Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Bethany Bullet - October 2, 2012

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."

"Okay," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."

"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"

"Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service."

"Terrific!" says St. Peter, "that's certainly worth a point."

"One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."

"Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says.

"TWO POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!"

Do good works save you? Do good works bring salvation? The scriptures point out over and over again that there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s grace or to merit salvation. 

In fact the Lutheran Church has been preaching Grace alone, Faith alone, and Scripture alone since the time of Martin Luther.

From Ephesians 2, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

It is true that our good works are worthless in God’s eyes. They bring us no benefit, they do not satisfy the requirements of God and in reality we are not really capable of ‘doing good.’

Isaiah tells us that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6b)

In fact it might be easy to simply live a life of faith alone. But today we are confronted with a text that challenges the notion of faith alone. 

From James, chapter 2, “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? …In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead.”  (James 2:14 & 26)

This is not an isolated passage in scripture:

In John’s first letter we read the following, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Paul told the Galatians, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially those who are from the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

In the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25 we hear these words of Jesus, “In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

What’s with all this good works stuff?

A story is told of an encounter that Martin Luther had with one of his students at the University of Wittenberg. Luther had just completed a lecture on the idea of grace and faith alone, apart from works. A young student asked the question, “So, what you are saying is that my deeds do not matter and I can do whatever I want? Luther responded, “In Christian freedom you can do whatever you desire, but my friend, in view of what our Savior has done, what do you want to do?”

From James chapter 2, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16)

You see, just talking about serving is not what Scripture calls us to do.  In the pages of the scripture we are urged to serve with passion and compassion. 

You can be in church every week and go to multiple Bible studies, to use our blueprint language, you can worship faithfully and be formed spiritually but if you are not serving passionately, what good is it?

Workless faith is worthless faith.
If works are absent, then faith is phony.
People with dead faith substitute words for works.
Faith without deeds is only intellectual knowledge.
Faith alone will never clothe or feed the needy.
Talking about the situation does no one any good. 
If you are going to talk the talk, you got to walk the walk.

This is not a contradiction of faith alone but rather the way faith flows, from heart to hands.

The key to understanding the concept of serving passionately is coming to realization that faith is never alone.

Yes, faith alone saves, but that faith is never alone.

Paul summed it up this way, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

When you have experienced the life-changing message of the cross; when the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in your heart; when you have encountered the living Christ in worship and in study you will find yourself serving passionately.  Jesus became utterly alone on the cross as he died so that you might never be alone.  Through the open tomb he promises to be with you forever.  The promise of faith is something we can hold on to and that faith has power and that faith is never alone.

Luther said it this way, “Oh, it is a living, busy active, powerful thing that we have in faith so that it is impossible for it not to do good without ceasing.  Nor does it ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has done them and is always engaged in doing them.”

Faith and good works do not have a separate existence they are bound together.  Faith is never alone. 

Who are these good works for?  We already said that God does not need them.  We cannot earn salvation or a better place in heaven, so they have no tangible benefit for us.  Why do them?  Good works are not for us but for others. When we serve passionately we share the passion and service of Christ with others.  We have the privilege to point someone to the savior through works done in faith.  What an awesome thing! 

The same could be said of Jesus.  Listen to his words, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

The Goal of Worshiping Faithfully and Forming Spiritually are not to be filled up, but to overflow to others.  Someone needs your service.

What about you?  Are you engaged in passionate service?  Are you so filled up that you are overflowing in words and works for the benefit of others?

Perhaps you have kept the idea of service at arm’s length to remain safely unaffected by God’s Word.  Sure, you say, you have faith but no one can have a faith filled relationship with Jesus and remain the same.

Perhaps you don’t know where to start? 
Here is a list:
  • Acolytes and Crucifers: Youth in grades 5-12, assist in worship
  • Coffee and Doughnuts: Youth help serving on Sunday mornings
  • Greeters: Welcome worshipers as they arrive before worship.
  • Lay Readers: Read the Word of God in worship
  • Lay Lectors: Assist the pastor in worship with leading prayers, liturgy, etc.
  • Ushers: Provide leadership, friendliness, hospitality to worshipers. 
  • Nursery: Provide love and care for little ones during worship, Bible studies, and other church special events.
  • Welcome Table: greet visitors and give them a gift and get contact information from them for follow-up
  • Counters: Help count and record offerings that are collected each week.
  • Sound Tech: Set up needed sound equipment and run sound board during worship
  • Music Ministry
o   Trinity Choir: 3rd-5th grade, Troubadour Choir: 6th-8th grade, Celebrate! Choir: High School, Senior Choir: Adult Choir, Youth Bells: High School, Intermediate Bells, Advanced Bells, Soloist or Instrumentalist
  • Sunday Morning Prayer Group
  • Prayer Chain (via email)
  • Chimers Circle: Help with special mailings
  • Friday Folders: Help assemble weekly worship folders
  • Noah’s Place Bookstore: volunteer for Sunday morning shifts in the store
  • Thursday Lawn and Gardening: take care of lawn and grounds of the church
  • Church repair and maintenance: work projects in partnership with the board of Trustees.
  • Lutheran Braille Workers: Prepare Christian Braille materials and books of the Bible.
  • Altar Assistants: assist in communion prep and cleanup, care of alter linens, candles, robes, assistance with weddings and funerals, decorating Sanctuary for special services, delivering flowers etc.
  • Moms In Prayer: Prays for children and schools
  • Boy Scouts
  • Girl Scouts
  • Project Task Force: Meets as needed to work on church projects, funeral luncheons, etc.
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Sunday School Teacher
  • Youth Ministry Volunteer
  • Confirmation Table Guide
  • Confirmation Mentors
  • Church Governance positions: Serve as President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary for the congregation
  • Church Boards: Serve on one of the boards to help the day-to-day ministry at Bethany. Boards include:
o   Elders: Oversees worship and related matters
o   Discipleship: coordinates congregational education and stewardship
o   Evangelism: helps in welcoming new members, and is the face of Bethany in the community
o   Finance: oversees the financial portion of ministry and the budget
o   Schools: coordinates the ministry of Bethany Lutheran Day school and Preschool
o   Trustees: provides upkeep and maintenance for the physical plant and property of the church
o   Youth: guides all youth programs of the church and oversees stipend youth workers
o   Committees: work in partnership with various boards for particular tasks.  Standing committees include: Endowment Committee, Community Impact, Project Taskforce.
  • Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity: Help Thrivent and Habitat build houses locally for qualifying families.  Group work days are on scheduled on Saturdays.  Individual work days are available Wednesday through Friday when a site is in operation.
  • Christian Outreach in Action: Help serve a hot meal to the homeless or help support the varied ministries of COA, located in downtown Long Beach.

If you need more information about any of these areas, or want to start serving, let us know, we would be glad to help.

Mother Theresa once said, “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

Serving passionately is our vocation in our homes, in our church, and in our communities. By serving we have the opportunity to be the representation of Jesus out there, but we also have the opportunity to care the brothers and sisters in here.  This is how you can serve this body, for when you serve them, you serve HIM.

The Bethany Blueprint is not a random or chaotic order but is structured with a purpose. We begin with worship. It is our foundation, the start of our week, because we are weak, we return week after week regularly. But we know that those who are here regularly do not want to leave God here when we are out there so we strive to form spiritually and in so doing the word grows in us more deeply. Of course the goal of our time in the word is not mere head knowledge for as he is in us more and more deeply His love will flow from us more and more freely, hence we will serve passionately.
-Pastor Seth Moorman


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