Good morning, everyone. I feel so grateful to be standing here in these hallowed walls, behind this sacred podium, and to have the opportunity to speak with such distinguished brothers and sisters who work so incredibly hard. There will have to be a high place in the spiritual world where we all arrive. We're all equal now, sitting on the same level, but when we move to the spiritual world we'll all be different, and I'm sure that I'll be looking up to all of you. But when you see me down there, just say, well, he did his best. That's all you have to say. Because we are all working toward a better way of life, both here on the earth and in the spiritual world.
Our True Parents have graced this podium several times since I've been in this area, and it's always a thrill and it changes my life whenever I hear Father speak. My wife can testify to that. Every time I go hear Father speak, I come back a different person. That's good for me and for my wife and children.
Also, the great work that Rev. Yang has done here in this city and region, he's become the apple of Father's eye. The work that Father looks forward to in the future is much depending on Rev. and Mrs. Yang. For them I'm grateful because they have taught me how to love and to serve and don't talk about it. Of course, Rev. Schanker reminds me of the heavenly bumblebee. He runs all around pollinating everything he can so that it can grow and prosper and be fruitful. This man is a multi-faceted individual and I respect him a lot.
I also want to say, the last time that Mr. Salonen -- this is the only church in the world that you rise above Rev. to become Mr. I guess it's now Mr. Salonen came here a few weeks ago and spoke. I listened to the tape of that sermon while driving in my car, and again my life was changed, by a simple phrase that he said. I was so excited about it and Phillip asked me what that point was. The point was, if you're waiting for somebody to build the kingdom for you, you've made a mistake. Most of us joined this movement, or any movement, expecting God to do it for us, or expecting True Parents to do it for us. But in fact we have to build the kingdom.
I've heard that from Father many times, but when he said it, I realized, you know, he's right. It's not going to be done by some great miracle. It's going to be done day by day, point by point, person by person, mission by mission, every little thing we do is building the kingdom. Or everything we don't do is delaying the kingdom.
That gave me a new lease on life where I could get up in the morning and be excited that everything I do today goes a little bit toward building the kingdom. I kept that in my mind. So today I want to share with you a sermon. The topic is, "What's love got to do with it?" I got this title from my dear friend Tina Turner. What's love got to do with it? And I want to read the scripture, John 15:9-11. This is Jesus talking.
Before I read it, I want to share something with you so we can understand where we're going. You'll find in this verse the word "commandment." Most of us hear the word commandment as an order, or direction, and we react as though it's not from our own will since we didn't come up with the idea. Sometimes it bothers us, even if the commandment comes from God. You'd much rather have something come out of you for God than to have God come down commanding you to do something for Him.
You know you can talk back to me, but isn't it true? Wouldn't you rather go to Rev. Yang with a great idea that inspires him, instead of him to coming to you with a direction? And you've already got this idea moving inside of you, waiting to explode? So when the direction comes to you, the feeling is that you have to take two steps back, digest the direction and understand it, and then perhaps move forward.
In this, however, Jesus is not talking about that kind of commandment, and you need to understand that. This is not a direction or order. He is talking about a way of life. We've gone beyond the Ten Commandments. This is a way of life. "As my father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commandment, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commandment and remained in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:9-11)
All of us want to be joyful, right? One of the key components of being joyful, according to this, is we have to be inside of Heavenly Father, and Father inside of us. And inside is living every day this way of life.
My commandment is this. Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you obey my commandment. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I call you friends. For everything that I have learned from my father I have made known to you. You did not choose me but I chose you. And appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last. (John 15:12-16)
Then -- listen to this -- then my Father will give you whatever you ask. Let's do that again: then my father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my commandment: love each other. This is our way of life -- love each other. If we love each other, it means that we are doing something beyond ourselves, a step beyond ourselves.
Let me make this point a little more clear. Let's go back to the seventh verse. If you remain in me, and my word remains in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples -- my disciplinarians. Did you know that? Disciple means "to be disciplined"? Most of us didn't understand what it means to become a disciple. A person who is disciplined in the word, in a way of life, in how we live and what we should do every single day.
I listened to a great minister give a sermon, and he said, I used to pray that God would keep me every day so that I could love someone. Then he said, I began to pray that God would teach me how to love people every hour on the hour. And then while he was working in his office at home, he heard one of his sons say to the other one, "You stupid! Get out of here." In that one second you can hurt somebody. Then he began to pray, "Lord, help me to love every second of the day." Because in one second you can say a cruel word to someone that will hurt them for the rest of their lives. Can you imagine? In one second.
In the process of understanding the tradition of this kind of love that Jesus is talking about, remember this is after his death and resurrection he is talking to his disciples. He is saying to them, love each other. And what is the standard, the qualification of loving? To love unto death. No greater love than this does a man have, that he can lay down his life for his friend. Friend. Not enemy. He's gone a step beyond his family or his community. He's reaching out now for someone else, to understand the way of life that is equally concerned about building the kingdom.
