ARE YOU ANSWERING GOD’s HELP WANTED AD? GOD NEEDS ALL!
JAMES 2: 14-26
ACTS 1: 6-9
FAITH & ACTIONS PART 5
July 14, 2019
There are some days and moments that in our lives we each remember forever. What I find interesting is that some are momentous like the birth of your first child or grandchild while some forever moments might seem trivial at best to other people.
One of those trivial moments of my life occurred in the City of Niagara Falls … no I never went over the Falls in a barrel but to say my moment in time was not as challenging personally is to say that I should not remember … and its remember not treasure … the moment; although I think I did good.
I am curious, how many of you ever had to punch a time clock at work? Time clocks offer employers both a documented and psychological control over their workers’ time creating documentations for a pay check or potentially a tool for dismissal. And, that takes us to 1309 Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls and Mr. Ken Shweck. Ken was my supervisor at the Niagara Falls Social Security office at the time when the Social Security Administration added time clocks to its array of technological advancements.
Now, you might know it but I have always been someone who is never early, which is why my car’s clock is set 7 minutes fast because it pushes me to be on time.
Back in the day, I had one of the longer drives to the office and there were many days when I arrived at 8:33 or even 8:36 but never later than 8:40. Now, I worked hard, skipped my breaks, and frequently was working past the 5 o’clock closing. I did my job with energy and enthusiasm. A few weeks after the time clocks were installed and on a day when I punched in at 8:33 … I will never forget the time. My supervisor Ken called me into this office to tell me that if I was late again I might be suspended for a day with a loss of pay. So, I looked Ken in his eyes and said, “So, does that mean I should carefully watch the clock and stop at my break time and refuse to work for exactly the next 15 minutes and should I slow down 15 minutes before lunch so that I stop exactly when the lunch period begins and not return to my desk until the last tick of the clock, and that like the rest of the office staff should I start putting things away on my desk in the last half hour before 5, like everyone else does and bolt out the door at 5 even if I am in the middle of an interview with a retiree or a disabled person. I asked should I stop working more than 100 percent or is it all about the perception that a clock gives? He said, “don’t change .. work hard … everyone here notices that you work hard just don’t be too late in the morning.” A check list that a time clock creates or actually working … real work or perceived acceptance?
And James writes, “As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead.” James is not making the assertion that hard workers in the fields of employment who do good works have a free pass to heaven. There is nothing in James that says not having faith is ok but James is adamant that it is impossible to be a Christian if your life action do not reflect your faith. In fact Jesus taught that too.
We all know that the churches of the world don’t have enough jobs nor the financial ability to offer every Christian a job but as I am trying to point out in the long title to this morning’s message, ‘God does have a HELP WANTED calling sign out and God expects those who truly believe and understand how incredible God’s love is to just naturally live lives that take on the tasks of faith that exist for each and every one of us.
People of faith … well people who say they have faith and identify as Christians … want the easy pass; fly through the barriers of life without having to slow down in the least. It’s part of the human condition friends. Even on the Mount of Olives with Jerusalem a short distance away the disciples were looking at our Risen Savior and wanting Him to set the date for the start of the new kingdom on earth. They wanted to plan their schedules so that their bags were packed … Jesus said, “It isn’t for you to know the times or the seasons that the Father has set.”
Now, Jesus had previously said that the day of His return will come like a thief at night yet they were more worried about the END TIMES than in what they should be doing to grow the Kingdom. We have these so-called preachers on TV claiming they know the secret and rather than being out caring for the hurting and the poor they are brainwashing people that the END TIMES matter rather than as Jesus then told His disciples … “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, in West Deptford and Swedesboro and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus last words … His last act was to give a job assignment to those who believe. He said stop getting caught up in the trivial but be the living example. Be the workers … in Matthew 25 Jesus tells His followers that if people claiming to be believers haven’t cared for the “least of the poor, the stranger in the land, the sick, and the prisoner” that these people who claimed they believed would not see the Kingdom. Jesus was agreeing with James or rather James was reiterating what Jesus taught … if you don’t take on the job of living for Christ; if you don’t change your life and pick up your cross and follow Him; if your life actions and words are not related to our Savior’s directions then are you really a believer?; are you really a Christian?; have you really been born again? Or do you just find comfort in saying you are?
Friends, when we consider the letter of James his words resonate in our world as much as the author’s because we as human beings are conditioned to trying to take it easy, finding the easy way out, and we want to kick back and have a ready list of excuses why we don’t take on challenges or additional work. Sometimes we need to be told directly what is expected of us and for our faith walk, James does exactly that. I know that there are a lot of fire and damnation preachers who don’t want to connect the dots because they get their energy out of counting the numbers who have raised hands because they enjoy the moment but God calls us for the journey. God’s love is not wrapped up in a moment; God’s grace is not a flash in the pan experience but when Jesus declares that “they” … the public at large; our friends; our co-workers; our neighbors and our family … “will know that you are my followers … disciples … believers … by your love” Jesus is reminding everyone that it takes work and if we sit back and whisper to our selves safe at home …that we love as Jesus loved but then our actions, our words, our writing conforms to the world … if we attempt to find arguments to allow us not to be living Christian witnesses but to instead find comfort in the human path of injustice, hate, and self enriching greed then that faith is dead or perhaps it was never really a faith tied to true belief. If when we become aware of those who are hurting in the world do we run to rush to help or do we hope to find a commentator who will say those folks really aren’t hurting … they don’t need or perhaps don’t deserve our help?
