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The Wonder of It All
October 3, 1976

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


The story is told of a safari in Africa, an American safari, where local persons were hired to carry the baggage and do the work. The Americans set a rapid pace for the safari, as Americans do. The schedule was all laid out, they knew exactly where they wanted to be at the end of every day (we’re so hung up on schedules). They wanted to go just as fast and as far as possible in the shortest time possible. You know how we are. One day the Americans came upon the bearers sitting down on the grass. They asked, “What are you sitting here for? Come on, we've got to get going. Why are you sitting down?” One of the Africans answered, “We are waiting for our souls to catch up.” I had a week like that—a busy, hectic, frantic week with so much to do, all the schedules, calls, places to go, things to do, people to see. We all have days and weeks like that. And we have worries. We worry about our families, we worry about our friends, we have anxieties about our health, we have anxieties about what's going on around us. 

This morning, let’s let our souls catch up to us. Let's relax and reflect. Sit back and let the pew hold you up. Don't let your legs do the work. Don't let your back do the work. Let the pew hold you up. Trust it, it won't let you down. Relax those calf muscles, they’re usually tight. Relax the back muscles. That back works so hard. Let it fall back into the pew and let the pew do the work. Trust. Let those neck muscles relax. All the tensions that catch hold of us in the back of the neck, the neck becomes so tight. That tightness gives us headaches. Relax. Let your soul catch up to you. 

And reflect this morning on the wonder of your life. The wonder of it all! What God has given you! Isn't it great to be alive! Isn't it great to enjoy this gift called life! Isn't it great to be in Christ! Some groups like the word saved. Isn't it great to be saved, to be in relationship with God, a vital living relationship! Rejoice! Paul told us in the lesson, “Rejoice!” Rejoice, reflect and relax in the wonder of your life. There is wonder on every hand and when we get so busy, we get so preoccupied and we go so fast, we overlook it. Think of the wonder of it all. John MacDonald has written, “I think I was a refreshing experience to him because he finally realized I was absolutely sincere in not giving a dang about money. We were standing in the yard a month ago. One of the last leaves came off the maple. So I picked it up and made him look very closely and carefully at it. I made him see it. Then I asked him what it was worth, without cracking a smile. I could almost see the light bulb going on in the air over his head like in the cartoons. Then I fed him that speech…If there was one sunset every twenty years, how would people react to it? If there were ten seashells in all the world, what would they be worth?” 

Look at the wonder all around you—in the leaves, in the sunsets, in the seashells. Why hurry? Why hurry so fast and try to fill up your life with things when he's given you so much on every hand? Relax, reflect and rejoice this morning on how you are loved, the wonder of being loved. Among the most precious words in our language are the words “I love you”. When Craig, who is our youngest, was about four, I was putting him to bed one night. We said prayers and as I put him in bed and tucked him in, I asked, “Do you realize how many people love you?” And he said, “Yeah. Does anybody love you?”  I said, “Well, I think you love me.” He nodded and I said, “I believe God loves me.” Craig held up two fingers and said, “That's two!” Do you remember how it felt and how it feels when someone tells you, “I love you”. The wonder of it all. Of all the people on the earth there are actually people who love you. The wonder of it all. 

Sometimes that love is not verbalized. Sometimes it's not spoken. Reflect on your life. Look for the signs in your life where the important people in your life tell you they love you in a myriad of different ways. Don't expect life all the time on your terms. Don't expect relationships always on your terms. Don't expect and lay on other people how they are to relate to you, what kind of messages they're supposed to give you and in what form those messages are supposed to come. Don't be so limited. Don't be so narrow that you only can hear it when it's put in the form, in the fashion, in the style to which you are accustomed. But just take a look at all the signs that are given to you in a myriads of ways that say “I love you” by the important people in your life and reflect on that wonder. 

Coley Jay is sitting back there. His wife Ann brings him coffee in bed every morning, and he winds her clocks. Sometimes the important people in your life say that they love you by squeezing your hand or by calling you on the telephone just to see how you are doing without any ulterior motive. 

