Who are the most influential Christians in the world?
They are the Christians who live out their faith in love.
They are taxi drivers, students, housewives, teachers, farmers, mothers, hair dressers, nurses and so on. They live out the gospel in traffic jams, homes, classrooms, offices, cockpits, parliament, kitchens, markets, factories, and neighbourhoods. These are the people who make a real difference in the world.
They quietly endure the preaching of pastors, and quietly live out the message of Jesus everywhere they go. They are the salt and the light.
The religious professionals, what about them. What if their role is minor, at best.
When ordinary people take seriously the words of Jesus, it changes the way they live.
When you take seriously your identity as a child of God, and a disciple of Jesus, it alters the way you teach, study, drive a taxi, talk to customers, develop public policy, catch fish, administer justice, uphold the law, clean the floor, design machines, build houses, plan cities, buy, sell.
You start to see everyone as loved by God. You see them as fellow citizens of the kingdom of heaven. It becomes harder to rip them off, cut them up, use them, abuse them, give them second best.
When more of us live this way we find bigger things changing over time, developing in new directions. Education evolves, economics develops, corporate culture shifts, and the kingdom grows a little more substantial with each passing day.
We pray, Jesus, may your kingdom come, but we also become part of the answer of our own prayers in our sphere of influence. We become salt and light.
No one is excluded as not important enough, or their place in life too lowly. How much more lowly can you get than a peasant girl having a child out of wedlock. Or a poor uneducated fisherman.
Today’s social dregs – the alcoholics, the drug taking youth, the unemployed, the gang members, the bar hopping bed hopping lowlifes, the drop-outs – may one day have done the most to bring the kingdom’s reality to their neighbours.
Let me tell you the story of one such man.
His name is Arthur Stace. For 33 years he took the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of Australia where he lived.
As the clocks of Sydney ticked midnight on the eve of the new millennium in 1999, a fireworks display erupted over the harbour while over a million people watched from the shores and from a vast flotilla of boats. It was the display to end all fireworks displays, designed to outdo all the other displays ushering in the new millennium around the world. It kicked off massive celebrations as the first of January 2000 raced across the face of the earth.
Hanging from the harbour bridge, suspended from the giant arch, was one word that shone like a beacon in the midst of all the thunder and light. It was the word ‘Eternity’, and it hung there because of Arthur Stace. This same word is set in the pavement in downtown Sydney in faultless copperplate writing as a memorial to Arthur Stace.
Arthur was just 5 feet three inches tall and skinny. He was uneducated and could barely write his own name. Arthur was born into abject poverty, one of five children in a home filled with violence. He stole to eat and never went to school. He was put in a home when he was 12. He started work down a coal mine when he was 14. He went to prison when he was 15. He was already a heavy drinker.
Arthur went away to the war and came back with shell shock. He got rough work from bars and brothels. His life was one of crime, alcohol and gambling. He lived in the street and ate from garbage cans. And drank methylated spirits. Arthur was a bum.
On 6 August 1930 Arthur heard the gospel. He repented with tears and asked for God to forgive him. He says that at that moment his many sins were all washed away. And also he realised that every other person needed to do the same. For the next 33 years, every day Arthur spent on the streets sharing a one-word sermon – ‘Eternity’.
Concern for his fellow man drove him on and he wanted to share the good news. He couldn’t read or write, and a German bullet meant he couldn’t speak clearly. But God gave Arthur an amazing ministry. He felt he was called to write this one word, and taking a piece of chalk he bent down in the street and wrote it on the pavement. Amazingly it came out correctly spelled in perfect beautiful copperplate writing. Arthur must have written this word 500,000 times all over the city. Wherever he went he wrote it.
For 24 years no one knew who was writing the word ‘Eternity’ on the streets, but it did not go unnoticed. He was never arrested. Arthur was 46 years old when he began his work for God. He was 57 when he married. He would always talk to anyone he met in the street about Jesus, and sometimes gathered crowds. He could not read the Bible, but he had memorised long passages of it. Mr Eternity became famous, and his message of ‘eternity’ was repeated across the city. But no one knew Arthur Stace.
And at the break of the new millennium the city of Sydney wrote his sermon on the television screens of two billion viewers around the world. Eternity.
We all have a role in building the kingdom of God. All of us have an important part to play in expanding the kingdom of heaven.
There are some wonderful cathedrals in Europe. They are awesome places built to honour God, but sadly they are monuments. They are filled with tourists who want to see stained glass windows where the queen was crowned, or hear choirs and organs.
One gets the feeling of a place that has forgotten why it exists. It is boring and it is irrelevant, so people just walk away. Images abound of heaven when we die, but not the kingdom of heaven coming on the earth. Too many religious professionals have pressured people to be good now to benefit later, but have failed to inspire people to live the kingdom life now and bring beauty and healing to this earth.
Jesus doesn’t want you to be nice. He wants you to be salt and light in a world of hurt and darkness. He doesn’t care if you are catholic or pentecostal, only if you are living out your faith in love. He says in Matthew 5:3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
What are you to do? Jesus tells us in our reading today that in our lives we are to live out the gospel. You are to see your job as one part of that commission.
Whatever you do it, do it as one seeking first the kingdom of God. Get real with God. You are the yeast in the dough, not only me. You are the salt that gives flavour to life, not just the religious professionals. You and me, all of us are to be lights in a dark world.
This is not a work. Arthur Stace could not have done it without being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. You won’t be able to live out your faith in love unless you are filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. So open up your life to God and let the Holy Spirit take control over every area, let the Holy Spirit give you the strength and desire to live out your faith in love.
Submit yourself now to the Holy Spirit.