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Faithlife

The Dilemma by Arley K Fadness

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Prelude

Welcome

"The Dilemma." by Arley K. Fadness.

Synopsis: Mime appears on the stage and receives a note instructing her to do a specific task. The mime is terribly frustrated because he has no tools or guides. Then little by little further "helps," such as blueprints, tools, and specifications arrive. Soon the task can be accomplished.

Everyone celebrates.

Call to Worship            Bless the Lord, O my Soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy Name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so is God’s mercy great upon those who fear God.

*Hymn of Praise                       Bless His Holy Name (x 3)

Invocation        (the Lord’s Prayer)       we gather to bless you for bountiful mercy, for the compassion and care you extend to us.  You surround us with a mantle that protects us from danger; our breastplate is your righteousness fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  You are our shield and defender, our hope and our comfort.  We give you all the praise as we assemble in Christ’s name asking that you would help us develop a maturing faith.

Gloria Patri

Our  Offering to God                The Lord God asks us to bring a tithe of all that he has given us into his house

Doxology

Prayer of Dedication                 As the wheat was gathered into barns, so the fruits of our labors are brought into your house.  Through the purging fire of your judgment, cause our gifts to be acceptable in your sight.  Set them aside as valuable, so that others may be nourished by Jesus Christ, the bread of life.

*Hymn of Prayer                      # 390   More Holiness Give Me

Pastoral Prayer                         We confess before you, O God, that our lives are a mixture of good and evil deeds.  The evil deeds choke us and limit our will to respond.  The good deeds we admire and want to nourish.  Christ have mercy on us as we learn of your will.  Give us guidance and determination as we obey your command. 

You have spoken through your prophets; your priests have taught your people how to worship your name.  With wisdom, scribes have delivered your word; with poetry, writers have penned praise in your honor.  Nations have been brought to submission in the face of your judgment.  History has recorded testimony of your mercy that has withstood the ages.     In love you sent us your Son Jesus Christ.  He walked among your people and taught them your will.  He enlightened his followers to the sense of your commandments.  He stooped to hear the troubles of the stranger and cast our demons from those who were oppressed.  He suffered the shame of the cross for the sins of all your people, and even now pulls us from the pit of our own dishonor and shame.

We give you thanks for this perspective on our providence.  It sheds light on the sufferings that we endure in our time.  You surround us with hope as we seek to be faithful; you give a glimpse of your glory as we cry out.  Make us mindful of all who are part of the household of God.  Let the legacy that they give be a source of inspiration as with confidence we interpret your will for our time.

*Hymn of Praise                       # 498   Come, All Christians, Be Committed

Scripture Reading                     Ephesians 4:1-8,11-16

Message                 The Need For Practical Help In Developing A Mature Faith

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. ///

"On Lake Michigan there is a cooling water outlet from a power operation station. Over the last few years, many swimmers have drowned in the unexpected deep trough carved by the fast, flowing waters near the outlet.

"Now there is a family who lives on the bluff overlooking the power station outlet. Some years ago now, this family assessed the dangerous situation and made a decision. They went out and bought a large Newfoundland dog. These dogs, the Newfoundlands, are bred to save people - people in trouble, swimming in threatening waters. And this family, clearly gifted with an uncanny insight and a sense of humor, named their new dog 'HELP.' "

And now you know, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story."

"When some hapless swimmer has gotten caught in the

swirling, whirling waters, he instinctively cries for 'HELP' and this enormous brown dog leaps to his aid."1

//This morning we conclude our series on the six spiritual needs of Americans as discovered by George Gallup, Jr., in his comprehensive survey - with the sixth spiritual need being the need for practical help in developing a mature faith.

In this series, we have considered the need for meaning and purpose in life, the need for a sense of community and deeper relationships, the need to be respected and appreciated, the need to be listened to and heard, and the need to feel that one is growing in faith. Finally, we consider the need for practical help in developing a mature faith.

In 1988, as the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) was being formed, representatives from the ELCA's Division for Congregational Life joined with five Protestant denominations to help shape a major study on the elements of effective Christian education. This study was conducted by the Search Institute in Minneapolis and funded by the Lilly Foundation and the participating denominations.

Eight marks of faith were examined. And the results from 110 ELCA congregations and 2,400 participants showed they had either an integrated faith or an undeveloped faith. Twenty-four percent of adults in this survey displayed an integrated or developed faith, whereas almost half showed an undeveloped faith.

By any survey, by any measurement anybody wants to devise and use, it is clear we American Christians need Help! I need Help. You need Help. We all need Help in developing a mature faith. /// Just like the dog “help” in our opening story, all we have to do is call on God for help and accept his response – which may include work on our part – and we will grow in our faith./////

A member of his congregation told Rev. Warren J. Keating, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Yuma, Arizona, that this was the best prayer he had ever heard. "Dear God, please help me be the person my dog thinks I am."2

The Good News in the Search survey is that most Lutherans want to grow in faith. "Over two thirds report that they want to: a) develop a more personal relationship with Jesus; b) learn more about the Bible; c) learn how to apply faith to daily living; d) improve skills in caring, loving concern for others; e) learn how to be a good spouse or parent; f) discover how to make moral decisions."3

More good news is that Help is on the way. Let me explain. Let us audit our resources. When you think of the saints of the church, both living and dead, not only their memory, but their influence and their example - the saints model the mature Christian life. And they become for us, under the influence of

the Holy Spirit, a powerful force in helping us mature in the faith.

