A man came home from work to find his 5-year-old son waiting for him at the door. “Dad?”
“Yeah?” replied the man.
“Dad, how much money do you make an hour?
“Well son, I don’t really think that you need to be worried about that,” the man said.
“Please daddy, please tell me, how much do you make an hour?” pleaded the boy.
“If I tell you, you must promise you won’t tell anybody else.”
“Alright then,” said his father, “I make $25.00 an hour.”
“Oh,” the boy replied. He looked a little sad, then said, “Dad, may I borrow $10.00 please?”
His father got a bit angry at this. “If the only reason you wanted to know how much money I make is so you can borrow some, you can go straight off to bed. I work long and hard to provide the things you need, not so you can borrow money to spend on candy or toys or whatever junk it is you want $10 for!”
The boy was devastated, burst into tears, and made his way to his room. After an hour or so the father had calmed down and went to his son’s room.
“I’m sorry for being so hard on you earlier. If you tell me what you wanted the $10 for and it’s a worthwhile thing, I’ll think about giving it to you.” The little boy ran across the room to his piggy bank and counted out all its contents, exactly $15.00. “$15.00, that’s a lot of money son. Surely it’s enough for what you wanted to buy.”
“Well with the $10 you’ll give me it will be,” the boy replied.
On the verge of being angry again the Father asked, “What is it that you need $25.00 for son.”
“For you,” the boy said. “I’d like to buy an hour of your time.”
I remember watching some movie and one of the ladies said, “If I want to spend an hour with my husband, I have to call his secretary and make an appointment.” Maybe it was some book, but some character requested an hours time of someone. The response, “No one gets an hour.”
We’re so busy these days, that no one gets an hour and if they do, they’re going to have to make an appointment and pay for it?
Perhaps its not all that bad, but there are days that seem like it. Days when, even though you live in the same house with someone, the best it seems you can do is wave at each other as you come and go.
There are days and sometimes even seasons like this, but if it goes on for too long, it begins to impact the relationship. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it can also make it grow cold.
We must be willing to invest ourselves with more than simply sending the occasional text message or quick chat on the phone. There are, of course, exceptions, but most strong and lasting relationships take time or they are going to breakdown.
Now, you may be thinking, “I know where he’s going with this one. Going to lecture us on spending time with Jesus. Giving Jesus an hour each day. Yeah. I see what you did there.” Well I could, but no. A closer read of our Gospel indicates that, in this case, Jesus is not saying, that we need to spend time with him. This Gospel lesson is talking about how we are to be with one another: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Three times: love one another. Love one another. Love for one another. And I would suggest to you today that if we are going to love one another, that if we are to build a community of believers, then we must be willing to commit to one another. Why? N.T. Wright, currently one of our greatest New Testament scholars, wrote, “The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world … The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.” To be committed to one another, to be that community of believers requires that we do more than wave at each other on Sunday mornings. Loving one another requires much more—much more than $25.
In chapter 15 of John’s Gospel (which is a part of this same section we had today), Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” “Love one another”—there it is again. However, Jesus adds, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
You can keep the $25, Jesus just asked for your life instead.
This week I read a story about a pastor traveling with a Brazilian seminary student. Along the way the pastor asked the student if he would like to stop for a cup of coffee. The student said, “I would be honored.” So the pastor swung into a Starbucks and went through the drive-thru.
Once on their way again the student was very quiet and when pressed about his silence he said, “I thought you were asking me to be your friend. I thought we were going to sit together and share life.” (From a sermon by Monty Newton, The Making of a Compelling Christian Community, 8/24/2012)
We must be willing to share our lives, not only as it fits with our schedule, but at those unexpected times as well. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated in Life Together, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”
Loving one another, giving one’s life for one’s friends means sharing your life with others, so that the community becomes an extension of our own lives.
The Abbot of the monastery wanted the community that he led to be much more committed to one another. Needing advice on the subject, the Abbot went to visit his good friend Jeremiah, a wise old Jewish rabbi. Having heard the Abbot, Jeremiah asked if he could share an experience. “Please do,” responded the Abbot. “Anything you can offer.”
Jeremiah proceeded to tell the Abbot that he had received a vision, an important vision, and the vision was this: the Messiah was among the ranks of the monks. The Abbot was flabbergasted. One among his own, living in the monastery was the Messiah! the Christ! Who could it be? He knew it wasn’t himself, but who? He raced back to the monastery and shared this exciting news with his fellow monks.
The monks grew silent as they looked into each other’s faces. Was this one the Messiah? Or maybe that one? From that day forward the atmosphere in the monastery changed. No one wanted to miss the opportunity of being with the Messiah. If there was harm done, they immediately went and sought forgiveness. The monks began serving one another in ways they had never thought of, looking out for opportunities to assist, seeking healing and companionship.
As travelers found their way to the monastery word soon spread about the remarkable spirit of the place. People took the journey to the monastery and found themselves renewed and transformed. All because those monks knew the Messiah was among them. All because the visitors knew that those monks were true disciples of Jesus. All because those monks were loving one another as Christ had loved them.
Please don’t think that I’m saying you are not committed to one another. I believe you are committed in a rather remarkable way, but we must always seek ways to strengthen the bonds between us and to bring others into our community. Not so that we can have a bigger church, but so that we can have a stronger, faithful, more committed church. So that everyone will know that we are Jesus’ disciples.
So I will share with you what Jeremiah shared with the Abbot: the Messiah is among the members of your church.
Let us pray: We pray You, Loving Father and eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Your glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Your mercy, that Your Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of your name. Amen.