Take Hold: Doing Good - Rev. Michael F. Bailey

Take Hold: Doing Good
Titus 3:1-8, I Timothy 6:18a
Rev. Michael F. Bailey
October 16, 2016

Titus 3:1-8 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.

I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.

I Timothy 6:18a “They are to do good, to be rich in good works…”

   I suspect most of us were raised in a way, where in some form or fashion, we were expected to do good deeds in the world, especially for the weak, hurting and in need of help. 

Some may remember the motto of Boy Scouting: Do a Good Turn Every day! Others receive a sense of doing good deeds from church and school. Churches often provide children opportunities to do projects and participate in events to help the world. For instance, our 4th-6th graders are joining in the CROP walk today to “end hunger one step at a time.” And many families are planning to involve their children in assembling United Methodist Committee on Relief Flood Buckets for Hurricane Matthew recovery. In my day, schools taught and implemented ways to do good deeds as citizenship training. I pretty distinctly remember working with the Red Cross, the March of Dimes and trick or treating for UNICEF – the United Nations International Children’s’ Emergency Fund. (Our Trunk or Treat proceeds go there.) There are so many ways we’ve been taught or teach that we are to do good works as disciples in our communities, nation and world.

And that makes a lot of sense, particularly when you consider the portion of our stewardship theme verse that invites us to “do good, to be rich in good works.” More, in our longer passage for today, Paul writing to Titus, a Gentile pastor in Crete, instructs him to teach Christians that we are “to be ready for every good work” and to “devote ourselves to every good work.” Paul writes this after sharing beautifully about our salvation. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” Paul teaches us that we’re saved from all of the negative aspects of sin and become heirs of eternal life. You see, he is telling us what we’re saved from and in the next verses tells us what we’re saved for, “to devote ourselves to every good work.”

It reminds me of James teaching us that faith without good works is dead! We aren’t saved by good works, but if we’re saved, good works result!

And how this fits with our branch of the Christian family tree! Some of you may remember we had a whole stewardship emphasis a few years ago called, “Doing Good.” It was based on the saying that has been attributed to John Wesley for two and half centuries, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Perhaps of even more practical impact Wesley invites us to follow three simple but powerful rules in every aspect of our lives: Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God. 

Historically, United Methodists have lived this Biblical call to do good deeds. In his days at Oxford, Wesley gathered a group of fellow students around him, and they lived lives following the Bible seriously. They met to study the Bible and hold each other spiritually accountable. They fasted twice a week in preparation for communion twice a week. But, “knowing what they were saved from they also lived into what they were saved for.” Nearly everyday they were about doing good. They visited people on death row and in debtor’s prison. They took food to impoverished families and taught destitute children to read. All in the context of 18th century England where these things just weren’t done and there was no semblance of a “safety net.”

Then, after his famous “Aldersgate” experience on May 24, 1738, Wesley began preaching to and attracting large crowds. He organized them into small groups for spiritual accountability called “class meetings” or “bands”. From the deepening of spirituality, that is, knowing what one was saved from, he focused them on what they were saved for, doing good works in the world. He invited Methodists to an almost sacramental meeting of Jesus in serving the poor and dispossessed. He instituted “earning all you can,” “saving all you can” through simple living in order to “give all you can” toward doing good works. The headquarters of the movement was in an old Foundry in London. It seated 1500 for worship, hosted two hundred class meetings a week. But more, it was a center for doing good works and ministries. In the Foundry Sunday School was invented as a literacy program. “In the Foundry” was a free clinic and pharmacy for the poor. “In the Foundry” was a credit union for the poor. “In the Foundry” was an intervention program for human trafficking – a place where girls lost to the streets experienced redemption spiritually and vocationally by learning a trade, sewing, and then being set up in business by the credit union; in a word micro-enterprise. 

 

Wesley went about doing good-works ministries by changing the systems that ground the humanity out of people and put them in poverty in the first place. He fought against the “crack” of his day, a lead-ridden, poisonous “bath tub” gin. He sought to have decent hours for laborers. He lobbied to have protection in factories for workers and end child labor. He wrote parliament and encouraged William Wilberforce in the ending of slavery. He pushed Parliament to reform laws that sent whole families, women and children to prison for small debts. He pushed for prison reform and even animal rights. 

 

You see, our heritage as United Methodist Christians is to do good-works ministries in our community, nation and world. 

And denominationally we still live out this Biblical call to do good works ministries. One of the reasons the United Methodist Church is called a connectional church is that we are all linked together for greater impact in terms of our generosity together. In every UMC we give a portion of our budget to apportionments, a fair share of our Conference budget, which is the Western half of our state, and the global UMC. The results are phenomenal! No single, large, highly-publicized independent congregation has even a smidgen of the impact we United Methodists have working and giving together! Even the smallest UM congregation has a role to play when they give their fair share. Our missional giving through apportionments supports in the US alone: 80 hospitals and medical centers, 300 plus retirement homes, 119 colleges and universities, hundreds of social service centers, residents for differently-abled people, children’s homes, ministry and missionaries across the world. A seven year old article stated some other ministries: “Your apportionments help to afford care and support for children with AIDS, and to speak out against violence in the Middle East that is creating a new generation of orphans. Your apportionments are paying for teachers, pastors, and missionaries around the world. The United Methodist Church is the only Protestant denomination allowed to maintain a permanent presence in Russia. Africa and Korea are the fastest growing Christian communities in the world and the United Methodist Church has an active and visible presence in both of those locations. KumNon Methodist Church in South Korea is the largest Methodist congregation in the world with 112,000 members. This effort began 20 short years ago, funded by World Service apportionments. When Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, FEMA realized that they were not prepared to deal with the on going process. They asked (first time in history) UMCOR to take over operations within Alabama because the United Methodist Church was the only denomination with the structure and resources to take on the task.”    

And we’re seeing it all over again even in our own state with Hurricane Matthew relief. Someone once said of us Methodists: they are organized to beat the devil. And yes we are! And we’ll do so by doing good. We’re organized to beat the devils of hunger, poverty, illness, hunger and disaster. And your generosity has this kind of impact when you give to Jesus through giving to Christ Church.

And, locally we live this Biblical call to do good works ministries. I hope you all read Dr. Suzanne Miller-Sampson’s cover article in our church newsletter, the Messenger. And, if you didn’t I hope you go back and read it or pick up a copy at the Connection Point Desk. It speaks so beautifully how your giving makes such an impact in this world. A half a million meals packed through Stop Hunger Now, tons of food collected for GUM and so many other corporate good deeds. I hope you’ll pick up last year’s annual report and see that much more than a tithe of our stewardship went to missions and that over 1300 of our members were engaged in some form of mission that we were aware of. And now, even in our entrance area mission goes on; doing good is happening. You’ll see on our Hurricane Matthew Webpage a partnership with 1st Presbyterian to get water to Lumberton. You’ll see church member, ministerial candidate and Lumberton native Christy Oxendine is collecting supplies to take to her hometown. You’ll see that families are assembling flood buckets; people are giving money to UMCOR where 100 percent of the gift goes for relief; you’ll see people are forming relief teams. All this while food collections for the city, plans for international mission, blood drive and scores of other ways of doing good happen. All this is because of your collective generosity. As you consider your “estimate of giving” commitment for the year to come, I hope you continue the Christ Church tradition of embodying the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” Let us pray. 

Discussion Guide for October 16: Do Good

Share with your group ways of being “rich in good works.”

Share with your group how you answer: “We know what we are saved from but the question is, what are we saved for?”

Share with your group ways the church might be “devoted to good works.”

Share with your group a personal commitment to be “devoted to good works.”