Sermon Preached at Stouffville United Church
Rev. Capt. John Niles
Music by Daniel Mehdizadeh
It may have been due to our wonderfully moving Remembrance service last week, or for
the other ones I was a part of this past week and yesterday at the Cenotaph downtown Toronto.
But, I found myself being reminded words of, Prospero, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest when said,
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on. And if we are why have you stopped dreaming?
We are such stuff as dreams are made on.
When one of my children were very young–younger then they presently are–we were listening to music together, and she started to cry. I knew what was happening, I had been moved by it as well, and she looked up into my eyes with tears streaming down and said, “Daddy, why am I crying? It hurts here. Daddy, why am I crying?”
St. Paul understood that life could be hard and that it hurt sometimes, but he offered an answer. He said, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions….for I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the Word of God in its fullness.” Col. 1:24-25
He knew that there was a specific attitude needed to make your life count.
“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you.” Col. 1:24
St. Paul knew that life is hard, and it hurts sometimes, but he also knew that if we turn our scars over to God, they become stars. It is then that we are able to shine no matter how dark it gets. Paul put purpose in his pain.
An elderly lady upon entering a department store, was startled when a band began to play and a dignified executive pinned an orchid on her dress and handed her a crisp hundred dollar bill. She was the stores millionth customer. Television cameras were focused on her and reporters began interviewing. “Tell me,” one asked, “just what did you come here for today?”
The lady hesitated for a minute, then answered, “I’m on my way to the Complaint Department.
Now, get out of my way.”
Some people don’t go to the complaint department; they live in the complaint department!
Some people are chronic complainers.
Eric Hoffer, a noted philosopher once said, “We need not only a purpose in life to give meaning to our existence but also something to give meaning to our suffering. We need as much, something to suffer for as something to live for.”
When we understand this, we discover the secret – the secret that nothing can stop us from making our life count. When we approach all of life’s circumstances as God-given opportunities, we are able to rejoice as He did. We rejoice at what God is going to do, instead of complaining about what God did not do. A missionary from Haiti had returned home to Florida on Furlow and had told about the horror of Haiti, and someone who had figured that she would stay home after her Furlow said, “What are you doing to do after the year is up.” She said, “I’m going to go back hell. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going back to hell, and I’m going to plant some flowers.” That’s what we are to do. We are to plant flowers and show them to each other and experience their beauty and fragrance. And then, in another place and another time, we give them to Him.
St. Paul knew that there was a specific attitude needed to make your life count, but we also need to be aware of the accountability involved in making your life count. St. Paul said, “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me…” Col. 1:25
How do you define who you are? Is it by where you live? Is it by what you do? Do you define yourself why who you work for, or who you are married to? Is it by the organizations you are a part of? Paul defined himself by Who he was in relationship with. He was a servant of God. He set apart and commissioned by God. He wasn’t a servant of the people, or any one group, company, or any one congregation. He wasn’t doing what the people wanted him to do. In some cases, he was doing the opposite of what they wanted him to do. Often he was telling them things they didn’t want to hear and doing things that they neither understood or thought they needed. And some of the people around him would try to stand in the way of what he knew he was called to do.
The fact was, St. Paul was doing what he was set apart to do, according to the will of God, because of his relationship with God. He knew he was accountable to God. Throughout his ministry and life, the only One he was trying to serve – was God. The only One he was accountable to – for how he used his gifts- was God. The only One he was trying to please – was God. Too often in life we are trying to please everyone, but the right One. So we end up pleasing no one. I remember 35 years ago working in a large company that had five managers of different departments. I was answerable to all of them. On any given day I would be told to do 10 different things by these 5 different managers and each would expect their demand to be done first. Sometimes their demands not only conflicted with each other, but they conflicted with what I had been hired to do. The result was, I was often running in circles getting nothing done. I quit.
When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. But when you understand you have an audience of only One – the Lord – life becomes far simpler. The question then is how do I best -given the gifts God has given me – please Him. How can I make my life count for the Lord? The truth is that when we are in a right relationship with God, all the others get put right as well.
St. Paul knew that there was a specific attitude and an accountability involved in making your life count. And finally, there is a specific activity that you must do to make your life count. “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.” Col. 1:25
A man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to give to her father. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.” The man was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside? The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box.
They’re all for you, Daddy.” The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness. Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. But from that day on her father gave thanks for that little gold box that he kept by his bed for many years and, for whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.
“We are such stuff that dreams are made on. And our little life is rounded by a sleep”
Little things can make a big difference. Mother Teresa said, “We can’t all do great things. But we can all do little things with great love.” You think about that. Amen.