This morning I gave a sermon on our need to serve as Christ served. In my sermon though, I had talked about how if we give of ourselves, our time, our money, our talents; if we give of our full selves we must take time to receive. Otherwise we will burn out. Well this afternoon, as I was driving home from lunch, I had yet another epiphany. I was thinking about the sermon I had given this morning and had thought about this relationship of “receiving” and “giving”. I had talked about the need to receive God’s grace, give the grace we have recieved, and then repeat. Kind of like the slogan for RISE UMC, “Receive Love, Give Love, Repeat.” As I was meditating on that it hit me why we have so many C & E Christians. If you don’t know what I mean by a C & E Christian, I am talking about those who say they believe in Jesus, but only show up to the services for Christmas and Easter. I thought about the proclaimation at these services and it made so much sense to me why they never seem to return.
The Candlelight Service
If you have ever been to the Christmas Eve service you know what I am talking about. The candle light service is a service that many look forward to each year. It is the service that I especially was drawn to as a young boy, especially one who liked to watch the fire burn. During this service though, we would hold our candles and the pastor would talk about how the light of Christ had entered into the world on that first Christmas. And how as we share that light we are to not force it on others, but offer it. By the end of the song, typically “Silent Night, Holy Night”, the room is full of light from the many candles burning brightly. This is truly a great testament to the light of Christ that enters into our lives when we see Jesus on that Christmas Eve, but it becomes problematic when we fall trap to the understanding that I receive this light and then am done. It becomes problematic when we feel as though Jesus is a one stop shop. Our relationship with God is more than a one night stand, but it is something that is on-going and must be brought back again and again. John Wesley preached a sermon on the duty to constant communion and I believe what Mr. Wesley meant by this is that our relationship with God is on-going. It is a relationship of receive and give, and repeat. It is counter intuitive to the receive the light of Christ and be done. We must receive the Spirit day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute. We also then must give the fruit of that same Spirit day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute. Our Christmas goers in this candle light service often leave thinking, “Huh, this Jesus thing is simple, I received the light of Christ and now I am complete.” But in reality, that relationship needs ongoing attention.
And then, these same Christmas goers, for one reason or another come back on Easter Sunday. Although they have missed the whole week before of the Sunday Jesus comes into Jerusalem with the praises of the people, the Monday of Jesus in the temple courts teaching against the marketplace temple, the foot washing and the last supper shared with his disciples on Thursday, the Friday morning that Jesus was hung on the cross, and the Saturday of observing a time of silence and mourning while Jesus is laid in the tomb. They miss all that. The week of the dying love that Jesus shared in order to have a relationship with them. But yet they come to the Easter celebrations where the message received is that because Jesus is alive so will also you too for eternity if only you accept Jesus in your heart today. Forget your past, and who cares about what you do in the future, but if you accept Jesus and the resurrection, you’re done!
What a similar message to that of the Christmas candlelight service. There is no receive love, give love, repeat. It’s all about receiving! It is true that the receiving is vital, we must receive God’s divine grace. BUT, “We LOVE, because Christ first loved us.” There is a response to receving that love. And that response always is a response of sharing those gifts, those treasures, that love that we received in Christ. AND THEN, we must receive and give, receive and give, receive and give. Hence the reason weekly worship with our faith communities is so vital to our relationship with God, brothers and sisters in Christ, and the world around us. If we as pastors happen to talk about that response of giving, we more than likely forget to include the repeat. We need to be again receiving that gift of God’s grace over and over again. And in the C&E Christian sermons, we as pastors forget to talk about that repeat to our receive and give relationship with Christ!