Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.
Are you a little confused as you listened to the reading today?
I know what you are thinking – what is this all about? A food fight?
What’s a Hellenist? Who are the Hebrews?
People complained in the early church – can you imagine that.
The Hellenists are Greek speaking Jews, culturally like Greeks. The Hebrew’s are Jews as well. They just might have thought of themselves as a bit superior to the Hellenists.
They are all disciples of Jesus. They have been caught up in this new, powerful, spiritual movement in a resurrected Jesus.
This is also a matter about a basic human need called food. And it is about widows, about vulnerable people.
It is about the very beginning of what we call the church trying to figure out how to act and function as a group of people committed to the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
They had just received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They were on fire. New Christians were being added every day.
What you need to know this morning is that this first group of Jesus followers are trying to figure out how to carry out God’s mission.
Which is what God’s church always has to do in every age.
The issue in Acts 6 was that the widows of one group that was culturally and linguistically different from the other group of early disciples was being neglected. Someone complained, pointed out the need and the leaders responded.
They figured out as a community how best to respond.
And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task.
So seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom are chosen, prayed over and appointed to the task of word and service.
Appointed to this task. In Acts 6 the task was serving widows, meeting the needs of others, attending to the Word of God. That was then. What about now?
To what task have you been appointed as a disciple of Jesus?
Do you know what the task might be?
Have you responded to the task?
This is the connecting point today for you and for me and for this church as we hear the story.
Christians respond to the needs of the world around them.
We are appointed to certain tasks.
We are instructed in the book of James to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
My job as one of your pastors is to remind you of who you are as disciples of Jesus – you are doers of the word.
Part of the history of global mission at Augustana us a history of people responding to specific tasks which in turn has lead the entire Augustana community to respond. We as a community are doers of the word.
If you read the global mission brochure, and I am confident that you did, then you saw that in 2002 Janet Metcalfe, a member of Augustana church responded to the God appointed task of connecting to some Christians in Guatemala.
In 1990 it was Pastor Gary Langness and his wife Carol responding to the task of connecting to Christians in Tanzania.
In 1910, a Lutheran Pastor from Red Wing, MN, educated at Luther Seminary attended the Protestant International Conference for Foreign Missions in Edinburgh, Scotland and was appointed to the task of a mission to Kurdistan.
What do these three things have in common with Acts chapter 6?
God appoints disciples of Jesus to tasks.
These appointments usually begin very small. In Acts 6 it was seven deacons. Janet Metcalfe was a committee of one. Rev. Fossum was a committee of one. Fortunately Rev. Langness had his wife with him so that was a committee of two.
A year ago in April, I was privileged to take part in the dedication of the new sanctuary at San Augustin Lutheran Church in Guatemala. In October of 2016 it was the dedication of the new sanctuary at Ipogoro Lutheran Church in Tanzania. These things happened because you responded to your appointed task of walking along side and supporting your Christian sisters and brothers and Tanzania and Guatemala. God’s mission in both of those places has grown, it has struggled and it has thrived.
The new relationship begun this year with Lutheran Mideast Development comes out of my struggle with how best to respond to the horrors of Isis and the helplessness one feels about being able to make a difference in that part of the world.
I’m not equipped to go to that part of the world to help educate children in order to keep them out of the militias, to give skills to young women so they aren’t married off at age 14.
But as I learned, Lutheran Mideast Development is there and has been there for over 100 years. I had no idea that there was a respected Lutheran presence in that part of the world.
I felt as if God was appointing us a new task to go along with the others we have been given.
So we widen the circle of generosity at Augustana this year. What a privilege it is to be able to share in an offering of love and grace once a year that makes so much happen across the globe.
I love being part of an offering like this. For my wife and me it is one of the best things we do every year. To those who don’t understand, an offering like this might look like no more than a financial transaction.
I believe it is much more than that. I believe the Augustana global mission offering is an invitation into community. It is an invitation into the Augustana community and the people you sit around on a Sunday morning. It is an invitation into a spiritual community that we call the kingdom of God. By asking you to respond as a doer of the word with a gift of money into this spiritual community called the kingdom of God you are entering into a new vision, a new reality of abundance and hope that always comes as a result of giving, of being a doer of the word.
We, my wife and I, give a gift of $1,000 because it connects us to God’s vision of a world where hope defeats fear, where love overcomes despair. We love being part of a community that responds to this kind of God appointed task.
Our intern Angela and her husband Morgan have caught a glimpse of this vision and are giving a gift of $500. Angela will take what she has learned here about generosity and abundance and hope and bring it to the churches she serves.
I know Pastor Torgerson and her husband Chris will give a gift but in true Megan fashion she just hasn’t told me yet.
I don’t know what the fruits of our gifts will bring in the kingdom of God.
And frankly, that doesn’t concern me.
Because I know and trust that when God appoints people and whole communities to certain tasks and they respond, the kingdom work gets done.
Widows are fed, places where people can worship God get built, children are clothed and educated, hope gets rekindled in the dark places of the world and the love of God in Jesus Christ is revealed to people of all nations and creeds.
You have been appointed to this task.
Act, respond, and don’t sit on the sidelines.
Be a doer of the word.
Be part of the task to which God has called us.
Thanks be to God. Amen