Friday, March 23, 2018

Feasting with Friends 2018: Basic Information Provided


At this year’s Feasting with Friends community dinner, I decided it was time to get down to brass tacks—as my grandparents used to say. With a great deal of misinformation swirling around about who we are as American Baptists, why we serve the community we serve, and who we human beings are, I felt it necessary to get back to basics. The information was well received, which warmed my heart. The meal was also fantastic as always, well received, and well staffed by dedicated volunteers from our church family and friends. 

Who Are We?
       We’re at Lansdowne Baptist are part of the American Baptist denomination. As American Baptists, we believe Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and that the Bible is divinely inspired. That Bible is our reliable guide to Christian life and faith. We believe all Christians are called to approach God directly, free of any human go-between, and that as Christians we all have free will.
       All of us have been given special gifts by God, gifts that are intended to strengthen and improve our community as we share our unique gifts with each other. God does not intend for us to hoard these gifts, keep them “mint in the box,” or set them aside and play with that box.
       American Baptists believe in religious freedom for everyone. It was Baptists pushed out of Massachusetts who created the Rhode Island colony and declared everyone was welcome there.
       We American Baptists also believe in sharing the good news with others, both locally and internationally. We do this both in the words we speak and the actions we take. To share the good news well, we acknowledge that it is the duty of all believers to equip ourselves with knowledge and train with each other on Sunday morning, so we can live out our faith all week long.
       We American Baptists also agree that we are called to cooperate with other churches. We at Lansdowne Baptist work with Lansdowne’s First Presbyterian Church with the Interfaith Food Cupboard. As the pastor, I have also helped with their Sonrise Service early Easter morning and we at LBC have fed our Presbyterian friends breakfast afterwards.
       American Baptists also very strongly believe we are called to be Christian witnesses for justice and wholeness in a broken society, following Jesus’ excellent example. Since the movement to abolish slavery prior to the Civil War, American Baptists have been involved in every justice movement in the United States. Among them have been supporting women’s rights, including the right to vote, adopting women ministers roughly 100 years ago, supporting the civil rights movement, care of our planet and much more.
       We American Baptists also celebrate the fact that we are the most culturally and theologically diverse of all the US denominations. We embrace people from all around the globe.

Why Do We Serve?
       Why do we at Lansdowne Baptist go to all the effort to support Feasting with Friends and the other programs we are involved with to help our community and the world, people we know and those we will never meet? What is in it for us, people might well ask. Let’s turn to our reliable guide, the Bible, for some answers.
       We are called to serve by Mark 10:43-45: “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
        We are instructed to love everyone in Luke 10:27: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” The parable of the good Samaritan, which follows this verse, illustrates our neighbor is everyone and we do whatever we can for neighbors in need.
        We are informed by Jesus that we will be held to account for our service to others, or our lack thereof, in Matthew 25:33-40: [Jesus] will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
       Finally, 1 Peter 4:10 calls us all to serve others out of the gifts God has given us: 10Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. It is amazing what the use of our gifts can draw out in others. During Feasting with Friends, our efforts draw out gifts from our own church community and from local businesses to make for a wonderful, meaningful day. We are grateful for all the blessings and mercies and free gifts from God and that gratitude makes us generous. We want to share. To quote from A.A. Milne’s character Piglet in Winne-the-Pooh: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” Or, as Psalm 23:5 puts it: My cup overflows.

Who Are We All?
       Finally, there are many folks who are ready and willing, eager even, to define us negatively. The world, or society if you like, defines us by our jobs, our credit scores, social status, skin color, gender, age, diseases, or addictions. I could go on. Needless to say, today’s world judges humanity harshly.
       But the good news is that is not who we are. We American Baptists, we Christians, work hard to see humanity as God sees us, as Jesus taught us, as the Holy Spirit guides us.
       We see everyone as a beloved child of God, one so loved God sent Jesus to tell and show all just how much they are loved. Jesus came to rescue us all from terrible, harmful ways of living that are against God’s plan and intention for humanity. God’s plan is the way of love and hope, a way filled with generosity, service, and devoid of fear. The ways in which we stray from God’s plan are referred to as sin.
       We are taught that humanity is made in God’s image and has God’s characteristics. Sadly we stray.
       However, from the very beginning God loved us and called us good. We are not the labels society applies to us. We are the beloved children of the Creator of the universe. Please remind one of your neighbors of this fact sometime today. That will be a wonderful way to love God and neighbor alike.
      
Open Invitation
**If this sounds good to you, you don't have a church of your own, and you would like to come by and worship with Lansdowne Baptist Church to see what it is like, you will be most welcome. Consider this an open invitation. God bless you on your journey. 

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