Summary: iVow is a stewardship series using the United Methodist Church membership vows, "I will support this congregation with my prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. This sermon, third in the series, is on service
When the Cold War was still hot and communism still had a grip on Eastern Europe, Queen Elizabeth of Belgium made a state visit to Warsaw. The Polish government assigned her a protocol officer to accompany her to Mass at one of the many Catholic Churches in the city. As they traveled to the church, she asked him, “Are you a Catholic?”
“Believing, but not practicing,” was the man’s reply.
“I see,” she said. “Then you must be a Communist.”
“Practicing, your majesty,” he said, “but not believing.”
Does the officer’s rely strike a chord with us? Do we not also believe things that we fail to practice? And do we not also practice things we no longer believe?
Our Bible reading this morning comes from the letter of James. In this lesson James poses a question for all of us. “How can I see your faith apart from your actions?” That question brings to bear the idea of both belief and practice.
If I were to walk through the room and poll this morning’s crowd, I have little doubt there would be near unanimous consent to the idea of belief. If I asked you, “Do you have faith?” I know nearly everyone in the room would answer my question, “Yes.” And, that is as it should be. We are, after all, Christians. We often profess faith in Jesus Christ with the words we say.
But then, what if I asked you a follow-up question? What if I were to turn and ask, “What are you doing about it?” I fear the answers I would hear would range from, “I pray and study the Bible” to stunned silence.
I must confess, my second question is kind of vague and an answer like prayer and Bible study is probably appropriate because the line of thought would be in a different direction from my intended path. So let me change the question.
“What is your ministry?” Now, for many of us, the sound of crickets chirping would be the only thing we would hear.
As I was preparing this week I ran across a study indicating American’s beliefs about volunteerism. The study found 80 percent of Americans believe people should volunteer. When I read that I thought, “WOW. That is really good. The number is a bit higher than I would have expected.” I continued reading. While eighty percent us believe in the importance of volunteering, only 49 percent of Americans actually do. That number is far closer to what I expected. Busy schedules, long work days, and family responsibilities were among the reasons people gave for not volunteering. The study went on to show, those who volunteered, when they were children, almost always saw their parents volunteering. Those who did not, 78 percent did not see volunteerism modeled at home.
This morning we are continuing our series we began two weeks ago titled “iVow.” This series looks at each of the elements of the membership vows of the United Methodist Church. When we joined this congregation we stood and promised to uphold this congregation with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. We began the series two weeks ago talking about prayer. As United Methodists, really as Christians, we are called to be people of prayer. We are called to hold each other up in prayer, we are called to hold up our country and its leaders in prayer. We are called to uphold the world and its people in prayer. Prayer means carrying our concerns to God but it also means seeking divine direction for our lives and the lives and the lives of those we love, which really, is everyone.
Last Sunday we continued the series by talking about our promise to uphold the congregation with our presence. We discussed how that is a two-fold promise. We promise to be here, to be part of worship and other activities of the congregation, but it also means being present in one another’s lives to share our faith and to help each other build our spiritual strength.
We are skipping gifts for now. We will come back to that promise in two weeks. Today we are talking about our promise to uphold our congregation with our service. Today our focus is on our ministry.
When I was in high school, one of my favorite classes was metal shop. I really enjoyed learning to weld, to run an engine lathe and a vertical mill. I wasn’t real crazy about sheet metal work, but I did like working in the foundry, melting down aluminum and brass and pouring it into molds to make decorative pieces. I am not sure I would want to make a living doing any of the things I learned in the class, but I did enjoy learning to use those tools.