The wacky weather of the Ozarks is making its show once again. Hot one day and cold the next, each day brings a jump between summer and fall wardrobes. If it wasn’t for the beautiful sunshine that is so prevalent here, the confusion would be frustrating!
Our remodeling job is nearing its completion. The fellowship hall floor has been finished, and the kitchen is next. I’m really excited about the work. Maybe when it’s done I’ll invite you all over to “show off” and share some holiday treats. Sound good?
Last week the ladies of the church spent several hours going through years’ worth of accumulated “stuff” in our closets and on our shelves. I was amazed at the difference when I arrived on Sunday. Thanks, gals! Job well done.
When you see Fernita Cook next week, wish her a happy birthday (November 9). I’m sure she’ll appreciate it!
THE GIVING SEASON
We are all talking about the economy and financial struggles facing us. While many of us are employed or well set, there are multiple families around us who don’t have enough food to set on the table for the next meal. It’s not necessarily because they aren’t working. Many of the working poor among us struggle to make ends meet but just don’t make enough to do so.
The food pantry at OACAC is a tremendous blessing to our area. But they can’t do the work on their own. An item donated by you helps a parent sleep because he knows his child has been fed. Your donations help a child pay attention in school because she isn’t listening to her empty stomach roar. The pantry has been emptied to bare shelves several times in recent months. Throughout the Bible we are commanded to care for the poor among us. A portion of the fields were to be left for the poor to glean. Compassion was the hallmark of those who served God.
Even if you are just making ends meet this year, may I suggest an option? When you are at the grocery store, pick up a few extra cans of non-perishables for those in need. How about a few boxes of dinner mixes when they are on sale? You might even consider “tithing” on your grocery budget, intentionally setting aside a small portion of your food budget for those less fortunate. You’ll feel better because you did, and they will feel better, too! Who knows whether that child you’re helping today will grow up to be one of our elected leaders tomorrow!
SERMON NOTES AND MUSINGS
By the time you read this article we will have a new president-elect, or maybe a new argument about who came in first! In any case, the recent months of advertising, one-upmanship, and put-downs will finally be over. I don’t know about you, but election cycles make me tired. I want the best representatives and leaders, but sifting through the rhetoric wears me out! Each candidate puts on his or her best face then puts the worst face on his or her opponent. The frustrating thing about all of this is that our children are watching. What lessons are they learning as they take in the political melees?
Much like the political leaders of our day, Jesus spoke to His disciples about the religious leaders. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer” (Matt. 12:2,3 The Message).
As a “religious leader,” I struggle with Jesus’ words, hoping they won’t ring true about my life and ministry. I suppose we all want to be good leaders and followers, not only in society but in faith as well. Unfortunately, the mistakes made by the leaders of Jesus’ day are all too easy for any one of us to fall into.
1. They do not practice what they preach. I’m sure you’ve heard the quip: “Do what I say, not what I do!” No doubt there were some among the religious leaders who quite honestly and devotedly followed the Law and the Prophets. And I’m sure some of the leaders were sincere in their approach to faith, Overall, however, the religious leaders made rules for everyone else, while excusing themselves from the restrictions.
I’ve told the congregation that I preach every sermon to myself first. Each week I struggle with applying the words of the message to my own life first! Do we practice what we preach? Would voters looking at our “election ads” see truth and honesty or spit-and-polish veneer?
2. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. The Pharisees continually created new hurdles for God’s followers to clear, making it harder and harder for the common believers to “live out” their faith. Am I a rules-based Christian, criticizing others for not “following the rules,” while I make exceptions for myself? Is my faith based on what I do, rather than what Jesus did?
3. Everything they do is done for men to see. This is the most telling criticism of all: They lived in pride, seeking to be recognized and revered for their great spirituality. Rather than practice their faith quietly before God, they exhibited their “faith” before man, for all to see. What are the phylacteries and fringes of our day, the visual reminders (for everyone else) that we are good Christians? Back in the 60s and 70s they might have been who had the biggest study Bible or wore the biggest cross around their neck.
“The greatest among you will be your servant,” Jesus said, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” What appropriate words, not only for us, but for our candidates and political leaders. Being a servant, a true servant, requires selflessness. Not self-disregard—we still need to take care of ourselves or we’ll be no good to anyone. A servant gives and helps without wanting something back. The faithful servant serves God because He loved us first. We humble ourselves before God because we have no claim on holiness except that Jesus’ blood cleansed us from all unrighteousness. We promote God, not ourselves, because in ourselves we have nothing to set men and women free. Whether serving in the church, in the community, or in political office, let’s reconsider Jesus’ words and serve out of love and compassion because of Christ, not selfish gain or recognition.
When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, you could get a job recommendation from the state representative if you folded and stuffed his letters. I guess I didn’t lick enough stamps because my job wasn’t half as good as my neighbor’s! I wasn’t serving the cause. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what the man was talking about most of the time! All I wanted was a decent job, and doing the “grunt work” would get me there.
When I make it to the great banquet hall, I’d rather have Jesus tell me, “Come up higher, friend.” I sure don’t want to hear Him say, “Move down, I have someone else to put up here”!
Pastor Mary Kay Glunt