A Civil War chaplain approached a wounded soldier on the battlefield and asked if he'd like to hear a few verses from the Bible. The wounded man said, “No, I'm so thirsty, I'd rather have some water.” The chaplain gave him a drink, and then repeated his question. “No sir, not now – but could you put something under my head?” The chaplain did so, and again repeated his question. “No,” said the soldier, “I'm cold. Could you cover me up?” The chaplain took off his inside coat and wrapped the soldier. Afraid to ask, he did not repeat his question. He moved to leave, but the soldier called him back. “Look, Chaplain, if there's anything in that book of yours that makes a person do for another what you've done for me, then I want to hear it.”
It is so easy in our affluent and busy society for us to forget who we are as people created by God and redeemed through Jesus Christ. It is easy for us to become preoccupied with our work, our family, our hobbies, and our own needs that we forget our essential call to be the body of Christ.
John Gardner, Former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare, once made this observation: “In the absence of criticism every organization ends up being managed for the benefit of the people who run it: most schools tend to be run in such a way as to serve the purposes of the teachers; the Navy tends to be run for the benefit of naval officers; the vested interests of postal employees are the predominant factor in controlling and directing the future of the post office; the policies and practices of most universities are explicable chiefly in terms of the vested interests of the professors.” (quoted in Rev. King Duncan, Collected Sermons) If this is true regarding schools, military services and bureaucracies, it is also true of the church. The church does not exist for our benefit; rather, it exists for the world in order to make disciples and transform the world for Christ. As the old saying goes, “Jesus did not command the whole world to go to church. Jesus commanded his church to go to the whole world.”
Take a look at James 1:22-27. This is the text I will be teaching on this Sunday in worship. James encourages us to not simply hear the gracious good news of Christ Jesus but to actually live it out. the title of my sermon is “Don’t Forget What You Look Like.” We will have a special guest with us as well, Samantha Crimm from our state department of Child Protective Services. Samantha will be sharing about Rescue 100 which is a partnership between CPS and local churches in our state to help address the child foster care need in our state. As James says in 1:27, “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” Christian discipleship was never intended to be merely lofty platitudes and pious talk. Our Christian faith is the active engagement with Christ who has risen from the dead and has brought us into new life. As Jesus himself teaches in Matthew, “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’” (25:44-45) the natural response for the grace that we have received in Christ Jesus is to be the embodiment of Christ in our world today. A society that ignores the legitimate needs of orphans, the elderly, disabled veterans, children and adults with disabilities, and the least among us is a deeply flawed society. Let us live out our Christian witness by doing what we can to care for the least and the lost in our community. and let us share our concerns with our local area churches, community leaders, and government officials. There are many in our own community who are searching for the very thing you and I have found in Christ Jesus. May we heed the advice of James, “You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves” (1:22)
I can’t wait to be in worship with you this Sunday. I hope you will be with us in worship and I encourage you to invite someone to come with you. It is my honor and privilege to serve as your pastor and I hope you will call on me if I can be in prayer for you or serve you as your pastor. the good news is that christ is risen and that has changed everything!
With gratitude and hope,