"Stewarding Love"
Tim Carson
Broadway Christian Church · Columbia, Missouri
The Worship of God · April 12, 2015
Eastertide
                                                                                                           Stewards of Life       
 
Psalm Litany
Based on Psalm 133
 
How very good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity!
It is like anointing with precious oil.
It is like the dew that falls on the mountains,
as the Lord ordains blessing forevermore.
How very good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity!
 
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen. Amen.
 
Pastoral Prayer
Terry Overfelt
 
In the bulb there is a flower. In a cross a resurrection! Here’s a spring that has waited to be. Reveal to us, oh God!
 
This once-in-a-lifetime spring; thank you for the beauty of the awakening. Help us to hold its possibilities and splendor in balance with the contrast of loss and trouble that also come up through the earthiness of our being. 
 
Let us take pause in the embrace of sacrifice and the holding on for dear, near, now and eternal life. Reveal in us oh God, an awakening of spirit. All the prayers we’ve intended to send, let us seed them now and watch for the ways you will grow them within our hearts and bear the fruits of their having been spoken over the fields of our living faith.
 
Reveal yourself to us oh God! In our doubt, as we reach to touch your wounds, let us be overcome with our love for your willingness to be the spring of hope in the world and overcome with the joy of new life.
 
Give us words that proclaim your living promise! Re-zeal us, oh God! There is so much unrevealed, now is the season! Let us see what you see. Let us hope, as you hope. Let us lie no more in the mire of our past, but rather rise with you
to claim the spring, rains, winds, and rolled stones, to celebrate this beginning and your infinite love.
 
We pray together, saying…
 
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. They will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
 
The Scripture
John 21:15-17; I John 4:19-21
 
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
 
We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
 
This is the Word of the Lord for us today.
Thanks be to God.
 
The Message
Stewarding Love
Tim Carson
 
We all know that the most important things come in threes:
 
The Three Stooges; Ebenezer Scrooge’s three spirits; Dorothy’s friends - the Scarecrow, Tin Nan and the Cowardly Lion; three blind mice; three little pigs; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Robbers beat up the man on the way to Jericho and three people pass by; Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear; the Genie grants Aladdin three wishes; a priest, a minister and a rabbi go into a bar; the three musketeers; Okay, on the count of three…; third time’s a charm; terrible times come in threes.
 
And… when the risen one appeared to Peter, he asked him the same question three times: “Do you love me?”
 
If someone asks you if you love them, how does it feel? The first time, probably okay – after all, we all need to feel loved. Why shouldn’t they want some reassurance that’s so?
 
How about the second time – but do you love me? Well, maybe they are double-checking: Did I hear you right? Are you sure and sincere? I mean, it’s worth repeating.
 
But what about the third time? Now, we’re pushing it. Didn’t you hear me the first time, the second time? I’ve told you; don’t you believe me? This is getting silly. From now on, you get to ask that question one time.
 
You can imagine how hurt Peter felt after Jesus asked him the question for the third time. Of course, I love you! Do you doubt it! What must I do to show you!
 
It’s one thing to ask if you love me three times. It’s another to have someone say three times, “Then prove it!”
 
And that’s what Jesus gave Peter every time, three times: “If you love me then feed my sheep, tend my lambs.”
 
In other words, “Your feelings toward me are nice, but what’s really important to me is what you are going to do because of them.” And what he wanted Peter to do was to care for the flock.
 
For us, it is the difference between honking if you love Jesus and actually protecting, feeding, and nurturing the flock of God.  Do you love me, Peter? Don’t honk; feed my sheep. Don’t just sit there thinking about how much you love; do something about it.
 
And that, of course, is the point; that real godly love is something you do. Or as it echoes in the epistle of I John: “Those who say they love God and hate their brothers or sisters are liars… the commandment we have from him is this, that those, who love God, must love their brothers and sisters also.”(4:20-21)
The emotion of love has to be translated into the action of love, something concrete and tangible – that’s when it becomes real.
 
So much of the Gospel story of love is directed outwardly in mercy and compassion to address the needs that surround us. When did we love you, Lord? When you loved the least of these on my behalf, as you would have loved me (Matthew 25).
 
But this story of the one question repeated three times has a very particular focus. This love for the risen Lord is to be redirected to the little flock of the Lord, the community of faith, the church.
 
In a cultural moment in which almost everything is defined in terms of commodities, products, markets, consumption, sales and customers, it has an odd sound to it. Imagine, the primary question being asked in the three questions is not what can the church give me, or what can I consume and take, or how may the church and its program inspire and meet and serve my needs.
Rather, the question is how can I take care of the church as a shepherd would care for the flock? And what would that include?
 
It would include showing up, belonging, doing my part, participating, serving according to my gifts, encouraging the sorrowful, leading those new to the faith, discerning our direction together, worshipping in the Spirit.
 
It would include giving of my material resources, striving to give a tithe (a tenth) of my money and striving to give a tithe (a tenth) of my time.
 
It would include responding to special needs, as they present themselves and as the Spirit moves me.
 
It would include praying for the church and doing my best to keep and hold the most positive and supportive attitudes toward the church.
 
It would include spreading the good news about the flock, so that others may find life and the flock might prosper.
 
It would include taking some risks for the future and supporting the innovators in the congregation.
 
It would include extending a welcoming front porch to all those, who are trying to find their way into a new community of faith.
 
It would include the sincere desire to continue growing spiritually – as individuals and as an entire body.
 
It would include changing my thinking from, “Do I want to go to church today?” to instead, “Who will God lead me to at church today?”
 
It would include loving in spite of differences and maintaining the unity of the Spirit because God has claimed us first.
 
It would include being good stewards of the physical plant God has blessed us with.
 
It would include filling out a pledge card, giving generously, and growing our giving year after year.
 
“Feed my sheep” asks all of these things of us.
 
I want to tell you about what happened a couple of weeks ago, as we worshipped with brothers and sisters in the mighty Spirit-filled church in El Espino. At the close of worship, after all the preaching and praying and singing was over, just when we thought it might be coming to a close, we were informed that the members of their church wanted to pray for our church. The 15 of us were sitting in maybe the first couple of rows of chairs. And then people just started moving forward and surrounding us. They all lifted hands and slowly, as one prayer leader began, they all chimed in with a cacophony of their own prayer, words and spirit wafting over us and enfolding us like a gentle breeze. They were praying for our little flock, that we keep loving and serving and living in the Spirit; that we find strength when discouraged and joy in all times.
 
In that moment, I was certain, beyond a doubt, that they were feeding and tending the flock, for the church of Jesus Christ is universal, and extends from our doorstep to the ends of the earth.
 
“Do you love me, Peter?”
“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
“Then feed my sheep.”
 
The Benediction
Tim Carson
 
And now, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen.
 
 
                                                                   
Last Published: April 16, 2015 7:29 AM