In this way we're all working as one -- we're comrades, we brothers and sisters, living according to the tradition of what has to be done to get this job accomplished. How many times do we lose sight of the kingdom? I remember the days when we first started we were all young pups. It was in the early 80s and a lot of us had just been matched and some of us were beginning to start our families, and when we met each other we asked two things: How are you, and, what's you mission? Those of us who were starting our families would stutter and reply, I'm trying to take care of my baby. You mean, you have no mission? Shame on you.
We thought that this person -- we used to call them B members -- had digressed to become a B member who had no mission, and who was only taking care of his baby. And now we're all B members and all have babies. Isn't it interesting how we evolved in this way of life in kingdom-building? It seems sometimes like we're going backwards, but in fact we're going forward all the time.
In the process of building the kingdom there are several ingredients we must have. The first ingredient is absolute love. Love so much that we look out for others even before they call us.
In the old days when I was a young boy we didn't have a telephone in the house. We didn't even have indoor plumbing. You never knew when guests were coming, and you knew when a telegram came that it was bad news. People used to say, uh oh, my hand is itching; it means I'm going to get some money. And then some money would come in the mail. It was like a spiritual telephone. Or, my head is hurting; it means somebody is talking about me. Then next thing you knew, I heard so and so say something about you. The old folks used to have these sayings. And sometimes people would say, my limbs are aching. It must mean rain is coming. And then sure enough, here came the rain. Didn't have a weather report. They knew it was going to rain.
In the process of these things, we began to know and prepare always for our guests. In my house there was one room that was sacred and holy, and if you walked in it, your pants would have holes in them because your mama would wear you out. That room was for guests. My mother was a minister so other ministers would come and visit, and if that living room was messed up, we were in trouble.
Now some of us -- and I have to remind my wife sometimes that when guests come to stay with us, don't ask them how long they're going to stay. Where is our love? Have we forgotten from whence we've come, sleeping in sleeping bags in the same room, and you've got to get up and go fundraising each day? What is our testimony? Sometimes we have to be in a beautiful area because we begin to lose the value of having a testimony. If we now get together and we can't talk about anything but what we just saw on the news, it means we have no testimony because we haven't done anything. We haven't had to work something out and find a solution and we didn't know how it would turn out, but somehow God worked and we had a testimony we burned inside to tell somebody. Have we lost our understanding of how we have to work in building the kingdom? The kingdom doesn't just roll into position. It has to be put in position. By whom? God? No. By the messiah? No. By me! Hallelujah.
I have to take full responsibility. I remember sometimes we wait so long that Father is ahead of us 25 years. I realized that. Back in 1976 Father said we had to do home church, and I finally realized in 1988 what home church is. Home church is simply community outreach. Finding somebody who needs some clothes. Finding somebody who needs some food. Finding an old lady who needs some help. Most churches have some outreach services. We call ours home church.
But the question is, when was the last time we've done something for somebody other than our own family? I have to ask myself that. Phillip talked about me selling flowers. The reason is that I had businesses and activities, but I figured out where I could make the most amount of money in the least amount of time and keep myself humble at the same time. Money changes you. I don't care what you say. Money makes you get stupid. If a person has never had some money and then they get some, they act real crazy. Start buying things they don't need, avoiding people they used to speak to out of fear they'll ask for something. Starting to hang out with people above their status, and speaking differently. Out of character. They figure they have to act differently once they have money.
Actually God wants us to have everything, but you can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't prepare for the kingdom and act like you're already in the kingdom. You forget that you're working for the kingdom. So every now and then it's good to go back and find somebody who's wounded, who's hurt, who's downtrodden, who needs something, and reach down to help that person. Then you can go back home and say, that's what I live every day. Otherwise you forget. We think we've already made it because we're living in a nice community, and we think this is it, and we're getting older and older and weaker and weaker, and starting to get sick, and now beginning to change our conversation. We meet each other and start talking about our diseases, our hair falling out.
When God sees you working, he gives you what you need if you don't have it. I've never had a decent car to drive. Working in the King Institute, trying to help somebody, a lady said, you know, I have an old car I'm trying to get rid of. I said, what kind of car is it? We'll take it. I go by her house and it's a Mercedes. She said, just take it. You're doing such wonderful work in the community. But it was a two-door and I felt real guilty driving the car. But the point is, it really didn't fit because work had to be done on it that I couldn't afford. Another friend of mine, working in the same business of serving the community, heard me talking about how this car needed work. He said, you know, I've got a Mercedes you can have. I said, oh, Lord, not another one.
