The Love that makes the Difference
January 23, 2011
Marjorie A. Samuels, Lay Speaker
Montgomery United Methodist Church
“Oh love of God, how rich and pure, how measureless and strong. It shall from age to age endure the saints and angel’s song.”
Dear friends, God loves you. Jesus loves you. No matter where you are in your journey, no matter what you are facing, know that Jesus loves you. Let us now affirm this love. I would like you to turn to the person to your left and then to your right. Say to them, “God loves you.” “Jesus loves you.” Now, I would like you to say with me, to yourself “Jesus loves me.”
I am grateful for the privilege to be a Lay Speaker in this church and for the opportunity to bring the message to the congregation today. Thank you, Pastor Tony. I also feel so blessed that the Lord would choose to use me in the ways He has.
I wish to speak to you on the topic, The Love that makes the Difference.. In doing so, I must ask you to bear with me as I will need to make a few personal references. Please see them only as a testimony to the work of Christ’s love which has made, and is still making, the difference in my life, so that I am even here before you today.
One morning some years ago, during my morning devotion, I read the scripture passage, Mathew chapter 20, in which Jesus told “The parable of the workers”. The parable tells the story of a land owner who went out to the market place looking for workers for his vineyard. He found some and sent them to work. Later in the day though, he went out and saw a group of men still standing idle. The land owner asked them why they were still standing there doing nothing. Their reply was that no one had hired them. The land owner invited them to go and work in his vineyard. The land owner was someone who aroused a sense of worth in these men. They were valuable; love and compassion changed the destiny of these men.
I had read that passage before, but that Saturday morning, the words of the men in the parable impacted me in a way it had not before… ‘Wasted resources’ I thought. Immediately I prayed, “Lord, please send me to work in your vineyard. Place me where you want me to be. “That very Saturday, later that afternoon, at the end of a prayer breakfast fellowship to which I was invited, someone asked me to sing in an upcoming meeting the following month, and I have since then become one of the worship leaders in a branch that was associated with that fellowship group.
About that time, also I was reading a book called “Experiencing God” by Henry T. Blackaby & Claude V. King. Dr. Blackaby suggested that Believers seeking to serve God, and trying to determine God’s will and purpose for their lives should first ask God to show them where he is working, and ask if they can be a part of what God is doing. This was an eye opener for me. That became my prayer. I also asked God to over-ride me for my good and his glory. Ever since then I found myself being called to serve in many ways both inside and outside of my local church, and there was even a job change, which has its own testimony. No doubt such has been the experience of many of you who are here today, all because of Divine love and intervention.
Love is both an attribute of God, and God is described as love. 1st John 4:8 God’s love is everlasting, and is forgiving. In the Lesson of Isaiah 9, the tribal lands of Zebulun and Naphtali were in a dark place in the history of Israel. Zebulun and Naphtali were Sons of Jacob. You may recall that God had changed Jacob’s name to Israel. The lands were named after the sons. These tribes were to be in a place of covenantal blessing, as promised by the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. However, at this point in their history they were in trouble. You may read at your convenience, back-ground scriptures 11 Kings 17-20 and 11 chronicles chapters 28:30, to shed more light on what lead to their demise. You will find they had suffered invasion by the Assyrians. Some of them, had trusted in everything else but the God of their fathers, and had tried everything, but everything else had failed. The whole region was in trouble. The prophet brought two encouraging promises of hope. The first prophecy was ‘but there would be no gloom for those were in anguish’. God was about to change their destiny. The passage suggest that it no longer mattered who or what had caused their trouble, God was about to change their situation. May we hear that today as well, no matter the circumstance. God will meet you right where you are, and He does allow a second chance.
