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Wanting to Make a Difference

 

Pastor John Gibson preached this sermon on February 21, 2016 on Luke 13:31 - 35.

Last summer four-year old Anna Claire Aldridge, who lives in Clayton, made the news, including USA Today. Anna Claire loves cows, horses and dogs. A story on social media about an animal shelter that had run out of dog food sparked Anna Claire to action. She told her Mom Melissa that the next time she had a lemonade stand she wanted to give the money to the doggies. Melissa helped Anna Claire get ready. On July 18th Anna Claire set her stand up in front of her house in the Glenn Laurel subdivision. Family, friends and neighborhoods came by to get lemonade often giving more than the fifty cents a cup asking price when they learned the cause. Anna made $250 that day.

Her lemonade stand was so successful that she decided to have another this time in front of Venero’s Pizza. Word got out on social media and people came from far and wide. Kitty Havrish, a family friend, brought $200 from her employer Bailey’s Fine Jewelry in Raleigh. Teens dug out all the change from their car ashtrays. Anna Claire raised $1600 that day which was matched by Venero’s and Sally Said So Dog Training of Raleigh for a total of $4,800.

The family contacted Ruf Creek Animal Ranch in Smithfield, which guarantees a forever home for all of their placements. When the director Joy Frannicola read that Anna Claire wanted to donate to the Ranch, she got all choked up and had to read the email twice. Joy said in an interview with the Clayton News-Star, “Adults don’t realize the predicament of animals. There are so many homeless ones and animals who are dumped in shelters. Anybody who helps the way this child helps is amazing.” All that happened because little Anna Claire wanted to make a difference.

Today I’m starting a new sermon series entitled “Difference Makers.” When I asked at the beginning of the year for topics for Adult Christian Formation, one person suggested a class on how we can make a difference in our community. I thought this would be a good sermon series and the Lenten lessons relate to this theme.

Today’s Gospel shows us the importance of wanting to make a difference. In order to make a difference, we have to want to. Although perhaps obvious, it is nevertheless the essential first step.
The New Testament scholar Ruth Anne Reese points out the importance of this in her commentary on today’s Gospel lesson. The Greek word “thelo,” which means to will or to want, is used three times in this short passage. The first is when the Pharisees say to Jesus that Herod “wants” to kill him. The second is when Jesus “desired” to gather Jerusalem’s children together. The third is when Jesus says that Jerusalem was not “willing” to have her children brought together. Although our English translation uses “wants,” “desired” and “willing,” it is the same Greek word, thelo, in each instance. Here we see a sharp contrast between Jesus and Herod and Jerusalem. Jesus wants to unite; Herod wants to destroy; and Jerusalem wants to divide.

Jesus wants to make a difference. It is his deepest desire. We see this repeatedly in the Gospel. Earlier in Luke, Jesus is approached by a leper who says, "Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.” Jesus answers, "I do want. Be made clean." Jesus actually bases his treatment of others on this single word. He says, “Do to others as you want them to do to you” (Luke 6:31).  Jesus does not act randomly. He acts purposefully. He wants the dignity of each person to be respected; he wants healing for a broken and hurting world; he wants to unite peoples divided by hatred, envy, and fear.

Wanting is a basic part of our human existence. It is such an elemental part of life that the Hindus believe that the universe was created out of desire, out of wanting. We have wanted since we were born. We don’t even normally notice our different desires they are so much a part of our daily life. Food. Drink. Clothes. Sleep. Shelter. Transportation. Respect. Affection. Meaning. Making a difference.

We all want to make a difference, but many feel they don’t; many fail to have meaningful lives. A 2008 Center for Disease Control study found that 40% of Americans lack a satisfying purpose. The numbers are even starker when we look at the workplace where 70% feel disengaged, feel purposeless in their work. When we consider that this is where we spend most of our waking hours, we begin to see the depth of this issue. In an effort to combat this, the business world has increasingly focused in recent years on how to engage their employees. Essential to a sense of engagement is believing that your work makes a difference. Although all workers are essential for our society, frequently people lack a sense of purpose and meaning because they do not see how their work makes any difference. Work is little more than a way to pay the bills rather than a fulfilling means of making a positive difference for others.

The first step to making a difference, to having a sense of purpose is wanting to make a difference. Not too long ago I talked in a sermon about how my wife prays every morning on her way to work that she will make a difference in someone’s life that day. She told me that one of her co-workers says the same prayer every day. They work in the front office at Family Psychiatry and Psychology Associates in Cary, a growing and busy practice. Cindy frequently comes home exhausted, having only taken a 10 minute break during the whole day. Nonetheless, she finds the work rewarding because she feels that she makes a difference assisting patients, listening to the doctors when they are having a tough day and even sometimes giving them chocolate.

Making a difference begins with a simple step – wanting to be a difference maker like Christ. Jesus wanted to come into this world. He wanted to bring unity, healing, and respect. He wanted to bring new life for all the peoples of the world. And his life changed the world. When we want to make a difference, like Jesus, like little Anna Claire, amazing things happen. We make a difference to our family, our church, our workplace and our community. And our lives take on new meaning, purpose, and significance.