You may have seen on the TV news, online news, or read in the paper the events that have gone on in Ferguson, MO, and how those events have set off other events all over our country. If you have seen the events there, you have seen people protesting, burning buildings being arrested, expressing anger and fear.
Now I don’t know what you are thinking when you look. I am thinking a lot of things and some of them at the same time. It is a complicated. There are years of frustration and emotion built up. Layers of pain, hurt, rejection, all arriving at the same place at the same time. It is a perfect storm of human need coming face to face with the world and themselves.
I understand it is complex, probably more complex than we can even realize. But, in the midst of what may seem as madness, I see one theme glaring back at me through the camera’s eye. I am seeing people saying one thing very loudly, over and over.
I MATTER—I MATTER
When people think, no, when they know they don’t matter, they will do whatever is necessary to get you to look at them. Look at me, they are saying. I matter, I have worth and value. Look at me. I matter—and if we take too long to look, they will do whatever it takes to make us look. When people don’t matter we will go as far as to self-destruct to get your attention. People that don’t matter will go as far as burning down their own house, just to get you to look at them, and to acknowledge them. Acknowledgement brings worth, it brings life. Dismissal brings death.
Love shows us we matter.
Love trumps all and heals all.
Now you know why people destroy their own lives. They do it because being loved is essential to their existence and without love they no longer exist. People that do not matter get trapped in a world where they are invisible. Their soul is dry, and barren. Our souls feed on love. Love is the nourishment that keeps us truly alive. The soul will not let us rest until it gets what it needs to live. The soul will not go down without a fight. The soul knows it is a matter of life or death.
The song writer Meatloaf has a song titled, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad. The lyrics read:
I tried to show you just how much I care I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout But you’ve been cold to me so long I’m crying icicles instead of tears And all I can do is keep on telling you I want you I need you But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you Now don’t be sad ‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad Now don’t be sad ‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
I am sure you are thinking, “How did we get from Ferguson to Meatloaf?”
For the last two weeks I have been asking the people who I am caring for in my role at Simon Tradition Ministries, a question. I have set down with them, catching up, listening, and while I am listening I am writing on a white index card a question. As soon as they take a break or stop to catch their breath, for some, this is five minutes, for others, it is 45 minutes. As soon as they stop, I slide the index card across the table, or hand it to them, and I watch them as they read it. I am watching for an expression, and I have not been disappointed yet. It is a drop in the head, or a drop in their shoulders, or they close their eyes for a brief instant. After they have gathered themselves, each one of them has looked at me with a couple of questions in their eyes. They are asking two things. One, how did you know, and two, how am I ever going to climb out of this pit I just dropped in to.
The Question I wrote on the note?
When was it that you first decided that you did not matter?
Maybe, others have wanted them.
Maybe others have needed them.
But they were not loved in the way that mattered.
If you are loved in a way that does not confirm that you matter, you have not been loved!
We moved from Ferguson to Meatloaf because they are both saying the same thing. The same thing the crowds are saying, and the same thing the people sitting across from me are saying. I do not matter.
When I met Alma Davis, she was 64 years old. She was working as a caregiver for my father. She was full of life and always called me Mr. Roy and wanted to know when I was preaching again. Alma grew up poor, living with her sharecropper family in Mississippi. Alma says, “When I was a girl around 8 or 9 down in Mississippi a man who worked for the Coca Cola Company came to my school. He gave all of us notebooks, pencils and rulers. He always told us, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.”
Then with tears in her eyes she goes on to say, “She never forgot that lesson.”
And she continues as the tears pour out, “But Mr. Roy I still want to know this.” “Why, Mr. Roy did that man not give us a Coca Cola?” “I loved Coca Cola,” she says. “I loved Coca Cola, it was all I wanted from that man and he never gave me one.” “Why, Mr. Roy?” “Why.” Then she turned to walk away, took a few steps, then turned back and said, “I never forgot that lesson either.”
One husband says, “I first learned that I did not matter when I was a child, when my parents ignored me.”
His wife said, “I first learned that I did not matter when you ignored me.”
Beth says, “I would rather hurt than feel nothing at all.”
