Sermons
Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Losing One's Self - November 13, 2016

James 1:22-25
Romans 12:4-8

Throughout Christian history, there has been a lot of debate about the role of faith and the role of action. There are lots of places in the scriptures where we are called to act....to act like Christ, to act with love, to act with charity, to act with forgiveness. Clearly doing is an important part of this Jesus thing. And along the way, as people developed as disciples and shared their faith, some faith communities got really caught up in the doing....it's importance rose to the top as the most important. And people began to believe that the doing was what saved you. If you acted with enough love, if you behaved enough like Christ, THEN you would be saved.

But that began to grate on some of the faithful. They pushed back against the importance and

centrality of action and said, "No. We are not saved by our actions. We are saved by faith. We must first be convinced of Christ...and choose to invite him in, to allow him to do the saving work. Faith is what matters." —basically that was the central argument of Martin Luther and the 95 theses. that it was faith and not works that save us.

And so people clung to their faith as their saving grace...and eventually the pendulum swung the other way...people were so reliant upon their faith as what saved them...that they didn't really concern themselves with the specifics of how they lived. And eventually there were others among the faithful who pushed back and said, "No, it's not just about faith. Yes, faith saves us, but our works are the proof of God's work in our lives. We must be a living witness." Among them was John Wesley...the founder of Methodism.

Now, the particulars of the evolution of Christian practices and movements are bit more involved, but suffice it to say, this debate is pretty central within the tradition and the debates happened in Paul's time in the first century and then for centuries to come. These debates still happen on the grand scale...."You're too worried about working your way into heaven." "Well, you're not worried enough about how you live."

Along the way, lots of folks have turned to the book of James to support their cause. "Faith without works is dead." "Be doers of the Word not simply hearers of the Word." As Methodists these verses sort of define who we are and what we are about. We absolutely believed that we are saved by faith alone. We don't earn our way into heaven through our good deeds. We are dependent on God's grace if we ever want to be truly saved and redeemed from the weight and consequence of our sinfulness. And, our actions should be a reflection of that grace. First comes God's grace, then come our actions. God is the source. Everything flows forth from there (like we said 2 weeks ago).

Our actions matter because they show how much we have allowed God to transform us to charity, generosity, love for the other, forgiveness for those who hurt us, and joy in whatever life may bring. Now, it's not about proving to others that we love God. We don't have to do things so they will know we are Christians. Instead, it's about responding to God's love in our lives, and when we do that, people will naturally see the manifestation of God's presence in us. Does that make sense? Our good deeds aren't required to prove something to the world. But, when we do good things, in and of themselves, people are likely to see that and know God through us.

(TRANSITION)

As I worked on this series, I thought service is a key part of stewardship. It's another way we give back for what God has given to us. It's something we are called to do—-to serve others on behalf of Christ. And, it is a big part of faithful discipleship. And, as I thought about today's passage and focus, I thought a good bit about what compels us to serve....what makes it worthwhile? Do we do it simply because we ought to? Or is there something bigger and more beautiful about filling a need, helping with a project, offering support, or leading a project? I definitely think there's something bigger and more worthwhile than just doing what we're supposed to do. And I struggled with how to put it into words...at least as a simple telling...so I thought I might show you with a story.

I shared a few weeks ago in the e-spire about how I volunteered at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We had shared breakfast together and then the volunteers handed out socks, hats, and toiletry items. Well, after that day, I decided I wanted to do more. So I began volunteering on Thursday nights at the foot clinic. We would go and share a meal and then we would serve those who came. The Open Door was the name of the place...it wasn't exactly a shelter, but instead an intentional community...they had both "homeless" and "non homeless" folks who chose to come together and live in their building. But they also had services for those who spent their nights on the streets. On Thursday nights they had a medical clinic with med students from Emory University. And on the other side, they hosted a foot clinic. The foot clinic was sort of like a place to get pedicures...without the polish. We soaked their feet, and trimmed their toe nails, and filed down callouses and removed corns. We put on lotion and we gave them clean dry socks.

Now, this wasn't an illustrious task at an upscale salon. It was a dirty job for people who spent all day on their feet...walking the streets of Atlanta, maybe pan handling, maybe looking for work, maybe applying for assistance. They walked miles every day. And often walked in the rain, which meant their feet got soaked. And generally there wasn't a dry place to dry them out and warm them up at night, or any other time...so their feet just stayed soggy for days.

I imagine, for some, this would be the last job on earth you would even consider doing. But for me, it became holy space. Washing some one else's feet was biblical....Jesus did it and asked us to do it. And in that time, we just related as people, sharing time together. If I had allowed myself to get hung up on the details, I could have been grossed out...but my job wasn't to sit in judgment or disgust over their feet, it was to serve them and treat them as a person of full worth in the time we spent together.

For me, the foot clinic became a highlight of my week. I went week in and week out, excited to serve others, to sit and listen, and to be people together. They didn't have to pay for it. They didn't have to earn it. They didn't owe us anything. They simply came and received. They weren't just served...served would have been too much removed. I could have served them a meal without ever really engaging them or getting to know them. But when they came and allowed me to touch and wash their feet, they were risking vulnerability and when I sat on a stool and watched I was risking humility...in a way we became equals....simply two people sharing time together.

I learned about some of the trials of living on the streets. I learned where some were from, about broken relationships with family, and about being arrested for simply sitting on a bench in town. I was entrusted with some of their stories and I sought to show them how loved and important they were.

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Sunday morning parking at the church is available in the high school parking lot on Third Street across from the church and in the city lots west of the church. These lots are available only on Sunday mornings. A small lot for handicapped parking is available just off of Adams Street on the north side of the church, with an accessible entrance directly into the sanctuary. A lift operates between the Fellowship Hall (3rd Street level) and the Sanctuary . William Sound System Receivers and Headsets are available to assist with hearing problems.

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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...