Tag Archives: Law of Moses

Managing Faith’s Freedom

Sermon given on Sunday, September 10, 2017

Scripture foundation:

Opening: Galatians 5:1

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. 

Sermon: Galatians 5:4-6, 22-26

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. . . .

. . . 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

 Closing: Galatians 5:6b, 10a, 13b & 16a

. . . What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

. . . I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings.

. . . Use your freedom to serve one another in love.

. . . let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.

 

Reflection: Managing Faith’s Freedom

Do you know what it feels like when you suddenly have a change of plans and you are free from prior obligations? All too often, we get so busy managing our hectic lives, that we are slaves to our calendar. Then, all of the sudden something gets canceled and you are free—at least for the day.

Oddly enough, that unplanned free day causes me problems. In a sense, I am lost. I have no idea how to relax or how to add in a chore needing to be finished that had been put off too long. The sudden release from the obligation causes me to be careless in managing my time.

I cannot help but wonder if that was similar to how the Jewish Galatians felt when suddenly the Old Law of Moses did not apply to their lives. All their lives they were held to the stringent law that the religious leaders administered.

Every little step in their lives was dictated; they were slaves to the law. Paul heard that the old religious traditions were still being required, even of the Gentiles. His letter is scolding the leaders that no longer are the old Jewish laws necessary. As Christians, Jesus Christ freed them from the Old Law and no longer required the Jewish traditions, even of circumcision.

Reading Galatians is difficult for us today. The Old Jewish traditions and laws no longer apply, and the thousands of years since then have distanced us from the legalistic style of religion practiced by the ancient Jewish people. We may not really understand the stress the Jewish Christians were placing on the Gentiles now following Jesus Christ.

Therefore, back to the calendar. Looking at a busy week, the daily chores have to be managed—meals, laundry, cleaning, etc. Yet the calendar shows appointments, meetings and events making for a busy week.

Then suddenly, a meeting is canceled or the doctor’s office calls and asks to reschedule. The calendar abruptly changes and you are free! What happens with that slot of time now?

The sudden opening in one’s schedule can cause one to ‘lollygag,’ so to speak. You know what I mean, waste time. I do not quickly reassign that time to some other task that needs to be done or schedule something else.

The freedom that I sense can lure me into wasting the time I just got back. I can fail to be productive. I can ignore my responsibilities. I become frozen and unable to get anything done.

Paul warned the Galatians that the freedom from the law did not give them the freedom to do whatever they wanted. He warned them of how easy it is to be lured into sin. The list is given in Galatians 5:19-21:

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The list is specific, but it also is not the only list of sinful behaviors. We could easily add more. Being a sloth, for instance, could be listed, which means lazy and/or unproductive.

Using every argument Paul could, he repeatedly told the Galatian Christians that faith in God through belief in Jesus Christ releases us from the old law. We are free to live as Christians following the one commandment: love one another. Paul states this in Galatians 5:13-14:

13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

One law supersedes all others. One law provides the direction for all Christians to follow Jesus Christ. And with because we accept that Jesus Christ died for our sins, we receive the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to tell the Galatians (in 5:22-23) what they receive when they accept Jesus Christ:

22 . . . the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

Our church may not be struggling with the Old Law of Moses, but we need to make sure that we do follow God’s one law that Jesus Christ taught us. We are not the Pharisees wanting to do things the way we always have done them.

We may think we are beyond those outdated behaviors, but as we review how our church is carrying out God’s great commission, we need ask here Paul’s message to the Galatians. Are we managing the freedom our faith provides? Are we truly following the Holy Spirits guidance?

As a church, our calendar is open right now. We need to listen to Paul’s words to the early churches and find how to follow his advice today. We cannot hold on to the past because change happens. We must listen to the Holy Spirit to love one another as we want to be loved. God will lead us forward if we listen carefully and we learn to manage the freedom from the old ways.

Closing prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We read Paul’s words to the early churches

And struggle to learn what he tells us today.

Open our ears so we may hear you speak

Through the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

Open our eyes to see the old ways that may not work

And that only one law never fails: Love one another.

Open our minds to the discover new ways we can serve

With the freedom that comes from loving one another.

Open our hearts to welcome the 21st century Gentiles

Who do not know the old ways and struggle to learn the new.

Open our doors to those who hear the Good News

And want to be in relationship with You and your faithful.

Let Paul speak to us today in ways we can understand

So we may continue to make disciples of Christ

For the transformation of the world.      –Amen.

