I preached this sermon a few months ago and thought I would share it with you all!
Renee is 19 when Jamie Tworkski who’s the founder of the To Write Love on Her Arms campaign meets her; cocaine is fresh in her system. She hadn’t slept in 36 hours and she won’t for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet with friends, to listen and to let them pray. They ask Renee to go with them, to leave a broken night, full of pain. She says she’ll go to rehab tomorrow, she isn’t ready now. It’s too great a change. They pray and say goodbye and they struggle to leave without her.
She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after Jamie meets her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of “friends” offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write obscenities large across her forearm.
The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days it’s her friends responsibility to love. They became her hospital and the possibility of healing fills aliving room they had gathered – they decide to be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.
Jamie reflects on his experience with Renee saying “We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.”
Jamie and friends did not know what else to do for Renee besides love her, so they literally write love on her arm with a sharpie covering the scars from past self-inflicted wounds. Turing past pain, into a powerful experience full of love, grace and mercy. Can you imagine the overflow of love Renee felt from friends as she attempted to overcome the powerful addictions she had succumbed to? I wonder what kind of love is it was that causes friends to spend a week with you as fight to break horrible addictions.
Today’s scripture and comes from the book of Isaiah, we meet grateful people who are thankful for Gods mercy and love towards them. Join me in reading.
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”;
and he became their savior in all their distress.
It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:7-9)
The prophet Isaiah begins this prayer reflecting on Gods good deeds and how the people have received an unimaginable amount of Gods mercy according to his steadfast love for them. Steadfast love is used here to express Gods compassion and concern for his people.
The Hebrew translation for steadfast love is hesed biblical scholars have said often said that the word hesed is the Hebrew Bible is difficult to translate into English because it has no precise equivalent to the English language. English versions of the bible usually try to represent it with words such as “steadfast love”, “loving-kindness”, “mercy” and sometimes “loyalty”. It is safe to say that hesed the kind of love talked about in verse 7 is beyond our scope, it’s unimaginable, simply just hard to wrap your mind around. Notice the words “loving-kindness” and “steadfast love” are equivalent in this sense. Loving-kindness we are familiar with the word here at First Baptist it’s from Micah 6:8 – do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God as we serve! But what is loving-kindness?
o Could it be the kind of love for people we find people it hard to get along with,
o Could it be the kind of love for people we don’t understand,
o Could it be the kind of love that donates over 600 boxes of Macaroni and Cheese,
o Could it be the kind of love for people with more or less education than us,
o Could it be the kind of love that starts a free after school ministry for middle school children,
o Could it be the kind of love for people, who don’t speak the same language as us,
o Could it be the kind of love that builds wheel chair ramps,
o Could it be the kind of love that Mother Teresa is talking about when she says “I can do small things with great love”,
o Could it be the kind of love that created Neighbors in Need,
o Could it be the kind of love that creates a memory café for those suffering from memory loss,
o Could it be the kind of love for the annoying person next to you on the plane,
o Could it be the kind of love for sexually abused,
o Could it be the kind of love that sends 60 Operation Christmas Child boxes to children around the world,
o Could it be the kind of love for the prostitute and his or her pimp,
o Could it be the kind of love for those who have traditionally been our enemies; actually it is the kind of love for those who are our enemies if you take Jesus seriously,
o Could it be the kind of love that cooks meals for hungry families to have on weekends,
o Could it be the kind of love for those who we find intimidating,
o Could it be the of love that makes visitors feel welcome,
o It’s the kind of love that is infectious,
o Could it be the kind of love that created Project Fire an community incentive that provides fire wood for people to stay warm during winter months,
o Could it be the kind of love that supports United Christian Ministries of Jackson County,
Perhaps now we have a glimpse as to what kind of love is meant when the words “steadfast love”, “loving-kindness”, “mercy” and sometimes “loyalty” are mentioned in the old testament.…with these thoughts on our hearts lets us read our scripture again…
Read verse 7-9
What kind of love is this? How will you offer this love, if you can’t wrap your mind around it.
Mother Teresa tells of a time when she was in Calcutta, she and a young nun where were walking, she noticed a pile of rags, she saw the pile twitch, so she went to investigate, underneath the pile of rags was a dying woman full of leprosy that the rats had been feeding on as people walked by. Mother Teresa said to the young nun we must pick her up and take her to the hospital in Calcutta, she says the woman stunk of death. There was no ambulance just them! They picked up this dying and stinking woman took her to Calcutta hospital and said you have to let her in, the doctors came out looked at her and said there’s no hope she’s going to die, go take her back to where you found her. Mother Teresa said NO I’m not going to do it; you will find a place for her, as they stood in the doorway holding the woman. Eventually the doctors let hem in and within twenty four hours the rat eaten, stinking, leprosy filled woman died, but she died on a mattress in a hospital with someone telling her she was loved and worth something. So, again, I ask you First Baptist, what kind of love is this and what kind of love will you offer as we position ourselves to offer new ministries and mission opportunities in 2014?