We are coming near the close of "The Call" by Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
> As we consider Paul’s third missionary journey, as well as our own, we consider our call to give.
When you think about giving, what comes to your mind? Giving money? Hopefully, and that is one of the ways Paul and the early believers gave to help other believers, and even non-believers, as Jesus had taught and lived.
But as I hope you already know, that is but one way we give to the mission and ministry to which God calls us as individuals or as a congregation. Let’s again look to Paul and those early believers and followers of Jesus the Christ.
Perhaps you don’t like history as much as I do. However, the bible if full of history, and it helps to gain a better understanding of God’s instruction from the historical experience of God recorded in it, by learning of the context in which it was written. In others words, when we better understand when, how, why, and where God encounters us, as well as to whom there is an encounter, we can learn more from it – just as witness is shared by different people right here in this place (COD).
Hamilton writes, "When we left Paul at the end of his second missionary journey, he had returned to his home church in Syrian Antioch. According to Scripture, he stayed there for "some time" Was it months or years? We can’t be sure. At some point though, Paul embarked on his third missionary journey." (p. 152)
He adds, "We don’t know much about the beginning of Paul’s journey, which took him from Syrian Antioch through Pisidian Antioch to Ephesus and beyond. In fact, the first four hundred fifty miles are described by Luke in just one verse: "After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phyrgia, strengthening all the disciples" (Acts 18:23, ibid.) Did you catch that last part?!
> So now Paul, after having planted the seeds for those churches several years earlier, returned to encourage and strengthen the disciples and congregations in their faith journeys.
I’m glad to witness that I have opportunities to serve God in this way here at Church of the Open Door. I am also thankful that I have opportunities even among family, friends and others elsewhere. Just last Sunday evening, shortly after Karen and I returned home, a young nephew of ours called from Missouri. He expressed a further call to ministry upon his heart and life by God. And he asked several more questions he had about the faith and life in Christ, personally and congregationally.
Paul reminds us to encourage and build up one another.
> Further, he also gave them instructions, as we heard read earlier, for the weekly monetary collection for the saints – brothers and sisters in Christ – in Jerusalem.
He finally reaches Ephesus, about four miles inland from the southwest cost of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. It was the Roman Empire’s the fourth largest city in the first century, with a population of more than 250,000 people. I remember when Philadelphia made a similar claim in the U.S. with many more people. Ephesus, too, was a port city: with terraced houses, a couple of major roadways, a great theater, a public square, and even a library. It was then, a metropolitan city. It also had two great gymnasiums. It seems that they were great sports fans as well. :) Or, at least, they highly valued athletics.
Somewhere near the shopping district was the "lecture hall of Tyrannus," where Paul spent two years in a rented space, to teach and minister to non-believers and believers alike. (P. 159)
These were two of the gifts Paul received from the Holy Spirit, and of which he in turned shared with others.
Here Paul convinces the disciples of the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were in turn used for ministry.
Hamilton speaks of his own church experience in younger years by which he came to know of the Holy Spirit, and to invite the Spirit to guide and lead him. I’ve shared some of my experience as well. I continue to invite God to lead, guide and empower me each day.
And when we baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we call upon the Holy Spirit to fill the one being baptized.
So, have you been baptized? Do you acknowledge and invite the Holy Spirit to fill and empower you to follow and fulfill the call God has given you?
"Luke wants readers of Acts of the Apostles to understand that the Holy Spirit was critical in the spread of the gospel, and what was true in Paul’s day is also true for us today." (Ibid, p. 165)
I’m thankful that in our Walking in the Word group we call upon the Spirit to fill us, empower us and lead us in our daily lives, and in the life of our congregation!
I am thankful that at Church of the Open Door we seek the fruit of the Spirit, as described in Paul’s letter to the Galatians – "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (5:22-23)"
> Against these things there is no law, biblical or otherwise. And without these things there is no grace and peace from God or anyone else.
So let us pray often that we will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit!
> Now among those fruit is generosity – giving generously. But I don’t think this is just referring to money. Surely, money is among our gifts to God’s work in this world.
Yet, we are called to give also of our time and our talents.
We are called to give or offer our prayers, our presence in worship, study and discipleship, our service in ministry of some kind, and our witness of God to others.
As recorded in Acts (19:23-27), Adam Hamilton points out that there was considerable push-back, if you will, from merchants who relied upon the business generated by the pagan Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
They were afraid that if enough people stopped believing in the goddess Artemis, sales of smaller statues, amulets, incantation scrolls and the like would suffer greatly. Indeed, the book of Acts says that quite a number of converts to Christianity had gathered their scrolls of incantations together and burned them (19:18-20). Doing the math, that amounted to about $5,000,000 in today’s money!
Obviously, our faith and message can effect the economy. It can effect how we encourage and treat others. It can inspire us to share of the abundance, or even the little, that we may have, so that others have as well. And it starts with each one who comes to believe and practice what we believe. It is what we have learned from Jesus and are moved to do by the Holy Spirit.
Offering our prayers, as we learned last year and continue to witness, is powerful! It brings our hearts and minds in line with God and God’s will, even when we don’t fully understand or see it completely.
Offering our presence – participating in worship, in small group study, support and accountability – helps us grow and mature in our lives of faith.
Giving our service furthers our mission and ministry by showing Christ’s love for one another and all people.
And giving our witness to God’s wonderful presence and work in our lives helps spread the good news of God’s love in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
> So, where are you? Have you heard the call of Christ upon your heart and life? If not, hear it now. If you have not yet, I invite you to place your trust in him, and receive the gift of new, abundant and eternal life Jesus offers. And if you have not yet discerned the call of Christ in ministry and mission, please speak to me or one of our Deacons about your interest.
For all of you who are members of Church of the Open Door, I ask you to consider your call as you receive your Celebrating Our Call to Ministry envelops . . .
. . . and return them with you on our Stewardship Dedication Sunday in two weeks. It will be a day of acknowledging our clergy and laity alike being called and sharing in ministry.
Thanks and praise be to our God!