Love extravagantly. And start today.
Funerals are a major part of my job as a pastor. My favorite part is getting to listen to stories about peoples’ loved ones. Before long we are laughing and crying, and the Holy Spirit is healing hearts.
After seven years of ministry, I’ve seen some commonalities at funerals that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
- People adore Carrie Underwood’s version of any and every hymn. Rightly so. She’s great!
- Nothing is better for a sad soul than the familiar words of Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”
- People remember extravagant love.
My mom has told me many times about her grandmother’s giving heart. If someone said the dessert on her plate looked good, she’d slide it across the table. If her daughter-in-law liked her shoes, she took them off and handed them over. The most amazing thing is that grandma didn’t have a lot of extra money to go buy replacements. She’d just figure out. Extravagant love.
Friends, if we don’t love extravagantly, we can’t point people to Jesus. We can memorize as much scripture as we want, but without extravagant love no one is listening. We can follow every commandment, but if we don’t pay attention to the needs of others it doesn’t matter. We can have perfect worship attendance, but if we don’t show extraordinary love no one will ask why.
Love extravagantly. Jesus did. The cross is God’s way of showing us that God loves us more than we deserve. Jesus died so that we can live each day confident in eternal life. He didn’t do the minimum for us. He chose extravagance for us.
This probably sounds great, but we often don’t know where or how to show extravagant love ourselves. We get so caught up in trying to show the perfect kind of extravagant love to the right person at the right time (sigh) that we do nothing at all. Toss the excuses and act.
I visited the Holy Land in 2014 with my mom and four others from the church I was leading. One of the men on the trip, Vern, was there because of an extravagant gift. An anonymous person decided they would pay his way because they had seen Vern’s newly discovered faith shine in our church.
I’ll always remember standing next to Vern on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, staring out over the water. He turned to me and said, “This is where my soul was meant to be. This is my place of peace, near to my Lord.”
The more we start showing extravagant love, the more critics show up. People will say you are going overboard, hurting a situation more than helping, or could have helped in a smarter way. Show extravagant love anyway.
In John 12, right before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem that we celebrate as Palm Sunday, we find Jesus sharing a meal with friends. Mary decides to show extravagant love toward Jesus and pours expensive perfume over his feet. Immediately, Judas (and in Matthew’s Gospel, the other disciples) gets upset. He critiqued her actions because they could have used the money to help the poor.
Jesus put a stop to Judas’ complaining and saw Mary’s desire to show extravagant love as a beautiful act.
Someone will always be there to make their unwillingness to show love less apparent by critiquing extravagant love. Show love anyway.
People remember extravagant love. And it might not be until some pastor like me points it out at your funeral, but they will realize that our acts of love are meant to point to the extravagant love of Jesus.
Maybe the anonymous person who gave the Holy Land trip to Vern should have bought food for homeless shelter. Maybe he/she should have considered that there was another person who wanted to go and it wasn’t fair to pick one.
Or God knew what was best. I stood beside Vern as he breathed his last two years after that trip. A brain tumor was the cause. And in the midst of the struggle, Vern told me he would go back to the Sea of Galilee in his mind, knowing he would soon meet Jesus on the waters.
Love extravagantly. God will take care of the details.