Let’s Lift Up Someone’s Star

January 16, 2011

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

John 1: 29-34

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.'
31 I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel."
32 And John bore witness, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him.
33 I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'
34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."

 

 

The Heart Hunger All Around Us

There is a heart hunger in our world. There is a starvation in our world beyond mere food. There is a starvation to feel important, to feel necessary, and to feel significant. We can release the love of God in the world, and nurture this desperate hunger. We can let the love of God glow in the world in one very simple way: by letting the other person feel important.

 

We've been having a great time in our Thursday night Bible study, Dale Carnegie Meets the Bible   One of the things that we've been studying in our class is this simple principle: Let the other person feel important, in your conversations, and in your actions.

 

Dale Carnegie thinks this is a principle of human relations and I agree, but I also think it's the key to holy living. It's the key to living out Jesus's invitation to love one another as we would be loved. To treat one another as we would be treated. Let the other person feel important.

 

I'm putting it in other words this morning: let's lift up someone else's star. That's a way of saying, let someone else be the star of the conversation, of the interaction. Let's let people know that they are important.

 

How do we do that? Well, we can do that by finding out what the other person is interested in and in our conversation with them, talk about that. We can do it by finding out how the other person is doing and let them share with you. I think one of the greatest gifts we can give someone is to be the blank canvas upon which they draw and paint a picture of their inner life. Let us be that blank canvas upon which they can draw and paint and express themselves and come out of their shell. They can let their light shine because of us. Let the other person feel important.

 

Look! Here Is the Lamb of God!

Let's take a look at the remarkable gospel from St. John, the first chapter. Verse 29 says,  "The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

 

 I'm wondering if John was standing there in the river Jordan, preaching to his disciples and baptizing when he saw Jesus walking toward him over the hill. I imagine that behind Jesus there may have been a flock of lambs. Perhaps these lambs were being led to Jerusalem to be the sacrificial lambs in the temple.  And John suddenly exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God. The one who takes away the sins of the world."  The Lamb was a very important and precious symbol to the people of that time. The Lamb meant the clearing away of sin. The Lamb meant the clearing away of guilt. The Lamb symbolized that connection between people and God was unbroken.

 

 John had this insight: here is the one who is going to make that connection forever. Here is the ultimate Lamb. Jesus, the Lord, is going to be our salvation. Then John says, After me comes a man who ranks before me... John is letting Jesus’s star shine. John is saying, my purpose on earth is to lift up this person. My fulfillment is in his fulfillment. I've served my purpose when I've lifted him up and exalted him.

 

Isn't that a great way to feel? Isn't it a wonderful thing? Friend, have you ever had a student? Isn’t it a wonderful thing when your student succeeds? Isn't it a wonderful feeling when someone is successful because of something you did? Wow! That's a great feeling, isn't it? That's what John is saying and that's the principle we are studying today. Let the other person feel important and you will have made the world a better place.

 

            What the Holy Spirit Is About

John knew that that transfer of importance was going to mean that he was asking his students, his disciples, to follow Jesus. But that was his fulfillment and joy. In verse 32: And John bore witness "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him.
I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'
And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."

 

In the Hebrew mind at the time, when they spoke of the Holy Spirit, they spoke of God as transmitter, God as the receiver, and God as the reCreator.

            • The Holy Spirit as Transmitter: The person who is filled with the Holy Spirit spoke the word of the Lord and told people what God was really like and he said "that's Jesus."

            • The Holy Spirit as Reciever: The Holy Spirit is the one who is inside you and me and inspiring us to receive that truth. That's part of the Holy Spirit also. John is saying Jesus is the one who inspires us.

            • The Holy Spirit as Re-Creator: And the Holy Spirit in their mind was the re-creator, the taking of all things and making them new. The taking of broken pieces and make them work again.

 

Do you remember the story of Ezekiel in the Valley of dry bones?   The Spirit said to Ezekiel "Prophesy to the bones!", and the bones began to move around and take on sinew and flesh and life and began to get up and walk and dance. Re-creating something energetic out of something dormant is part of the work of the Holy Spirit and John is saying this man Jesus is doing all these things. He's telling us about God. He's inspiring us to receive the message and he is re-creating our broken lives. That's what Jesus is about, said John. "I myself have seen and have testified that this is the son of God."

 

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples and as he watched Jesus walked by he exclaimed "Look, here's the Lamb of God".  The two disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus at a respectful distance. They didn't want to disturb the master. When Jesus turned and saw them following, Jesus said to them, “What are you looking for? What's going on here?”

 

That was a good question because people were looking for different things. Some people were looking for a military leader. Some people were looking for someone who would fulfill the letter of the law. What are we looking for? Are we looking for a connection to God? Are we looking for the inspiration and purpose in our lives? Jesus has the answer.

