Answer the Call - Ministry 5

Mark 5:41-43

When I was younger and got sick with the flu, a cold or a fever, I only wanted two things – lemonade and pear halves. This may not strike you as anything special (or desirable!) but to me those two foods offered great comfort at times when I didn’t feel good. Many people have “comfort foods,” certain meals or dishes that help to fend off the blues or feelings of sickness.

Even when our problems are not physical ailments, but emotional ones, addressing our physical needs can work wonders.

This passage is the end of a much larger story. Jesus has been summoned by a synagogue ruler to offer healing to his daughter. Upon his arrival at the house Jesus is informed that the ruler’s daughter is no longer sick, but deceased.

What does Jesus do? What two things does he instruct?

A few things strike me in this story. First, Jesus is not swayed from his ministry by the comments of others. Even when told that it is too late to do anything Jesus persists with what he will do.

Second, Jesus takes action. His ministry does not involve teaching a lesson by talking. He doesn’t go off into seclusion to pray. He acts. He goes directly to the place where he is needed and raises the girl from the dead.

Finally, Jesus takes care of the girl’s physical needs. Not only does he cure her of illness and raise her from the dead, he has the family feed her. It’s important. The Bible mentions it specifically.

Jesus addressed the needs of a person in his ministry, and in that example we see the type of ministry we need to adopt for ourselves. We need to go to where the problems are and deal with the physical needs of others.

As James pointed out, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Our faith should compel us into some ministry, and that ministry is likely to require our getting involved. If we will show the love of God we will probably need to act in some way, to deal with others, and to lend a hand.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Who needs your help?

Answer the Call - Ministry 4

James 2:15-17

One of the key elements of our denomination, United Methodists, was the early societies who gathered for prayer and study. It was important to these groups that they would do more than pray for a person in need – they would do something about that need. Unfortunately many have lost sight of our heritage and forgotten this attitude of action that was so essential to the early church. Many have become quite complacent in their faith.

In this letter from James – possibly the brother of Jesus – such an attitude is addressed. What scenario is presented? What comment is made about good intentions? What must our faith have?

Too often we can get caught up in only part of our faith. We can become very good at attending church and studying the Bible. We can become well versed in Scripture and be quite comfortable in our prayer life. But something is missing.

Faith involves more than just the head and heart. True faith involves the hands and feet. Faith in Jesus must be lived out, put into action.

This passage is in no way meant to discount the power of prayer or to take away the need for compassion and strong faith. But our beliefs and our compassion must be accompanied by action. If we will believe in Jesus Christ then we must live out Christ in the world. We need to be Jesus to other people.

This involves doing acts of mercy not just having mercy. This involves acts of compassion not just the feeling of compassion. This involves the sacrificial giving of love not just embracing a loving spirit.

We are to put our faith to work by giving to the needy, spending time with the lonely, visiting the sick, and sharing the good news with the broken. Some ministries are in the church – volunteering to help teach, to help with the worship services, or to help in church functions. Other ministries are outside the church – visiting shut-ins, taking food to the hungry, or participating in mission trips.

While attending worship, praying, and studying the Bible are important, you may need to honestly evaluate who you are helping in what you do.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What work needs to be done?

Answer the Call - Ministry 3

2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Not long ago there were several “messages from God” on billboards around some of our cities. They had clever ways of attracting your attention and urging people to attend church. Some messages were things like “We need to talk. – God.” Or “Don’t make me come down there! – God.”

Most people would love to hear a direct message from God. Most people would probably change their ways and their way of thinking if they could simply hear the voice of God speaking directly to them.

Today’s passage is from Paul’s letter to the believers in the church at Corinth. To what does he compare the believers? How are they a letter?

Paul creates a wonderful image to describe those who follow the teachings of Jesus and do the work of God. They have become like letters or messages from God. No, it isn’t the very voice of God others might hear or want to hear, but in their actions of kindness and compassion, in the example they set by their way of life, these believers are living messages from God.

