Seven Essential Questions – What Matters Most?

Seven Essential Questions Sermon Series

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. (Mark 12:28-34, New Revised Standard Version).

          In 1996, the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. Brett Favre was their quarterback and the league most valuable player. Someone hung a banner in the stadium, Lambeau Field. Listen to the words on this banner:

Our Favre who art and Lambeau, hallowed be thy arm. The bowl will come, it will be won, in New Orleans as it is in Lambeau. Give us this Sunday our weekly win. And give us many touchdown passes. Bu do not let others pass against us. Lead us not into frustration but deliver us to Bourbon Street. For Thine is the MVP, the best of the NFL, and the glory of the cheese heads, now and forever. Go get em!”

          Here is a question for you to chew on for a few minutes. When does sports as entertainment become sports as idolatry? Apparently, some fans recognize their team support for what it is to them. It really is worship.

          Don’t get me wrong. I like football. I enjoy a game. The first part of the month, when Kansas City and San Francisco played in the Super Bowl, I was in front of my television for the whole game and even that half time show. If you can’t tell from my tone of voice, I didn’t care for it.

          As I suspected, life as we knew it before the game didn’t change in the slightest with the possible exceptions of Kansas City, San Francisco, and Miami, where the game happened. For the rest of us, after the game was over, or on Monday morning, most everyone went back to work or school or whatever it is that usually occupies their time.

          Watching a game isn’t what bothers me. What does bother me is, a father who sent his son into the fellowship hall (not here) one Sunday Morning as I was about to have prayer with the choir when the young man came in and told me, “Dad says to tell you the Cowboys kick off at noon today. You need to cut it short.” Yes, that really did happen. It was the first time but I assure you, it wasn’t the last.

          My response? “I am going to preach. I am going to preach the message God gave me to preach. I am going to preach it until I get through. If you finish first, go home.” The young man’s dad thought it was funny.

          I have even heard a bit of a different statement. “Preacher, today is the Super Bowl, Don’t keep us over.” My answer for that one is a bit different. Why do I need to finish early, the game doesn’t even start until 5:30. I am sure we will finish well ahead of that.” The rebuttal to that goes something like this: But what about pre-game? I just shake my head and walk away.

          It is just football. I have a book I have a book titled, Muscular Christianity: and the Development of Sports in America. It’s authors, Tony Ladd and James A. Mathison, believe sports is a new American religion with the major sports becoming its major denominations. When our favorite denomination isn’t in season, participants study and worship elsewhere.

          Sport is far from the only religion out there. Another is shopping. Uh-Oh. He quit preachin’ and went to meddlin’. “There’s a special Sunday sale at XYZ. We don’t have that store. I have to go to Tyler and be there at 10:00 when they open. They’ve got door-busters.

Idols can take many shapes. It might be cars or a new kitchen appliance, it might be guitars (ouch, that one hurt) or our television. It might be a collection of green pictures of dead presidents. If I didn’t mention yours, there is a possibility it is out there. We pour ourselves into our false faith. When does the pursuit of entertainment end and a false God begin?

          We begin a new sermon series for Lent, titled “Seven Essential Questions.” We begin by asking the question, “What Matters Most?”

          We know the answer but don’t live it. Our lives are out of balance. In his book Soul Keeper, John Ortberg argues that it isn’t so much our lives are out of balance. Our lives aren’t balanced because our souls aren’t balanced.

          We are wired to be in relationships with God and with other people. Yet, for short-term gain, a win on the field, a bargain at the store, we allow stuff to replace relationships.

          We allow relationships to deteriorate, putting things ahead of worship, ahead of God. Our souls are out of balance. Our lives are out of balance.

          When we are out of balance, we don’t as we might if we were balanced. You’ve probably seen the commercial of the man wearing a wedding dress on top of a subway grate, complaining about someone’s decision. The director then tells, “Miss Monroe eat a Snickers” because she gets cranky when hungry. After one bite she is back to normal.

          We can get cranky when we’re hungry. With the secularization of society recently, closer to the truth is, we get cranky because we are spiritually out of balance. We aren’t doing what matters most.

          Jesus doesn’t say in this lesson, what matters most but close enough. He is grilled by the Pharisees and Sadducees. An expert in law asks, “What is the most important commandment?” In Hebrew law there are 613 commandments. If you thought only 10, think again.

          Most of us would have a problem. Who could keep up? “If I can’t know them all, what is most important? I need help!!!”

          The expectation was for Jesus to say the Ten Commandments. They were wrong. Jesus said, “The most important one is, ‘Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” He continues, “The second is this, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.’”

          Jesus is saying is, the most important commandment is, love God and love neighbor. If loving God and neighbor is most important, I think is clear, what matters most!

          To balance our lives requires focus on what matters most. How do we show love of God? God gave us part of the answer, “…you shall worship the LORD your God (2 Kings 17:39). Worship is vital to live love of God. We live love for God through giving time and treasure.

As Methodists, John Wesley’s “Acts of Piety” are pretty important to our faith. There are six of these Acts. Wesley believed we practiced these acts, as we journey toward Holiness. The Acts of Piety are: Prayer, searching (studying) the Scriptures, Holy Communion, Fasting, Christian Community, and healthy living. We do better at some than others but each of these can lead us on the path toward holiness.

We also show love of God by how we love our neighbor. Our society has forgotten a lot about loving our neighbor.

There is a Wesleyan answer here too. Wesley called them “Acts of Mercy.” Methodist and others, Wesleyan, or not, should recognize what Wesley’s “Acts.” They are, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead. Wesley didn’t make these up. When you get home, look up Matthew 25:31-46.

Society has forgotten about loving our neighbor. As I worked on this message, I had YouTube music playing on TV. An old Statler Brothers video came on. Listen as I share the lyrics with you…

Let me be a little kinder
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those around me
Let me praise a little more
Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me

Let me be a little braver
When temptation bids me waver
Let me strive a little harder
To be all that I should be
And let me be a little meeker
With a brother that is weaker
Let me think more of my neighbor
And a little less of me

Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery
Let me serve a little better
Those that I am striving for
And let me be a little meeker
With a brother that is weaker
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me

To live by faith means to live in balance. To live in balance means we focus on what matters most. What matters most is, loving God and loving neighbor.

Let me leave you with one final thought. It is an anonymous quote. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” As spiritual beings we seek to live in balance and strive always to remember and focus on what matters most, loving God and loving neighbor. If we can do that, we will do what matters most.

If you were not in church March 1, please either go to my Facebook page and comment under the video for this service or you can leave a comment right here for this post on WordPress. Even if you are not a member of our congregation I would appreciate if you gave me an answer to this question: What image comes to your mind when you think of God. This is for a very unscientific survey that I am going to use in next week’s service. So please, take just a moment and give a little help.

Thanks in advance for your help and I pray God blesses your day.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission granted for the non-commercial use of this post.

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