Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
There is an old joke that goes like this. How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: None, Lutherans don’t change. Yes, sadly there is a stigma about us Lutherans that says we are quite resistant to change. But it’s not just Lutherans who are stubborn when it comes to change. People in general resist making changes in their lives because change can be uncomfortable. But change is entirely necessary—uncomfortable or not.
We’ve all been changed. When the waters of Holy Baptism washed over us, we were changed from unbelievers, dead in our trespasses and sins, to believers who are children of God having the new life of faith and forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have been declared by God “not guilty” of our sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. We have been given the Holy Spirit who works a total change of our whole life so that we strive to do good works. (Good works are everything that the Christian does by faith in what we say, think, and do.) But sometimes we become complacent and lazy.
In his book Stewardship is More Than Time, Talent, and Things: A New Agenda, C. Neil Strait says, “Many people take a dim view of responsibility and accountability. They view such ideas as hindrances to personal freedom that do not fit into the modern interpretation of freedom and behavior. Responsibility and accountability appear too often to be prisons for the secular spirit.” (19) I asked our Wednesday evening Learning Event class about this. “To what extent do you find this to be true or false in society? In the Church? In this congregation? With yourself?”
God has given us both responsibility and accountability in our lives as His people. He has entrusted us with His creation. Everything that we say we have actually belongs to God. It is on loan to us to use for His glory and the benefit of other people. We are to use the things given to us as our Lord and Master would use them, since we are caring for them on His behalf. In other words, we are responsible for the gift of time, talents, and treasures that the Lord has given us to use on His behalf and we are accountable to Him for their right use.
God expects more from us that simply coming to worship for one hour on a Sunday morning. He expects us to get up out of the pew and work in His Kingdom using the time and abilities He has given to us as He would have us use them—in loving service within the congregation and outside the congregation. As Strait again commented, “Faithfulness is not just a duty, it is a lifestyle. It is a response that recognizes that the blessings of God come from proper discharge of responsibility and accountability.” (21)
So here is where the rubber meets the road. As we did in our evening class on May 11, I am asking all of us (me included!) to take a heat-felt look at how we are doing in the areas of responsibility and accountability as we use the Lord’s blessings in our lives. And when we do, we find that we need to change—as individuals and then as a congregation. We need to take our responsibility as managers and users of God’s thing and bring it to the forefront of our lives. Living a Christian life of stewardship and mission has to become a lifestyle for us, and not just something that happens on Sundays or when we come to church for an event. For this congregation to change and grow it takes each one of us to change and grow first. And that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” And Ephesians 2:10, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” As we grow in faith through the hearing of God’s Word and receiving of Christ’s Sacrament, we grow in Christian living because the Holy Spirit is at work in us through the Word and Sacrament increasing in us love for God and love for neighbor, increasing in us responsibility and accountability.
Don’t you think it’s time for change? Don’t you think that it is time for us to grow in our Christian responsibilities personally and as a congregation? I do. Those 15 or some members who have attended the Learning Events do. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit work the miracle of growth in faith and in Christian living among each one of us so that this congregation might become an even strong outpost of mission and love in our community. Let’s grow in faith and in love together, supporting each other, being accountable and responsible to each other and the Lord so that we can accomplish much in the Kingdom in the name of Jesus. To do so, be faithful in your worship attendance. Come and join your brothers and sisters in Christ in a Bible class and especially at our Learning Events. Take bold steps of faith and volunteer to serve and to help and to love. Opportunities for growth and service abound in our congregation! Use them for your blessing, for the benefit of others, and to give glory to your only God and Savior.