What can I do?

[To go along with the theme of the sermon, the special music for this service was “Do Something” by Matthew West. You can see the video here.]

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill (shine shine, shine shine)
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

Scriptures: Galatians 6:6-10; 1 Corinthians 13:9-13

Today is the next-to-last part of the sermon series that I’ve been doing, on how and where to see God when the world is just … wrong. We started out utilizing the psalms of lament as a vessel and a model for how to deal with trials and troubles in life, knowing that the psalmists were not afraid to tell God how they felt and what was wrong, that God’s shoulders were big enough.

Then they would remind themselves of God’s sovereignty and power, frequently by remembering things that He had done in their lives or in the lives of the people of God. Then they would give praise to God.

We looked at ways that we could take that step back in times of tribulation and a time when things were just wrong, as we looked at and remembered God’s plan and God’s perspective. We looked at God’s promises and the hope that comes through Jesus Christ, that we know and are assured of a victory in the end.

Then we began to see how we might apply it, as we endure through experiences of personal evil and tragedy. We looked at a broader scale of systemic wrong, and how to keep ourselves in a way that would be effective in our actions, by remembering to hold onto the peace that we gain through Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

Then last week we looked at natural disasters. I got on my hobby-horse a little, and noted that natural disasters are really not disasters, if you just look at them in ecological terms, most of the time. There are always things that happen that bring positive outcomes from it. What makes it a disaster is people – not that people cause it, but the impact on people is what we grieve, what makes it a tragedy for us – the loss of property, the loss of employment, the loss of people that we love and we care for.

We talked about the way we could find God by looking in the response to the disaster, and how frequently we see those who are the best witnesses are those who are still suffering themselves, and yet they take the time to help those who are even more desperate than they are. You see that, most recently, in the flood in Houston, and people whose own houses were underwater but who had boats were helping those that didn’t, and were rescuing them.

You have first responders and firemen that, if there’s a blaze, a wildfire that’s going on in the state, it’s not just that state that handles it. People from all over the country come in to try to help contain that wildfire and keep the damages to a minimum. It shows, I think, the importance of acting on things.

Today, that’s what we want to look at, through the vehicle of this song from Matthew West, “Do Something,” and the passage in Galatians, primarily. When we become Christians, we affirm our faith in front of people. We take a set of vows, basically, to follow Jesus and be disciples, to do as he called us to do. As the liturgist noted, it’s based in faith, it’s rooted in hope, but the action is love. We promised to show God’s love to others in a variety of ways.

One of the things that I think we need to understand is that when we do these kinds of activities, we need to remember two things. One is, as Matthew West said, too often we say, “God, why don’t you do something?” And God says, “I did. I created you.”

We like to sit on our laurels (you’re going to hear that analogy a few times today). It’s so much easier to sit back, to relax, to rest in our salvation. Since Jesus Christ died for me, it’s all done, it’s all good. We can worship together and praise God and smile.

But as James said in his letter, if you profess Christ and you call yourself a disciple and you are walking down the street and you see someone naked, and you say, “God be with you, and may it all be well,” and then you walk on, then you are condemned. Because faith without works is dead.

Now I want to be careful, because I’m a Reformed preacher. We don’t believe in works righteousness. We believe in grace, through faith. We believe that Jesus is the only way. It’s a gift.

We also don’t believe in karma. Actually, a lot of us do. We just don’t say we do. But you know that phrase, “what goes around, comes around.” Even the concept of “just deserts,” sometimes, looks at karma. So people try to do good to build up a good balance. You have the bad stuff you do, and then you have the good stuff you do, and as long as your good stuff outweighs your bad stuff, then you’re all right. But that’s not the case at all.

When we do that, as Paul notes, we mock God, and ultimately we reap what we sow. Because what we’re doing, then, when we do good, is we’re doing it for our own advancement, our own sakes. No matter how altruistic it seems and how great the good that we do, it’s for our own purposes, for recognition, for praise, for that balance, so that we can feel like we are superior. Ultimately, then, when we fall, no one is going to help us. They’ll just point fingers at us.

God is not mocked. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

If you so what God has called you to do in the way that God has called you to do it, then you will reap a life and joy of the Spirit.

“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time.” Paul is using farmer’s analogy there, but he speaks often about rewards in heaven, crowns in heaven. Again, this is not a reason to do good things. But it is a recognition that, as you follow Jesus Christ and you do what is right, there is something that is built up for you.

Your salvation is assured, through Jesus Christ. What’s in heaven really depends on you, in many ways, and your life in the Spirit.

