Fig Tree

Please help me. This Sunday (11/15/2009), at the Society Building (600 Tomlinson Rd, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009) between 12 and 3 p.m., you have the opportunity to participate in an important experiment.

I believe that doing good deeds—“benefactions”—while not the highest form of charity, is nevertheless necessary for the introduction of new people to the Lord’s church. The Lord’s disciples wanted to know when He would come again, and in response He said, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31) This is explained in the doctrines: “When a new Church is being created by the Lord, the good of the natural shows itself first of all, that is, good in external form together with the affection belonging to it and with truths.” (AC 4231) “Good of the natural” is not just the natural good we are born into, but rather is that good we do because of spiritual principles. So as the church is created (as a community, or within an individual) a vital step is doing of good on the natural plane, from a spiritual principle—doing good, not just to “be nice”, but as an act of worship of the Lord and love to the neighbor.

I believe that we cannot evangelize merely by sharing truths. Truth must be wed to good, like oxygen to blood, and so to be heart and lungs to the larger world around us, we must offer not just doctrine, but opportunities to bring doctrine to life. More than once the Lord described the growth of His kingdom using parables about inviting people to a feast, and eating represents making good a part of your life. So it is my theory that the world will be much more receptive of the Lord’s new revelation if it is presented hand-in-hand with opportunities to serve the neighbor. We must not only share the truths of the church with people, but invite them into the life of the church right from the start. Is it a coincidence that the emerging generations of young people in our increasingly “vastating” world say they believe in God but reject churches because they don’t seem to do any good?

Our doctrines say loving the neighbor is serving the good in others. When asked “who is the neighbor”, the Lord didn’t say the person left in the ditch was the neighbor, but the good Samaratan who stopped to help. This Sunday, we have a chance to support a group of Good Samaratans in a natural, powerful way. In developing nations in Africa and elsewhere, people are dying of AIDS. In many of their villages and towns, there are local caregivers who help relieve their pain, help prevent infection, assist with household needs including childcare, etc. Many of them are children themselves. World Vision supports these good Samaratans by providing them with kits of basic supplies that are cheap in this country but dear in theirs.

This Sunday, as an experiment in outreach, as a good deed of charity, as an act of worship, the Bryn Athyn Church and Charity in Action are inviting you to invite everyone you know to help us assemble 1,000 of these kits for World Vision. It takes only a few minutes to assemble a kit, plus maybe one more minute at the end for you to add a personal note of encouragement to your caregiver’s kit. I did this myself a year ago, and can report that the Lord does indeed reward good behavior with delight.

So tell everyone. I hope to see you there.

[This is also appearing as this week’s “Pastor’s Box” in the Bryn Athyn Post. For additional information, see my previous post about this event.]

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