Changing Our World Talk given by Brad Banner at a Walk to Emmaus in 2004
Please join me in the prayer to the Holy Spirit: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations. Through Christ our Lord.
You may be seated.
God grant me the serenity,
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
John Wesley said:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Matthew 28:16 The Great Commission 16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Mark 16:20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
John 21:15-17 15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 16Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." 17The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." 18 Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.
We are called to be faithful witnesses, not successful witnesses. But by being faithful we may succeed. We may never know of our successes or we may succeed in a different way than we intended. I am going to use two people today as my main examples. Two people that I know best. Good morning gentlemen, my name is Brad Banner and the name of this talk is "Changing our World"
This is about making a plan for changing our world: making the world a more Christ-centered, just, and loving community. You have heard about piety, study, action, and about the world's desperate need for Christ and Christian leadership.
But how can you go about responding to the challenge? Leo Tolstoy once said: "The only thing wrong with Christianity is that nobody has ever tried it."
I want to talk with you about not only trying it, but making a plan to successfully live it and help Christ make a difference in the world as well.
Changing our world involves three fields of ministry: 1) self, 2) others, and 3) society.
Micah 6:8 provides a helpful framework for understanding what is required of us and how we will bring about change in these fields of ministry.
"What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice [community], love mercy [others], and walk humbly with your God [self}."
As I mentioned before, I am going to use two people as examples. The person I know best is of course me. I donít know how successful I am...
The second person is my late wife Kathryn Banner. She was one of the most faithful and successful witnesses that Iíve known personally.
She didnít care about being successful, all she cared about was being faithful. She never knew how successful she was.
You see, about 2 Ĺ years ago on March 28th , 2002 , she was killed in a head-on collision with a car driving in the wrong lane at Cherry Spring between Mason and Fredericksburg. Our daughter, Barbara Jean, was in the back seat and was injured, but has fully recovered physically. I canít tell you how much Christian Action and love the Body of Christ demonstrated during that time and since. Well I can tell you, but it would make this talk run two hours too long.
First Field of Ministry: Self
We must make a plan for anchoring ourselves spiritually. If you are going to bring change to the world, then you must begin by changing yourself.
Saint Peter of Alcantara said: "The trouble is that everyone talks about reforming others and no one thinks about reforming himself."
In this first field of ministry, we are called to walk humbly with our God and change ourselves. Walking humbly with our Lord, does not necessarily mean being a meek person. Walking humbly with our lord means surrendering ourself to his will.
The longest and most difficult part of changing our world is changing ourselves.
We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. How can you truly love our neighbor if you donít love yourself? If you hate yourself, are you supposed to hate your neighbor? I donít think so.
Can we change ourselves by ourselves? No.
Remember the prayer to the Holy Spirit.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations. Through Christ our Lord.
Grace and the Holy Spirit make it possible to love ourselves. In the Holy spirit we will find the joy necessary to be a good witness.
Joy does not necessarily mean cheerfulness or happiness. Iím not always Mr. Happy myself, as many of you know.
Joy is the knowledge of the Spirit in us and around us.
Opening ourselves to the Spirit (Godís will and grace personified) make the Joy possible.
As John Wesley said "we are all going on to perfection". It is a life long process and we canít do it alone.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:13 how it is possible, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
There are going to be setbacks. Many setbacks.
That leads me to tell you about some traps we fall into when we are not firmly rooted in a relationship with God and the Christian community.
The first trap is The Pharisee: The Pharisee is not motivated by Godís grace through the spirit. He seeks rigid perfectionism and legalism. Our salvation is Christ, not rigid adherence to law.
The Pharisee tries to force themselves and everyone else into their mold. He makes a list of "requirements" for himself and others to follow. Woe to those that violate the requirements in any way and at any time.
A novel I read, The Final Encyclopedia, by Gordon Dickson , focused on the difference between fanatics and true believers.
A true believer listens for Godís voice, it may be a still quiet voice, and acts accordingly. A fanatic does what he wants and attributes it to "Godís will".
We donít have to look very far to see examples of fanatics in our world, do we?
Kathryn was a true believer. She had the gift of listening for and hearing that small, still voice and acting on it.
Iím a veterinarian and Kathryn was too. We owned a practice together in Merkel. She was the person that many of our clients and employees shared their problems with. Tremendous listener and she only gave advice when asked. She knew that listening and loving are what is really important.
The do-gooder is another trap we fall into. The do-gooder needs to be needed and wants to be noticed.
One of the fields of ministry that I feel called to is comforting the grieving.
I guarantee you that I hope that I am never needed by a grieving person. I do it because I know a lot about what they are going through and hope I can help, even in a small way.
Kathryn was even more publicity shy. Nearly every project she did was either one on one, or was one that no one else wanted to do.
She worked with the Girl Scouts, the anti-drug programs in our schools and in Lions club in positions that no one else wanted.
Saint Francis de Sales said: ďTrue progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.Ē
The savior complex is another trap we fall into.
We must save the world ourselves and we must do it now.
We donít wait for that still small voice.
That often leads to the fourth trap Ė burned out.
We burn out when we try to do it ourselves without a vital relationship with God and other Christians.
When I talk about a ministry, it is anything that helps an individual or community and gives us an opportunity to witness through our actions or words.
Our model for ministry is Jesus.
We read how Jesus, after periods of intense ministry would withdraw to a lonely place to pray and share with his disciples.
Prayer, a close relationship with God, and fellowship with fellow Christians play an important role in recharging our ministry batteries. A close group of Christian friends is also a good place to share our perceived and real failures.
Changing our world begins with changing ourselves. Ask the spirit to give you Joy.
Open yourself to the spirit with a life of piety, study and action.
Pray, pray, and pray again. Talk to God, tell him your problem and ask for his guidance.
How should we respond when we hear Godís call?
Kathrynís favorite song was Here I Am Lord, based on Isaiah 6:8 Ė Which says - Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said "Here I am, send me".
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart
When you hear Godís voice, go.
Study is also important. Kathryn was a meticulous person.
Any ministry she entered was done with careful study of any written material about it. She talked to people in that ministry.
Now, I study all I can about grief. It was to help me at first, but one day I realized I could help others.
Iíve read Job many times and all of the studies of it that I can get my hands on.
The best study Iíve found about dealing with the anger that follows and accompanies grief is "Disappointment With God", by Phillip Yancey.
The best book Iíve found for dealing with grief is "When There Are No Words: Finding Your Way to Cope With Loss and Grief", by Charlie Walton .
The prayer and fellowship with my fellow travelers has sustained me. Iíve given out I donít know how many copies of my favorite books.
I also know what not say to grieving people. I could writes a book about all the unhelpful things said by good people with the best of intentions.
Again, you donít have to be successful and complete when you set out to change yourself, just faithful.
Wesley called it "Going On to perfection" because it doesnít happen overnight. Be faithful.
St. Francis of Assisi said: "Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self. "
He also said "I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone."
Second Field of Ministry: Others
The second field of ministry is others as individuals.
You do not have to be satisfied with your own changes before beginning this ministry.
I doubt if any ministry would ever get off the ground if we waited for that.
Saint Francis de Sales said: "Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections."
Showing Godís grace to others and filling all your relationships with grace is the basis of this ministry.
Who needs what only you can give?
Who needs to hear about Christ from you and see his grace in action?
Your attitudes toward others will either open or close relationships as channels of grace.
The place to start is your family.
I wrote a letter to Kathryn after her death expressing my regrets and thanking her for all she did for me and our daughter.
Donít wait to express your own regrets and praises.
[K was worldís best Mom - expand]
Then there are relationships with individuals that you may or may not already know.
As another part of our grieving process, I enrolled BJ in a wonderful grief recovery program for children called Rainbows run by the local hospice.
It is an adult guided, peer assistance program for children that have lost a loved one through death or divorce.
While the children were meeting, the adults that brought them also met.
While talking, we realized that people that lose spouses through death have huge support from every community they are involved in Ė in most cases.
Comfort, kind words, food, and every other means of support that you can think of.
For people that lose a spouse through divorce there is usually no support or worse Ė anti-support - condemnation, name-calling, and finger pointing.
