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Lets Get Organized

Sermon - 8/19/07
Dr. F. Wayne Bryant
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

Acts 6:1-6

Our house was in state of chaos one day last month as we were preparing to place some items in our Hawaiian club yard sale. Items were strewn across the dining room, spilling over into our living room, as we sorted and decided what was to go and what would stay. Dorothy suddenly said, "I need to get organized or we won't be ready for Saturday!" Her lament probably strikes a responsive chord in those of us who are not very well organized. We set goals we cannot reach; make plans we do not complete and promises we cannot keep. We mean well, but things keep getting in the way!


If only we could weed out the unnecessary and inappropriate from our lives in order to give quality attention to what is truly important, but life gets out of focus. So we fail to do the things of most importance while doing the things of lesser importance because these are the things that demand our attention. The solution is obvious, "Let's Get Organized!" We don't because we suffer from "interior fragmentation" and what we really need, many of us, is a reorganization of the inner self where we stop and take a long look at who we are, where we want to go, and what is of greatest importance. Like many of us, over the years, my response to the obstacles of too many demands was to try harder and push myself to do more than I was capable of doing well.

Effectiveness is not achieved by just working harder or engaging in yet more activity. Success is more likely to occur when we stop in order to take stock of our life. In basketball it is the timeout; in football it is the huddle where the next play is called; in baseball it is the manager's walk to the pitcher's mound. In politics it is in time given to public hearings prior to an action, and here, in this church, it is the time and effort you are expending with Dick Hamm to assess your strengths and mobilize your resources as you look to the future. In our personal life it is the internal place we go to be quiet in the midst of the storm where we gather our resources and determine our priorities.


When we have our priorities straight, we can say "no" to some of the trivia that consumes so much of our life and time, or if the trivia cannot be avoided entirely, at least we can do a better job of handling it. That is what Peter was doing in our text today from Acts 6. The church had grown rapidly and within the growing congregation was a large number of widows and others who had special needs and who needed assistance in order to survive. Some scholars have suggested that many of the needy were those from far off places who had traveled to Jerusalem for Pentecost, remained with the apostles to hear more about Jesus, and were left destitute when their husbands died. The apostles were spending the majority of their time doing social work, distributing food, finding housing for the homeless and mediating quarrels, until Peter said, "Let's get organized!" They chose seven men of integrity ("of good report") and set them to the task that had been consuming the apostles. Those things needed to be done, but they were not the task to which Jesus had called them, which was to proclaim the Good News of Jesus. Peter was taking care of a need that existed in the most efficient way possible. That is what good organization does. It is sort of like housework, I suppose. Most of us do not enjoy it, but it is necessary; only it is not what a home is all about! As I have reflected on life in the church over the years, it seems to me that a lot of so called "church work" is like that. Not unnecessary, because it has to be done, and thank God for those willing to do it, but trivia in that it is not what discipleship is all about. I visited a colleague and found him trying to fix the church furnace. "Four years of college, three years of graduate school and two years of seminary," he said, "and I spend most of my time fixing the furnace and repairing the plumbing! Those things needed to be done, of course, but it was not what he had trained for. So it is with many things. Someone needs to sharpen the pencils in the pews, arrange the flowers, fold the Sunday bulletins and straighten the furniture. but these things are not the work of the church, though they may well be necessary to the church's work.

Some resist organization; some just do not like it, but one of the reasons for organization in the church is to take care of necessary tasks, even the lesser ones, in order to better engage in that which is of primary importance, the work of mission and ministry.


Whether personally, when we are over committed, stressed and floundering, or government that badly needs a "timeout" to reconsider the priorities of our nation, or when the church is confronted with new challenges and opportunities, on the edge of change, the need is for a period of consideration, reflection and renewal of mission and purpose. We have not had a Senior Minister in Portland for the past several months. Shortly after Rex's resignation, a person asked me, "do we have a new minister yet?" I guess she thought we could send off a request to what one of my elders, now deceased, used to call "the mother church" and they would send us someone. I explained that it did not work quite that way, and before we call a new minister there would be an interim minister to help us prepare for the coming of a new pastor, perhaps a year or more. We no have a very fine interim and the next few months will be our "time out" that will help us make a successful transition.


So, "let's get organized!" To Peter and the other leaders in that early church, it meant letting someone else wait on tables in order that they might devote themselves to prayer for guidance in doing the ministry of the church to which Christ had called them. To the seven persons elected, it meant accepting the responsibility of needed service. To that early church, it meant holding those elected to service accountable. To us it means seeking to achieve and maintain balance and wholeness that we might live and serve in an effective way. In music it is the organization of notes that makes the harmony we enjoy, for without that organization of the notes, there would be only a cacophony of noise, "sound and fury signifying nothing."

The way to such harmony in our lives is no mystery. We need to stop, from time to time, and be quiet in God's presence. Sunday worship, Taize quietness, Communion table reflection, closet prayer, are among the opportunities available to us, there, to sort out the possibilities, eliminate the trivia, and proceed with confidence in the direction of our choosing and God's calling. Life organized for that kind of meaning begins when we accept the leading of the Holy Spirit who, by our faith in Jesus, redeems the past and makes new beginnings possible.


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