Two weeks ago I received a call from someone wanting financial help from the church because her car had blown an engine. I referred her to the Seton center,
as all the churches here in town have covenanted with the Seton Center to do. She told me she already contacted them and they couldn't help. I asked her why they couldn't help, but
she wouldn't tell me.
She then decided to take out her frustration on me, she became very nasty and really laid into me about how all pastors and churches are worthless and don't
really want to help people. They don't "practice what they preach" she said.
I tried to calm her down and then asked her if she had contacted her church and if she was aware of what her church did to help others. No answer. I asked her
which church she belonged to and when she last attended or spoke to her pastor. Again, no answer. So I asked her how she even knew that the pastors and churches in the area don't
help people. She had no answer and went on for about five more minutes being critical about God, the church, and all Christians.
When I could get a word in I invited her to worship with us, to come and experience Jesus. But she expressed no interest with the invitation and went on and
on about how everyone gets help but her, so on and so forth until I ended the call.
Regrettably this attitude is not uncommon. Some folks are truly overwhelmed by their situation and don't know what to do, they just want help, and do get very
frustrated. But there are other people who treat God and Christ's Church like a vending machine. When they have a need, or want something, they'll approach God or the church to have
their need or want met. The need could be physical or spiritual, but the point is these folks come to God and/or the Church only when they want something.
Some in need will perhaps come one Sunday, say a few amen's and put something in the offering plate, then hope they did the right things to get what they
want. Much like putting coins in a vending machine and pushing A7 to get that candy bar. Once satisfied they go away until another need or want returns.
I think it's safe to say folks like this are not (w)holy committed to their faith, to God, or to Christ's church. They see no need to worship and give thanks
to God and have no intention of serving God or others in the name of Jesus. They're self-absorbed, and some simply just want to reap what they don't sow!
We see this attitude played out time and time again in our society, in many different ways. We also experience this same attitude within the body of Christ as
some "Christians" approach God as a consumer rather than as a servant or follower.
Consider the people mentioned in our scripture reading this morning. After God had blessed the Israelites they eventually went back to ignoring God and God's
ways. And this seems to be a reoccurring theme for the Israelites throughout their biblical history. And it seems every time they turn away from God their evil escalates and becomes
In the case of the event our scripture reading records, the Israelites increased the number of God's they were worshipping from the pervious time God
encountered the Israelites turning away from Him.
You see as the Israelites turned away this time they began to worship many false idols, again taking their blessings for granted, and again forgetting where
their "daily bread" comes from. They began to depend on themselves, became self-absorbed, treated God like a vending machine, and no longer were (w)holy committed to God.
And if we've learned anything over the years we've learned that if individuals are not (w)holy committed to God, society falls away as well.
If we here, the members of this local church are not (w)holy committed and supportive of the ministries of Trinity than as a church body are not (w)holy
supportive of the ministries we know are needed in this community. If those who call themselves Christians are not (w)holy committed to following Jesus than we as the body of Christ
the church are not (w)holy committed. And this just mushrooms to include the whole denomination and the church universal. You see the church in the world can only be as committed as
its members are.
Some ask why the world is such a mess. In part it's because of evil, but in larger part it's because too many Christians are not (w)holy committed to God, to
their faith and to their Church. We've become consumers not disciples.
The cycle recorded in our scripture reading of turning to God and them turning away from God continues to this day. As there is need, people turn to God. When
we think we've got a handle on things, we turn away. September 11th, 2001 is a modern day example of turning to God, and now where are we today? Throughout the past several years we
here at Trinity have been blessed by God, we've been given a great vision, we've been given resources and a passion to be the Church here in Emmitsburg and in the surrounding
communities, we've grown to be a place where people from all walks of life can have a life-changing experience with God.
But I wonder, now that things are going pretty well for us will we turn away from God, forgetting our mission, our commitment, and our need for God always and
- I'm concerned that as we begin our fall ministry we may turn away from God, by placing all other aspects of our lives ahead of our faith, and we decide not
to serve God through the church.
- I'm concerned people will choose not to participate in the ministries being offered, choosing instead other activities.
- I'm concerned that we may rely too much on the current resources we have on hand, thereby assuming we don't need to do give, serve, or participate as much
as we have. I hope my fears are unwarranted, but I feel compelled to raise our awareness to what history has shown to be our human tendency.