 

Come and See

And they said to him, "Rabbi (translated it means teacher, it also means "Great One"), where are you staying?" In other words, they were not looking for a quick answer, they were looking for an extended conversation to explore what Jesus had to teach them. "Where you staying?" they asked.  And Jesus said, “Come and see."

 

It was traditional for rabbis of the time to answer questions like this. A student might ask a question and the rabbi would typically say, “Come and see”. What that means is, let's explore together. Let's take a look at it. Let's take the long route. Let's not rush through this question. "Come, and see," He said and they went and saw where he was staying and they remained with him that day. They lingered - and that's what we all want to do. He goes on to say it was about four o'clock in the afternoon. What difference could the time make? It was John's way of saying "I was there, I remember exactly what time it was, I remember the exact point on the road where we met." It is John’s way of saying that he was a part of this.  John lifted up Jesus’s star and that's what we are called to do today.  And Jesus lifted them up by inviting them into His presence.

 

Let's Be Counter-Culture - Let's Lift People Up

 Let me ask you, isn't there an awful lot of putting down going on in our world? I had somebody come up to me after the first service who said that they really needed to hear this message today. It seems there are commercials on television about cell phones and people putting each other down. I haven't seen them, I don't watch television, I can attest to you, and I don't miss it. But, they were saying it seems there's some kind of trend of putting people down.

           

Let's be counterculture. Let's be the people who lift other people up - because there's this hunger in our world for feeling important. We can bless that in a good and sincere and sacred way and that's part of holy living. That's part of living out the Gospel. Let's lift people up in little ways and big ways. And thereby be the people of God. Let's take the time to lift people up.

 

            Would You Like To See Our Chapel?

Last Sunday, the Starlight Chorale was giving a concert in Woodbridge, at a home for retired sisters. It was wonderful to see several of you there! We finished the concert and we were tired. We were carrying equipment to the car and as I was walking down the hall this dear little Nun comes up to me and says, “Excuse me, have you seen our chapel?”  I said, “Oh yes, sister. I have. It is very lovely.”  I had seen it in a previous year.  And she said again, “But have you seen our chapel?” I thought to myself, “Stop a minute, Anthony.  Perhaps it still has Christmas decorations up.  She wants you to see something beautiful that she has helped create.”  My singing friends and I put down equipment and said, “Sister, would you be willing to show us your chapel?” “Would you like to see it?" she said with great enthusiasm.  I said, “Yes, sister. I would.” 

 

What did it matter that I had seen the chapel last year?  She wanted to show me the chapel now.  She wanted someone to appreciate it today.  She opened the door very lovingly and I went in. There was a beautiful nativity scene set up in the chapel with lovely little lights surrounding it. It was so pretty. And I said, “Oh sister, I'm so glad you showed this to me, it's so beautiful. May I take a picture of it? And she said, “Oh yes, you may.” I said, “Thank you.”  I saw how lovely that chapel was and how beautiful that manger was. But was even more radiant, was the smile on her face.  I would like to think that the heart of that dear Sister was a little brighter that day.

 

You Were Absolutely Right

 I was in one of my favorite stores the other day, the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market in Kingston. It's a great place. I was buying some things at the fruit stand. I got a bottle of orange juice, a bottle of carrot juice, a container of watermelon slices. As I waited my turn it was clear that the customer in front of me was having a difficult time with the cashier. The cashier was stony faced and not smiling at all. She was not a very happy person at that moment.

 

When it was my turn, she quickly punched the numbers into the cash register.  I said, “Sorry, I only have three items, I think you punched in four items.” She goes over to the cash register still with the cloudy expression on her face, pushes the buttons, rips off a piece of paper and hands it to me.  Indeed, there were only three items on the list. I said, “Oh, I am so sorry. There are only three items on this paper.  I was 100% wrong and you were 100% right.” (Congregation laughs) From that scowling cloudy face I saw the dawning of a smile. And then she said, “Well, it seems that that was the first time I've been right in a long time.” (more laughter) It was terrific to see her smile. I said, “You were absolutely right. Thank you. I always enjoy the fruits and products you have here at the market.”  And she said, “Thank you!” with a smile.  It was so good to go away seeing that smiling face.

 

Let's lift up each other's star. If you do, the world will be brighter. Imagine if we all do it this week; there's going to be a difference in the world. There's going to be more brightness in the world. There's going to be an increase of energy. There's going to be another person who is happy in the world. You're going to have a feeling of satisfaction. So why don't we do this together? Let's lift up someone else's star. Let's let the other person feel important. We'll be taking after the example of John the Baptist and walking in the footsteps of the one whose dream was to lift up the whole world, and bring all of us closer to our Heavenly Father.  Let's lift someone up this week.

 

God loves you, I do too, have a wonderful week. Amen.

 

© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski