[Narrator - music in background] In Ephesians the Apostle Paul paints a beautiful picture of a church as a spiritual body of believers. We each have important roles in the work of service within the church finishing the work the Jesus himself gave to his disciples in teaching and caring for the saints. The work continues today as we journey on the road to the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is preparing His church for future roles in His coming Kingdom. Preparing the bride of Christ is a spiritual job. As individual members it's our primary focus to prepare ourselves for our marriage to the Lamb. God's continues to work through His spirit to make His Church fitly framed together.
We'll hear the personal stories of members from two congregations in New England and learn from their experiences. They express their need for fellowship and how their heartfelt affection leads them to overcome any obstacles to be with one another every Sabbath. We'll also hear excerpts from a message given at this last year's General Conference of Elders by Mr. Bill Eddington who has served on the Council of Elders for the past six years. He discusses the revised vision statement adopted as part of the Church's strategic plan.
First we'll hear from Mr. Dennis Luker, President of the United Church of God:
[Dennis Luker] Hello, brethren around the world. Welcome to God's Feast of Tabernacles. Wherever you are I hope you are having an encouraging and inspiring Feast. As we know the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the time of Christ rule and the establishing of God's government on earth, His Kingdom. It's the time, 1000 years, when the resurrected and glorified saints will rule and serve under Christ and will help bring peace and prosperity to all mankind. This time in God's great plan is spoken of in the book of Revelation.
Revelation:20:6 - "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection…" That's the resurrection at the return of Christ, brethren, that's the resurrection for the first fruits those of us that God has called now to prepare for His coming Kingdom. And it goes on,
..."Over such the second death has now power, we will live forever, but they, those in the first resurrection, shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."
Some call that the millennium, a thousand years, the Kingdom of God, when Christ rules on earth. Brethren we will be helping all nations and every person to come to know the true God, His great love for them and His incredible plan of salvation. Very few today understand the true plan of salvation that God has for all mankind. But they will come to know that they can be part of God's divine family His own children and live forever if they will serve and obey Him. The Apostle John wrote:
John:5:3 - "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments…
Those who love God will obey Him and keep His commandments. And brethren we do love God and we keep His commandments. We love His law which is holy and righteous and good. As Paul said in
Romans:7:12, this is why we keep the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days; we love God, we love His law, and we love His Holy Days, because God's festivals reveal His true plan of salvation for all mankind.
But how does the theme of this years Feast video "Fitly Framed Together" fit in with the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles? Well, the vision of serving with Christ in God's Kingdom is what we seek as our first goal and purpose in life. Jesus said in Matthew:
Matthew:6:33 - "Seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,"
In order to achieve that goal the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God we must become humble yielded to God learning to work together to accomplish His will and His work on earth. Notice, what God inspired Paul to write in the book Ephesians.
Ephesians:4:1-3 - "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
And notice verses 15 and 16 - "But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
Notice, brethren, every part of the body, every part of the church, every member is important and needed in achieving God's purpose for the Church we need each other, brethren.
[Naomi Salva] Of course I need this congregation. I came from an area where everyone was so close in proximity that you can just hop in the car and go and you're just ten minutes down the road. But here everyone's so spread out and so, every week being able to come to church and see people in your family, it's amazing! I don't know what I would do if I didn't have a congregation to go to.
[Walter Warren] The brethren are my family, my spiritual family, that's more than just the love that I have for my other family, who aren't members of the church. I love them, but it's different with the brethren that I meet with, we have the same interest the same goal of being a part of God's family.
[Michael Gonet] I love the brethren, yes, I care about them, I pray for them, I'm concerned about them. I don't,… it's a difficult emotional situation for me, we went through a lot of years, my wife and I went through a lot of years, where we did a lot of home churching, went to a lot of different places and when we found UCG we really felt like we found a home.
[Jerilyn Thurlow] I whole heartily love the brethren, here they are my family. They have been for quite a long time, it's the reason I travel four hours on the Sabbath. There so many thoughts that I have about the people that I see every week and it just feels like it just becomes a living breathing thing, you know, that we hear about the vine, the branches and the fruit. You feel that life, the living waters flowing through us and I guess in a way it sort of becomes its own creation, I don't know how to explain that, but we are a dynamic family!
[Walter Warren] I definitely need this congregation; there's been times when my wife, she says "Why do you want to go there?" I say, because they're my brethren I love them, they love me and I feel a responsibility to be here to be with this group.
[Jonathan Sawyer] Some people they look at Sabbath well, it's a day I can kick back and do nothing. I don't view it that way. Some groups are like that, they don't do anything, they just stay home like that. I believe it's commanded to actually fellowship and come together. It's commanded! I think it's needed! I think we need to come together, be able to meet each other and talk and find out what's going on in peoples lives like that, instead of being hold up in our own houses and doing our own thing. I think that's critical because I've known people that have done that and it's not leading to a good direction, I think.
[Mark Kasperson] You can't do that all on your own. You can't just say I want to become religious and just do it without the church. I mean, Biblically I don't think you can support that.
[Woman's Voice] There are congregations that love fellowshipping meeting three and four hours after services with potlucks almost every week or every other week. But yeah, People were extremely excited to see each other every week.
[Dona Lombardi] The congregation supplies a safe place to meet, an edifying place to go every Sabbath and the Holy Days, encouragement basically.
[Chris Salva] I think we're definitely growing tighter together, more knit together just through the challenges of the last year through serving and it brought a necessity out of that we need to love each other, not just show up talk a little while and leave. There is an involvement on a personal level now. You're talking about your life throughout the week with people on a deeper level.
[Julie Martin] What I've seen helps a congregation grow together is when they are intimately involved in each other's trials, to be there, to support each other, to pray for each other, they keep checking up on each other through out the week and on the Sabbath and to really feel each others pain or you know trials and joys too and just to be in that, to share together.
[Jacqueline de Jong] Everyone drives at least an hour, you're much more appreciative of the effort that everyone makes, you know, and you hardly hear people complaining about how long their commute was. We have a sense of needing one another and getting to hear about each other's stories or trouble's throughout the week. And driving that distance you are aware that everyone is making a concerted effort to come together and it's important for you to contribute to that effort as well.
[Walter Warren] The congregation grows every time a person has a trial and everybody's praying about the trial and asking for God's help to get through it and that's the way we get through trials is to have help.
[Victor de Jong] Coming into a new country is definitely a challenge and I think, what I need from people and this congregation specifically, is encouragement and I think they definitely are good at that. I felt very welcome, yes, all the people, when they see me, I feel like I already belong in this congregation and that's been great for me.
[Hazel Tranquada] We like fellowshipping and just being with each other because a lot of people travel, you know, from Maine or all over New England, to get to services and to spend the time and focus and talk. I think that really, really helps.
[Melanie Morris] My week is usually pretty chaotic and my job is pretty stressful and there are some challenges that I'm currently facing but knowing at the end of the week I will be going and seeing my family at church. It feels like I've been holding my breath all week and I can finally exhale; because they are people who accept me for who I am, they don't necessarily want or need anything from me, but they want to see me and I want to see them and it's very nice to be able to breathe.
[Mark Kasperson] The things that brought us back to this congregation were the voice of the shepherd we were looking for and we seem to find that in the message that the ministry was bringing out and also the acceptance that we got from the congregation when we came in. They were not judgmental of us, we were very, very concerned that they were going to be judgmental and they were going to say, "well you've been out for ten years, you know, even though you've been keeping the Sabbath and keeping the Holy Days all by yourself, you know, we're not going to like that, you weren't part of our congregation." No, we had none of that; there was no reference or inference of that.
[Karen Palmer] This congregation has been phenomenal. I come from a Catholic background, so then you just primarily went to mass and you left. So, the biggest difference for me is learning what fellowship is all about and it's fellowship that helps me grow in my faith. So, if it weren't for the weekly conversations with some of the members I wouldn't be progressing in my faith as I am now.
[Sophia Del Signore] The congregation is more of a base for you, it sort of helps you and nurtures you and grounds you in your faith even more and Titus 2 really applies because the men and women in our congregation, every congregation, there's some that are a lot older, there's some that are middle aged, there are teenagers and even the teenagers can help the younger kids. And I feel that for me personally everyone has something to offer and they can all help each person especially young people grow and mature so that they want to stay.
[Jacqueline de Jong] I think that they are more united than ever, I think that they are not taking each other for granted, you know, we had been in this kind of illusion that the Church was in this great path of unity for the past 17 years and you know, of course, there was a lot of internal conflict and I think that I have come to the realization that no one is indispensable and that if we're not alert and really working together, things can go wrong, so I think that they're really working together now and more aware of where everyone stands with their particular opinions and I think just a lot of desire to move forward.
[Sophia Del Signore] Over the past few years we have become more of a family and we have completely used our talents to help the congregation for the better. Like we've totally done everything like they way we should have, we messed up a lot a year ago and we've all grown so much, we've just learned a lot, you know, through everything
[Len Martin] They tell me they feel at home when they come here on the Sabbath. They genuinely in my opinion, really do love and care for each other.
[Man's voice] Is this congregation perfect?
[Various voices] No!
>> I don't think any church is perfect!
>> No congregation's perfect!
>> No, not at all.
[Mary Ann Kasperson] No, and I'm glad of that, because otherwise it would be the church that's perfect. And instead of you working on yourself; well, Mr. Martin has emphasized from the very beginning he'll worry about him, we worry about us and it's been a great philosophy. I've seen the church grow in that. You don't need to be nit picky in what somebody else is doing. Just worry about your own house and your own relationship with God and be a support for other people
[Hazel Tranquada] It's not a perfect congregation. I mean no congregation is really perfect because the congregation is made up of humans, but they strive to be better and Mr. Martin a lot of the time says that, you work on you and I'll work on me and together we'll build a stronger congregation.
[Gary Densmore] This congregation is not perfect, but is working toward perfection. We're all advancing and progressing forward towards the kingdom. I believe that Christ did say that we would be a small flock and I think that we exemplify that smallness and it's helped us become closer and more intimate with one another in true sincere family-ship. I think the iron sharpening process is alive and in color.
[Walter Warren] It's not perfect, there's none perfect but God. Now, everybody has different hang ups and it's always going to be that way as long as we're physical.
[Len Martin] It's seems to me over years we tried to mold everybody in this same little, I like to use the little yellow pencil model and yet God calls this diverse group of people. And we have to understand that we're always going to have our differences. We're a diverse group. And the more we can dwell on what makes the things that we have in common; the common calling, common purpose, what God's called us to be. What makes us different really gets pushed to the background.
[Chris Salva] Love is easy if you're only spending time with the people that are exactly the same. The difference is where love is important, okay, you have a difference you can love someone that's different from you, and you can listen to someone that's different than you.
[Len Martin] If God wanted us all to be identical, He'd called absolutely identical people and so we've got people with a diverse set of gifts and skill set, they're all willing to jump in and help, by and large the brethren want to serve each other, they want to have peace and harmony on the Sabbath.
[Michael Gonet] If it were perfect we wouldn't be sitting here. (laughs)
[Bill Eddington (Video clip from General Conference of Elders, 2012 - Cincinnati, Ohio)] Let me read to you the new vision statement crafted by the Council of Elders; very important part of the strategic plan. Our vision is of a church led by God's Holy Spirit, joined and knit together by what every member supplies, with all doing their share and growing in love to fulfill God's great purpose for humanity to bring many sons, many children to glory. Let me read it to you again, a Church led by God's Holy Spirit, joined and knit together by what every member supplies, with all doing their share and growing in love to fulfill God's great purpose for humanity to bring many children to glory. That's how the Council of Elders sees the Church. That is the vision the Council has for the United Church of God. It's a step on the way, if you will the vision of the Church into the accomplishment of God's transcendent vision. But we needed something that related to us, right now, here and now, and the Council came up with that description. Of course, you'll recognize that it comes from Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11 through 16. I'd like to read those verses to you.
Ephesians:4:11-16 - "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
God has called us as a part of the United Church of God to be Christ's representatives on earth. And if you go back to verses one through three of the same chapter of Ephesians chapter four you will see that Paul is exhorting and imploring us to be aware of the responsibility that has been placed upon our shoulders. He says in verse one:
Ephesians:4:1-3 - "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
I think you can appreciate why the Council decided to base its vision statement for the United Church of God around these words that Paul wrote because if we can become literally a group of people, a church which is as described here in
Ephesians:4:11-16. We will get that job done. We'll achieve our mission. God will be so strongly behind us that we will get that done. We will preach the Gospel, effectively as far and as wide as God wants us to and we will care for those that God chooses to call to be apart of His Church in these latter days.
[Dennis Luker (Video clip from Indianapolis Conference, 1995 - Forming of the United Church of God)] We are here because we came here individually, brought here by God, what we're going through together is something we have never gone through before. I'm just going to talk to you all straight from my heart, okay? If you want to be a part of what God is doing and I believe His Spirit has brought me here. That those of us who love one another, those of us who respect one another, those of us who see God's spirit in each other. I don't want to be out there by myself with any group or fragmented group and I'm appealing to you here, every one of you, let's work together. We're going through a transitional period right now, we're going through some changes that God's Spirit is leading us through and I know there can be some confusion. There can be some things we don't understand. You know it's the love of God that's going to unite us. Our common beliefs, yes, I believe that all the groups out there that obey God and keep His commandments, Sabbaths and Holy Days are all a part of God's church. As one man came up talking with me the other night he said, "Now are we the true Church, this new group?" We've got to get rid of that kind of thinking folks, the Bible says, God's true Church are those who have His Spirit who obey Him. And that's anyone out there who is doing that, any of the groups. But I'm here because God's Spirit brought me here and I want to work with others who have a similar spirit and attitude of cooperation. I don't claim to be the only group or part of the group, I respect all those who are out there.
We do not want to be individual congregations out there doing our own thing. I will not be that way. I want you to know that, I will never be out there saying well, I'm going to take this group of Southern California and were going to go over here and have our own church and work. I will not do that. I'm going to find those ministers and wives who say I want to be a part of God's people world wide. Who are humble, yielded, give up anything they've started, I don't care what you've started. We don't have one supreme leader; we just don't, except Jesus Christ. That's it that's why I respect everybody who is out there. If we think we're here because were better than anyone else, then we're wrong. So I hope that we can all accept what we hear, realize that we're in a transitional period. It's going to take much prayer and fasting until the next general conference. Anything we're doing can be changed, but we're going to find out who wants to be unified.
[Dennis Luker] When the United Church of God was formed in 1995, here is some of what we wrote in our Constitution which is part of our governing documents for the church. I'm going to be quoting from article 3 - the Church:
"There is one body, the Church, which is a spiritual organism. The Church has many members, to each of whom God has bestowed a measure of faith through the Holy Spirit. Through that Spirit, our Father has made us one in the Body of Christ and individually, member's one of another. He has given us gifts that differ according to His will and has entrusted His Spirit to each of us so that we might exercise those gifts with humility, gentleness and patience in submission. First to Jesus Christ, and then to one another. By the establishment of this constitution, we acknowledge the truth of Scripture that all members have a different function within the Church, and that it is our Father who determines each member's function within the Church."
And then it goes on…
"The purpose for the various functions established within God's Church is to equip each member (every member) to perform the work of service: First to the Church and when the Church has the opportunity, to all humanity. The proper working of each individual member in accordance with his or her function causes the Church to grow."
So brethren when United was first started it was our intent that every member is important and has an active role in the Work of the Church.
[Dick Scholz] I think the congregation plays a part in all of us in how were becoming. We work in kind of a synergistic way with each other and I don't think we realize it so much, but when we're together we kind of encourage each other. There been times when I've walked up to somebody and said "You look like you're having a tough week." And they would tell me a little bit about it and I would just say "Hey, I'm there for you" and I was, and I would be there for them if they needed it and they just walked away feeling better; because somebody made contact, somebody recognized the fact they were having a little bit of a hard time. And I've been there on the other end of that and I've been encouraged. So, it's the case where we all support each other just like any family should.
[Julie Martin] I do see the members serving each other in the area; they will call each other when somebody needs something whether it's to move. Have somebody help them move or somebody's had surgery and they need some meals, or to pray if someone's having a hard time with something, their job or anything people are serving each other and loving each other in that way.
[Walter Warren] And we certainly, have a group that pitches right in and they don't have to be asked they know that there's a need and they're quick to fulfill the need.
[Sophia Del Signore] I think a lot of the young people don't realize the gifts that they have in the way that, I mean a year ago I started playing hymns for the Church. I never thought I could do that, I always thought that I wasn't good enough; I could never contribute in that way. But once I started everyone was so encouraging that it was kind of like, if you messed up it really didn't matter and if you didn't know all the songs in the Hymnal, it didn't matter and I feel like young people have so many talents that they don't even realize.
[Melanie Morris] I see peoples faces light up when they see each other. I see them going out of their way to help each other. I know people will drive out of their way, get up earlier, and stay later in order to help people like me who couldn't get to a service because we don't have a car or because somebody wanted to stay for Bible Study. I see people pitching in bringing meals, when someone has a baby in the family and it might be harder to cook and I see people genuinely caring about each other. Which is something I've been looking for in a Church pretty much my whole life.
[Chris Salva] You can't just come to church and sit down, listen to the sermon and then get up and leave. I mean someone's got to set up the chairs, someone's got to set out the snacks, and there's no getting away with not helping. Everyone's needed right now and it's brought us closer together. And I think that it's helped grow the church too. Because they see the closeness when visitors come they see the closeness and it's attractive to them for sure.
[Jonathan Sawyer] It's not just about like one or two people it's about, you know, we want everyone to be apart of it, you know, it's like a family. Any family everyone's got a job to do. My own family, children have chores they have things they all got to do. You do the table; you put away the laundry, or whatever. If you feel a part of it you take ownership of it. You take more pride, responsibility verses just like well, I'm just hanging around.
[Joel Martin] Working as a team helps us grow a more bond with each other than we would if we were just like having a casual conversation.
[Len Martin] In the congregation here in Seabrook, obviously it started out small. When we first arrived we had, we've been blessed with nice growth and as a result people just show up, and jump in and start serving. We have very little organization chart it's a very flat organization, our attendance has been in the fifty's yet people just show up, they know what needs to get done and they all start pitching in and serving and there's no, we don't have a lot of chiefs, we don't have people worried about who's in charge it's a nice atmosphere in that regard.
[Joel Martin] Serving at church helps me to grow more spiritually and help develop, I guess you could say, people skills and working with other people. I guess it could help others by not to be vain, but an example to others who may not feel as comfortable serving. They might see me a younger person and say he's doing it so; I could serve too, maybe.
[Naomi Salva] The congregation plays a huge part in who I am and who I want to be. There are so many good examples in our church area. The women, especially for me, their so zealous and their constantly striving; not only to be godly, but to talk about Him and steer conversation away on the Sabbath, that's not revolving around the right things.
[Hazel Tranquada] It's really a welcoming environment and it's just great to have the welcoming environment from them. They really know how to, you know, when you first show up they automatically welcome you in and just kind of feeds you to want to do that too, and to help contribute and make things easier whether its, you know, bringing in food for the potlucks, or helping with the setup or keeping the kids occupied for a while, while the parents are having a serious discussion.
Karen Palmer] All I've known is a Catholic church and I was very involved in the church. But once I discovered the truth there was no going back and it's as if what I knew in the past did not matter, only what I know now. So, every week, you know like, I'm in school now, every week, I'm learning something different. From my past I didn't know the Bible, so I'm learning the Bible now. So when I come to worship I have, you know, a room full of Bible scholars so to speak or from my perspective, but it's so wonderful! So, I can come and okay so how can I understand this differently, how do I understand that differently, so I can just come and I can just have all the support and all the knowledge of all the members of the congregation to help me.
[Gary Densmore] Collectively, I would say the Northeast congregation's talents and skills spiritually have helped us advance forward to support the Home Office. To be the light that we're suppose to be and the faithfulness and loyalty and dedication of supporting the Work of God and help with preparing a people
[Len Martin] I think in the local area here. I think the brethren understand what we are about and that is number first and foremost their allegiance is to God and Jesus Christ. You could almost take the plaque off the lectern and it wouldn't matter to them. They're committed first and foremost to God and Jesus Christ and they choose to be apart of United. I think because United has a good sense of at least from the beginning. The idea was the congregations would have a more active role in being a part of the Church. I believe we're there now, I believe the brethren see that; they realize that they really are a part of the Work. God works through the people He's calling and the role of the organization is to serve the needs of the people that God is working with and I believe we're doing that now better than we ever have before.
[Jacqueline de Jong] And I think these congregations have a lot to contribute, there's a lot of talent, there's a lot of zeal and love for God's Way of life.
[Walter Warren] I think the vision statement was good and I think that people here have basically had the same vision right along but it is good to see it spelled out. I think this congregation is building and going in the right direction.
[Bill Eddington (Video clip from General Conference of Elders, 2012 Cincinnati, Ohio)]
Ephesians:4:15 -16 - (Let me repeat them to you,) "But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
The vision we should have of the United Church of God is to see that achieved in this body. To see it achieved in the United Church of God. You can see why the Council chose these words, we ought to be bound together, reconciled to one another, of one spirit, of one body, and working together to achieve the purpose, the wonderful purpose, the high calling, that God has placed firmly and squarely on our shoulders. We are called as individuals, but we are not to stay that way. We're called to be a part of the Body of Christ and particularly for this particular part of the Body of Christ the United Church of God. We become part of the body we don't become individuals, we meld and become a part of a beautiful garment. We're all part of that pattern.
There is no one in this room who doesn't have something that they can offer to the United Church of God. No one, and there's no one watching the cybercast tuned in, in someway, there is no one that can not contribute something, small as it may be, to the effective working and the achievement of the mission of the United Church of God.
[Dennis Luker] Here is one more quote form our constitution which helps to explain each member's role and function in the Church.
Article 3 - The Church
"We acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord, the Apostle of our faith and the Head of the Church. We acknowledge that God, in order to fulfill His Mission and purpose for His Church, has appointed some to carry the gospel to the world, some to pastor local congregations, some to teach, some to help, and some to administer. To the end that all members may exercise the grace given to them by God as He has willed, the following administrations within the Church are hereby established."
And then our constitution goes on to make it clear that it was intended that every member of the Church as they are led by God through the gifts that He gives are an active dynamic part of the Church and the Work of God. But brethren, the important thing, is not what our constitution says but are what God's Word says. We understand that, we know that, but we prayed and fasted and hoped that what we wrote in our governing documents was inspired and based upon the Word of God.
The Bible is our most important governing document and we want you to know brethren that we in the ministry are striving to become more Christ like in loving and humble service to you, God's people. Without you, there would be no Church and no Work of God on earth as we know it. You are the called out ones, called by God to be fitly framed together prepared for service now and in His Kingdom.
[Music in background]
[Bill Eddington (Video clip from General Conference of Elders, 2012 Cincinnati, Ohio)] God's not going to measure the Church by numbers. We all know that God Himself is the one who calls people to be a part of the Church. We don't call people, but we are given the responsibility of preaching the Gospel and getting the information out where people can read it, can understand it. And God may then choose to call them to be a part of His Church in these latter days. Now that's where the growth numerically will come from, but the growth we are talking about is growth in body and spirit as part of the United Church of God and part of the greater Church of God.
I read Matthew Henry's commentary on those words: "Causes growth of the Body for the edifying of itself in love" and this is what he said. "We may understand these words two ways: - Either that all the members of the church may attain a greater measure of love to Christ and to one another; or that they are moved to act in the manner mentioned from love to Christ and to one another. Observe, mutual love among Christians is a great friend to spiritual growth:" Let me just repeat that for you, "Mutual love among Christians is a great friend to spiritual growth:" and he concludes by saying, "it is in love that the body edifies itself."
It is in love that the body edifies itself, its in the relationships that exist within this Church, the personal relationship that exist, that this body, this United Church of God will indeed be edified. There is a clear responsibility for us as part of the Body of Christ to be a work so that the Church can do a work. The Church collectively must be a work before it can do a work. And being a work is our responsibility as individuals collectively joined in the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4, that we spent some time on this afternoon, is devoted to describing how that will be achieved. And those verses that we read are really, a work description, a statement of what we must do if we are to fulfill that. It's a challenge to us to function as the living Body of Christ on earth. A great challenge but we have God behind us, we have His Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us and we can do that but we must be a body of people that God can look at and say they are truly striving to do what I have asked them to do.
[Dick Scholz] Well, I believe each of us has something that we can offer to the local congregation and I know we support in traditional ways of our financial support through our tithes and offerings. But I think in a larger sense we all go out in the world and we all have to set the right example. I mean, I work in a customer contact job everyday and I'm always meeting people from different walks of life and I'm trying to be as pleasant as I would want someone to treat me. Even though it can be challenging at times, because some people they're hard to deal with. But I think that's the only way we're really going to show what God's way of life is really about, by living it out in the world.
[Michael Gonet] The overall work of the congregation is really, it's really individual, not just, you know, the Home Office, so to speak, its each one of us is important. We're the body is each member and each one has to let each individual has to let their light shine in this dark world. You know, we often hear that God calls people, well yes he does, but he uses us individually, to bring people to the truth. That's what are calling is, our calling is not just to be called and sit there. Our calling is to be called to be an example.
[Naomi Salva] The Church is just a giant family and every small congregation is a member of that family. Every family member has to do their part and I think you can have a huge church but if their small congregations aren't doing their part it's not going to work. So, I think that in their own way every small congregation, every large congregation they all contribute to help each other out.
[Walter Warren] To do a work there must be a work. I think that means that you have to be developing the way that God wants you to go. In other words, if we aren't, we got to be more than just a Sabbath person who just comes with a suit. And we need to be doing something to make things work, we just can't warm the chair and listen to the Sermon and go out and be the slob that you might appear to be on their own. I think it's very important to have the right example that we are doing what God wants us to.
[Victor de Jong] I would have to have my personal life also in order, you know my personal life relating to God and my relationship with Him to be able to do a good work that God wants me to do.
[Mary Ann Kasperson] What I want to become is a member of the Body of Christ is to be in the world but not of the world. I want to be able to have the Church background, the Church doctrine and live life the right way and be that example. I'm in the world a lot; I'm in the slums to the mansions within the same day. And I see so many different lifestyles, and we've prayed as families for specific people and seen many blessings. I think there is so much we can do for the world, knowing that we can't fix the world. But someday those people are going to look to us and I want them to remember you were the one that helped me. You weren't the one that walked away.
[Dennis Luker] Brethren, I will close my message with these inspiring scriptures:
I Corinthians 15:57-58 "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
Brethren thank you for being faithful to God, for serving Him so faithfully, and preparing yourself for faithful service now and in the future in the Kingdom of God. Brethren may God continue to bless the rest of your Feast of Tabernacles so that you are filled with joy and happiness.