The Power of the Positive Difference

January 30, 2011

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Matthew 5: 1-12

1Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him.
2And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

 

Let's talk this morning about The power of the positive difference. You have a remarkable power, my friend.  You have the power to make the world better.  You have the power to lift people up, and to bring positive energy to everyone around you.  You have the Power to make a Positive Difference.

 

In our Gospel this morning we are looking at the portion of the Bible called the "Beatitudes." This set of phrases, the teachings of Jesus that begin with the words "Blessed are". Why do we call them the Beatitudes? We called them the Beatitudes because in Latin, the word "blessed" is “beata”.

 

Now it may very well be that Jesus preached those words just as we read them. It may very well be that that was, indeed, a single sermon.

 

However, some theologians think that actually this is a collection of sermon titles and topics that the disciples remembered as they later recalled the teachings of the Lord.  It is as though they were saying, "When Jesus spoke, he spoke about things like this."

 

 The crowds loved Jesus, and they loved to hear him. He was offering them up positive words. He was offering positive possibilities in the midst of a rule driven society and religion. They loved to hear him. "When he preached, he preached things like this." And so, we have the Beatitudes.

 

There are many ways we can interpret the word “blessed”, but I'm going to suggest for today that we concentrate on the definition “precious to God”.

 

Let us read together and hear what Jesus used to say when he walked with us on earth. Instead of reading the word “blessed”, would you substitute the words, “precious to God”.

 

Matthew 5: 3

Precious to God are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Precious to God are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
Precious to God are the meek for they will inherit the earth.
Precious to God are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.
Precious to God are the merciful for they will receive mercy.
Precious to God are the pure in heart for they will see God.
Precious to God are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.
Precious to God are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Precious to God are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

 In other words, you are in good company. Rejoice and be glad for you are Precious to God. Today, let's explore just one of the beatitudes: Precious to God are the merciful, they will obtain mercy.

 

I want to suggest to you today my friends that there is enormous power in making a positive difference and you can do it. I've got a challenge and an invitation for us today. When we get up in the morning I suggest that one of the first prayers we pray upon waking is: Lord, how can I make this world a better place today. How can I make a positive difference in the world today. Show me, lead me, take me in that direction and let me be inclined to make a positive difference in the world today. Oh, my dear friends, there are so many ways to do this.

 

We are studying in our Dale Carnegie class about a nurse who worked at a hospital. A certain man remembered that when he was a little boy, illness took him to the hospital over Thanksgiving. The family was very poor. He could not be with his family on Thanksgiving and was very sad about it. But there was this nurse who saw how sad he was and she said, "What's the matter?" He said, “I'm so sad I can't be with my family. I've got to be here in the hospital.” And she said, “I know that's hard. I can't be with my family either. Why don't we have Thanksgiving dinner together today?” He agreed.

 

She brought two trays of food with a plate of turkey and gravy and a little cup of cranberry sauce and they sat there in his room and had Thanksgiving dinner together. They played a few games and told stories until he was tired and fell asleep. Then the nurse went home.

 

He later found out that as she came in to the room for the first time to talk with him, she was going off duty. She could've gone home; but she decided to make a positive difference. She stayed to make that boy’s Thanksgiving a little happier. Years and years, decades later, he remembered that day and he remembered that nurse. She made a positive difference. Isn't the world a brighter better place because she did what she did? And you can do it and I can do it in large ways and in small ways.

 

Think of people that made a positive difference for you. I remember my sister, Angie. She was like a second mother to me, she blessed me in so many ways. I remember when Angie would take me to the library. Now that wasn't something I would've necessarily done on my own! She would say, “Let’s go the library, Anthony.” She'd take me to the poetry section and she'd point out poems to me and she'd find ones that she thought I'd like. We would borrow the book so that I could read the poems over and over again at home.

 

On Saturdays when we would clean the house she took out the record player and she'd play recordings of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Bizet's Carmen and South Pacific with Enzio Pinza singing the song, This Nearly was Mine. The songs echo in my mind today. She introduced me to beautiful music. What a gift. She made a positive difference in the world that continues to this day.

 

What is God calling you to do at the beginning of your day? Lord, help me make a positive difference in this world today.

 

Three thoughts.

Don't be afraid that your positive difference might be small. Even something that seems small to you could be a gem to somebody else, you never know. God will put the opportunity in front of you, just go for it. Even if it seems like a small positive difference, delighting the heart of a child, making someone a sandwich, saying a good word to the person at the gas station. No gift in the hands of God is too small. Lord, how can I make this place, this world a better place, today?

 

Second, remember that you don't have to compete with anybody. You don't have to make a better pie than Mrs. Smith in order to make a wonderful pie to give to somebody. You don't have to be eloquent to call up someone and give them a good word. You don't have to be a great writer to go on email and send someone a word of encouragement.

 

I remember getting an email from my district superintendents a long time ago. The email said,

 Dear Tony, I just wanted to let you know that I'm praying for you. I love what you do. You have my support.  God bless you, have a great day.

 

 I remember that to this day, and that happened ten years ago. No gift is too small, and it's never too late to make a positive difference. The positive difference you make is unique. There is nobody like you.

 

Third, let yourself have a feeling of satisfaction from the blessings you give. Jesus said, rejoice and be glad. Precious to God are you. When you go to sleep at night, say to the Lord, Lord, I may not have done everything perfectly today and there are some things I may regret and there are some things I left out that I wish I did but I tried to do some good things.  Take and bless the things that I tried to do and use them to your glory. And then go to sleep soundly and peacefully knowing that you have pleased the Lord.

 

Friends, let me close with these words: this week let's agree with each other when we get up in the morning were going to pray, Lord how can I make this world a better place? And when you go to sleep at night say take and receive, oh Lord, take and bless, the good things You've allowed me to do. And then, rest well, knowing that you have made a positive difference in the world; for you have walked in the footsteps of Jesus.

 

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

© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski