Three Essential Hugs
Pastor Todd Buurstra
This is a recording of the Contemporary Service (9:15am).
There was always one thing I dreaded when Aunt Minnie visited from Chicago. Aunt Minnie was my grandmother’s sister (the same one I told you about with the terrible warble in her caroling voice). As soon as Aunt Minnie walked in the door she would command, Come here, Todd. She couldn’t see very well, so I had to approach her. She would give me this generous hug, which wasn’t so bad, but then she’d plant a big wet kiss on me. And now that I was close she could see me do this, and she’d say, If you wipe it off I have to give you another one. Yuck! Lesson: hugs are good, but sloppy, wet kisses…?
Actually generous hugs are healthy, right? They are God’s means of lowering blood pressure, increasing our immune system (H1N1 remedy?), and a natural Tylenol PM.
And so I was happily surprised when I read my annual stewardship book—this one by Doug Carter where he described generosity in the context of three essential hugs:
Hugs from our children,
Hugs from those we bless,
And, ultimately, hugs from Jesus.
So I had to scour the Bible to see if it ever references Jesus hugging. Not exactly, but I came upon two passages that pair hugs and generosity: this story of the loaves and fish, and the parable of the talents. You ask, where is the hug? Jesus and his friends have just returned from a mission trip and they’re tired. So he takes them to a retreat house to rest. But crowds track them down and start pounding on the door. And what does Jesus do? Go away! No, he welcomes them… the hug. How do Middle Eastern folk welcome? Feeling welcomed the people listen, and then send their sick up for a healing service. By now its late and the crowd has grown to 5000 men, not counting women and children. How will they eat? Well, one boy tugs on Jesus’ robe with 5 loaves and two fish. Jesus takes it, maybe thanking him with another hug, looks up to heaven to bless it and a miracle happens! Was the miracle that there were suddenly 50,000 loaves and 20,000 fish? I think the miracle was that people inspired by Jesus’ love and the boy’s generosity began to say, Well, I guess I could share my loaf. Here’s a fish, are you hungry? And suddenly what began with a hug, ended up with 12 baskets of leftovers! The first church potluck!
In the parable of the talents you remember that Jesus announced to those who took the master’s money and doubled it:
Well done, good and faithful servant, enter the joy of your master—a Jesus hug.
So sometimes the hug comes before the generosity and sometimes it’s the reward, but either way these stories tell us that wherever Jesus is, you’ll find hugs and generosity.
So, as we commit our money to God today, except for visitors, 3 generous hugs.
First, kid hugs. Someday I’ll be laid out in a coffin and what do I want my kids to be doing? Hugging. I’m sad about all the stories where kids, now grown, stand on opposite ends of the funeral home, glaring at each other, plotting who will get the big screen TV. I pray that my kids feel hugged and loved enough in life, and that they see that I am generous enough, so that they won’t care if they get the TV or, better yet, give it to the garage sale. I hope that the spiritual DNA with which I’ve raised them helps them use things and love people, not use people and love things. I pray that my life teaches sharing: with God, with church, with the needy–my fish. And who knows, I may die in their arms?
Secondly, hugs from those we bless. You know, I don’t have the gift of evangelism, and maybe you don’t either. But I get juiced about the fact that there will be people in heaven because of us. Why? Because we support gifted evangelists like Heidi Butterworth. Two lesbians were kicked out of their churches and families because of their sexual orientation. So Heidi invited Marietta and Adrienne to pray together and talk. At first they were like, No, religion, yuck! As the prayer and conversation progressed she gave both Bibles. And Marietta and Adrienne started reading them. Until God so flooded them with love, not the judgment they had learned to expect, that they fell on their knees, as God transforms them. So you may get hugged in Heaven as we support Heidi’s church.
Lastly, and most importantly, a hug from Jesus. Its interesting that Jesus says Well done only to those who handle money wisely. Our culture is obsessed with this. The best remedy for the rampant materialism of our culture is to tithe—to give 10% generously back to God, the church and the needy. For that deepest value results in our greatest hug.
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