This past July, as my family and journeyed to Alberta for our annual pilgrimage to visit family and friends, we past a single vehicle rollover on Highway # 1 west of Salmon Arm. Always when I encountered such a scene, the question that runs through my mind is, “Should I stop to help?” We slowed down and while we could see that the emergency response vehicles and personnel had not arrived on scene, we also noticed that there were about a dozen vehicles lining the sides of the road and several people were already ministering to the people involved in the accident. Reasonably certain that the needed care was being provided and that there was little more that we could do, we continued on our journey, though not without some second-guessing of that decision.
The Christian Church finds itself in a similar predicament at times. The early Church was not only concerned with spreading the Good News of forgiveness and a new, eternal and abundant life with Jesus Christ. They also lived out that life by caring for the needs of those around them.
Jesus is the one who gives us forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. As we respond to the richness of his gifts with a desire to share them with others, there are several things we can do to help the poor:
pray, pray, pray – Pray for the poor in your personal devotions, your family devotions and, if you have an opportunity to suggest prayer petitions, in the divine service as well.
personal lifestyle changes – intentionally turning away from the idolatry of consumerism (“buy this and you will live”), being a good steward of all that God has entrusted to you and living a frugal lifestyle so that you will be able to generously share with those in need. This may include making different choices about what you buy, like choosing to buy products from companies that pay the farmers a fair price for their product (ie. Fair Trade products). Continue reading “Poverty – Part 2: What can I do?”
During the summer we have been doing something that’s a little different: we have been giving you the chance to choose the theme for the sermons. People have been sending in their questions and then we pick one of those questions as our sermon theme. We may not get to all the questions but we will try to get to as many as we can.
And the question that we are looking at this week is this: “I’d like to understand anger… basically I think it sucks… so many jump to it so quickly… why do we even have to have it! It’s just so dumb! Really doesn’t do much good, usually more damage to a situation…” That email reflects some of the negative experience that many of us have had as a result of someone else’s anger. So what about anger?
The bible verse that I mention is 2 Corinthians 6:14 which reads, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
The context (see vv. 15-18) refer to religious syncretism, the mixing of Christian and pagan beliefs, and so, this verse is first and foremost a prohibition against such mixing. This is in-line with the first commandment (You shall have no other gods before me.)
In a secondary sense, this passage is also sometimes used as support for saying that Christians should not marry non-Christians (which is the sense that I refer to it in the sermon) or that a Christian should not have a non-Christian as a business partner. This is good advice and also common sense. Marriage partners have enough challenges these days without being divided on spiritual matters. A spiritual tug-of-war can develop between husband and wife, decisions about the spiritual upbringing of children can be divisive and the children receive conflicting messages about faith and life. But the context of the passage does not support an absolute prohibition against “mixed” marriages, and none of the Ten Commandments prohibit such unions.
So, in freedom, a believer could marry a non-believer. I have seen examples of such marriages where God has worked through the believing spouse to bring the non-believer to faith. I have also seen situations where that has not happened. And there are also marriages where the believer has wandered away from what was once a devout faith after a marriage to a non-believer. And even when two sincere Christians marry, there is no guarantee that one of them will not walk away from their faith at some point in the future.
In summary, I think that it is a good idea for a person to try to make sure that the one they are considering for a potential marriage partner is on the same page as they are on spiritual matters (and other major issues as well).
First, realizing the uncertainty of this life, I place full confidence and trust in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who promised: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
Second, knowing that the wages of sin is death, I believe that Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, suffered and died for the forgiveness of all my sins, which I neither deserve nor merit, but receive as a free gift of God, who is rich in grace and mercy.
Third, I urge my heirs not to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but to take hold of the life which is life indeed through faith in Jesus Christ.
(This is a draft of a Health Care Directive that I offer as a resource to you as you prepare your own directive. Please make sure that you have this document reviewed by a lawyer from the jurisdiction where you live before using it. Modifications may have to be made to comply with the laws where you live.)
HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE
TO: MY FAMILY, MY PHYSICIAN, MY LAWYER, TO ANY MEDICAL FACILITY INWHOSE CARE I HAPPEN TO BE, AND TO ALL THOSE CONCERNED WITH MYCARE.
As a Christian, I believe that all human life is a valuable gift from God and is therefore worthy of protection, preservation and support. In matters of human life, the Christian aim is always to care, never to kill. However, as a Christian, my hope and my goal is not contained within this life on this earth. I look forward with anticipation to the glorious life after death in the new heaven and the new earth which Jesus will give to everyone who trusts in Him.
Therefore, I, __________________________________, being capable of giving instructions about my current medical treatment, make this Health Care Directive to be followed if I lose the capacity to make or communicate decisions regarding my health care.
(This was written in response to a question about final arrangements and cremation.)
It is good to talk about wills and final arrangements ahead of time, and it is especially good to do so when everyone is feeling fine and the sun is shining. It is part of the stewardship of the life that God has given to us.
Regarding cremation, our Church does not have an official position on the matter. And if you talk to two different pastors you could get two different answers. But all Christians should agree that we believe in the resurrection of the dead. We are looking forward to that day when Jesus will return to this earth in a visible form and everyone will be raised from the dead. Believers will be raised to eternal life with Jesus. Those who do not believe will be raised to suffer an eternal existence apart from God. The new bodies that we will be given will be different from the ones that we have now in that the laws of time and space we experience here will no longer apply to us. Our new bodies will never grow old, never get sick and never die. Yet our new bodies will somehow share a one to one identity with our old body. Perhaps Jesus, in a miraculous way, will reconstitute the molecules of our old body into a new transformed body. After all, the God who spoke all of creation into existence with a word could easily do that. Continue reading “Cremation & Making Final Arrangements”