Again, the world is a mess and the church universal has lost power in the world because too many people have decided to do other things with their time, their
gifts, and their faith. People have turned away from God and have decided they know best. People have turned away from God to place priority on other activities.
Don't get me wrong other activities are important and I'm engaged in other things as well with my kids like sports, band, and so forth, but if we can make it
to our sports practice every week so we don't get benched, and get up early Saturday to be at the ball field or band competition on time so we can play, why can't we do the same
thing for God. If we can make it to the television on time to watch our special show every week, we ought to be able to make time for the Lord through worship, study, and prayer. Why
do we place a coach, band director, or TV character above God?
About twenty years ago a guy was talking to me about life insurance, and he was talking about how we could afford the high rate he was proposing, and as he
was looking at our budget he made the comment, "besides if you ever got into financial difficulties you could easily stop giving to the church." It seems as a society we're placing
almost everything in our lives above God and his Son's church.
If the church is going to have an influence on the world we need to commit ourselves (w)holy to the life and work of Jesus Christ and follow-through with that
commitment. As pastor of this church I'm not asking you to stop all other things in your life so you can give everything you have to the church. I'm asking you, by virtue of the
grace given to you through Jesus Christ and the sacrificial love God has shown you that you consider, with intention, over the next couple of weeks, what you'll give back to God. As
we have been blessed so too are we called to bless others. God blesses us so we can bless others in his name.
The way we give back to God is through our worship of him, acknowledging that he is our Creator and giver of all life. We also give back to God through the
sharing of our time, ideas, energy, talents, and financial resources. And as we all have no doubt experienced, through our giving, God in some mysterious way seems to bless us yet
again so we can continue this cycle of godly behavior.
We were reminded this morning of our baptismal covenant as Ky was baptized that "we are incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and are given new
birth and that we are all one in Christ Jesus." Most certainly a gift from God. So what are we doing with this gift?
And we were reminded as Roger and Cady were received as members of Trinity that:
- We are all members of the body of Christ.
- We are members of Christ's holy church, set apart, not above or below, but set apart to do the will of God.
- We are the household of God.
- And as followers of Christ we are accountable to God to the covenant we make.
The covenant I speak of is "our covenant to faithfully participate in the ministries of (Christ's) church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our
service, so that in everything we do God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
We the church must glorify God by lifting up the life, work, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No one else is given this mission. I guarantee the
VFW, the local sports association, and the schools do not exist to lift up the name of Jesus. They have another purpose, well intentioned and useful to be sure, but they're not the
chosen channel of our faith, the church is. So if the church is not faithful in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, this world has no chance.
Now I'm not here to judge your commitment to this covenant or to this local church. Your commitment is between you and God. Each of us knows what we can do
and what we ought to do, and so does God. But I do want to challenge each of us this morning with the question, "are we (w)holy committed to this covenant or are we becoming like the
Israelites and are we turning away or ignoring God and God's ways.
Am I committed to God in the way I ought to be? And do I want to commit myself to the Lord's work through Trinity?
You see God's call to commitment is more that a call of the heart it's a call to action. And growing the kingdom of God requires that we, without reservation,
be (w)holy committed. Am I a consumer or a disciple?
One way to help us with our commitment is by exercising the "expectations of members" listed in our bulletin:
- Attend worship every week unless sick or out-of-town. And if out-of-town I encourage us all to attend worship wherever we may be to worship God and give
thanks. This helps keep us centered on the one who provides for our needs.
- Participate in a Christian education opportunity either in a group setting or individually. It's important that we continue to learn more about our faith
so we're better able to live into our faith on a daily basis. We can't grow if we're not learning, and learning is a life-long process.
- Participate in a church-related outreach activity, an activity that focuses on serving others in the name of Jesus. My hope is each person will do this at
least once per year. Serving allows us to share our faith with others in a very tangible way.
- And regular financial giving. Did you know that giving money to the church is a spiritual act, not a financial act? We give out of thanks and so the
church's ministries can be resourced to spread the Gospel.
Our commitment to the church is important because God has chosen the church as His vehicle for spreading the teaching and love of Jesus Christ. If we don't
support and serve the church then we're not supporting God. And if we're not supporting God then we're nothing but a group of people that gets together from time to time sing and
If we approach our covenant as the Israelites did, the world will continue to decay and suffer, and fall further away from God. But if we "get rid of the
foreign gods among us and serve the Lord" the world will be changed. Now all of this takes commitment, a sacred commitment that sets us apart for use by God. Are you (w)holy