Written on the bathroom wall, I read these words, “All I ever loved was hate.”
People will do anything to be loved, even hate if they have to.
People must be loved to know that they matter.
Being loved in a way that proves we matter is essential to our existence!
We live in a world that is starving for love. The world is starving for love because each one of us is in some way responsible for, or not able to, share with each other. We all need affirmation of our existence.
We got from Ferguson, to Meatloaf, to Alma, to the bathroom wall to here, because what we tend to see as a problem out there, is in reality, a problem right here in our hearts. It is a heart problem that will take a monumental movement of social services, money, discussion and work. It is hard work to convince a person to believe they matter when they know without a doubt way down deep in their soul, they do not matter.
We’ve heard what the world says, let’s see what Scripture says! With all the work that needs doing in our heart, I am suggesting the underpinning of that work, is built on Jesus Christ. Christ gives us the assurance, the answers, and the action.
Please pray with me.
There are 32,102 verses in the Bible. 551 times we see the word love, and 570 times we see the word heart. We start this morning with one verse that says all we need to know about love, and how much we matter to God’s heart.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
We matter so much to God that he gave us his one and only son. When God gave us his son, he was in reality giving us his heart. If you have ever lost a child or know someone who has, there is not a more heart wrenching event in all the universe. He did it to show us how much we matter. He did it so when or if we needed to measure his love for us, we would know that he gave us his full measure. That is real love, the love Alma needed to see demonstrated in her life when she was so young, it is what we all want. It is essential to our existence. It is the where and the how we find out that we matter. It is a love that knows the want in their heart, and not the want in our heart.
Jesus says, “Because I live, you also will live.”
Jesus is saying that he is living now, and in him, we live now. His life, his love, is available to us, in fact, it is in us now, and compels us to share the love with the people who sit across the table from us, across the street from us and across this world need. The power of the Holy Spirit that lives in us, is here to bring us to our knees, and from our knees to our feet, and our feet move our presence in love, into the lives of others, to love them. Christ does not call us to just proclaim his name, we are to live his name, and proclaim his name with our own lives.
Paul says in, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
As good as Faith and Hope are. They are nothing compared to love. Love moves us and it moves others. It is love that matters and it is love that makes us matter.
From the very depth of our soul we know we need love, because Christian, we have experienced his love in our soul.
Love is more essential to us than water or air.
I talked with a pastor, no, a mentor this past Thursday. His wife passed away on January 22, 2014. With determination, and tears welling up, he said, “I would give anything, anything for just one more kiss. Just one more kiss.”
Love is essential for our existence.
God made us that way. He hardwired us.
It is essential that the people around us, love us. Good love. Real love. Coca Cola love. A love that will move us to give up all for one more kiss.
That is the kind of need for love that God has put into us. He wants us to want him. God placed the overwhelming need for love inside of us so we would draw near to him. Scripture tells us that, “God is Love.” (1 John 4:16) Scripture also tells us, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
God is a good. He gave us love. He knows we need it. All people need love. We know this, we know that love is essential. Knowing this, how can we not share it, knowing that everyone needs it to live?
We don’t get it on our own. We get it from each other
Here is a thought: If love was oxygen, and if it came from our breath, would people be falling around us gasping. Love is breath, God first breathed life into man, He created the model where we must breathe life into the people around us, and the breath we give is love. Love is greater than oxygen. Love is the thing we need most. Yes, it is God’s love. Yes he put it in us to draw us to himself. He put it in us to draw us to each other.
We have to get this right or it will destroy us all.
We cannot expect to create anything of lasting value established on top of the foundation constructed out of oppression and/or exclusion.
With love as our foundation, we can build all things.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4: 7-12)
It is God’s love that matters.
It is God’s love that matters. He calls us to live life every day reflecting the love he has put into us; in our children’s lives, in our spouses’ life, in our neighbor’s life. We show his love. It is in giving that we receive.
God has loved us, loves us, and continues to love us.
Love is essential to our existence.
Genesis 3:9 “God called to the man, ‘Where are you.’”
