Being Church Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 August 28, 2022

Recently we discussed there is a whole lot more to being church than just attending a worship experience 3 or 4 times a month, although it is a very important part of being church. The writer of Hebrews wrote a book to a group of Christians who were being persecuted by the outside world. Those who started out as Jews who became Christians were often disowned by their family of origin. Some families acted as if they were dead. Some families even had funeral services for them. The Roman government saw Christians as atheists. The Roman Emperor by this time had ended the Roman Republic. The Senate made no decisions that mattered. What mattered was the emperor. He would proclaim himself God and expect all Roman citizens to offer a pinch of incense at a local altar dedicated to the emperor as a sign of loyalty and worship of him.

Christians decided they could not do this because Jesus was Lord, not the emperor. This put them in direct opposition to the secular authorities.

So, to have any hope of surviving, Christians needed to band together as a family of siblings to look out for each other in every way.

Also, the movement was growing by leaps and bounds with other people from the Empire. Some were rich, some were poor. Some were slave owners, some were slaves. All were looking for a God they could trust, love, and follow.

I believe we are in a similar time. Those who attend an organized worship experience have fallen below 50% for the first time in years. In my daily dealings with people I am meeting more alumni of the church then ever before. Being a servant who serves other people is being looked down upon. I see a whole lot of people just looking for Ms. or Mr. #1.

Yet at the very same time, I see people who are admitting to an emptiness in their lives and coming out from the Covid pandemic, they are looking for something more to living. Many had sought that by going to worship in person rather than staying home and participating online. We have been experiencing that here. The first Sunday I worshipped with you a year and a half ago, there were 8 people attending. Now many Sundays even in the summer, we are over 30 in attendance. We are growing and I expect the attendance to continue to grow this Fall with the special events planned.

As I shared with you before, they have seen us as a loving, caring community. Last Sunday when a lady coded, everyone could see how much we cared about each other. Kelly became a track star to catch Steven before he left. Nancy helped the woman’s body slowly come down to the floor. Steven used his expertise to start her heart again. Someone else elevated her feet. All that was mutual love.

After many tests she is out of the hospital and visiting her two daughters for the next two weeks and is deeply grateful to God and the care we gave her.

At the same time many of us greeted our visitors and took time to welcome the Beys as new members into our congregation.

But that is only a beginning of what it means to being church. Next, we are encouraged to visit people in prison. There is a Lutheran group called Kairos that beings the gospel into prisons for a weekend growth experience, both for prisoners and those who come to do the ministry. The emphasis is to help people experience forgiving and being forgiven.

Yesterday I heard a great talk from a Roman Catholic nun who visits death row. Some of those who are visiting prisons have discovered a ministry in calling for more humane treatment of prisoners. Having visited a prison, I know it is a very spartan and often inhumane place.

Recently I was asked how many marriages I have conducted during my ministry. I have already officiated at two this year. I suspect I have participated in at least a couple of hundred. I wonder how many couples are still happily married.

But in the premarital counselling I have talked about how hard it is to stay in a loving marriage. Some gut it out with sad silence. Others say there are so many women or men and so little time.

The Lord has blessed me in my marriage. I am convinced a huge reason for the blessing is my wife, Amazing Grace.

Strong families are the basis of a strong society. I came from a broken home and the divorce of my parents scarred me in ways that will be with me the rest of my life.

But for a family to be loving and nurturing, it has to have loving and nurturing parents who look out for each other often in a servanthood role.

Money is very important in life. The fact that Ann and I are receiving pensions makes it possible for us to have income and sometimes even to help others.

But there is something very important about money. Is it a tool you use to act on what are your values in life, or are you its’ servant doing anything you can to make more and more money?

Christians believe that through the talents and abilities God has given you, you are endowed with the ability to do work that will earn you the money to take care of life’s needs.

There is also another truth. Not all people can earn what it takes to live in this world. That is why the Church is so involved in helping those make it who can’t make it on their own.

The source of our strength and ability to be church in the world is our Lord Jesus Christ. He will give you the guidance to take care of yourself and your family and also help others on this life journey.

If we think we can make it on our own, we are headed for disaster. Currently the Lord has given Ann and me the ability and the money to take care of life’s needs and give a portion of our income to the Lord. But one day we will wear out and need help. I am pleased we have children who I know will look out for us and help us face the last chapter of our lives. They also are a gift from God.

And so, the writer ends his thoughts with these words. Do not neglect to do good and share what you have for such sacrifices to make sure they are pleasing to God. Amen.


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