Knowing the Right Way
Opening Question: Can someone tell me the story of the "Man in the Iron Mask?" How are the royal brothers different?
First Reading: Isaiah 66:18-19
I once met twin brothers who were as different as they could be. Both brothers were handsome. But, one brother was taller than the other. He was smarter and more outgoing. In fact, he was so popular that he was the ASB president of his large high school. When we went to college, he got a full scholarship.
The smaller brother was shy and quiet. He got average grades. Each day after school, he spent most of his time in his father's business.
When I first met the brothers, I liked the taller, more outgoing brother right away. But as I spent more time with the brothers, I found I liked the smaller brother a lot. He had a great sense of humor and could always get me laughing. While he did not have the school smarts of his taller brother, the smaller one knew how to quickly tell if people were good or not.
Everyone has a qualities and talents. But we must take the time to get to know them, so we can discover how special they really are.
Like the smaller brother, it takes time to know God. Sometimes, God is quiet and works in ways that can barely be seen. But, in today's reading, God promises to give us the opportunity to get to know him, to hear his story, and to see his glory. All we need to know God is openness: open eyes, open ears, and an open heart. We will get to know him.
Bridging Question: Let's pretend for a moment you won the lottery and now you have all the money you will ever need. How many more friends will you have? Why will they like you?
Gospel: Luke 13:22-30
Jesus taught in towns and villages he passed through on his way to Jerusalem. Someone called out to him, "Hey, Lord! Are the saved few in number?'"
"Just try to get through the narrow door of God's Kingdom!" Jesus challenged the crowd. "I tell you many will try. But they won't be strong enough.
After the homeowner gets up and locks the door, you will stand outside and knock. And you will call out, 'Lord! Open the door for us!'
He will answer, 'I don't know who you are!'
'But we had dinner with you. And you taught in our neighborhoods,' you will plead.
'I don't know who you are!' the homeowner will respond. 'Go away! You're evil!'
Then, you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, along with the prophets inside God's Kingdom. But, you will cry and grind your teeth in anger because you sit outside. People will come from east and west, north and south. They will sit at the feast in God's Kingdom. Listen! The people who are the least important will be first to enter God's Kingdom. And those who think they're important will be the last to enter."
Brandon was just an average boy. He had a few friends at school and in his neighborhood. He worked hard and played hard like everybody else. Brandon was likable, but he didn't really stand out.
There was one thing that made Brandon different, however. Every Saturday, instead of playing with his friends, Brandon helped Mr. Finnelly, his elderly next door neighbor. First, Brandon would mow his neighbor's lawn. Afterwards, Brandon would take Mr. Finnelly lemonade and cookies that his mother made. Then, Brandon sat down and, over the lemonade and cookies, he listened to Mr. Finnelly's stories of his travels, his heroic exploits, and all the famous people he knew. Most of the neighbors thought the old man told lies or was a little crazy. But Brandon didn't care; the time he spent with his neighbor was special!
One day, sadly, Mr. Finnelly died. Saturday's would never be the same for Brandon, for he missed his friend. But, Mr. Finnelly did not forget Brandon. Sometime after the funeral, a box came for Brandon. Inside the box was an old picture album with a note from his neighbor that simply said "I want you to have this. Your friend, Edward Finnelly." The pictures in the album told the whole story. All the travels, all the heroic exploits, all the famous people Mr. Finnelly knew were right there in the pictures!
It did not take long for the word of the photo album to get out. Brandon's house got very busy over the next few weeks from the people who wanted to know about the famous Mr. Finnelly. "But," Brandon thought, "why didn't these people try to get to know him when he was alive? They saw him on the street, but didn't even try to say 'Hello.' When he tried to reach out, many of these people just ignored him."
If you are rich, many people will claim to like you so they can get your money. If you are famous, many people will try to get to know you so they can share in your fame. But if your poor or unknown like Mr. Finnelly, people will ignore you. But in the end, everything works out. Like the story of Mr. Finnelly, some of the unknown people become famous. These who are last become first. And those who selfishly want to be first with money and fame will be last.
God wants us to be with him, but only for the right reasons. He wants us to love him, not use him. God made us because he loves us, not because he wants to use us for selfish reasons.
Closing Question: How can you be unselfish with God?