 

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The Legacy of Our Father

Scripture Foundation: Galatians 3:23-29 (NLT)

God’s Children through Faith

23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

26 For you are all children[a] of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.[b] 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[c] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children[d] of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Reflection: The Legacy of Our Father

Here it is Fathers Day, another special day filling our calendars. Ho hum? That depends on how you perceive the importance of celebrating the father’s role in your life. Sadly there are many who have no fathers actively involved in their lives or maybe there are those who never knew their fathers. Add to that the long list of those whose fathers have died, leaving just memories.

The memories may be filled with laughter and silliness, but consider the legacy our fathers do leave us. Christian fathers have provided us a faith foundation based on the foundation of their fathers. Today the foundation of our sons’ families is beginning to shake if not shatter.

God is our heavenly Father and 21st century Christian fathers are those who have a personal relationship with God. Sadly, though, when looking at the 21st century congregations, the absence of fathers is all too evident. Yes, there are some, but the majority of Sunday morning attendees are women and their pre-high school children.

In Galatians 3, Paul is explaining to the followers how different a Christian lifestyle is from the old lifestyle under the Law of Moses:

23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

The choice of weighted words points out the negative attitude towards the Law of Moses. Paul reminds them that the law made the decisions, and the Pharisees were like guards keeping all the faithful under strict supervision. The Law of Moses originally was developed to protect the faithful, Paul adds the word “custody” to that word “protective.”

Protective custody in our 21st century world implies the loss of freedom, limiting who we hang out with, what we do, where we go—almost like being on house arrest with the ankle bracelet to track our every movement. The legacy of our American forefathers would not approve of “protective custody.” Today’s fathers—including the mothers—balance the challenges of home, work, and family. The old Law of Moses administered by the Pharisees would complicate that balance making protective custody more like imprisonment than freedom.

This Fathers Day we can celebrate the freedom God granted us by replacing the Old Law with the New Law. The New Covenant that was sealed with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ freed fathers—and mothers—simpler and more expansive: Love God. Love your neighbor, as you want to be loved.

Paul explains to Galatians how the law worked: “24 . . . The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.” God demonstrated how fathers raise their children. As our children develop through childhood, the parents keep children in “protective custody.” The rules are firm, the boundaries are defined, and the parents model behaviors preparing the children for adult freedom.

Parents today need God to show them how to raise their kids. Looking at the Old Testament, we can analyze the stories. Those who followed God’s law in a balanced manner raised healthy, faithful families. Yet, some Old Testament stories tell us that making too many laws, demanding unreasonable expectations, and putting others in front of God separated the families from God and sometimes separated the families.

Of course a cautionary statement in this conversation is necessary. God gave humans free will and there is evil in the world. Parents exercising strict application of the law can discover that being legalistic separates them from their children. The Pharisee’s strict application of the law and the evil that crept in also combined to destroy the relationship of God and his children.

God’s law became the Pharisee’s law and through the strict application of the laws added to the original Ten Commandments. Understanding the Law of Moses became difficult for faithful families. Mistakes were made, distance developed, and evil’s influence grew. God, as the Heavenly Father, had to make a tough decision.

Despite the centuries of prophecies, God could not manage the Pharisee’s overly strict development of the Law of Moses, nor could he control evil influences that were luring the faithful away from the parent-child relationship God had with humanity. A change had to happen.

As parents, we all know that sickening feeling that comes when we have to administer an appropriate consequence or punishment. God must have had that same sick feeling, but he made the decision to do what was best for his children. He stepped in personally in the form of Jesus Christ, the man.

Fathers, and mothers, who experience the pain of wayward children know that they do try to do everything they can to keep them from self-destructing. Would not they make a decision to exchange places with the child to protect them from destruction?

God did just that. As a parent, he decided to make some changes personally rather than leave it up to the Pharisees and the prophets. A hands-on approach was the final parenting method that God chose to remove the “protective custody” and teach a better way to live as caretakers of this world. God chose love over law.

This week in particular (June 12-19, 2016) we have witnessed parents experience heart-wrenching pain as their children are destroyed. Evil lurks in some of the most surprising places. Every time newscasters, politicians, friends, or families talk over the events that have cost lives of somebody’s children, a question is posed: How come this evil keeps happening?

The question for Christians is really more about how come God’s New Covenant, the new law, of loving one is not more widely used. Do we raise our children knowing the immense value of applying God’s Golden Rule: Love one another, as you want to be loved. Parents faithful to God raise children to know how to love one another.

Sadly, though, the free will factor and evil can step in and destroy the loving child parents struggled to raise. Yet, knowing that all our best efforts may not provide the ‘protective custody’ needed to guarantee our sons and daughters live a Christ-like or Christ-filled life should not keep us from trying.