I am sure that when Jesus told about the Good Samaritan that part of His goal was to catch the legal expert’s attention by using the example of a priest and a Levite as the men abjectly refusing to help the beaten man who was near death. They rushed by but if someone had interviewed those two men after they had travelled down their life’s highway whether they were both believers and going to spend eternity with God … I am sure the answer would have been yes and that they upheld the commandments. Yet, in this message Jesus said NO. The question of the legal expert was “What must I do to gain eternal life?” And, Jesus affirmed that the way to get eternal life was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, AND LOVE ALL of your neighbors as yourself.” The only man of the three on Jericho’s Road that Jesus pointed out would be getting eternal life was the Samaritan who used his moment in time to cross the road and help. The others failure to invest time, energy … work to love another … verified that they were people of faith in name only.
In his book, ‘Make Faith Work,’ Louis Evans writes, “on the gridiron of life the church is playing its game against stubborn opposition against well coached teams of low public morals, materialism and selfishness. In the stands sit the nonchurchmen … never offering to get in the game never offering to help the team of God on the field. They belong to the great ‘Association of Onlookers’ who talk but will not work. Theirs is a comprehension without ensuring change.”
I was so pleased to hear from so many of you about what a positive experience it was last Sunday at noon to say PEACE and LOVE. The freedom of expressing those words in public with the ready excuse that your pastor told you to do that was truly uplifting and I hope you did it. Of course you can say PEACE and LOVE out loud whenever you want, wherever you want and to whom ever you want. It can open up dialogues and you may discover new opportunities to use your faith in action for Christ.
So listen again to James because I know you know in your hearts whether you are just someone who punched the Christ time clock without taking your opportunities and talents to change the world or now .. “My brothers and sisters … imagine someone who is naked and never has enough to eat. What if you just say “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal! What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”
All too often the expression ‘you are in our prayers and thoughts … they are in our prayers and thoughts …’ has been used when sad events have happened in our nation but if you notice the fact that words are not connected with actions to change anything has caught up with non-believers. The phrase “they are in my thoughts and prayers” is now mocked as a phrase of inaction accepting of the pain that is occurring and laughed at because the world has discovered that it is a self comforting lack of ‘faith in action’ phrase that has not helped the suffering. Yes, many who say it mean it … some who say it actually pray … but the world needs more than good thoughts that are followed by the acquiescence to the powers of evil and hate. Those who are hurting … those God and Christ call us to help and care for … they need human beings to be there for them … children without a connection to church, Sunday school or VBS don’t need our prayers they need someone speaking to their parents about the value of faith in their lives … for their future and then they need aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends willing to drive their cars to get them to a place where children can discover adults who not only say they have faith but give up their personal time to do something rather than leaving it up to someone else to ‘do or say’ what Christ expects while sitting back to do nothing or worse to find comfort being in the stadiums filled with those mocking “do-gooders.”
Jesus didn’t put out a limited help wanted call … His call was that if you believe you will be answering God with the full knowledge of knowing God needs the followers of Jesus Christ to be known for their love, to be disciple makers who care for the poor, the children, the widows, the prisoner, the strangers in the land, and all who are in need. That was the call to believers in every nation anywhere … its not political it is God’s universal HELP WANTED call that gives us the opportunity to be believers and people of faith when we answer it. Our choice not anyone else’s … our decision as to which god we worship and follow … there have always been many gods people bow to but the God who created the heavens and earth; the God who sent Jesus to love us; God who justifies all of us who are sinners by God’s grace that is available to everyone through Jesus … everyone who believes and James is not arguing against that … Paul writes, “We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD THINGS. God planned for these good things TO BE THE WAY THAT WE LIVE OUT OUR LIVES.”
Not just for young believers … not just for those who are retired with time on their hands. We have been created to do good things … Jesus has taught us how God’s expectations differ from the world’s. It is not a one time mission trip after you raised your hand that meets the work requirement … not a time clock where you check in once and then can go relax. IT IS THE WAY WE LIVE OUT OUR LIVES … WE ARE KNOWN AS JESUS FOLLOWERS BY OUR LOVE … WHAT WE DO TO THE LEAST AMONGST US … or WHAT WE DON’T DO represents our actions towards Jesus Christ.
There was a movie a number of years ago based on a song … in the lyrics we heard, “workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’ …. 9 to 5 for service and devotion, you would think I would deserve a fat promotion.” With God; in our faith walk … it is not about us but about Christ. We have so little time here but our example; our words; and how we live out our lives are noticed by non-believers and by God. Crossing the road to help is the action that Jesus taught is reflective of those who have heaven in their future because they are willing to rush to the other side of the road to help strangers in need demonstrating love of neighbor and actually of God.
“My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it” … James wrote that 2000 plus years ago but you and I are smart enough to understand that our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers notice our faith walk as believers so when we sleep in, when we say ‘don’t help them’ whoever the them is because others are saying don’t help’ and when we don’t do anything for Christ … it’s noticed and then my friends the question … of making disciples well the greatest sermons of faith are the actions; the works; the examples of those who go out beyond Sunday worship to do something … help someone … love the stranger who others hate and mock. And, today will you be saying PEACE and LOVE at noon … it will feel really good but then later today or tomorrow will you plan on doing a little more … calling someone about Vacation Bible School, reaching out to Elaine to help with Vacation Bible School, to call Carol to help with the Food Pantry or Don to help clean the church … there’s an endless list of HELP WANTED ADS and God knows that every believer will be taking on a challenge because FAITH without WORKS is dead.