"Great Expectations"
By Rev. James A. Splitt
Sermon May 17, 1998 - 6th Easter Sunday
John 14:23-29   Luke 19:1-10     Acts 16:9-15

"If a person loves me, they will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." [John 14:23].

This is a sermon about what you can expect when your home is a God centered / Christ centered home.  The foundation for this sermon is the scripture lesson from John.  The visit of Jesus to the home of Zacchaeus, told in Luke; and, the visit of Paul to the home of Lydia, told in Acts, are stories
that dramatically witness to the power of God's presence in our home.

Everyday begins with expectations. An expectation is what we anticipate or
envision happening.  Sometimes we have expectations that raise our anxiety. 
Sometimes we are filled with wishful thinking.  Other times we anticipatewhat we would like to have happen.  The scripture lessons today talk about what God expects of us and what we can expect from God.  Paul gives us a way to understand our expectations about God.  Paul said, "Do not be deceived;
God is not mocked, for whatever a person sows, that they will also reap. For whoever sows to their own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but whoever sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."  [Galatians 6:7-8).

There are two great expectations that God has of us:
God expects us to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; and, our neighbor as ourselves.  [Luke 10:27]
God expects that by loving the Lord, we will be faithful to God's word.

When we meet God's expectations for us, with great expectation we can be
certain of God's response to us:
we can expect God's presence in our home. 

This sermon is about expecting God's presence in our homes!  What God
counts on from us and what we can count on from God are great expectations.  Recall the great words of Joshua when he spoke before the people as they entered into the promised land.  "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."  [Joshua 24:15].

We are all familiar with the story of Zacchaeus.  We probably learned the
song about Zacchaeus and the Sycamore tree.  We may not be as familiar with the story of Paul's visit to the home of Lydia.  In many churches the name
of Lydia is often chosen by women who wish to recall this story.  The Lydia
Circle remembers a woman who opened her house to the Lord. 

These two stories have a striking commonality.   Both are stories that
dramatically illustrate Christian stewardship.  Zacchaeus and Lydia are both
people who have acquired a degree of wealth.  Zacchaeus by cheating people, Lydia by hard work, selling purple robes.  Zacchaeus was a Jew, who had turned his back on his faith and was loyal to Rome.  Lydia was a Gentile, a servant of the Roman elite.  Jesus went to Zacchaeus and moved him to repentance.  Paul went to Lydia and witnessed to the love of Christ, and she became the first recorded Gentile woman to be baptized a Christian.  In fact, she and her entire household were baptized into the Christian faith. 
Both Zacchaeus and Lydia opened their hearts and their homes to God. 
Christian stewardship is about opening our hearts and our homes to God. 
This is what God expects of us.

God expects our love!  God doesn't demand it or force that choice upon us. 
But God does lay out the consequences.  There's an interesting quote
Kathleen has typed out that we have in our office ... "Half heartedness
consists of serving God in such a way as not to offend the devil."   It's
real clear what happens if our home is unwelcoming to God.  We can expect,
with great certainty, that we will not find a home with God. 

Our loving response to God's love is called stewardship.  Stewardship is a
total life response to God's love. And, it requires sacrificial living.  Zacchaeus had cheated people, was greedy, and fearful of Roman rule.  He took wealth as a way to get ahead and live in favor with those in political control.  Lydia was a shrewd business woman who had no idea about what it meant to know or even serve Christ.  She sold purple cloth, a luxury item for the wealthy.  Zacchaeus and Lydia never expected what would happen when they opened their lives and homes to Christ and the love of God.  Their lives quickly changed when Christ came into their lives.  We can expect the same, when we too respond to the love of God and meet the expectations God has for us to love one another and keep God's word.

Meet God's great expectations with the stewardship of sacrificial living. 
Half hearted love of God doesn't work.  God said love me with ALL your mind, body, soul, and strength.  Zacchaeus had much to sacrifice because he had wronged so many people.  He agreed to pay back all, and with interest up to 400%.  This taught him a lesson.  Sacrificial living means sharing. 
Zacchaeus learned to share.

Lydia was so excited about becoming a Christian that she opened her home to be a center for Christian worship, study, and fellowship.  She shared her
wealth as a benefactor for the spread of the gospel and new church growth. 
[ref.  Gail R. O'Day "Acts" in The Women's Bible Commentary  edited by Carol A. Newsome and Sharon H Ringe. Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1992.  pp. 310-311.]   Lydia, too, learned the great lesson of Christian love that is embraced in a ministry of sacrificial living. 

I want to return now to our first scripture lesson from the Gospel of John. 
I began this sermon with the first verse:

"If a person loves me, they will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."   God and Jesus
the Christ will come to us and make their home with us if we show our love
for God and keep God's word.  But there is more, when we read on, we learn that we have more to expect from God's presence with us.

"But the counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you!" [vs. 26-27].

God promises us the Holy Spirit, and
God promises us peace.

The message of this text is all too clear.   By turning our life over to God, we are blessed.  It is time to rejoice and believe in God's promise for us.  (ref. John 14:28-29).  By believing, we can expect a life changing transformation of our lives.

We will live sacrificial lives, sharing God's love.
We will open our hearts and our homes to God's presence.
And we will be filled with a spirit of peace.

Amen!