I went to his house. He had just gotten a new Cadillac and had this Mercedes sitting over there. He said, you can have it. Four door, just what I need. I thought that if I had been struggling to buy a Mercedes, I'd still be working on it. But because I was trying to do God's work, God gave me a Mercedes. Now the question is, can I afford to keep it.
But here is how God works. We were listening to Pat Robertson on television one night, and he started on his favorite topic, asking for money. He said, all of you who are only making $60,000 a year and you want to make $75,000, you ought to start paying a tithe of $7,500 and God will give you the $75,000. I said, there he is, trying to con people. My wife said, no, no, hold it. He's right.
At that time we were giving $40 a week as our tithe. We were averaging $400 a week profit, so we gave $40. My wife said, we need to make a minimum of $700 a week in order to survive, so she said, I'm going to put in $70 every Sunday. I said, baby, wait a second. You mean to tell me you were really inspired by what Pat Robertson said? She said, you saw and heard Pat Robertson, but I saw and heard God. We started putting that money in, and all the things that God needs us to have to do his work are coming very much true.
I realized that if you hold back on God's gift, on what God needs, then God can't give you what you want. The Bible verse we just read said, "Ask whatever you wish." But before you get that, you have to do be doing what? You have to be living God's way of life and giving our tithes and offerings. Now wait a second. Tithing is not the same as offering. Offerings in the old days, back in Moses' time, were cows and oxen and sheep. They were offered. The priest received the offering and offered it up. Now what happened to these burnt offerings? The priests ate them and shared them. The church has changed the meaning. In the days of Christ the church was a refuge. It was not a place to come sing, but a place to hear God's word and understand if we're on the right track, and to have a refuge, a place to stay for widows and orphans. The sacrifice that people came and brought was shared all together.
Tithes are different. See, in our church we say, if you can't afford the church tithe then just give a pledge. The pledges worked real well. For the first fiscal year we were out of debt, paid everything. And it was so wonderful because in this pledge it's just like I'm doing the best I can. Nobody knows what everyone else pledged. Only the bookkeeper knows everything. If one member pledged $50 a week, I don't know it. We all get codes, and at the end of the month everybody gets a sheet showing that, for instance, family A gave 50% of their pledge. But it helps us to be accountable for God's work.
You can't live in a house and not pay rent. After a while you'll be put out. You can't buy a brand-new car and forget to make the monthly payment. After a while the wrecker will hook it up and tow it away. If you don't pay your credit card balance, pretty soon you can't use it when you go shopping. Maybe you haven't had this experience, but I have.
In God's house, in God's work it's just like a pledge. It's an offering, a sacrifice. If it's not a sacrifice, then, brothers and sisters, we have no testimony. Testimony is important because testimony helps brothers and sisters know how you made it over, so therefore if you did it, I can do it too. But if we come together and all we can talk about are mundane things then we have nothing to talk about.
In our way of life we have to understand that there is something going on, but if we don't get involved, nothing will come of it. Nothing. And we'll be relegated to becoming a part of the politics and the laws and positions that have been made by others instead of ourselves.
A lot of people think tithing is just too much. God asks us to give 10 percent. If you want this church to prosper and grow, God asks us to give 10 percent. Not two percent, not if I can, but 10 percent. And that's an act of faith. When you do it as an act of faith then you have a testimony. God asks us to give 10 percent, so this belongs to God. The rest belongs to us. He could have said, give me 90 percent and you keep ten. But isn't God great? Isn't God just like a parent?
True Parents go by the law, but he's always extended, so Father lives off of 10 percent and he gives away 90 percent to God. No better way to give it than to have all these conferences, all these things that are going on all the time.
The Mormons say, hey, we can do better than that. The Mormons give 30 percent. Has anyone seen a homeless Mormon anywhere? The Marriott Corporation was started by a Mormon. When they tithe 10 percent of $15 billion, no wonder the Mormons can build their temple. My wife used to work for the Marriotts and they are very, very serious about their giving.
My conclusion is, our job is to build the kingdom. We have the most awesome task in the world. No one else in this world has ever attempted this task. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of brain power, a lot of tolerance and patience, a lot of money. God has a formula, and the formula is that he will multiply whatever we give.
Let me close with this. It doesn't mean that because we give God 10 percent that God is going to send you money in the mail or you'll win the lottery. It doesn't work that way. It may mean that your kid didn't fall off his bicycle and break his leg so you had to take him to the hospital. It might mean that you avoid a serious accident. It may mean that through your child's effort he wins a scholarship. It can come in any way. Don't look for it in just one direction. God works it out in His way. He knows how to help us achieve our goals.
It doesn't mean that you will never have dark days and some sad times and empty pockets. But when you lay down at night you can feel good that you've done your best. I may never make sainthood, or become a great scholar or a great preacher, but when I die, I want you to say on my tombstone, there lies Levi, and he did his best.
Let us pray.