Running To and Fro 
Sunday, July 22, 2007, 08:23 AM - Sermon
Amos 8:1-12; Luke 10:38-42

Amos says: A famine on the land, not of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. No time has there been so many people been running to and fro seeking a word from the Lord and not finding it; at least not in churches. People report themselves as spiritual, but don't do much about it. As our material wealth has increased, so has our feeling of emptiness.

Mary and Martha had very different ways of reacting to a visit of Jesus. You can almost see the rushing to and fro in Martha's preparations for a meal. Both longing to welcome Jesus. How do we welcome spirituality into the emptiness in our lives?

Could we recognize spirituality? According to research by George Gallup and Timothy Jones (The Saints Among Us [Ridgefield, CT: Morehouse Publishing]) Spiritually mature people:

Likely have a daily time of private prayer
Sense the presence of God in the lives
Find religion to be a source of strength, growth, and healing
Are more peaceful, joyful and happy and less depressed
Are more humble
Are more often engaged in compassionate acts
Are less prejudiced

Not the people described by Amos in the first part of our readings. They view religion has something that got in the way of their busy lives of profit, and people as a means to the end of profit. Compassion had no value for people God condemns to Amos.

How can we get there? How can we become more peaceful, more joyful and more happy? Herb Miller in Connecting with God says there are over a dozen ways. Seven are primary:

1. Worship
2. Music
3. Prayer
4. Fellowship
5. Preaching
6. Service
7. Stewardship

Worship — Paying attention to God. Focusing on God and sensing God's presence. The church sanctuary is a great place to do this, we are surrounded by the symbols of the faith, pictures of great Bible figures and events in the life of Christ, and wrapped in the history of this place and this people. It is hard not to pay attention to God here. We have worship services that could welcome more people. I hear good Marthas tell me, shut down the other service and tell those people to come help me! The way I prepare for Jesus is the way all should prepare. No, there are different ways to come to Christ and each is honored.

Music — For some organ music lifts them to heaven. For others it is Jazz, or praise songs, or rock, or country. We need to broaden our God sense in music. We are doing that with two services with different music and more so next week with the contemporary service downstairs. Our music director does a great job with the music and the theme of the service. It is good, but as my Uncle counseled me, music has its own message, its own integrity and path to the heart and soul. It isn't just a servant of the preacher. Does it bring God closer to you? Then it is good soul music.

Prayer — time spent with God relating to God. Not a form or a list or an exercise. But time with God listening as much as telling. Praising as much as asking. Hanging out as much as checking in. I working on text messaging on cell phones. We send little messages to others. 160 characters or less. There is a service called Twitter. You text the answer to the question, “What are you doing right now?” and it goes to your friends cell phone, your web page, your facebook. God would like to be included too in your updates. And if you pay attention, maybe you'll get a message back in what God is doing in the world.

Fellowship — Is fellowship a waste of time? An embarrassment? I don't believe so, although many pastors do, they want people to do something! We have lots of programs going on and more needed! I believe we have four Sunday School adult classes. Three have a book, the Sanctuary Class, the Spiral Class, and the Friendship Class. One isn't on the schedule, but meets every Sunday. It is the Gathering Room class. I secretly call them the Welcoming Class. They are the scouts between services that keep the social space alive for earlier arrivals and the curious and confused. Should they go and help other real classes…I think they have a ministry and a purpose on their own.

Preaching — I try to get to people. If folk will hear God only if I'm in a pulpit and reading a sermon. Fine! If they need me to talk without notes fine! If they need to see me in a golf shirt and kahkis in conversation with them. Great! I want to get out of the way. I want to get the centuries between us and Jesus' life on earth erased. I want to bring the prophets into America and out of the holy land. Preaching is the newspaper in one hand the Bible in the other, (Karl Barth) to make God's word come to me.

Service — We always have something going now. The God's Squad has moved from Evangelism to Doism. They are doing mission. From baby supplies this month to school supplies next month. We have opportunities with projects at the church on Wednesdays. We just go through with a lot of people working in service for Vacation Bible School. It was fantastic amount of work and I know folks who worked, who service, were helped in their spiritual life not just the kids who came. Service needs always to be out there.

Stewardship — This week we are beginning to think about our stewardship efforts for this year. I just go through talking about service and how great it was, I bet no one thought, “Hurmph, giving money is important too!” Yet the givers of money get this all the time, we ask for service every week and rarely is their a complaint about too much asking. But we are sensitive about stewardship of finances. Yet people report that giving money, like giving service, or worship, or music is a pathway to spiritual growth as well. We need to include this in our mission of making spiritual mature people.

Now we look at Mary and Martha and we find that Mary choose worship or maybe preaching, while Martha choose service. Jesus affirms that people can make choices, not everyone has to come to Jesus the same way or find the depths of spirituality in the same pursuits. How can we stop running to and fro and find the Lord? There are many ways, find the ones that speak to you and make the better choice, the choice that leads you closer to Jesus.

Some of the information here comes from “The Parish Paper” by Herb Miller and Lyle E. Schaller.

Advanced permission is given for non-profit, for-prophet use of the above at no charge as long as it is reproduced unedited with notices and copyright intact. Written copies are provided after they are preached as a courtesy for the personal, private, appreciative use of the congregation of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church, their families and friends to support the ministry of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church and its pastor the Rev. J. Christy Ramsey. Join us Sundays! 8:15 Traditional Worship and 10:15 Blended. Mingle in our Gathering Room between services and take advantage of Christian Education opportunities

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