April 28, 2013 Faith into Action: Acts 9, Ps 148
Message: (Note this is not the message delivered on Sunday: it has been edited to better suit posting on the website.)
Harry Chapin wrote a song titled, Just Like Me. In the first part of the song, the son of the singer asks his father, “When are you coming home, Dad.” and the father replies, “Sometime soon, Son. We’ll get together then, Son.” The last part of the song has the father asking the son when is he coming home, and the son replies, “I don’t know Dad. Sometime soon. We’ll get together then, Dad.” And the last line is “My boy grew up just like me.”
Words are powerful, and words are cheap. There were 12 disciples, and a larger group of followers around Jesus. Most of them have no history past the end of the Gospels. The first Christian martyr was Stephen, who was not one of the 12. The most successful evangelist was Paul.
A seed is a seed until it sprouts. Homework is homework until it is done. Blueprints are just blueprints until someone turns them into a reality.
Paul and Luther emphasized the importance of faith –“It is by faith alone that we are saved.” But faith that is not visibly expressed is empty. To claim that Jesus is the lord of our lives, and then pursue action that contradicts his teaching raises the question of what kind of lord is meant.
Faith-based action grounded Paul’s life. His story in Acts is very interesting, even if it does not match the content of his letters. Today’s reading marks the ending of his persecution of the followers of Jesus, and the beginning of his life as an evangelist.
I also found what Jesus said to Ananias thought provoking.
But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”
Paul goes on to risk his life preaching in Damascus and Jerusalem, upsetting another group at the same time.
The author of a book on leading congregational change wrote of the evening he led an eye-opening meeting of pastors, and finished the evening with a conversation with God. He asked God for the wisdom to provide the leadership needed by the churches under his mandate, and committed to doing whatever was necessary to go the way God would lead him. He added that if he had known what the costs would , he might not have been so quick to make that promise. God leads us into change that upsets the comfortable and those who are invested in the existing ways of doing things; and their responses are often very negative.
What kinds of changes could we consider at St. Matthew’s? Last Wednesday I attended a workshop sponsored by the Bow Trail Regional Group on the Poverty Reduction Strategy being developed by the City of Calgary. While there were many interesting parts, the piece that seemed to have the most relevance to St. Matthew’s was the need to develop community centres. What was offered included many things, but discussion afterward included many different activities about different kinds of community centres. Two women have opened their house to their community for a variety of activities from drop-in visits to Easter egg hunts and a barn dance. A group in Rosscarrock are having monthly potluck suppers.
Bethany Chapel made a decision to be more of a light in their community, and hosting this workshop was one product of their decision.
A friend who belonged to the Mormon Church invited me to a Wednesday evening event at the Stake down 17 Ave. from here. There were numerous family-focused activities for every day of the week.
Between my own inclinations, the workshop last week, and a conversation with a colleague this week, I would like to see this congregation to commit to exploring possibilities that would help St. Matthew’s become a hub for this community. I will be going to future meetings of the Bow Trail Regional Group to learn about possibilities they see for us, and probably even hosting one or more of their meetings.
We can consider changes in our spaces and how they are used. Providing special training opportunities may help people from our congregation and the community make a difference in the community through their interests and passions.
Each thing we do builds our confidence in our ability to make a difference, and strengthens our faith. Many of the outcomes of what we do grow our gratitude to God for the opportunities and ability to make a difference.
People have been creatures of action for hundreds of thousands of years. It is in our doing that our believing is both expressed and reinforced. It is in our service of others that we find our fullest humanity. May God use our sharing today to lead us into the future where God waits for us. Amen.