In Adams darkest moment, his moment of fear and disobedience, God, the Father searches for him in the midst of the weeds, while he is hiding, God is loving him.
Genesis 3:21 “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them.”
Adam and Eve, disobedient, sinners leave the Garden dressed in clothing hand-made by God himself. We live in a time when designer clothes seem important to our existence. Imagine that you are walking around in clothes that have a label inside that say, “Designed by God, the greatest creator and designer that ever lived or will live. Can you imagine that? Well, I’m glad, because that is what the label in your heart and soul reads, now.
We are getting ready to celebrate Christmas. The time when God came and walked in our clothes. He took off his robes of splendor and walked into the world in rags. The King of all kings dressed himself in our rags. And he did it because he loves us. It is almost too much top grasp. A love like that. God created a way though. We can grasp it. How? Take off our clothes and walk in our neighbors clothes. Live where they live.
We matter. God says, we matter. Can we please take that knowledge and say to our neighbor these words. You matter. Better yet, show them that they matter.
Isaiah 44:3 – “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my spirit on your offspring, and my blessings on your descendants”
God knows we thirst for his love. God is not only ready to quench our thirst. He does quench our thirst. Can we take God’s provision and be ready to quench our neighbor’s thirst? Will we quench our neighbor’s thirst?
The King James Version of Isaiah 44:3 says, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty.”
Imagine pouring love on the neighbor that is thinking they don’t matter. I am not talking about sprinkling. I am talking about pouring. Pouring out love.
Isaiah 49:16 – “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
He knows us. It is in his hands. Permanently marked. Our walls, our restrictions, and our obstacles are forever on his mind and heart. Can we take this great knowledge, and see the walls around our neighbors. God has engraved us on his hands. Can we at least hold the hand of our neighbor? Just hold their hand. A simple gesture that has the potential to change an entire life.
God’s heart and mind are the same. It is love. Complete love.
A love that tells us to love.
Psalm 139: 1-19 – “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139 brings us pure words of love. Love knows its neighbor. Love knows the truth of who we are, and who they are. The knowing drives us into a deeper love.
Luke 23:44-46 – “It was now the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out, ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit.’” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
Luke gives us the proof we need: Love is essential to our existence. All of nature stopped, waiting to see if it was all over. The laws of the universe came undone when the sun, in reverence to the Kings last breath, stopped shining. Nature, knows what we can’t seem to understand, though we see it every day around us, on our TV’s, and at our dining room tables. The universe, including all of nature knows: If love is dead, there is no reason for living; it’s over. Without love that lives, nothing matters. All is lost.
Mark 16:6 – “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”
Love is not dead. Nothing can destroy God. Love brings life. Love can bring the dead out of the ashes. Love can mend a broken heart. Love can dry up a tear.
Matthew 1:22-23 – “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.”
Love comes into our life to bring life. We must take that love and go into the lives of others.
Matthew 25:40 – “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
When we love each other, when we love the least, we are loving our Lord. The creator of love. The love we depend on. The love that we need way down deep in the deepest part of our souls. A love that was freely given and is free for us to receive.
Isaiah 53: 1-7 – “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Jesus Christ was not a man of appearance. He was a man of love. Our transgressions moved him only to love us. He set the example. He paid the price. So we can move. So we can love.
Luke 2:8-14 – “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Immanuel; God with us. The word that changed it all. The word that says we have been changed, and the word that is proof that we can: Change what we see happening on our TV. Change how we address our community, our neighbor and the ones sitting next to us. We can make sure children get what they are thirsting for. We must bring that change in to the world or we will perish.
Love is essential to our existence.
It is the Christmas season. Christmas is a time to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ changed the world. Through Christ, the King declared we matter. Celebrate the change in the world, and in us, not just on Christmas day, but all of our days, by making sure our neighbor matters.
Let’s get the King of Kings, The Lord himself celebrating this time. Let’s get our Lord Jesus singing and celebrating His birth and His death. We will know when we are getting it right, not when we are celebrating. When He is celebrating.
Instead of the TV bringing the world to us, we must take our hearts to the world. Don’t worry about the cost. The cost has already been paid.
Pray with me.