There is a musical performer named Eli. I played one of his songs here once, at least three or four years ago, called “Lumber.” It was based off the idea “in my Father’s house are many mansions. A guy dies, who’s been wealthy and he was philanthropic. But when he gets up there, and an angel takes him to see his house, it’s a little one-room shack with peeling wood. He basically turns to the angel and says, “What’s this?” And the angel shrugs and says, “That’s all the lumber you gave.”

The lumber comes from the selfless good that you do. As the liturgist noted, sometimes that can grow tiresome. Doing what is right is hard. And when you see somebody else getting ahead of the game by not doing what is right, it feels sometimes like you’re beating your head against a wall. Well, I feel sometimes like I’m beating my head against a wall, and I’m projecting that on you folks. But I suspect you feel much the same.

We want to say, forget this. I’m going to go with the flow, I’m going to do what the world does, and I’m just going to enjoy myself. But we’re called to a different standard. We’re not to get weary in doing what is right, because at some point, when we see Christ face to face and we enter into the joy of heaven, then we will have crowns that we can lay at his feet. We will have “lumber” to use to build our home in heaven.

So whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those of the family of faith.

When there’s a disaster, see if God is calling you to act there. Without fanfare, without any kind of acclaim. And I would encourage you to act personally. Too often, we in America in particular, throw money at it. That’s not to say money isn’t necessary. Money is a good thing. There are a lot of people that need it. But what’s even more valuable than money is relationships that are formed, as you see people face to face.

Now I admit, I know that we can’t all travel. I know I can’t go to Puerto Rico. And they wouldn’t want me because my carpentry is so bad, instead of rebuilding I’d probably tear down more. But you can form relationships, particularly with the communication abilities we have here.

You did that in Texas, with the church in Dickinson, with the pastor that is there and the congregation. They know who you are. Hopefully you know who they are. They still post stuff on facebook – the progress that’s been made, things that have been done. It’s hopefully going to be an ongoing relationship.

We act without fanfare. We act without expectation of reward. And we do good. We do something.

We talk all the time, as the song does, about how we’re God’s hands and feet. It says:

But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”

No, God calls you to do something. You are the one that is to take action.

The last thing I want to note, working off the Scripture, is he says, “especially for those of the family of faith.” I know it sounds, perhaps, unfair to some people, but we’re supposed to take care of the family first. That’s the family of faith in the church.

And sometimes, that can be the most difficult thing of all. From what I understand, the two worst kinds of fights you can have are a family fight (usually over inheritance or property or something like that) and a church fight. We often mask it, and on the surface everything is hunky-dory, but behind the scenes, behind each other’s backs, where things can’t be seen, there’s a war that’s waged.

That’s not the way we’re supposed to be. “Faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.” We’re to love one another. We are to help one another, particularly in the family of faith. As we reflect God’s love, as we begin to follow God’s call and let the Holy Spirit which indwells us overflow out of us onto others, then we begin to reflect the same kind of love that God had for us, in that the Son came and died for us and cleansed us of our sin as a gift.

And then that wasn’t all. He was raised again, not for himself – he was glorified already – but for us, so that we might be able to be glorified, so that our corruptible might put on incorruptible, so that one day, we would come before God and see Him face to face and be able to take joy in that, being reconciled with Him.

So we are reconciled with one another. So we help one another. Tragedies can be not just national in scale, not just on a large scale. Sometimes tragedies are small. I know you guys understand this. Part of the reason I moved back to the Midwest was that concept of neighborliness. I’ve seen it when somebody’s walk is covered with snow and somebody else shovels it, because they’re already out there shoveling.

I’ve seen farmers, particularly in a time of harvest, they finish their harvest and then they go and help a neighbor, bringing over their equipment and things. They’re not asking for pay. They’re not asking for recognition, though some may be given. They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. They’re caring for each other.

We should have the same kind of attitude within the church itself. Because that’s where it starts. Then as the church is filled with that kind of love and caring, it overflows into the community, and teaches others about just who Jesus Christ is, and what God’s love means.

My prayer for you is that when you see something occurring, when you hear of something occurring, that you don’t sit back on your laurels. You don’t say, “I’m too old” or “I’m too busy” or “I don’t know them” or “I don’t like them” or “somebody else will take care of it.”

But rather, that you be the first to do something. And in so doing, you will give God praise and glory, and build up those crowns in heaven that you’re going to lay at Jesus’ feet because of the wondrous things He has done for you.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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