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By This they will know...

Last week at our Parish Meeting in Chinchilla Pastor David Schmidt from the ministry and mission department shared with us something very interesting.

He said that historically the church has always worked on getting new people into the church by using the three words: believe, behave and belong.

First we would teach you what to believe. Then you would start behaving like the rest of the church when you believe the same as them. After a while when you started behaving the same as everyone else you would feel like you belonged.

But interestingly the question of belief or whether something is true or not is not actually the biggest one for people anymore. What we find now is the question of whether this will make a difference to my life, will I be accepted and cared for in this place?

And so now what we tend to use is these three words in a different order.

It now goes belong, behave, believe.

If you come into a place and feel like you belong there if you are welcomed and cared for you will relax and in the end probably start to behave a little bit like other people. Hopefully if you are welcomed and cared for you will be welcoming and caring to others. After time goes on if this is a place where you want to be you will find that you are absorbing the teaching, hopefully you are seeing that it matches with the behaviours around you in the place where you belong, before you know it you will actually find yourself believing the same thing as those around you.

People tend to get their beliefs a lot less from trusted sources of authority add a lot more from their community and people who they know accept them and who care.

Now, a quick refresher for all of you about the way that the Lutheran Church has always seen the word of God. For some of you it might be the first time you've heard this.

While we never tell God how he can speak, and we never divide up his word into good or bad (it's all good), we have been able to see through looking at the Bible but for the most part God's word works in two different ways. It's the same word, it's the same Bible but it works differently in US depending on where we are.

These ways are law and gospel.

The Law tells us what we need to do to live up to God's perfection. It also tells us that we are incapable of living up to God's perfection. Sounds pretty scary but remember I said that God's word is all good.

This law points us to the fact that we need something: a saviour. That we can't live up to God's perfection on our own.

But then after the law has done its work the gospel comes to us with the good news and that is literally what the word gospel means.

It says "you need a saviour but I have good news for you: we have a saviour." And it tells us about Jesus and what he has done to bring us to the father, free from the separation of sin.

And we who felt just dead knowing we couldn't be close to God on our own feel so alive knowing what he has done to bring us back to him.

But then what?

OK now I believe. I have a saviour. I believe that he died and rose to save me from eternally death caused by my sinfulness.

When I believe that I can truly call myself a Christian.

But then what? Now how do I live? Will believing this and calling myself a Christian make any difference to my life? Will it look any different to how I was before? Will it look any different to those who don't believe? And if not why would I bother?

There are some other parts of the Bible written to people in this same situation of being new Christians in the early days of the church, that told them “here are some ways you can live as Christians”. This is what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

We sometimes call this the table of duties. And there is part of us that doesn't like the idea of duty. We don't like being told what to do.

But remember this isn't that you must do this or you are not saved. No you are saved already. A citizen of heaven, God's own child. This is what you CAN do, what you are CALLED to do because of who you are.

When someone came to Jesus once and asked him what the most important duty was, (he asked this by saying what's the most important law or commandment that we have to follow?) Jesus completely reframed the question and gave an answer no one had ever heard before. Our obligation, he said, the greatest commandment is to love.

So this table of duties contains ways to love. In fact Jesus said that's how people will know we belong to him because of our love for each other. And so when people come into this church they will be able to know there is something different about this place because of the way that they are loved. And love is made real in actions.

The table of duties contains some old things like about how slaves should treat masters etc, and in a day and age now where we don't have slavery, the church has thought a little bit about how our duty to love might look today.

And it looks like this: (Or at least this is a great starting point)

It is called the standards of ethical behaviour. It has been agreed upon and put out by the church, not to say that if you don't keep every one of these perfectly you're out, but instead to show us some ways to live and some ways to show love.

We're going to hand this out to people on the way out of worship this morning. I encourage you to have a read of it: it's great material. On the front it tells us why it's important, and inside it covers a few important areas about how we demonstrate God's love.

I'm not going to read it all out now but these areas are:

in our personal behaviour

in our pastoral caring

in our caring for children

in our communications

and in financial and administrative matters.

It finishes with our third reading for today from Colossians: "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of

you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

Who would not want to belong to a place that really does that.

The other reason that it is so important that we give this to you today and that we talk about it, is that there are some of you here who have not been with us as long as others, who may be asking yourself is this a place where I feel like I can belong?

We went through this material with the confirmation class and I said to them the same thing that I'm saying to you today. This is not just about what we expect of you. We would hope that your time here means that you grow in love whether it is short or is it the rest of your life. But it's not just about how we want you to behave.

The church is a spiritual hospital. It is a place for broken people. It is a place for people who need shelter and care. And it is a place where we want you to know how you can expect to be treated by those who are around you. We're all struggling. We all have bad days. Sometimes we don't act as we would like to, and we know that when we don't we need to go to the person we've hurt and say sorry, confess our sin and ask for their forgiveness. And we are commanded to forgive.

We want everyone to know that they will be treated in love here. That they will feel safe and that they will truly be safe. Because it is only in that safety and security that they can grow, that you can grow to be all God wants you to be.

Our responsibility boils down so simply to love. If every word and action that we do or say here is out of love for the other and not for ourselves we would have kept all this perfectly.

The statistics tell us that everyone is going through something. I did a mental health first aid course this week and was shocked to find that one in five of us sitting here will suffer from a common mental illness this year. Why have we never spoken about this? From depression to anxiety to substance abuse to psychosis. We need to look out for each other.

And this is only one area. If we consider the people who have physical health concerns, who have relationship issues, employment problems, financial problems, how many do you think would be left standing who have nothing to deal with in their life, who don't need us to treat them lovingly?

I don't think the odds are in favour of it being many at all.

The love which we show is the love of God. I pray that we might grow in reflecting it to each other and to others outside of our walls, that all may know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ by our love.


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