The second prophecy was “the people, who sat in darkness, have seen a great light.” This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Notice that he began His ministry in the very region of Zebulun, Naphtali and the regions beyond Jordan and Galilee. The light and love of God had come in the person of Jesus Christ, preaching and teaching the good news of the Kingdom. He brought light into the world. God wanted to reveal himself to us, to show us what he really is like. Jesus is God in the flesh. We celebrate God’s greatest gift of love, sending His Son to die for our sins. Some received Him, while others rejected Him .All who receive his love however have been transformed for the better. Jesus preached and practiced unconditional love and wants those who are his disciples to do the same. He said that it is by having love for one another that the world will know that we are his disciples. This is the kind of love then that will draw others to Christ and through the working of His Holy Spirit, lives are greatly transformed.
I recall another time in my life when a dramatic transformation took place. At this particular time it seemed so much was changing, falling apart. I refer to it as “life was happening.” The one thing that remained intact however, was my faith and trust in God and His word. I held on to the love of Christ. I found John 15: 16 where I had written my name some time before, part of which reads, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”. My godly mother had also given me Psalm 121, when at an early age I had asked her for a Psalm I could learn as my own. At that time of my life therefore verse 7 of that Psalm became a regular prayer. “Lord preserve my soul” and yes my sanity too.
I did not like weekends then, except for the hours spent in church on Sundays. Weekends were harder to take. So, one September Saturday evening, my emotions became rather mixed and overwhelming. Forgiveness was not uppermost on my mind. If anything, I felt I had the right to be angry, and I was. In a moment however, I felt the sudden urge to go to my knees and pray. I remember asking God to remove all the negative emotions of lost love, the hurt, all the anger I was feeling and to fill me up with his love instead. I asked him to change my heart and clear me of all that was going on inside. Friends, in that moment He answered my prayer and did just that. It was analogous to scooping out the inside of a pumpkin and placing a light inside. I felt a sudden calm and peace. I arose from my knees a completely changed person. Jesus had come to my rescue, and His light had penetrated the gloom. A few days later, I noticed that he had even given me a sense of humor to help me handle some of the incidents at the time, until he would geographically relocate me. I also began to see the person the subject of my former frustration, as someone who was also one of God’s children gone astray, who needed Christ’s love too. I continued to pray for his salvation. One day I was also reminded of what Jesus said while He was on the cross, and when I verbalized the words “Father please forgive him for he did not understand what he did”, I felt joy, deep Joy!
Who knew, only the Father, Son and The Holy Spirit knew that some fifteen years later, that I would be helping to care for him during his terminal illness, and that I would be instrumental in seeing him come to saving faith in Christ Jesus? I can hardly describe the joy which I felt when I heard my former husband singing “Jesus loves me this I know” and actually placed his own name in the chorus. A few weeks later he slept away unafraid, to be with his Lord.
The love of Christ unites. It forgives hurts. Paul the Apostle reminded the Corinthian church of the necessity for unity among the believers. Just like the Corinthian church we need to practice love and unity. In the great love chapter 1st Corinthian 13, he emphasizes the fact that of all the gifts, the greatest is love
Our country is still trying to come to grips with the events of the past weeks, and we are saddened by the effects when people choose to hate than to love. We have just celebrated another birthday and the life of the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. He was one who sought to make a difference. There is sometimes a price to be paid for love and caring, but we may not give up the call of Christ to love and to serve. For every person who will choose hate and violence, there are many others who will choose to love and to care. Every once in a while a bit of good news surfaces in between the bad. I was touched by the story of ‘the homeless man with the golden voice’, who was given a second chance and a helping hand by a notable celebrity, someone who cared.
To Montgomery UMC, as we go forward in the service of our Lord, I wish to encourage you to continue in the love you are showing. It is seen in the way you care for one another, and in your response to the needs of the community. Continue to welcome strangers, they could be angels unawares. Keep the hospitality and the love light glowing.
I recognize that we are not all at the same place in our faith journey but we are all called to love, and to share the love of Christ. There might be someone here today who has never asked Jesus to come into your heart. I extend this invitation to you to do so. In a moment I will close with a prayer and encourage you to embark on this journey of faith. Jesus will be a great and loving companion who promises always to be with you.
May the divine love that makes all the difference be forever with everyone. Have a wonderful and blessed week. Remember, God loves you. Jesus loves you, I do too.