What Then Shall We Do?

“And the crowds asked him (John the Baptist), ‘What then shall we do?  And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none and whoever has food is to do likewise.  Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’  And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.  Soldiers then asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’  And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats for false accusation, and be content with your wages.'”  Luke 3:10-14

 

This was part of the gospel reading in church this past Sunday, and the passage on which the sermon was based.  John the Baptist has just finished rebuking the people for their sins and lack of repentance, and their response is “What shall we do?”

You may remember that we discussed repentance a few months back, and I believe more than one of the Lutheran ladies mentioned that the literal meaning of this word is ‘to turn around’ or ‘go in another direction.’  John the Baptist is telling the crowd that they must turn around and do something different–they must serve others.

He doesn’t tell them to change their occupations or do anything drastic about their circumstances;  they just need to go about their lives in a way that is helpful and fair to others.  Soldiers are not to intimidate;  tax collectors are not to cheat;  everyone who has plenty must share with those who are in need;  everyone is to be content with what they have.

Seems pretty simple, right?  However, we’re still not doing it!  How often do we abuse our authority over others?  How often do we take a little more than we’re entitled to?  How often do we envy that person with the bigger house, nicer car, or glamorous vacations?  How willing are we to give our extra coat or extra cash to the homeless man on the corner?

If you’re anything like me, you don’t always do what you should.  We’re still a brood of vipers and we still need to repent and try every single day to do a little better at being a servant.  It doesn’t come naturally.

Thankfully John also preached some good news.  He said:

“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”  Luke 3:16

Advent is a time of waiting and a time of repentance.  A time to reflect upon the servanthood of Christ and to try to become better servants ourselves.  Use this special season wisely.  Serve others.

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AFLC 2019 Bible Study for Women

Every year the AFLC(Association of Free Lutheran Churches) Women publish a Bible Study written by a WMF (Women’s Missionary Federation) member.  I wrote the 2017 study which was on the book of Acts.  This year, the study was written by Beverly Enderlein and is entitled, God’s Servants Teach Us Life Lessons.  Since our theme this month is Servants of the Lord, it seemed like an opportunity to highlight it.  Here are the chapters:

LESSON 1 A POOR WIDOW…Obedience brings blessings
LESSON 2 RUTH…The Romance of Redemption                                         LESSON 3 THE WOMAN AT THE WELL…Jesus Satisfies completely and forever
LESSON 4 A LITTLE FAMILY IN BETHANY…We Shall Rise Again
LESSON 5 HANNAH…A Godly Mother
LESSON 6 ADAM AND EVE…The Problem of Temptation
LESSON 7 JOSEPH…God Working Out His Perfect Plan (Part 1)
LESSON 8 JOSEPH…God Working Out His Perfect Plan (Part 2)
LESSON 9 NEHEMIAH…Build A Strong Wall of Christlike Living
LESSON 10 STEPHEN…How to Die Victoriously
LESSON 11 DORCAS…Showing My Love For Jesus in Practical Ways
LESSON 12 MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS…God Keeps His Word

For further study on servanthood, you might like to purchase this guide, or just use the topics to do some research on your own.  The Bible is full of examples of servanthood, and we can all learn from good role models.

If you are interested in purchasing this study, or learning more about the Women’s Missionary Federation, you can go to this link for more information.  Happy studying!

https://www.aflc.org/women/resources/bible-studies/

An English Major Moment from Joan

This poem was written by George Herbert, a Welsh-born poet and priest in the Church of England.  It speaks about how our everyday duties can be transformed when our service is dedicated to God and His Glory.

The Elixir

Teach me, my God and King,
         In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
         To do it as for Thee.
         Not rudely, as a beast,
         To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
         And give it his perfection.
         A man that looks on glass,
         On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
         And then the heav’n espy.
         All may of Thee partake:
         Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—”for Thy sake”—
         Will not grow bright and clean.
         A servant with this clause
         Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
         Makes that and th’ action fine.
         This is the famous stone
         That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
         Cannot for less be told.

Martin Luther on Serving Others

“To find Christ in such poverty, and what his swaddling clothes and manger signify, are explained … that his poverty teaches how we should find him in our neighbors, the lowliest and the most needy; and his swaddling clothes are the holy Scriptures; that in actual life we should incline to the needy; and in our studies and contemplative life only to the Scriptures; in order that Christ alone may become the man of both lives and that he may everywhere stand before us.”

Martin Luther

the Martin Luther monument in Dresden (Germany) Stock Photo - 69303219

What Would I Do?

“If time, money and human resources were unlimited and you could start a new ministry next month, what would be its focus?   We’re not talking details … rather, what would it generally address?”

