Date: February 12, 2023
Scripture: Matthew 5:13-20
Scripture Reader: David Driscoll
Sermon Title: “Do Your Job Well”
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Super Bowl is happening today. I don’t know about you. But it does not quite feel like Super Bowl without the Patriots playing in it. Can I get an Amen? I came to Boston in 2004. And I just feel like I came at the right time. It was the year the Patriots won Super Bowl against Carolina Panthers. It was also the year the Red Sox won the World Series. My dormitory was in Kenmore Square, Boston only five minutes away from Fenway Park. During the playoff, I rolled up the window in my room and watched the game till 11 pm with my friends, while worried about our mid-term exams. And of course, three years later, the Celtics won the NBA Championship. I was and still am proud to live in New England.
So, when I married my wife Sungha in 2011, I wanted to share my passion for New England sports teams with her. We went to the Celtics game a few times. Now, my son Daniel is also a big fan of the Celtics. Maybe he is more interested in the big hot dog from TD Garden more the game sometimes. But people say that you have to start them when they are young, right? So, when the Patriots appeared in the Super Bowl in 2012, I decided to go outside and watch the game with my wife. Of course, we could not afford to go to the game in Indianapolis. Instead, we went to the second-best place to watch the Super Bowl: Buffalo Wild Wings.
You probably remember the game. The Patriots were leading the game 17-15 with 57 seconds away from getting the fourth title. Then, the running back of the Giants, Ahmad Bradshaw, did a touchdown with a 6-yard drive. The Pats lost the game. You know. It was the first time for Sungha to watch the Super Bowl. But she screamed like crazy along with others. Let’s jump the clock to 2015, the Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Seahawks. Just two minutes away from the victory for the Pats, Russell Wilson threw the ball to Jermaine Kearse which the rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler tried to block. But you remember the play. Kearse still caught the ball tumbling all over his body. Oh, the nightmare from 2012 came back.
Well, before continuing with the story about the Super Bowl 2015, let’s just take a pause here. Some of you might wonder, “It is all a good story. But what does the football game have to do with our worship today?” It is because, in the United States, there are many similarities between Christianity and football. In an article from The Washington Post, Bob Smietana acknowledges, “Both religion and sports create community, have saints and rituals, enemies to defeat, and take place on hallowed ground.” Smietana argues further that for someone like Tom Brady, football is his religion. He is after something bigger than football. Brady finds the meaning and purpose of his life from his game.
As we gather as Christians this morning, we also ask the same question. “What is the meaning of my life?” What is the purpose of my life?” If these questions are too big to answer, think this way. “What gives you a sense of joy and fulfillment in your life?” According to a recent study, “people who describe themselves as lacking a clear purpose in life are more likely to suffer cognitive decline and develop Alzheimer’s disease.”Of course, we know that there is a genetic cause that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. But lacking the purpose of our lives could lead to not only emotional struggle but also spiritual depression. “What has God called me to do to on this earth?”
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was a restless soul who was also searching for the purpose of his life. He grew up as the son of an Anglican priest, Samuel, nurtured by the strict religious education of his mother, Susanna. He was educated at Oxford University and became a Lincoln Fellow, which was equivalent to a professor today. Although he had a promising career as a priest and professor, he abandoned them and decided to go to the colonies in Georgia as a missionary in 1735. He initially thought that he could spread the gospel and make disciples especially among the indigenous people in America. But he failed miserably. It seems that he was deeply struggling to find the purpose of his life.
Disappointed in his failure, Wesley went back to England and attended a Moravian meeting on Aldersgate Street. By the love of God, he realized that he was accepted as the child of God. He felt strangely warmed in his heart. It was the grace of God alone that saved him from his sins. And that became his purpose of life. To teach others about the love of God. The Book of Genesis says that we are created in the image of God. Wesley interprets that the image of God as our capability to love God and love our neighbors. We find our satisfaction and happiness when we love God, want to know more about God through Christ, and love our neighbors. That is our job to do in this world – we are called to love.
