The St. John’s Pulpit
St. John’s Baptist Church 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204
A VULNERABLE LOVE
Hebrews 5:1-10 (NRSV)
October 21, 2018
by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
Do you find it easy or difficult to be Actively Faithful Faithfully Active between Sundays?
This past week, as I observed commuters going to and from their corporate offices, schools, hospitals and businesses, I thought about you being among them. You were in carpool lines, waiting at stop lights, grinding through congestion on I-77, I-85 or Independence Highway and pulling into parking decks. And I remembered the writing of my friend, Ross West, in his book, ‘Go to Work and Take Your Faith Too.’ Ross suggests, “…the real test of a church’s ministry is how well it prepares members to live their faith at work” (p 35).
Ross and I were acquaintances of a man named Bill Diehl who was Manager of Sales for Bethlehem Steel for thirty-two years. Bill focused his life on connecting Sunday with Monday. During his young adulthood, he discovered the idea of ‘Ministry in Daily Life’ and offered annual conferences on Marketplace Ministries.
A few months ago, I asked some of our members what ‘Actively Faithful Faithfully Active’ means to them.
You are not surprised to learn that Bill Claytor sent these thoughtful words to me back in June:
“On one level, it is simply a phrase or a motto similar to a brand name…as in, “Ace is the friendly hardware place.” On a deeper level, the statement begins with a serious belief in God and our desire to honor the God in whom we believe; a God whose essence is found in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. We must move from belief to desire; a yearning to make a positive difference…a desire to love God and love others as we love ourselves…a motivation to involve ourselves in activities, events, causes and programs that are bigger than each of us and which outlast us. We must move from desire to action; to devote our time, monies, talents and energies. We must move from action to credit God for allowing us to serve.”
As you pursue Ministry in Daily Life, consider how Hebrews 5 helps you in your believing, desiring, acting and crediting God in Actively Faithful Faithfully Active ways between Sundays.
First, JESUS BECAME THE SOURCE OF YOUR ETERNAL SALVATION.
The writer of Hebrews refers to Melchizedek, the King of Salem (or Shalom – Peace) who was also a priest before God. Melchizedek (‘Melech’ – King ‘Zedek’ – Righteousness) was appointed by The Living God to be King of Righteousness whose kingdom was peace. He appeared to Abraham and commitment was engendered. The practice of tithing or presenting 1/10th of income to support God’s vision began with Melchizedek and his kingdom of righteousness and peace.
Jesus was sent by The Living God to bring righteousness and peace. He came because humanity needs a savior. This savior must be more than a swaddled infant in a manger. Jesus became the source of your eternal salvation because he was obedient to God. He was subject to weakness just like you; he experienced pain, sorrow, ridicule, temptation, grief, betrayal, suffering, abuse, mockery, crisis of commitment and death. “He learned obedience through what he suffered; and…became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Jesus offers you a pathway of righteousness; being right with God and an experience of God’s peace through salvation.
Whenever a word ends with the suffix, ‘tion,’ it means ‘process.’ Salvation is the process of being saved. You have been saved, you are being saved, you will be saved. You are saved from a life of disobeying God, saved to live in a relationship of obedience with God and saved for continuing the ministry of God as revealed in Jesus. You participate in the salvation of others.
AND THIS INTRODUCES THE SECOND IDEA:
AS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS, YOU ARE TO BE PRIESTS IN DAILY LIFE.
Historically, the priest had four roles which you continue today: (1) To reveal God’s message to others; (2) To help others live by God’s ways; (3) To help others worship God; and (4) To bless.
Through Ministry in Daily Life, you are Actively Faithful Faithfully Active priests of God by:
- Being an example of living God’s good news;
- Holding hope high in an age of cynicism;
- Offering a path of redemption when other people fail;
- Presenting pathways for reconciliation toward those who hurt you;
- Nurturing a welcoming and affirming spirit in this mean-spirited age;
- Encouraging others to practice kindness, patience, understanding and compassion;
- Inviting others to worship with you on Sundays and show them you worship every day; &
- Blessing others offering grace at the margins and deeper listening at the intersections of life.
Beloved, there are many wonderful people today who go to work or school and soccer games, parties and entertainment events. On Sundays, many of these same people put in their time for religious work. Yet, their lives are compartmentalized and disconnected. Elton Trueblood once said, “If the primary purpose of salvation is to get the people of God to learn how to participate in worship, teach groups, visit the sick, have meetings in the church for church ministries and raise money for the budget, then the Church has turned in upon itself. And this is not why Jesus came.”
You are followers of Jesus; the Jesus who invested his life in the Vulnerable Love of God.
He made of himself no reputation and took on the role of servant. Jesus was Actively Faithful and Faithfully Active. As followers of Jesus, you invest in God’s vulnerable love.
When Bill Claytor sent me his thoughts in June, he enclosed a prayer by the late Archbishop Oscar Romero – who was assassinated while leading mass in 1980. Romero was named a saint by Pope Francis last week. This prayer is entitled, A Step Along the Way.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen
Beloved, as followers of Jesus, you are maturing in the salvation of God. As you follow Jesus, you are a royal priesthood, revealing God’s ways and blessing others. You are Actively Faithful Faithfully Active people on Sundays – and between Sundays. You are committed to the Vulnerable Love Who is God. Amen and AMEN.