Why do people, especially Christians, act out of bitter envy and selfish ambition? What is the biblical alternative to such a lifestyle? How can we glorify God through a life of wisdom? These and other questions are answered by James 3:13-4:8, which form the sermon text from yesterday’s message at Mt. Haley. Click below to hear Pastor David’s sermon!
On Saturday, September 22, five of us from Mt. Haley – four adults and one child – helped distribute food to people in the tri-county region at Dow Diamond. In the span of six hours, we filled the trunks and backseats of cars representing about 950 families! This massive food giveaway was organized by a group called Filling Midland’s Cup, which has grown out of the ministries of Messiah Lutheran Church. I was impressed by the quality of the food donations that came in from individuals and groups from around the area. People received a wide variety of healthy foods, including a good bit of fresh produce. (I’ve never seen so many onions in my life!)
The five of us from Mt. Haley served in a variety of capacities. Some of us were in the ballpark where people gathered to wait for their numbers to be called. We greeted, talked with, and encouraged those who came. We heard their stories and gave them the gift of our time and friendship. Others of us worked in the food distribution system, filling carts with groceries, taking the carts outside to the waiting cars, and filling the cars with the greatly-desired and greatly-appreciated goods.
As I reflect on this experience, I have a few thoughts to share with you:
- There are many needs in our community. I was amazed at the seemingly endless stream of cars – of people – that came to receive help with their personal groceries. From 9am until around 3:45pm, there were perhaps one or two moments when the line of cars dwindled down to one or two. The work was constant and unending. When the final cars had left the distribution area, I had trouble believing that the work was really done. I was struck by how many individuals within driving distance of Dow Diamond came for help with groceries. That made me think: do any of these folks live in the neighborhood of our church, so we might continue to reach out to them in Christ’s love?
- Some folks don’t have a car. This is easy for us to forget, especially those of us who have a car (or two or three) and have always enjoyed ease of transportation. Perhaps ten or twelve of the people who came through the line on Saturday did so on foot or on bicycle. I helped a couple pack their backpacks full of food supplies and load bags of groceries onto their bicycles’ handlebars. They made two trips before all their goods made it home, which thankfully was not far away. Others arranged for their groceries to be driven home in volunteers’ cars. That made me think: what do we take for granted?
- Everyone was grateful. I was blessed to serve at the main “point of contact” – where groceries and trunks met each other, where volunteers and guests met each other. Through the span of over 900 vehicles, I never saw at individual upset, angry, frustrated, or disappointed, either with the long wait in line (several hours for some) or with the food gifts. Some folks I saw were literally jumping up and down in excitement for what they were receiving; one lady called this “Christmas in September.” That made me think: how can we be more grateful on a daily basis?
- All of this was done in the name of Christ. We didn’t push the gospel on people; we didn’t ask people if they knew Jesus as their Savior; we didn’t even check to see if they really needed this help. This was a “come one, come all” event. Anyone and everyone was invited to come and receive a blessing from God, orchestrated and organized and worked out by the hands of fellow disciples of Christ. That made me think: how can we continue to share Christ’s love with people in the future?
Here’s a short video about this event. Please take a few minutes to watch it!
I am writing this just after the conclusion of the National Conventions of America’s two major political parties. Much of our primetime television in the past two weeks has focused on these two conventions, the speakers, speeches, fact-checking efforts, and political reactions. Now more than ever, our nation is focused on one election (although many will occur in November): Who will be our next President?
Both campaigns have shown, and will continue to show, just how negative their advertisements can be with respect to each other. I don’t believe it’s pessimistic at all to suggest that the next several weeks might be full of attack ads and fiercely negative communication from both sides.
In your devotional time, take a few moments to read Romans 13. In this short chapter, Paul encourages Christians to submit to the governing authorities. Remember that these people were living in Rome, the center of the Roman Empire and primary location of persecution of Christians in the early years of our movement. For Christians to submit to the Roman emperor must have been very difficult indeed, especially when some of those emperors (such as Nero, Domitian, and Tragan) executed Christians regularly.
This chapter agrees with Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 22:34-40 that fulfilling God’s law is summarized by the requirement to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul encourages this way of living through “understanding the present time”: the time of salvation was drawing close for Paul and the early Christians. This may suggest a belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ, which is always drawing closer, or it may reflect the potential for early Christians’ lives to end quickly due to Roman persecution. In either case, understanding the present time was crucial for the church’s success in dealing with the hardships they were facing.
Friends, as we approach this presidential election, let us remember to pray for our elected leaders. Let us give thanks that we do not face violent persecution for our faith, nor do we experience violent transitions of power like many other people groups throughout history. Let us submit to our governing authorities, pay taxes, give respect and honor where it is due, and love our neighbors as ourselves. No matter what the result of the election – whether you are pleased or displeased, frightened or calmed by it – remember that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ!
Throughout September, our sermons will focus on the New Testament book called James. This very practical letter speaks clearly into our world and into our lives. In James 1:16-27, Pastor David helps us find how personal holiness and social holiness are part of our responsibility as believers in Christ. Click below to hear this sermon!