In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen.
I don't like email. I know its necessary,but I don't like it. The reason I don't like
it is you can't hear voice inflections. You can't see if there is love or fire in the eyes of
the person who is typing. You can't read body language. Hard words can be read as
being soft. Soft words can be misunderstood as being hard. The possibilities for
miscommunication are as great if not greater than the possibilities for communication. I
don't like email
I don't like writing letters either. I don't like them for the same reasonI don't like
emails. When you pickup a piece of paper and begin to read, it's easyto see what's on
the paper, but hard to understand what is behind it.
We have the same difficulty when we read scripture. There are words printed on
the page, but we can't see if those eyes were snapping when the person wrote those
words, or if there were tears running down their cheeks. We don't know the body
language of the person, or their voice tone, when they wrote those words. It is because
we don't know the context. We don't have background. All we have are the words in
front of us.
We all struggle in our efforts to communicate. Context means so much. Knowing
the other person, knowing something about them, knowing the situation that they have
experienced, and knowing what they know about us and our situation, all help in times
of dialogue. And yet, there is always room to miscommunicate.
In this series I have been preaching about is "A Life That Really Matters". The
first week I said that for a life that really matters we need to turn to God. A part of
every Chrlstian's context is their relationship with God. The first thing we do is turn to
God.The second week I said that the reason we turn to God is because with God there
is grace in every place.
The third week I talked about where Christians reside. We reside at the corner of
Suffering and Glory, an imaginary intersection of the Christians life. Suffering is part of
our lives. There are many forces in life that would pull us down and diminish us, and
draw ustoward a life of suffering. The result can be physical and spiritual death.
Last week, I talked about the things that we treasure if we really want a life that
matters. We need to treasure, out of our past, our experiences of God that have
brought us to this place. We put them like gems in a jewel box. We are also called by
Jesus to look to the future. We are called by Jesus to have openness about the future.
Today I want us to think about what is in our cupboards. What resources do we
have to share with others? Jesus was the embodiment of self-giving love. Jesus lived life
giving to others, and ultimately giving the final gift, the gift of his life itself. If we are to
follow him, then there must be a giving quality about our lives.
What is it that we have to give? What is in our cupboard that we might share
with others? If you read through the letters of Paul, context is vitality important. You
need to be aware of where Paul is and the conditions of his life when he writes the
You need to be aware of the context of the congregations to which he is writing
so that you can understand what he is saying in each letter. And always, we need to be
aware of our own context. Context is vitality important.
What happens when you read Paul? There are times when if you could see him,
you could be sure that his finger was up and he is shaking it in your face. There are
other times when he is full of grace. For instance, at the end of chapter 8 in the book of
Romans we have a hymn of grace, most likely composed by Paul himself:
For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the
love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There is no more complete statement about grace in all of scripture than that
statement. It is magnificent. But that isn't all we know of Paul. He is so much more.
What we know about Paul when he wrote the letter to the Romans was that he
was going through a theological struggle of his own. A part of the context of his writing
the letter was a dialogue going on in his head, a dialogue about the nature of salvation
and who was included in the promises of God.
To know that is vitality important as you read the letter. One of the problems
that Paul faced was that he had a deep-seeded belief that the Jews were a part of God's
work of salvation. Paul was passionately focused on his relationship with God through
Christ. We see that repeatedly in his letters. Knowing these two factors, a passion for
the people of Israel and yet struggling to understand where they fit into things, and
focused on God through Jesus, we then read Romans and we see where Paul comes
He comes out with that most impressive concept that we are saved not by our
birth, but by our faith. We are justified by faith in God's grace.
What's in Paul's cupboard? It is the deep love of Christ. It is the focus of his life.
Yet he is saying he is willing to give it all up if someone else will know him. The question
for you and me is, is there some one person that we care so much about that we are
willing to offer our own relationship with Christ in sacrifice so that they might know
In the passage from Matthew, the context is that Jesus has just heard about the
death of John the Baptizer. In responsehe goes to an isolated place. Perhaps he goes to
grieve. That would make sense. Maybe he goes because he is afraid the same thing
might happen to him, that he might be beheaded.That makes sense. Maybe he goes to
reevaluate his ministry and the whole Christian movement in the light of John's death.
That certainly makes sense. We are not exactly sure why Jesus goes to his isolated
We do know what he does there. He goes to be by himself. Yet there are others
who know that's where he is going, so they arrive before him. When Jesus arrives he
seesvthem, he sees their need, and he responds to their need. Jesus goes to take care
of his own soul, yet when he sees need around him, he opens up his cupboard, and
takes care of those around him. We are told that he heals them.
Jesus' disciples come to him late that evening, and say, "Send all these people
away so they can go find food and take care of themselves for the evening." This is
where I would love to have been present and watched Jesus' eyes and his gestures. My
guess is his eyes were snapping at that point, and his finger was pointing, and he said,
"You give them something to eat. Don't send the people off. Open up your cupboard
and feed them." That's just a hunch, but that's the way I read the text.
The disciples counter, "We only have five loaves of bread and two fish." Jesus
says, bring them to me." He says words and does actions at that time that remind us of
the Last Supper, and of communion liturgy. They are acts and words that have immense
meaning. What Jesus essentially does is say to them, "If you open your cupboard, you
will do more than physically feed these people, you will give them much more."
What is in the disciples' cupboard? More than enough. What is in your cupboard?
More than enough. You and I have more than enough to minister to the people around
us. You and I have more than enough to take care of the physical needs of others. You
and I have enough to minister to the spiritual needs of other people. You and I have
more than enough to be God's presence in the world. The only question is, are we
willing to open up our cupboards?
A ninety-two year old woman lost to death her husband of seventy years. As she
went through that transition of her life she decided to move into a nursing home. On the
day she was to move in, she arrived. Her room wasn't quite ready, so they had her wait
for about an hour in the lobby. Finally one of the employees from the nursing home
came to her, and said, "We can take you down the hall, and I will show you your room."
As they began to make their way down the hall, the ninety-two year old woman
moved very slowly because she had a walker. As they walked along the employee began
to give her a visual description of the room. As the employee was describing the room,
the lady said, "Oh, I love it!" The employee said, "How can you say that? You haven't
even seen it yet?" The lady said, "Happiness is something you decide ahead of time. My
liking the room does not depend on the arrangement of the furniture in the room. It
depends on the arrangement of the thoughts in my mind. I have chosen to like it!"
Friends the choice is ours. The question is, what's in our cupboard? The call of
God upon us this day is for us to open the cupboards of our lives so that others might
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH