One of the most satisfying things for a pastor to hear is someone saying, “You’ve given me a lot to think about.” First it assures me that I my sermon didn’t put you to sleep, and that that you actually paid attention. The service is not meant for entertainment purposes though t shouldn’t be boring and droll either. I sincerely hope you enjoy coming to church and will continue to do so. But the bottom line is I want each of you to take something away that will help you strengthen your relationship with God. And if it does I should be deeply satisfied.
The mission of the United Methodist Church is “to make disciples for the transformation of the world.” Initially it was simply to “make disciples”. Then someone thought “what for?” So the transformation of the world was added. So while I’m delighted when people “think” about my sermons, it seems there needs to be a direct and measurable action from that thinking. In the Book of James we are told “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)
God desires a personal relationship with all of us. He sent his Son into the world to destroy the barriers which separate us from such a bond and we are filled with the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen that attachment. But to what purpose? A relationship with God empowers us to not just think about our human condition, but to change them. With the Holy Spirit to guide us and God’s indomitable love to strengthen us we are fully equipped to resolve the challenges of this world. Jesus did not teach us so we can simply think about what he said, but so we can act upon them.
I often tell my daughter, “When you’re young you want to change the world. When you get older you still want to change the world but the world has gotten smaller.” So instead of resolving issues on a worldly scale we address them on a neighborhood level. So when we “think” about what a pastor said or what we read in the Bible we also need to “think” about what action we can take to help others in our world come to know the teaching of Christ, the love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. With the end of summer we enter into the “busy” time of the church year. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter are filled with activities and opportunities to deepen our relationship with God. We can also transform that relationship into action which changes our world and help others realize that God wants a loving and caring relationship as well. We are the tools which God will use to bring change to our community by developing relationships with the people in our world. We ourselves cannot just “think” about what God is teaching us, but need to act upon the lessons we learn from the Bible. Thinking about God’s word is the first step, and I pray we, our family of faith, can get you to think about Christian action. However don’t “think” for too long. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:14-19)