When we say love, however, we often speak of love in a sentimental way. I once met an American missionary from Japan who told me, “There seems to be a cultural problem with the way people use the word, “love,” in English. We say, “I love chocolate.” “I love a vacation.” “I love my car.” On the contrary, in Japan, people do not use the word “Love” to indicate affection for an object that does not have feelings. According to Japanese etymology, love means to love people or another life form through your actions and with your heart. In other words, there is a deep feeling, a mutual relationship, between the one that loves and the other that receives the love. And we use the same word in interrelationship, “I love you.”
Love is an uncomfortable and even upsetting word that urges us to show mercy and compassion, especially for people who are unlovable. When people compare Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, many people are likely to dismiss the former because he advocated the use of violence to protect the rights and lives of the black community. They quickly take sides with Martin Luther King Jr., who condemned any use of violence and taught people to love one another saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
But we should know that MLK’s understanding of love is not something weak, submissive, or docile. Instead it is grounded in the biblical understanding of radical love – agape. The sacrificial love of Christ. When Jesus tells us, “Love your enemy,” MLK acknowledged, “Hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see that goes on ad infinitum. But the strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil.” In other words, love is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of power that we find in God who welcomes us, embraces us, and forgives us.
Be the salt. Be the light. And that is what Jesus calls us to live out today. Do your job. Love your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbors as yourselves. It is love that goes beyond the self-interest of our existence that we offer ourselves for God and our neighbors. When we board the flight, the flight attendants tell us that in case of emergency, we are to put the oxygen masks ourselves first before we help our children or others. People often talk about this illustration to indicate the importance of self-care. However, the problem is that we often forget to help others after we put on our own masks. We are loved, welcomed, and embraced by God so that we can love, welcome, and embrace others. M. Eugene Boring, a New Testmant scholar, comments that when Jesus says that we are the salt, the salt does not exist for itself, nor do the disciples; their life is turned outward to the world. And this is also why Jesus tells us to let our light shine.
Again, In Super Bowl 2015, with 74 seconds left, the Patriots were clinging to a 28-24 lead. The Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse just caught an almost impossible pass despite the excellent defense from Malcolm Butler. The touchdown was only 1 yard away. As Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw his pass, Butler intercepted the pass. The game was over. The undrafted rookie, Butler, finished the game because he did his part. Butler recounted later, “I wasn’t feeling too well, but you know my teammates tried to cheer me up. They said I made a great play. When I got back out there, I just had to make a play.” Bill Belichick said, “We prepare for that situation as part of our goal-line package.” Butler did his job because he knew exactly what he had to do. But I also believe that he was able to make the play because of the cheer from his teammates – a purpose bigger than himself.
We all have our jobs to do as the children of God in this world – that we are called to be the light that drives away the darkness, the darkness of fear, hatred, and evil. We are called to be the salt to sacrifice ourselves for others. Do your job. Our happiness is a gift of fruit that we bear when we faithfully respond to the call to love our God and neighbors – not just our families and friends, but also our enemies and those whom we disagree and dislike. It is such a difficult calling. But you know what? When the players fail to do their jobs in football, they are either released from their contract or traded to another team. We also often fail to love God and love others as we should. But when we do so, Christ does not trade us to another team but comes down to us and gives his life for us on the cross so that we can have victory in God’s name.
So, no matter what you are going through, even if you feel beat, tired, frustrated, or worn out, please know that we are here as Christian brothers and sisters to cheer one another up. We are here to witness the love of Christ, who never fails and who tells us that the game is not over yet. Do your job. And we do that by shining the light of Christ – the light of love, compassion, mercy, peace, and justice in this world.
 Bob Smietana, “For Tom Brady, football has become his religion. No, really.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/02/02/for-tom-brady-football-has-become-religion-no-really (accessed on February 10, 2023)
 Tony Dearing, “A Purpose-Driven Life Offers Surprising Protection against Alzheimer’s,” https://www.nj.com/healthfit/2016/11/having_a_sense_of_purpose_gives_powerful_protectio.html (accessed on February 10, 2023)
 Martin Luther King Jr. Sermon: “Loving Your Enemies: 17 November 1957.
 M. Eugene Boring, NIB: Matthew, 182.