A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sermon (April 26) by Rev. Robert McDowell - "Use Your Hands"

     Last Sunday, we focused on the importance of using our words as we seek to be witnesses of God’s love with the people around us. We talked about how easy it is for us to get tongue-tied when we are given opportunities to share our faith.
     There are probably a number of reasons why we struggle in sharing our faith with others. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to come across as a religious fanatic. More often than not, I think the bigger reason that we don’t share our faith with others is because we grossly underestimate the impact of our faith story.
     We forget that how God has been faithful in guiding and directing us through the ups and the downs of life just might be what someone else needs to help them get through a difficult time in their life. To help us get into the habit of using our words in sharing our faith, our church is encouraging people to participate in small groups where we can share our faith with each other.
     Last Sunday, I shared with you the three questions that we would like each person in our small groups to focus on whenever we meet. The first of those three questions are, “What was a recent closest to Christ moment for you?”
     I love that question because it’s exciting to think of those special holy moments that happen to each of us on any given week. Some people call these moments, “God Sightings.” When did you feel close to Christ this past week?
     When we start sharing our responses to that question on a regular basis, guess what happens? We become witnesses. We become faith sharers. We begin to use our words in sharing our faith with others.
     The other two questions that we are wanting our small groups to share every time they meet is “When did you deny Christ?” That might be the most difficult of the three questions because we need to be honest about where we might have fallen short of who God has called us to be in any given situation. But remember, confession is good for the soul.
     The third question is, “Where were you the heartbeat of Christ?” This question is asking to share when you recently served others in the name of Christ. It’s exciting to hear how God is prompting each of us to serve in some way in the past week.
     Well, that’s a summary of what we focused on last Sunday in worship. We are to use our words in sharing our faith with others.
     Actually, the third question that I just shared with you, the question, “When were you the heartbeat of Christ this past week,” is a perfect segue into our topic for today. It’s important to use our words if we are to share our faith with others, but we also need to use our hands as well.
     We can’t answer that third question about where we were the heartbeat of Christ and served others unless we actually used our hands to serve in some way. Our hands are a symbol of serving just like our hearts are a symbol of loving and our minds are a symbol of growing in our faith.
     We need all three, hearts, minds, and hands to help us love, grow, and serve. We love through our weekly worship. We grow through our study and exercise of our minds, and we serve as we share our faith and serve through our small group ministry. Love, grow, serve.
     As we think about our hands this morning and serving, we turn to our scripture readings. They are all about serving.
     In our I John reading, we are reminded of what Jesus did for us when he laid his life down on the cross. Jesus gave and served so that we might have life and hope. And we in turn, our to offer ourselves on behalf of others.
     Just listen again to verse 18 from I John, chapter 3.  It says, “Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.”
     OK, time out. That doesn’t mean last Sunday’s sermon on using our words is to be disregarded or that we should walk around with tape over our mouths? This verse isn’t saying that we shouldn’t use our words at all. We can’t get off the hook that easily from sharing our faith. It’s saying that that we should back up our words with our actions. In other words, we shouldn’t be all talk and no action.
     This scripture is a little like the James scripture that tells us that faith without works is dead. It doesn’t mean that works are more important than faith. It just means that they need to be integrated so that our witnessing isn’t lopsided.
     People that are all talk about their faith and no actions are like a car that only has two wheels. You’re not going to go very far with just two wheels, right?
     I think it was like two years ago when I last had a flat tire. I was driving up to Mt. Carmel East Hospital to visit a church member who was a patient there. As I was getting closer to the hospital entrance, I heard a noise.
     So I did what I usually do when I hear such a sound when I’m driving in the car. I pretended I didn’t hear it. “Oh, well that was just a bump in the road I ran over. That’s all.”
     But as I continued to drive down the road, that sound kept repeating itself and it was getting louder and louder. Still not convinced, I drove a little farther down the road and this time, it was obvious that I had a problem.
     Have you noticed that cars don’t run well when even one tire isn’t working properly? We need all four tires working if we want to drive the car any distance. The same is true of our faith. Our faith will only take us so far if we are only using our words or if we are only using our hands. God calls us to use our words and our hands.
     Soon after I arrived in Lancaster, the radio station interviewed me since I was the new pastor in town. I’ll never forget what my good friend, Steve Rauch said to me during the interview.
     He said, “Your church does so much good for our community.” And then he said, “Well, you are the church that’s on the hill, right? Like Jesus said, ‘You’re like a city set on a hill.’”
     Of course, Steve was referring to Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount about being the light of the world and a city on a hill. When he said that, it gave me this wonderful image for our church.
     We are a church that is located in the heart of our city and God has called us to not just use our words in sharing our faith but to also use our hands in being a blessing to others.  So whenever you come into our church building, I want you to remember that we are a church set on a hill for a reason. We are on this hill for only one reason – to serve others in the name of Christ.
     One of the ways that we serve, is through our LifeGroup and small group ministry. In addition to sharing our faith with each other, LifeGroups also serve in ministry together.
     Last Sunday, we had some folks demonstrate what a typical LifeGroup meeting looks like when they share their faith with each other. Guess what? Those same folks are back with us this Sunday and they’re going to help us see how their LifeGroup doesn’t just share their faith but also serves together in ministry.
     Let’s eaves drop on their meeting.

     In your bulletin this morning, you should have received a Love-Grow-Serve brochure that includes information about how to get involved or form your own LifeGroup. Not only does a LifeGroup provide encouragement and prayer support, it also helps us to share our faith with each other and serve together in ministry.
     One of the reasons we believe that LifeGroups are vitally important is because Christianity is a religion that isn’t meant to be lived out isolation. Jesus taught us the importance of community when he called the twelve disciples to follow them. They were a small group. They were a LifeGroup.

     Our faith is best lived out when we share with each other. So remember to use your words and to use your hands. Both are important as we seek to love, grow, and serve.

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