In answer to the cries heard on the news broadcasts this past week begging for an answer as to why all the evil keeps happening, one can only ask: Have you remained faithful to God, our Heavenly Father? Faith in God may not prevent the violence or tragic accidents, but with faith in God we are given the strength to manage the grief, the outrage, the sorrow, and the hate that can creep into our lives.

This Fathers Day can be the perfect day to reaffirm our faith in God. In the lectionary’s commentary the points out some truths we must remember:

  • It is time to let people know that being Christian does not mean that every day we “Put on a Happy Faith.” (p.171)
  • When we see how far we and the world (and also the church) fall short, we have reasons to grieve. But we also have reasons to hope that our holy grief will not have the last word. (p.172)
  • Christ really can step into the hurts of our lives and make us all new (p.172)

These truths remind each of us that God, our Heavenly Father, experiences the same parent emotions we do. When a world is shocked by evil’s actions such as we witnessed this past week, as God’s children we must reconfirm our own relationship with God.

We need to remember that evil is always close at hand. We need to remember that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. We need to remember that being Christian is not a one time agreement, it is a life-long commitment.

Do all that you can, with your children, the neighbors’ kids, the kids down the block; in any way that you can whether a friendly wave, a casual conversation, an invitation, a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, or a hug when there are tears. We are God’s presence in our communities. We are the only way some will ever meet God. We, as faithful followers of God, the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, are the fathers and the mothers of the future.

Closing prayer

Our Father, who are in heaven,

Give us the nourishment of faith

Needed to protect our families from turmoil.

Grant us understanding of scripture’s wisdom

So we can continue to live in your protective custody.

Fill us with the Holy Spirit

In order to serve one another in love.

Thank you for the leadership of your Son

Showing us that the Golden Rule works.

May we revel in your unending love.

May we discover the strength faith provides.

May we use all the gifts you provide

So we may be Christ-like witnesses today. –Amen.

 

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Veil or Mirror

given on Sunday, February 7, 2016 

 

 

Veil or Mirror?

 

Scripture Foundation: 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 NLT

12 Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. 14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.

16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

4 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way,[a] we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.

Reflection:

 

            Waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror is not one of the more reassuring steps of the day. The eyes are not focused, the skin looks tired, the hair is a fright, and a frown seems permanently cemented in the mirror. Thank goodness no one else sees it.

Yet a transfiguration does occur once you complete the morning routine. Maybe it is a cup of coffee or tea to begin or maybe it starts with a morning shower or a shave. Each routine step begins changing the image in the mirror. By the time you finish the routine and the shoes are on, the watch adjusted on the wrist, and the last check in the mirror shows a much-improved image ready to face the day.

The transformation from the sleepy image in the mirror to the polished image ready for the day takes a well-practiced routine each day. The transfiguration that Moses underwent was a result of the face-to-face meeting with God on the mountain. The transfiguration of Jesus came in the meeting with Moses and Elijah while praying on the mountain. Our personal transfiguration is a process that must be followed daily.

Consider each example as outlined in scripture:

  • Exodus 34:When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant,[a] he wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord.
  • Luke 9: 29 And as he (Jesus) was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

 

The stories of these transfigurations provides a range of comparisons and contrasts, but the results were the same—the radiance. Both experiences are recorded as a radiance that was so bright, so dazzling white that it could blind those seeing their faces.

In the Old Testament story of Moses, the radiance was so intense that people were frightened. Moses began wearing a veil to hide the radiance while he was out with the people and he removed the veil when in the presence of God only.

Jesus’ transfiguration did not frighten the people in the same manner. Instead, the radiance in Jesus’ face drew people to him. The veil protected the ancient Israelites, but with Jesus the veil was removed—allegorically. With Jesus, the radiance is love. Love, God’s love, reaches out to others and they are drawn to those who mirror God’s love.

The question for each of us is “Does our face reflect God’s radiance?” When others meet us at home, at work or at play do they see radiance or do they see a veil? When you look in the mirror each morning, do you see a veil or do you see God’s radiance?

Today, Christians celebrate the transfiguration and many will also share the bread and the cup in the sacrament of communion that reminds us of God’s . Following Jesus transforms our lives. Each morning, we must look at the mirror image and prepare to face a new day. Do we radiate God’s image or do we put on a veil?

Moses chose to wear a veil when he was not in the temple because his transfiguration resulted in such a brilliant image that it frightened others. Jesus did not wear a veil to cover the radiance evident to the disciples. The radiance no longer needed a veil; rather it needs a mirror.

Paul was blinded in order to get his attention. Yet, when he accepted Jesus as his savior, his life mirrored that radiance as he began his missionary work. Paul’s transfiguration drew others to Christ. Certainly he did not wear a veil; he mirrored God’s radiance.

