This morning, I am going to invite you to listen for the Word of God to you as it’s preached through a video resource produced by The Work of the People and the National Association for Christian Recovery. Our church has not been shy, at least not in the last several years, about acknowledging the ravaging impact that addiction and substance abuse or substance use disorders has on people we know and care about. We’ve shared in various ways about the devastating impact these human realities have had, and still have on many of our families and friendships.
And yet, tragic stories are not all there is for those whose lives are marred by the human experience of addiction. There is also recovery: a form of resurrection; a type of rebirth and new life. And in the resurrection, the rebirth, of recovery, people discover a wisdom, and grace, and spiritual truths that many who have never wrestled with such afflictions ever comprehend.
Last week, I shared about my experience with a man called Eric. We didn’t have a good beginning together. And the truth is, I probably judged Eric harshly at first. I was a little bit afraid of him, though I didn’t acknowledge that at the time. We often hide or deny our fear of others from ourselves because that fear makes us feel weak, vulnerable. Because I didn’t like how he treated me, I made some assumptions about him that were unfair – just as surely as he had made some wrong assumptions about me. But what we both learned is that when we each opened ourselves to allowing God’s love and work to be done in us and through us, when each of us decided to live a little more deeply and intentionally into our divine calling to serve after Jesus’ example, we became more willingly vulnerable – which, surprisingly (but not unusually, according to God’s ways of working) made us each stronger individually, and that in turn strengthened our entire community. In his Second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote, “Three times I appealed to the Lord about [an affliction] … but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” God’s strength is perfected in our weakness.
One of the things I learned about Eric as we began authentically working together is that he was in recovery. He was an alcoholic, a few years sober. As is the case with many people, his addiction had grown out of a habit of trying to numb or obliterate the pain of prior experiences, to anesthetize his anxiety, to forget (or at least stifle) chunks of his personal story. And although he was involved in a 12-Step group, it was still difficult for him to tell the truth of his story.
The Holy Habit of Serving quite often puts us in touch with people we might otherwise not associate with. People we might actually avoid, consciously or unconsciously, because we don’t like the way they look, or speak, or live. But it’s in associating with those who are strange or unsettling to us, by serving those whom we might otherwise avoid or not encounter, we discover the truth – that every human being bears the image and presence of God.
In our Scripture lesson this morning, John asks, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” And he goes on to exhort us, “Little children [in other words, you with teachable spirits], let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:17-18)
This morning, we’re going to be hearing from several people who have great wisdom to share from their life within the “recovery community.” And we’re going to see images of love in truth and in action. Listen and watch attentively, for where you hear and observe God’s words of grace, compassion, and wide-open welcome and radical abundance. Listen and watch with an openness to sharing at the end of it what spoke to you, what stands out in the message we’ll hear about the Holy Habit of Serving. Hear and be nourished by the preaching of the Word.