Paul writes to the saints in the Ephesian church about

gifts. The gifts that God has given were to make apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Paul is aware of the need of the Ephesian church to grow up. // Today I want to focus on the last two products on the gift list: namely, shepherds and teachers. The Greek for shepherd is translated pastor, and some translators marry pastor to teacher so you have Pastor/Teacher in one.

What is the task of the shepherd/teacher/pastor? // Paul explains, "To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ" (v. 12).

Our calling, as your pastors, is to equip the saints (all the baptized believers) for the work of ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ. We are to preach, teach, and lead. True, we get exhausted and feel overworked when we do the work of ministry. But our calling is to equip you to do the work of ministry.

And it's good to remember who you are. You are the saints - the baptized believers. And it's good to remember that glorious picture of the saints painted by the writer to the Hebrews: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and run ..." (Hebrews 12). And how often have we sung, "Will the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by?" Can you see the circle of the saints, past, present, and future, in the stands, cheering us on - shouting, "Run, run! Don't give up! Keep up the fight"? // And here on earth, you have the shepherd/pastor/teacher to equip you and to train you by preaching, teaching, and leading.

And why? What is the purpose of all this?

So that "all of us come to unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ ... we grow up in every way into Him who is the Head"(Ephesians4:13,15.//

Paul said, "We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro ... by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14). We must grow up. We shall grow up!

I hear three cries for Help this morning: Help me read and understand the Bible; help me pray; and help me in a closer walk with Christ.

In the first place, help me read and understand the Bible.

Help me get into the Scriptures and benefit by them. For it is the task of Shepherds to lead, guide, feed, and nourish the flock.

"The chief channels of grace," writes Lowell Erdahl in

Authentic Living, "are scripture, sacrament, prayer, groups, and service."4 "Help me read and understand the Bible." //The good book is good for us. We are smart to contemplate at least one passage a day, marking vital insights and applying them to our lives. "The B-I-B-L-E, that's the book for me," children sing.

In the book, Children's Letters to God, one letter read: Dear God,     Your book has a lot of zip to it. I like science fiction stories. You had very good ideas and I would like to know where you found them.

Your reader -- Jimmy5

"Many Christians will fight for the Bible, will die for the Bible, but won't read it," says Harry Wendt of Crossroads. But Help is on the way - your Shepherd is here. And the place for you and me is in intentional Bible Study under the guidance and leadership of your pastors. "Help me read, understand, and apply the Bible to my life."

The second cry is "Help me pray." Jess Moody says "God answers prayer in four ways". "Yes, no, later, and you've got to be kidding!"

Madeleine L'Engle, poet/writer, said in an interview in The Other Side magazine, "Prayer is like playing the piano or writing poetry. You don't do it well every single day, but unless you do it every single day, you're never going to do it well at all."6

The ship was sinking fast. The captain called out, "Anyone here know how to pray?"

One man stepped forward: "I do, captain."

"Good," said the captain. "You pray. The rest of us will put on life preservers. We're one short."

"Lord, help me pray." Help is on the way - help is already here.

Prayer vigils, prayer retreats, prayer services, prayer

resources galore, help in praying out loud, help in praying conversational prayer, help in praying in the tradition of the Eastern Church as well as of the Western Church. Prayers that are public; prayers that are personal. Prayers that are spoken and prayers that are sung. Prayers whispered and prayers shot like arrows heavenward.

You and I are surrounded with helpers who know why we pray and how to pray.

     Ann Landers replied to a question about saying grace in a public venue: "If grace is a part of the family custom, I see nothing improper or sacrilegious about saying it in public. If praying was the worst thing people did in public, this would be a beautiful world."8

The Benedictine monks reversed the saying, "prayer is work," to "work is prayer." They saw every activity they took part in as prayer.

When we see prayer as being as natural as breathing,

permeating our thoughts, actions, and entire life, then we are growing up to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Thirdly, help me into a closer walk with Christ.

We get closer to Christ as we get closer to one another, like the spokes of a wheel get closer, the closer they get to the hub. Christ is our hub. The saints are spokes. Their grace and their love surround us; consequently, we feel the very presence of Christ.

the saints help us. They gift us as they surround us with God's love. And they cheer us on to grow up in Christ.

The end of this chapter, 4:30-21, reminds us not to bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way we live.  Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

That is a pretty good formula for growing in faith.

1. Story from The Other Side magazine, 300 West Apsely St., Philadelphia, PA 19144. Used by permission. 2. Joyful Noiseletter by the Fellowship of Merry Christians, P.O. Box 895, Portage, MI 49081-0895.

3. Effective Christian Education Search Institute Study by the Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN.

4. Lowell Erdahl, Authentic Living, copyright by Abingdon, p. 85.

5. Eric Marshall, Children's Letters to God, copyright 1966, Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, NY.

6. Madeleine L'Engle, interviewed in The Other Side magazine, 1977. Used by permission.

7. Joyful Noiseletter, FMC.

8. Ann Landers' column, CRA, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Permission granted by Ann Landers and Creators Syndicate.

*Hymn of Response                 # 200   The Church’s One Foundation

*Sending forth              Let us now go to live well for the sake of Christ and the glory of God

            At each day’s waking, embrace God

            In each day’s working, serve God

            In each day’s playing, enjoy God

            At each day’s sleeping, thank God.   AMEN.

*Postlude


7/26    9 am – 12 noon        Kitchen and classroom clean-up

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