In the second letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, the process to be a mirror of God is provided:

4 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way,[a] we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.

 

The way to be transfigured into a mirror of God begins with accepting the gift of his son Jesus Christ. It means acknowledging that Christ died for our sins, to simplify the Law of Moses into the New Law–love one another.

Sharing in the bread and the cup is much like looking into the mirror each morning. Each time we partake in the ritual, we are removing the veil from our faces. We commit ourselves to being the mirror image of God in all that we do.

Paul told the Corinthians:

16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Look in the mirror each morning and check to see if you are wearing a veil or whether you are mirroring God’s image radiating love to all you meet.

Take the bread, take the cup and lift the veil from your life. Let God’s love transfigure your life so that you are a mirror of God’s love. The process includes reading scripture, prayer, worship, and service. Over the next 40+ days of Lent, challenge yourself to read Scripture. Share what you learn, discuss it with others, and pray. The transformation will mirror God’s love to all you meet.

Closing prayer:

Dear Loving Father,

Without you, mornings are cloudy

And my image does not mirror your love.

With you, clouds are cleared

And your love radiates even from me.

Thank you for the gift of your son.

May we drop the veils from our lives

And mirror your radiance

So others may see the transfiguration

In their own lives. –Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Out with the Old. In with the New.

given on Sunday, November 15, 2015

Scripture: Hebrew 10:10-25 (NLT & MSG)

Reflection

Out with the old and in with the new. The phrase echoes in our minds as we clean out a drawer, sort through papers, or weed out the clothes in the closet. All the old, worn out items are purged. This process must be done sooner or later, and the process is slow and difficult because the old items often trigger very strong memories and emotional reactions. Out with the old takes time.

The Message translation of Hebrews 10 begins: “The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan.” Imagine how ancient Israelites heard the Disciples share the “new plan.”

The faith these earliest Christians knew was the Old Law, the Law of Moses that was thousands of years old. The Torah, now the first five books of the Old Testament, provided the Jewish people the very structure of daily life and the spiritual practices that created the very culture in which they lived.

Of course the earliest Christians were not all Jewish, still the new way suggested a new way of thinking. Even if the new plan was simpler, making a shift in ones engrained way of life is extremely difficult.

Think about cleaning out the catch-all drawer or the closet. How long has this item or that been sitting there? Is that item used even once in the last month? What about the last year? Out with the old and in with the new.

God cleaned out the old way with the birth, life and death of Jesus. The new way had to replace the extremely complex and rigid Law of Moses. Jesus was able to demonstrate the new way during his brief ministry in a compelling manner that drew crowds along the roads and outside the doors of new believers.

The message shared was one filled with hope.   Love God above all others; and love one another as you want to be loved. Simple, direct and manageable: the new way allows room for differences.

The new Christians carried the message beyond the villages and soon the New Law extended around the Mediterranean Sea. The new way was accepted by those who knew the Old Covenant and by the non-Jewish people—even the pagans heard the news. The new way changed lives, changed cultures, and changed history.

The world is rushing at us and we are all discovering that keeping up with the changes is difficult. The chant “out with the old and in with the new” becomes overwhelming and may seem too demanding of us personally.

When my grandmother died in 1995, she was just shy of her 97th birthday. Born in 1898, our conversation during the visitation and funeral was to consider what she witnessed during her lifetime:

  • electricity,
  • telephone communication,
  • World War I, WWII, Korea—where two of her sons served, Vietnam, and even Desert Storm
  • prohibition and even participated in active protests against drinking
  • the Great Depression,
  • the Dust Bowl,
  • the installation of president after president including death of FDR, JFK’s assassination, the resignation of Nixon, and
  • the Civil Rights movement.

She witnessed “out with the old and in with the new” in so many different contexts. Yet, these changes are minor compared to that God made from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.

The old ways were cumbersome and difficult to follow. The faithful had thousands of years to hear God, to follow God, and to correct the behaviors, but they continued to fail. God saw the problem and created a new way sending the Messiah to share the good news: out with the Old Way and in with the New Way:

19-21 So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. (The Message)

The Old Covenant, the old way, had to change. God’s decision was to simplify the Jewish Law or Torah. The New Way transformed the lives of the ancient Jews but also our lives even today in the 21st century.

This morning, November 15, the world is reeling from another vicious attack in Paris, France. The ancient world’s old ways interrupted today’s world in the city traditionally known as the “City of Love.” How easy it would be to shout, “Love one another as you want to be loved.” The New Way takes work.