Folks, I donít care what you think about divorce, once the deed is done, in most cases the divorcee is grieving deeply, condemns themselves, and has very little if any support.
The Pharisee sees a broken law, a Christian sees a broken person.
Think about how much small gestures of support for divorcees would open channels of grace.
A judgmental attitude can be the greatest obstacle to the spiritual growth of another person. Do you see people for what they have been and condemn them to it, or do you see them for what they can be? They are already as much of a child of God as you are.
Authentic prayer can transform our relationships with others.
Authentic prayer for those we dislike will change our attitude towards them.
So, make sure that your ministry flows from your prayers for others.
Make a friend, be a friend, then bring that friend to Christ.
Expect those that you have been a true friend to to be receptive to your authentic Christian sharing.
Be authentic, be real in sharing your faith and what a difference your relationship with Christ makes.
There is no right or wrong way to share your faith, only authentic and inauthentic ways.
Kathryn never shut anyone out.
One of her ministries was the Just Say No to Drugs program for elementary age children.
When she saw one of "her kids" in later years that HAD gotten into drugs, she would talk to him just like she would talk to the kid that had never touched drugs and was a model person.
She treated everyone for what they could be and prayed and prayed.
When hearts are won to Christ support the change with new ways of thinking and living.
Involve the new Christian is Christian groups and study. Invite them to church. Give them one of your favorite Christian books to read.
Third Field of Ministry: Your Community and World
In this third field of ministry, we are called to do justice.
Your world does not consist of one-on-one relationships alone.
You are an integral part of a society and culture and its groups, families, organizations, institutions, work places, and governments.
You influence your community in how you do or do not participate as a Christian. You are called to help Christ transform your part of the world into a more Christ-centered, loving, and just community.
Your mission is to help Christ alter your community by being an effective Christian influence in it.
This means "to do justice," as well as to "love mercy and to walk humbly with your God' (Micah 6:8).
We see this in Jesus' program for ministry (Luke 4:18-19). Which says Ė
18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
First, identify situations of human need and suffering.
Jesus identified such situations to which we are called to respond (read Matt. 25:31-40). He makes clear the significance of our response.
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Second, work to correct the situation. Sometimes it means taking an unpopular stand.
One of my community ministries is serving on the city council of Merkel.
My vision of serving is ďBe good, donít try to look goodĒ. [expand]
Influence groups, organizations, and businesses of which you are part with Christian values.
Call them to be partners in the road to a better world, not obstacles along the way.
Both works of mercy and justice are necessary.
Mercy is food baskets to needy families at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Justice is determining why these people are hungry and addressing the factors that have caused the need.
To love mercy (give food to the hungry) without acting justly (addressing the why of hunger) is to fall short of changing our world - like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.
There was a girl in Kís girl scout troop whose house had broken windows and a broken commode.
She got the windows and commode fixed and did her level best to help the family members get out of their cycle of poverty.
Third, be a joyful witness to Christ in all that you do in your discipleship.
Let people know by your actions, attitudes, and words that Christ is the source and strength of your zeal for a more Christ-like, loving, and just world; that Christ is the Way.
St Francis of Assisi said - "Preach the gospel constantly Ė use words if necessary."
Often words are necessary, but if you donít walk the walk, talking the talk will get you nowhere.
How are you called to be Christ in your community?
Be faithful, donít worry about being successful. Kathryn never knew she was successful, but she was. [People still come up to me with stories about the small and large things she did for others.... ]
V. CONCLUSION The validity of our witness is not in immediate results.
From (I Cor. 3:5-9). "Some will plant, some will water, and some will harvest"
As disciples, we are not called to be successful, but to be faithful - doing what we can, with what we have, where we are, to advance Christ's kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven." But in order to do so, we need a plan for change in ourselves, in our relationships with others, and in our community.
What will be your plan?
It begins with one small step - What can you do now that will make a difference?
How will you be faithful to your witness?
How will you avoid the trap of seeking success?
St. Francis of Assisi said: "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
St. Teresa of Avila said :
"Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
No hands but yours;
No feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes which look out with Christ's compassion to the world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now."
Be faithful to your witness, donít worry about success. With the help of the Spirit and Christian Friends - you will change your world.