Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of April 10, 2016

“Untapped Resource”

At the time of the Resurrection, the typical resources we might think necessary for what would become the early church were scant to say the least.   There was no property, or parochial schools, no parish halls or parking lots.  There was not a single sanctuary, sacristy, or synod. 

Before the collection of sacred writings we call the Bible, the physical resources of the early church were mostly made of flesh and bone.

Granted, these were precious resources, including those who walked, talked, ate with and traveled with Jesus.  They had the promise and comfort of the sacraments and the Words of the Savior Himself but for the most part, the brick and mortar resources that define the church today were far from the minds of the followers of “The Way.”

In contrast, the Jewish establishment was entrenched in centuries of ritual and rules.  And there were plenty of physical places to go.  There were synagogues for teaching and, of course, there was the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was still the cultural and spiritual center for the majority in Israel.  The resources of Judaism were immense, both physical and personal.  They were assets for continuance of the status quo. 

The Pharisees and the Sadducees directed the daily life of the people.  The High Priest along with the Sanhedrin ensured the masses were following the laws.  The temple in Jerusalem was the only location for sacrifice and where forgiveness was to be found. 

Then there is Saul, who was described as a Pharisee among Pharisees. He was an asset for the establishment.   However, to the followers of “The Way,” those who had seen the risen Christ, Saul was a liability, not an asset. 

Our text for today from Acts chapter 9 picks up the story, “Saul kept threatening to murder the Lord’s disciples.  He went to the chief priest and asked him to write letters of authorization to the synagogue leaders in the city of Damascus.  Saul wanted to arrest any man or woman who followed the way of Christ and imprison them in Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2)

At this point Paul was a resource of oppression, persecution, and hate towards the church and he came with credentials.

He studied under the prominent teacher Gamaliel, and was considered a prime example of how devout Jews should behave. 

He knew his Scriptures, he followed every point of the Law, and he was in the eyes of many perfect because of his obedience.

He was tapped to do harm not to help.

He was chosen and set for a purpose—to destroy the church and its followers.

Our text continues, “As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?’  Saul asked, ‘Who are you, sir?’ The person replied, ‘I’m Jesus, the one you are persecuting.  Get up, go into the city, and you will be told what you should do.” (Acts 9:3-6)

Saul is confronted on the road with the presence of Jesus himself.  In that moment things changed.  His allegiance was transferred.  Jesus did not see him as a liability but our generous God saw him as an untapped resource. 

In that moment the Pharisee became a man filled with humility.  His pride was cut down, his self righteousness shattered.  He was blind both physically and spiritually.

He would in short time come to know himself as the chief of sinners and would soon profess a personal faith in Jesus the Messiah.

This man, called Saul, also known as Paul would go on to be one of the most influential people in all Christianity. 

In the book of Philippians Paul described this complete change that happened in him.  He writes, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:4b-9)

Paul was an untapped resource actively working against the Lord, but God chose him for a purpose, set him on a path and provided him exactly what he needed.   He does the same for you. 
Many times our thoughts and actions would place us in the same camp as Saul the Pharisee.  We strive, and work for what we desire.  We are spiritually blind. 

Even if we think our intentions are good, we put confidence in our own abilities.  We often think of ourselves better than others.  We look down on those who are different than us, who don’t work as hard.
How often do you put confidence in the flesh?  I do, far often than I want to admit.  Everyone one of us has done harm and not helped when we should.  Our credentials read, sinner, in thought, word and deed.  Your actions make you a liability to the Lord.  Your sin…my sin…all sin separates us from God. 

Here in this place we too are confronted with the presence of Jesus.  He comes to us when we hear the readings, when we witness water being splashed on one of God’s own, when we kneel together as one and are fed by Christ himself.  In Christ our sin has been forgiven, we are set on a new path, our allegiance has been transferred. 

In this place, through faith, God is preparing you to be a resource in the world. Like Saul you have been chosen and set for a purpose.  Are you an untapped resource?  How can God use you?
However you spend your days, be it at the office, in the classroom, in the factory or shop, at home, or in countless places in between, God has chosen you to be a resource for him. 
You are an asset for God’s plan and His will is done through you. 

As Martin Luther once said, God himself will milk the cows through him whose vocation that is.”
Whatever vocation you have been given, you are a resource for God. 

Lutheran theologian Gene Veith said it this way, When I go into a restaurant, the waitress who brings me my meal, the cook in the back who prepared it, the delivery men, the wholesalers, the workers in the food-processing factories, the butchers, the farmers, the ranchers, and everyone else in the economic food chain are all being used by God to ‘give me this day my daily bread.’”

What resource have you been given that can be used for His Glory?  How might you be an asset to the Lord’s work? 

Here at Bethany we are making the first steps on a journey of campus renaissance.  We have added staff, we will be starting a capital campaign, we hope to be swinging hammers and pouring concrete at some point in the near future.  What resources can you bring to the community here at Bethany?  What untapped resources are out there?  It could be physical or financial, but whatever it is it can be used for God’s glory.

If you want to get involved, please let me know, talk to Pastor Kevin and we would love to find a way for you to be an asset to Bethany. 

The Lord continues to point to untapped resources, to Saul, to you and to me.  He gives you the credentials to do it as he calls you his own in Faith, forgives you of your sin and points you to the cross, for we, like Paul, can count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ and him crucified and risen again.

In Him we can be a resource to the world, so that many may know our generous God and in him live a generous life.

Let us pray…

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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