Unity

The Church loves talking about the Prodigal Son – the redemption, forgiveness, and celebration are irresistible. How often do we examine the older brother and repent of our contributions of dis-unity in themodern Church? This message is a call to Unity.

Preached on 7/2/17 at Hanfield UMC.

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Out of fuel, but not out of luck

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“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV
http://bible.com/59/lev.19.33-34.ESV

There are many things that will embarrass a man and wound his pride. Some men are more susceptible to this wounding than others, especially one they are somewhat deficient in the traditional “Manly Arts”. Of course I am referring to myself and anything mechanical – I’m a legitimately smart fellow, but machines confound me. Specifically, I am able to drive my truck, but I am not able to work on it.

As I was closing in on my target, a Mr. Fuel truck stop in Foristell, MO near St. Louis, I ran out of diesel with 2.8 miles to my target. With embarrassment and burning shame on the shoulder of I70W, I pressed my Onstar button amidst the whoosh of passing racecars traffic the honking of mocking horns. A gentleman from a local shop brought out my diesel and promptly left. Much to my surprise and confusion, my truck wouldn’t start. “Oh great Google, how do I start my truck after running out of fuel?”

As it turns out, my GMC Sierra has a hand pump on the fuel filter to run the diesel the 8-10 feet from the fuel tank to the filter. When it runs dry it spells bad news and takes awhile to re-dampen the works. So I get out the manual, call Pastor Brent (a master mechanic in his past life), and get dirty under the hood. Two hours later, I still have not succeeded – the wizardry of mechanical magic eludes me, even with the disembodied help of Google, Pastor, and the truck manual.

I finally just breakdown (my heart, not the truck) and beg God for this truck to start. As usual, I was asking for the wrong thing. After two and a half hours on the side of the interstate, but within half a minute of my prayer, a good Samaritan finally stops to see if I need help. Who happens to be a Christian. And who also happens to be the owner of an auto shop with a full time diesel mechanic. Who also happens to be in town on the Labor Day holiday instead of out partying.

We end up not being able to get the truck to start on the shoulder (all of our efforts drained the battery), but it’s OK says Dennis Harris, my knight in shining armor angel, because he’s got a tow truck and will pull me to his shop and work on it first thing in the morning. In the meantime, would I rather he put me up in a hotel or allow he and his wife to host me for dinner and stay in their spare room?

“Lord, I just wanted the truck to start. I’m not ungrateful, but staying with strangers goes against all conventional wisdom! Why won’t it? Why could I not? Why am I faced with this choice? I hate being indebted to others, but now I’m forced between a rock and a hard place. What do I do?”

“Why are you even asking? Allow Grace to be administered to you. Without complaint, please.”

“Again, Lord, you’re right. Please crucify my ego once again.”

As I sit here in the waiting area of Harris Automotive and Tire (please patronize this wonderful business if you have any automotive needs in the St. Louis area, http://harrisautoandtire.com/) I am struck by a number of things.

1) Americans prefer self-sufficiency. Receiving Grace is hard and pricks our pride.

2) Dennis and Tanya thought they were blessing me, but actually felt blessed by helping me.

3) Being forced to helplessly receive Grace reminds us of what Christ did for us and how helpless we are in the face of His Divine Grace.

4) I thought giving Grace was hard, but as it turns out receiving is by far the more difficult task.

5) I wonder about all those our churches are attempting to reach. Does it feel as awkward for them to receive free Grace and love? Rather than getting frustrated as the givers, ought this make us even more gracious and compassionate with them?

6) When giving Grace, don’t just give a little. Give till it hurts. Dennis and Tanya had to take my word for it that I was a pastor, let alone a good citizen. Regardless, they took me in, fed me, took care of my truck, drove me to and fro, and didn’t ask for anything in return.

7) When your fuel light dings and there’s a headwind coming at you, there’s less fuel left than you calculated.

I’m so grateful to serve a God who knows what we need and cares little for what we want. I wanted my truck to start. He knew I needed to learn even more about Grace and ego and the giving & receiving of blessings. In this case I ran out of gas, but not of luck. Thank you, Lord.

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What do you think? What lessons have you learned about Grace? Feel free to comment and share.