If you're a teacher, look at those students that kind of hang around your desk at lunch time. Or they just happened to be walking by or dropping in after school. 

Or how your friends tease you. They tease you because they don't know how and they are embarrassed to say out loud, “I like you” so they tease you. 

Or mother who makes you make your bed because she loves you, and she wants you to be responsible. It's a lot easier for mother to make the stupid bed herself. But she goes through all the hassle of getting you to make your bed because she doesn't want you to grow up to be a sponge, not know how to do anything for yourself, not know the joy of standing up on your own two feet and doing things for yourself. So she goes through all that hassle and what you call hassle means “I love you”. 

And Mama gets her strokes when the kids say. “My mom is the best cook in the world.” 

Or “Grandma, you make the best cookies.” That is saying I love you. 

Or “My dad is the best.”

Or people who just happen to drop by the church for a cup of coffee and to say “Hi”. Or people who see you walking by and say, “Come on in for a cup of coffee.” 

Or those rare moments when your husband takes you out for dinner, or a ride in the country. 

Or how about an unsolicited smile that lights the eyes? That is saying, “I love you.” Reflect and rejoice in the myriads of ways that you are loved. 

And especially, the wonder that God loves you. Imagine it, believe it. May the message that he loves you—may you hear it and see it in the myriads of ways in which God tells you your life is good—in the sunsets, in the leaves, in your friends, in your family, and most supremely and most demonstratively, in Holy Communion, God's way of nonverbally telling you that he loves you. His love is so great that Jesus was willing to share his life with you, even to the point of death. We remember, and we feed on that in the act of Holy Communion. We receive bread and juice into our bodies as symbols of his life. We feed on his life as we eat and drink. We let it speak to us of his great love, of his body that was broken.

Today in Communion, we will change it a little from our usual custom. Instead of me breaking the bread and giving it to you, we will do that for each other. We will ask you to reach to the loaf, pull off a piece of bread and give it to the one in front of you. And that person who receives the bread can then dip it in the juice, and partake. I like that symbolism. God’s love is found as we break the bread and share with each other in this fellowship. And we're going to make a mess. I've been here two years. We’ve celebrated Communion many times and the only criticism I ever hear is about the mess of the bread all over the floor. But, let the symbolism speak to you. His body was broken. It was splattered. And the cross is not a beautiful, nice little thing. It was ugly. Love is costly. Sacrifice is costly. It doesn't come to us all tied up in a neat little bundle with a ribbon on top. Sacrifice is costly. It costs us our blood, costs us our life and causes agony, and that's messy. 

May the crumbs on the floor tell you this morning that God loves you even when your life is crummy. God loves you when you feel like a crumb. God loves you when you say the wrong things, you do the wrong things and you could kick yourself all over town. God is there loving you and sharing that with you. God shares in your brokenness. God shares with you when you make a mess of things all over the floor. And God's love comes and helps you to pick up that mess and put it back together in some kind of form or fashion. As the resurrection purified the cross, God's love comes to you in myriads of ways and helps you to take those messages, to take those crumbs and to put them together in something beautiful called your life. The wonder of it all. 

And the wonder of the worldwide fellowship for today is World Communion Sunday. My first Sunday in Japan as a missionary years ago was World Communion Sunday so I know Japanese Christians are having Communion today as they are in Africa, South Korea and North Korea where they are being persecuted because they are Christians, as they are in Latin America, as they are across this country. We have sisters and brothers all over this world. We are united in a fellowship that transcends all human made boundaries, all human made distinctions, all races, all castes, all classes, all nations. We are one in Christ and that transcends anything that human beings can put up to keep us apart. 

And the wonder of God's love is that it is for everyone. Regardless of who you are, regardless of what you've done, regardless of where you've come from, regardless of what you believe or what you don't believe, regardless of your church, regardless of your age no human being has a right to put any restrictions on his love. It is free, open and available to you. 

May you reflect and rejoice in the wonder of it all as we feast and celebrate together today at his table.

© 1976 Douglas I. Norris