Nothing we do here in our community can cure the pain in France, but we can do our part in the worldly culture right here, right now. We must commit to the one mission God asks of us. We are to find the best way that we can to share the good news of Christ and make new Christians:

22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. (The Message)

Out with the old and in with the new ways of sharing the God’s good news. The task of cleaning out the old is not easy, nor will it be easy to find the best way to share the new, especially in the smaller congregations.

Yet with the confidence of those earliest disciples, we can bring in the new. In the Abingdon theological commentary for this week’s lectionary (Year B) and after the violence in Paris, the need for the Good News is essential:

“. . . [the last portion of Hebrews 10 is] the reminder that the need for endurance is still very present. . . . this side of September 11, 2001 and the financial crisis, people are full of fear—not of the living God, but rather for their future security. For others this is because, in the midst of a secular culture, they don’t really know what it means to trust in a living God who acts redemptively in our world. For still others it is because, even if Jesus still attracts, the church itself seems lifeless and irrelevant—not really the body of Christ for the sake of the world. . . . (p. 321).

If any one of us or any group, regardless of denomination, feels called to carry out a mission that can provide a means of grace for others, then the church’s responsibility is to “just say yes.” (Bishop Schnase’s latest book title is Just Say Yes borrowed from Sedalia’s First UMC pastor Jim Downing’s mission.)

Today’s culture is redefining church. The tools of communication have changed dramatically just like it did when my own grandmother’s world installed the first phone in their homes. Certainly it is difficult to learn or to feel comfortable with the new way, but the outcome will be immeasurable.

Ministries, too, have changed. The closest community is within a few miles radius of the church physically, but many churchgoers will drive as much as an hour to attend church that meets their spiritual and cultural mindset.

Many in the immediate community of a church are struggling with the basic needs in life so that takes a priority over church involvement. Does the church in that community work to meet those needs? Churches that focus on the ministry within the immediate community tend to grow.

Bishop Schnase has asked our churches to “just say yes” to the work God calls us individually or as a church to do. How do we do that? When a member develops a ministry idea, can put together a team to carry it out, and has the funds for the project—just say yes.

Churches of all sizes know that a new idea that is put off week after week, month after month dies before it can even get started. Just saying yes to someone’s project will keep God’s work going. Do you and thus the church say no to the new way or do you say yes?

Today’s churches must let go of the old ways in order to reach people in today’s culture. The new ways may feel uncomfortable, rather like a new pair of shoes; but once the shoe, oops, the new methods are broken in, the effectiveness of the church’s mission improves.

Just say yes to trying new ways. Saying yes does not guarantee that a new way will be successful, but if it is not tried, its purpose or its reach will never succeed. The church does have a financial responsibility, but growth comes only if certain risks are taken.

Any project or program suggested needs manpower and supplies. If our responsibility is to share the Good News and to bring others to know Christ, then we must say yes:

32-39 Remember those early days after you first saw the light? Those were the hard times! Kicked around in public, targets of every kind of abuse—some days it was you, other days your friends. If some friends went to prison, you stuck by them. If some enemies broke in and seized your goods, you let them go with a smile, knowing they couldn’t touch your real treasure. Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. So don’t throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It’s still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion. (The Message; emphasis added)

These are the words of the earliest disciples. They said yes to the call to the New Way and we must, too. We must find ways to try and try again, knowing that some things may fail, but new ways will bring others to Christ.

Leading others to know Christ and to see their lives transformed by God’s grace is a worthy goal. The old ways churches have used may not work as well as new ways:

Part of the new way inaugurated by Christ is not only embracing a new way of living for oneself but also of living with others. Churches are called to move beyond individualistic piety to embrace communal practices of witness. . . . Today’s texts [referring to I Samuel 1:4-20 and 2:1-10] bear witness to God’s unexpected life-giving power. (p. 324)

Each of us must search our hearts to know what God asks us to do. If we cannot, then we must ask God how we can say yes so others may carry on the work of the church. Just saying yes also means not saying no to others’ ideas for ministry.

The message in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 confirms the necessity of just saying yes:

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. [The Message; emphasis added]

Closing prayer

Dear patient and loving God,

Saying yes is difficult in a world full of uncertainties,

But we hear your commission to share the good news.

Open our hearts, minds and hands to minister to others.

Speak to us with new ideas, new methods, and new missions.

We can say yes to doing in the best way we can

So those who are weary from life’s demands may find hope.

Show us how to help others with new ways

Even if we feel old ways were better in our lives.

Let us be the vessel for sharing your love

In our own community and even the worldwide community.

May our efforts work on your behalf

So others may be filled with the Holy Spirit today and forever.

In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, amen.

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