Through their behavior the people of the church of Corinth were showing non-believers what God is like. The people themselves were living messages.

We live in a hurting world and a world that so often seems confused as to which is the right direction to go spiritually. How do we teach them the ways of God? How do we show them what God is all about?

We do that by becoming living letters of God. We can be the voice of God to the lost and the marginalized, to those who need guidance and support. We can offer hope and direction through our own words of kindness and caring. We can express God’s love by sharing ourselves and our own love, by helping those in need and living a life of confidence in God’s kingdom.

Your ministry may not be one of preaching and teaching. Your ministry may not be to serve at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. But all ministries should be seen as God being lived out in our attitudes and behaviors.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What does your “letter” say?

Answer the Call - Ministry 2

Isaiah 6:5-8

Sometimes it’s fun to dig out old photographs and see what my family and I looked like so many years ago. It can be fun to let our children get a good laugh at the old clothing styles or the picture of their conservative Dad with hair to his shoulders (Yep. I was “groovy.”). Times like that can be fun, but they are also a reminder that I am not who I was. I have changed.

This passage is a classic Scripture reading that describes the call of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah has a vision of God seated on His throne. About the Lord are billows of smoke as angels fly around and heaven shakes with thunder.

What is the prophet’s initial response? What does the seraph (angel) do? What does God ask? How does Isaiah respond?

“I am a man of unclean lips!” Isaiah realizes that he is not worthy to be in the presence of God. He is not good enough to serve the Lord.

But God remedies that. An angel purifies Isaiah and makes him worthy because God wants someone to be his messenger. And that is where we have the stirring response from Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me.”

Am I worthy to be a pastor? No. I’m the dorky guy in the weird clothes with the long hair. I have a past that I’m not completely proud of. And so many other people in churches use the same excuse – “I’m not good enough.”

No, we aren’t good enough; but fortunately God has set his coal on our lips and purified us. Like Isaiah we are made worthy by God to be in the service of God. So the excuses just don’t cut it any more.

We can take our old selves and our past and toss them out along with the old photos. And while we’re at it, let’s pitch those tired old excuses too. It is time to stop saying “I don’t think we can,” “I don’t think we should,” and “We’ve never done it that way before.” Let’s remember that our unclean lips have been made clean and our response to ministry opportunities should be “Here am I. Send me.”

DAILY CHALLENGE: How will you help?

Answer the Call - Ministry 1

Acts 6:1-7

The church where we currently serve held a fellowship dinner on our first Sunday. When the meal was done I asked our children to gather dirty silverware and take it to the kitchen to be washed. This was what we did in our old church.

But after they had gathered a number of place-settings we were informed everyone had brought their own silverware! What an impression we made.

Although it was a mistake at that time, the concept is still good. We must all pitch in and help where we are able so that ministry can move forward. We all have a part we can play.

As we return to our daily devotions this fall we are examining how we can answer the call of God, to step up into leadership and strengthen the church. The first step is realizing we are all called to ministry.

We see this in the early church, in fact at a very early stage in this new worship group. Why were some people unhappy? What did the twelve leaders say about their own ministry? Who was chosen to help the widows? What was the result?

It may strike a person as arrogant that the Twelve, the disciples, the leaders of this new church, were not willing to stop doing the preaching to wait on tables and clean up after meals. But what is essential here is that the Twelve realized preaching was their ministry. Other ministries had to be filled by people who were called to and would be skilled at those ministries.

Just as you would not expect a car mechanic to do your dental work, or for your plumber to diagnose an illness, churches should not expect any willing person to fill any spot that is open. Any ministry should be filled by those who are called to that ministry.

But it is essential that we all realize that we are all called to some ministry. God has not passed over any of us leaving us with no skills. Each must do his or her part in serving God. Each should find a place to fit in and do work.

In our new church we had to adjust to a new way of doing things. The same is true of all churches today. We may have to examine ministry and who will do it and change the way things have been done so that God’s kingdom may move forward and grow.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you help?