This is one of the questions I ask people as part of the spiritual gifts assessments we’re doing at St. Paul’s, and I think it’s a good one for all of us to ponder.  Answering this question honestly will tell you where your true passions for service lie.  What ministry did God give you a special heart and desire to accomplish?

In my own case, it would definitely be something educational, but educational in a way that helped people to grow spiritually.  Maybe a “school of religion”  that offered classes to ordinary Christians about prayer, spiritual disciplines, spiritual gifts and the like.  I’m attracted to equipping ministries which are defined as:

Equipping Ministries: The heart of these ministries is maturing believers in the area of their gifts, ministry, training and leadership.  It serves a variety of life stage and affinity-based groups for growth, accountability and service.

Your passions may lead you in a very different direction.  Maybe you’re interested in caring for others, evangelism, or offering hospitality.  Maybe you’re interest is in the worship service itself, or in supporting other ministries in different ways.  Whatever your passion, when you find it, and then do it, you’ll feel God’s pleasure.  He made us to serve.  What kinds of service attract you?  I really would like to hear from our other authors and our readers.

“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them in every one.”  1 Corinthians 12:4-6

 

I’m Too Good for This

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘LORD,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your LORD and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:13-17

Face it,  ladies, aren’t there times when we all feel that we’re too good to waste our time serving others?  Changing diapers, packing lunches, scrubbing the toilet — these are not generally seen as tasks that fulfill us or enrich our lives. Taking time to listen to a whiney teenager, visiting an elderly relative who rambles on and on or cheerfully assisting our annoying boss can become tiresome and irritating. Sometimes we feel unappreciated.  Does anyone even SEE what we’re doing? The effort we put into making somebody else’s life a little smoother? The things we put up with in order to help somebody else?  In the verses above, Jesus reminds us of two things:

  1. He himself was willing to serve.  He was God, yet He not only washed feet, He gave his life for ungrateful, sinful wretches like you and me.  We should never be unwilling to serve others when we reflect upon His example.
  2. When we serve we will be blessed.  Maybe we won’t be blessed with worldly recognition or wealth, but we will be blessed by loving relationships.  Plus we will receive the recognition that really matters when we hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” from Jesus, our Lord.

Remember, nobody wishes on their death bed that they had spent more time accumulating stuff.  Nobody remembers their parents or friends fondly because they were rich or famous.  In the end what matters most are the many, small, caring deeds we do for others.  The things we think are go unnoticed.

So serve cheerfully.  Develop a servant’s heart. You’re not too good for this.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? — Movie Review

My oldest daughter, Beth, loved Mr. Rogers as a child.  When he asked a question on his program, she would actually answer him, just as if he were in the room with her! She was a shy little girl, but his quiet, unassuming manner drew her in and she listened carefully to whatever he had to say.  She and I were eager to watch this documentary about the life of Fred Rogers.  I borrowed it from our local library, she brought the popcorn, and we settled in to learn more about her childhood hero.

Fred was a Presbyterian minister who was able to preach without using sermons or wearing a collar.  He had great empathy and compassion for young children — this was his gift.  His passion was to teach them that all our feelings are normal and can be controlled, and that we are loved and special “just the way we are.”  He felt that television was a wonderful vehicle to spread the message of love, understanding and acceptance;  however, many programs for children at that time were thoughtless and violent (has anything changed?)  He was a true servant of God.  Seeing him interact with children brought tears to my eyes.

He began to work out his vision with a local show in Pittsburgh, before he even completed his seminary training.  Eventually this led to the well known “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”  that my daughter watched.  Fred talked with children about being scared and angry;  he broached difficult subjects like divorce and death;  he tried to teach the difference between real life and the world of make-believe;  he wasn’t afraid to explain big words children might be hearing like “assassination”.  While many shows for children speed things up with frenetic energy, Mister Rogers slowed things down.  It allowed children to become calm, quiet and able to listen.  He became known as an authority on how to talk to children about disturbing public events and an advocate of Public Broadcasting.

In this documentary, you meet many people who knew and loved Fred Rogers.  The man you met on The Neighborhood seems to have been the true Fred.  There was no stage mask or personality, just a real person who wanted to connect with and love others, especially children.

VERDICT:  I give this movie five stars.  If you or your children watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, you won’t want to miss it. It’s a beautiful bit of nostalgia and a good reminder to use our spiritual gifts and calling as servants. It does have a PG rating (language in a few instances) and as a documentary will not engage young children.  It will probably resonate most with people like me and my daughter, who remember his work.

Maybe you’ll enjoy revisiting the Mr. Rogers theme song: