"How'm I Doin'?"
Category: Sermons
Tags: Sermon - 4/22/2018



I John 3:16-24
“How’m I Doin’?”
April 22, 2018
            When Ed Koch was mayor of New York City, he was known for riding around town, and at random times rolling down his car window to shout at whoever was on the sidewalk, “How’m I Doin’?”  It was an odd way of getting feedback on how to run a city, and it didn’t allow anybody to think things through or to give any kind of in-depth answer, but at least it went straight to the people with no pollsters or spin involved.
            The answer a mayor would get to a question like that is going to vary with the person she or he asks, though.  A lot of people are going to respond based on whether the potholes are being fixed and the trash is being collected.  There are going to be some, though, who are going to have their property values in mind.  Koch was mayor of New York during the AIDS crisis, and a lot of what I read about him this past week when I looked up this one, little, three-word quotation went into his part in the response to that emergency.
            If you really want to know how you’re doing, you should be more specific.  How are you doing what?  Babe Ruth is best known for his home-run record.  He was also a great pitcher, and that gets overshadowed.  In the 1918 World Series, he pitched 29 1/3 scoreless innings, a record that stood until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961.  Off the field, he was known for womanizing and for drinking way too much. 
            How are things going with you?  How are you doing?
            Maybe in one area things are going well, but at the expense of another.  Maybe you have that parenting or grandparenting thing figured out, at least for now.  (After all, it’s different to be the parent of a two-year-old, a twelve-year-old, and a sixteen-year-old.  The job description for “parent” is updated every few months.)  On the other hand, the skills that you gained as a blues saxophonist have totally evaporated from the first moment you realized that the baby needed to sleep.  Maybe your law studies are going well, but you haven’t had time to go to the gym in four months.  You prioritize. 
            How are you doing on those priorities?  If you have to pick between soccer practice and church, which do you go to?  If cheerleading is more important than Sunday School, as it is for a lot of families, how will that play out down the road?  You work hard to provide for your family, but that means that they never see you.  What good is that?
            So much of the Bible is about keeping priorities straight, about not letting the words and the appearances be the end of things, but asking where the real substance is.  It’s about letting our hearts and our deeds tell us how we are really doing, not as the world identifies success, but as God does.  It presupposes that what matters most in life is love, and shows us how to ask how we are doing with that.
“We know love by this that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.  And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” [I John 3:16-23] 
            I keep a clipping under the glass that covers my desk.  When I have too many papers and what-not all over the place, and push them aside, I see it right there and, because it’s under the glass, it doesn’t move and I cannot brush it away (or ruin it if I spill a cup of tea or coffee).  I don’t remember where I found it, but it’s written by somebody named Jim Palmer, about whom I know absolutely nothing except that at some point he wrote a list that has been good for me to see.  The heading is “22 Mistakes I Made as a Senior Pastor”.  They are:
“Putting church over community.
Putting orthodoxy over love.
Putting certainty over wonder.
Putting teaching over conversation.
Putting polished over real.
Putting answers over questions.
Putting membership over friendship.
Putting Christianity over Christ.
Putting knowledge over action.
Putting style over substance.
Putting appearance over authenticity.
Putting functionality over beauty.
Putting religion over spirituality.
Putting numbers over faces.
Putting holiness over humanity.
Putting accountability over acceptance.
Putting heaven over earth.
Putting meetings over relationships.
Putting reputation over risk.
Putting charisma over compassion.
Putting the Afterlife over the Herelife.
Putting thinking over feeling.”
Maybe you’ve got a list of your own like that someplace.  You don’t have to tell anyone else about it, unless it helps, but it really would be a good idea to run over something like that in a prayerful and reflective way and then to ask the Lord, “How’m I doing?”
            If you don’t already have that kind of list, let me suggest one that not only lays out areas worth working on, but what you can expect to come out of them.  I cannot take credit for drawing this one up, either.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  [Matthew 5:3-12]
About those “Blessed are” things: How’s it going?  Well, I hope.


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