The sermon at church last Sunday was about service. It was delivered by a layperson, but it was very well-delivered. There were a lot of moving stories.
Here are some thoughts:
A. The preacher had two biblical texts. The first was Jeremiah 29:7, in which God exhorts the Jews in exile to seek the peace and prosperity of the city of their exile. They are to pray to God for it, for, when it prospers, the exiled Jews will prosper.
The other text was Acts 8:4-8. Philip the deacon goes to Samaria, preaches Christ, casts out demons, and heals the paralyzed and lame. V 8 then says that there was great joy in the city.
The preacher appealed to these texts to justify Christians reaching out to the local community. Usually, these are the sorts of texts that are cited to support that. I worked at a mainline Protestant church a while back, and it had a lot of outreach programs to the community. The assistant pastor cited the ministry of Jesus and Jesus’ disciples in the synoptic Gospels to heal and cast out demons as biblical support for the outreach. They are not entirely the same, but both are acts of compassion, and ways to enhance the lives of others.
B. The preacher told a story about a homeless person he encountered last week. Last week was hot, and I mean very hot, but a homeless person was wearing long sleeves. The preacher asked the homeless person why he was not wearing short sleeves and shorts, and the homeless person replied that the shelter only had long-sleeved shirts. The preacher then said that there is often an over-abundance of winter clothes at shelters during the summer, and of summer clothes during the winter. That is convicting. It is good to give clothes to charity, but are we primarily doing so to get rid of clutter, or do we think of what is actually useful and helpful for those who will wear the clothes?
C. The preacher was talking about the importance of Christians sharing why they are doing good: because of their faith. He told a story about a friend who went to work and tried to live in such a way that people would ask him why he was so different, and then he would be able to tell them about his faith. He tried to live in such a way, and, after two years, a coworker said to him, “You know, you are different from others,” in a positive way, of course. The co-worker then said: “I know why you are so different. You’re a vegetarian!”
The preacher said that Christians can share their faith in a manner that does not make them look weird or off-putting. For example, if a Christian is building houses at Habitat for Humanity and is working alongside a Hewlett-Packard executive, the Christian can say, “I’m here because I believe God wants me to help our community.” That sounded reasonable. And I am saying this as someone who kept coming up with “Yes, but”s throughout the sermon, as he preached about service.
UPDATE: It turns out that I reviewed a book that the speaker co-wrote: Contagious Disciple Making.