This sermon dedicated to my nephew “Doctor” Stephen: Jesus is our living Field of Dreams

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May 3, 2015 – I received an invitation the other day to attend a graduation for one of my nephews, a special graduation in that my nephew will be the first medical doctor in our family. It provided occasion for reflection on what inspires one to endure those years of school, the financial expense and the emotional fortitude required just to graduate, much less to practice medicine. My greatest prayer is that my nephew Stephen will save lives and make a difference for those whom he is called to serve. It reminds me of Doc “Moonlight” Graham, played by Burt Lancaster, the doctor character in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams”. Graham’s career in Major League baseball lasted exactly one inning at the end of a season and he never had a chance at the plate, because he chose to commit his abiding desire to fulfill his dream and become a medical doctor.

The part of the story we aren’t told in the movie is that Moonlight Graham truly made a difference as medical doctor in a small place in Minnesota, making tremendous contributions to the medical field through his study of children and blood pressure, as well as saving many lives. Kevin Costner, full of regret about his relationship with his father, lamented what life could have been like for Graham in the Majors. Lancaster remarked after he had his chance at bat that he had no regrets. He said, “son, if I’d only got to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy.”

We all know that practicing medicine has its tragic moments; even though medicine is science, it is not perfect. People die at surprising moments and others pass because no matter of medical advancement can maintain and sustain any human body forever. But it doesn’t mean that one should not try to provide the best life that one can have. Graham was reflecting on his lifelong abiding vocation in medicine. Practicing medicine requires that abiding commitment to sustain human life, all the while knowing that pain, suffering and death is unavoidable. Not much different from Christianity. My guess, and it is only a guess because I am obviously not a doctor, is that abiding in the hope for a better life is what drives someone to sustain the many challenges not just while they are going to Med school but also during the career that follows.

“Jesus isn’t talking about some fairy tale kind of love, a life full of home runs and no strike-outs…”

In the First Letter of John and the Gospel of John this morning, we also glimpse this idea of abiding. This word abiding is quite challenging. Jesus calls us to abide in him and that through abiding in him we will find love that cannot be known any other way. Jesus isn’t talking about some fairy tale kind of love, a life full of home runs and no strike-outs, that humans try to manufacture but the love rooted in Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice everything including his life, in order for us to know true love.

I always get nervous when I start using or defining this word “love” because I simply am not able to adequately describe what Jesus describes. The root of all human desire is to know love and be loved. Most of us are terribly confused about what love means and how love comes to us. We think we are the ones who make love possible but, in truth, we are only able to love through the love Jesus gives to us.

“Abiding in Jesus is to be willing to be pruned of our conditional loving……”

Jesus says quite simply “abide in me” and we will know that love for ourselves, not as some characteristic that we can fashion in a moment or over time but only through seeking to know Jesus as he is and for whom he came into this world to redeem. Abiding in Jesus is a lifelong pursuit. Abiding in Jesus is to be willing to be pruned of our conditional loving, our fear of the unknown and our resistance to changing how we think, what we say and how we act.

Jesus says apart from him we are nothing, and yet we spend most of our waking moments acting as if we are in fact apart from him except when we decide to make time for him. We think and act as if we are the ones who define love rather than accepting that God’s total being is love and any human definition beyond God providing and demonstrating love loses its true intention as soon as the words or acts come from us.

Abiding is all Jesus asks of us. Three simple words: “Abide in Me”; they challenge us to our core and at the same moment feed our hungering heart for love. Knowing love is about a relationship rooted in abiding in Jesus in every moment that we take breath. Jesus desires for us to express outwardly what we receive as we abide in him. Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and as his abiding branches we will bear much fruit. The fruit that he describes is the love that grows in us as we grow in him. We cannot do this “loving” business apart from him. We can and we will try to love without him, but in the end true love is only found through the Lord Jesus Christ, an abiding overarching lifetime relationship, that he creates opportunity for us to have, one that exists over and beyond any other vocation or relationship.

“No matter where we find ourselves in life………”

No matter where we find ourselves in life, regardless of our vocation including that of doctors and professional baseball players, the greatest fulfillment of our human experience is what we receive and share as those who abide in the true vine of Christ. We can run far and wide and nothing can or will touch the life that the Lord gives us and to everyone willing to abide in him. Yes, as we experience the pruning that Jesus describes, things can feel painful but the result of that pain in the end is an abundant and fruit bearing life. And that is his promise this morning.

The Lord gives life and we find love as we abide in him and it is a lifetime affair. To put it in Doc “Moon” Graham’s terms, “if we only got to abide in Christ for five minutes, now that would be a tragedy”, especially when we know now what Jesus has done for us through his life, death and resurrection. I pray that my nephew, as he begins his life as a doctor, always remembers Jesus’ love as he cares for those whom he has been called to serve.

What a tremendous gift Jesus has given us! There is no mystery left to unfold except coming to more clearly understand our Lord’s love for us, his desire for us to experience that abundant life, that fruit bearing place that brings joy beyond our imagination. We come to know these mysteries through surrendering of our own will and constantly abiding in him.

As Christians, we are living our own “field of dreams”, our dreams are happening now without regrets for what might have been. For in Christ, the true vine, there will be no regretting the love that he gave for us and that we share with him.

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