Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Doing Faith - Deu. 4:1-2, 6-9; James 1:17-27

You know how I first knew I was a mom? I mean, REALLY REALLY knew it? It wasn’t when I held our baby for the first time. It wasn’t when she said her first word or even took her first step. It wasn’t even the first time she called for me when she was happy to see me after time apart. Those were all moments when I knew in more and more depth each time that I was a MOTHER. But do you know how I first knew I was a MOM?

It’s when I did this – (LICK THUMB and MIME WIPING A FACE) – for the first time. THAT’S when I knew I was a mom. When I somehow began to believe that my saliva had magic properties for cleaning ketchup off faces and smoothing down stray hairs, THAT’S when I knew I was a mom. I mean, I had had quite a career of babysitting in my day, all the way up into my mid-20s as a seminary student. I took care of countless children in every town that I lived, but no matter how comfortable I got with those kids, never once did it cross my mind to use that to clean any of them.

But when I became a mom, the things I did changed. The things I never thought I’d do, I did. And I’d bet if you saw me, or if you see anyone else doing THIS when you pass them by, you know he or she is a dad or a mom, or a grandpa or a grandma. There are just some things that we do that tell everything about who we are.

Moses knew it, and that’s why he gave them EXTRA encouragement to listen to what he was going to say, to listen AND obey the words God gave him to speak. The people around the Israelites were watching them. This rag-tag bunch of men, women, and children were wandering around in the wilderness. They were getting ready to enter a land they claimed was theirs, but they hadn’t had relatives in those parts for centuries. The people in the Promised Land were watching the Israelites, and Moses knew that the way they acted, the things they would do, would tell more than anything they said.

He wanted, God wanted, to make sure that their actions, their lives, sent the right message. Moses wanted, Yahweh wanted, to make sure that the things the Israelites did accurately reflected the god to whom they belonged, the faith which they proclaimed with their lips. Moses and God knew that what the people did really mattered.

I read this week from a preaching colleague that one of the sermons she remembers best is a sermon she never heard. The worship service began and progresses as usual, but when the expected sermon time came the preacher offered only a few introductory comments, and then sent the congregation out of the sanctuary and into the community, to be “doers” of all that we proclaim in church each Sunday. One church member said afterwards, “Every week, we hear the sermon. This week, we lived it.”

I had similar plans for our worship this week, but I’m not quite THAT brave. Over the last four weeks, I have addressed issues at the center of sustainability in our worship from, I believe, a Christian point-of-view. Particularly we have heard about the just some of the ways our Scripture, tradition, and God speaks to the role of human beings in the economy, the environment, and society. I have read and studied and prayed and talked a LOT. Many of you have heard a LOT.

But admittedly the things I have said and the things you have heard, have not been very hands on. We’ve heard about God’s claim that enough is enough. With faithful and compassionate practices there is enough money, enough work, enough food to be enjoyed and to go around. We’ve heard that God has blessed us with the power to make changes in our environment, for good or for bad, and charged us with the responsibility to work and preserve creation. We’ve heard that the society that pleases Jesus is one in which friends carry each other to places where they will find the healing and wholeness that will meet the needs in their lives.

We have heard about all these things, but we haven’t talked too much about how we can really DO them. But that’s what we’re going to do today. Coming down the aisles, in sort of a reverse offering style, will be some sheets of paper and pencils. I want you to pass these out among yourselves down your row.

Today we are going to proclaim the Word to each other, we are going to hear the Word spoken through our whole congregation, but not in vague ideas or generalities. We’re going to HEAR the Word by sharing ways we can DO the Word.

Here are your instructions. First, take a moment or two to reflect on one or all of these aspects of community life – the economy (jobs, housing, lending, industry, service, food), the environment (the physical earth, the atmosphere, plants, animals, water), and society (education, the arts and culture, healthcare, religion and faith life, children, the elderly) . Second, I want you jot down on your paper by yourself or in small groups, families or friends (it’s really OK to talk), specific things you can do to be DOERS, not just HEARERS of God’s word.

If it helps, the Scriptures we heard each week will be on the screens in front of you. The goal here is to be specific. If I were really to end this worship service in this sanctuary and ask you to continue your worship with your actions on any of these topics what could you go DO, or what specific change could you make, to be doers of God’s word. Include the children near you in this conversation. Instead of writing their answers they may choose to draw a picture of their actions.

After a few minutes, I will invite anyone who wishes to share to do so, and then later, during our offering, I’m going to ask that you make an offering of your ideas by placing them in the offering plates. We will share these ideas with the congregation in a variety of ways in the coming weeks. Friends, we are called to be HEARERS and DOERS of God’s word. Our life of faith before God and all of creation is incomplete if we are doing just one and not the other. Our faith is not just a thinking faith. It’s not just a hearing and speaking faith. The faith we are called to, the religion that is pure and undefiled before God, is one that cares for those in distress, one in which we DO what we say we BELIEVE. Let us dedicate our lives and actions to this call from God.

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