said, ''This is very good Rock Soup, the carrots and onions made it better, but it is still missing something. Perhaps a few potatoes would make it even better.'' He let two or three of those that had drawn near sample the ever-steaming brew, which by now was starting to smell delicious.
A good number of villagers bustled off. Upon their return, the soldier was presented with a potato here and a potato there until he had enough to fill the pot. As he let it simmer, others brought bits of this and that to add to the flavor. Tasting it one more time, he exclaimed it was ''Perfect!''
Then this soldier carefully removed the stones with his wooden spoon.  Then starting with the children, everyone had a bowl of this wonderful soup until they were full. Everyone exclaimed that it was the best soup that they had ever eaten.  They were filled with joy and thanksgiving.”