live_life_to_the_fullest Sermon 1 Jan 2017


You may read blow or listen to the sermon preached by John Gibson January 1, 2017.  The scriptures were Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, Revelation 21:1-6, and Matthew 21:31-46

The New Year is a time when people make resolutions. This year I went online for ideas. The singer Josh Groban resolved “to meet people less and tweet people more!” I heard that Donald Trump resolved to tweet more this year especially about his buddy Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton supposedly resolved to figure out Twitter since it worked so well for Trump.

People, of course, make resolutions to change their lives. Peter Holmes recommends, “Just write out everything you did last night and at the beginning add the word ‘stop’." Of course, if you’re here today, you probably don’t need this hack.

It’s legend that people quickly drop their resolutions. This can be a good thing. Actor David Spade wrote a couple of years ago, “My new years resolution was to start smoking. One day in and i already stopped.” Kumai Nanjiani, an actor on the HBO series Silicon Valley went the other way and resolved “donuts are good for me.”

While it’s easy to poke fun at New Year’s resolutions, the New Year is a time to our lives. Our first lesson from the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that to everything there is a season. A time to reflect on the past and to envision the future is important. Today, I’m going to talk about how we can live to the fullest this year. Living to the fullest is one of the top 10 resolutions every year.

Our second lesson from Revelation gives us a glimpse of how we can live to the fullest. The beginning of the lesson says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (21:1). Biblical scholars tell us that Revelation is apocalyptic literature. While people often believe apocalypse only means “terrible destruction,” it also means “revelation,” the name of this biblical book. It’s a revelation from God. This genre flourished in Judaism and Christianity from about 200 BC to 400 AD. The authors used fantastic images of beasts and other things to give hope to the faithful who were suffering persecution. While books like Revelation do give us insight into the end times, they were really written to give hope to people.

The beginning of the book of Revelation clearly says it was written for seven churches in Asia Minor. We believe the Romans were persecuting these churches. Revelation proclaims that their persecution would come to an end. God would triumph and God’s people would triumph. As it says in today’s reading, God will “wipe away every tear.” The book of Revelation not only gave hope in the ancient world but it also gives us hope today.

It shows God’s hand is still at work. The one who is seated on the throne says, “See, I am making all things new.” The passage shows God renewing the world, God working in our lives, God leading us into abundant life with Jesus Christ.

If we want to live life to the fullest, and really who doesn’t, we can by tapping into God’s renewing power. If you think about it, this is just common sense. The more we align ourselves with the greatest force in the universe, the more we will live fully. Jesus after all says in John’s Gospel that he came so that you and I may have life and have it abundantly (10:10). While living life to the fullest might seem as ephemeral as a New Year’s resolution, in reality it is at our finger tips.

The first step is simply to ask God that you might live fully this year. We must begin by turning to God, by opening our hearts and minds to the endless possibilities of life with God and by expecting God’s blessings.
The second step is to ask God how you can live fully. Each of us must ask, because it will be different for each of us. Perhaps, you need to be more forgiving of others to live fully. Perhaps, you need to be more forgiving of yourself. Perhaps, you need to be more loving to others.

I feel I need to be more positive. I need to focus more on how God is blessing me, my ministry and this church. It is hard growing a small congregation. At times, I get discouraged. At times, I feel I’m doing a poor job. At times, I focus too much on the challenges rather than the blessings. I’m not saying this to ask for your pity. I’m saying it because each of us has our unique challenges whether it’s raising children, going through a divorce, keeping a small business afloat, dealing with a chronic illness, mourning the death of a loved one or simply trying to keep up at work and home. We all have our challenges. Each of us must ask God how to live more fully in our life situation

The third step is to ask God can do concretely to live your life more fully. If you need to be more loving to live life to the fullest, perhaps God will lead you to say or do something positive for someone each day. It doesn’t have to be large. In fact, it’s good to start small. Saying a kind word to the person at the grocery store checkout or holding the door for another person can brighten their day. You never know what that person is going through. One time I talked to a young woman at the checkout in Trader Joe’s who was having a hard time because a loved one of hers was dying. Even though on the surface all might appear well, you might actually do or say something for someone who at that moment is one of the least of these, as it says in today’s Gospel.

One of the concrete things I’m doing is doing this year is to begin each day by saying a verse from Psalm 118, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” (118:24).

The last step is to write down what you’re going to do, put it somewhere you will see it each day, and to pray regularly for if. You might make it the wallpaper of your cell phone or your computer background. I’m writing the verse from Psalm 118 at the top of my daily prayer list to remind me.

While this all might seem like pop psychology, in reality it is ancient advice. The book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament enjoins the devout Jew to bind the command to love God with all your heart, soul and might as a sign on one’s hand, head and doorpost (6:4-9). The biblical writers knew that we need concrete ways to live life to the fullest with God, to walk in the presence of the life giving God.

However God leads you to live your life more fully this year, know God wants you to live it abundantly, fully and richly. Open your hearts! Look to God expectantly! And give thanks daily for the blessings that will rain on you from heaven!