Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Nominal Christian"

This past Sunday our pastor gave a very insightful sermon on the term "Nominal Christian" and the way the Samaritan Woman that met Jesus at the well was confronted by the Holy Spirit calling her to repentance. With his permission this is the sermon:

Topic: Nominal Christian
Text: John 4:5-26
3rd Sunday in Lent

Have you ever heard the term ‘nominal’ Christian? It means literally a Christian in name only. In other words a person who attends church, confesses the creed and the entire liturgy, and does nothing else. It would take some serious self examination to determine if you were, are or ever have been a nominal Christian. Personally I admit I have been a nominal Christian most of my adult life. It’s hard to admit, but looking back on my Christian life I can see times when I attended church on a somewhat regular basis, but nothing really changed in my personal life. The liturgy was something I remembered, but didn’t really understand. The sermons at times struck a nerve, but most of the time had little impact on me. The Bible was just a collection of ‘do’s and don’ts’ with little or no real meaning for me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were times when I was a Christian who was seeking God’s will and some comfort from Him, but that usually occurred when I was struggling with some temptation or a trial in my life. Once the situation had changed, I resorted to my old self. Christianity was something I sought to use to better myself. I wanted a change in my person, my being and my actions. I rarely found it. How many of you either feel that way right now or have felt that way in the past?

I would never admit to myself that I was a ‘nominal’ Christian, but I was. It wasn’t until I read the passages from this morning’s Gospel reading that I realized I was a nominal Christian because the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well identified the traits of a nominal Christian. So, here is the definition of a nominal Christian, but I want all of you to be aware that a person who confesses and believes in the promises of God that our sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the Cross is saved. It’s not a question of whether nominal Christians are saved or if there are even a few in the congregation this morning, because odds are there are. But the question is whether or not a nominal Christian can withstand the forces of evil that attack us daily and whether a nominal Christian seeks to be strengthened in their faith or if they are satisfied where they are.

Ok, according to our Gospel reading there are two major character traits of a nominal Christian and the Samaritan woman at the well is an example of a person possessing both of them. First she, like many today is living a life of sin without repentance. The fact that a woman alone in Jesus time going to a well in the middle of the day to get water indicates the woman is ostracized by her community because of her living arrangements. In Jesus time women didn’t travel alone because of the inherent dangers that surrounded them. They went in pairs, but this woman goes alone. She is a social outcast for several reasons. And because she is an outcast indicates some sense of morality amongst her peers because she has not only been married and divorced 5 times according to verse 18, but she is also living with a man who is not her husband.

Her community recognizes that there is some shame to divorce and living together, but she sees no problem with it. So Jesus tries to get her to the point where she realizes her own sin and seeks a change in her lifestyle. The danger she faces and that all nominal Christians who are living a sinful lifestyle or are actively involved in sinful behavior without repentance is that she may come to the point of not caring anymore whether or not what she is doing is wrong. She may put up barriers to God’s grace by explaining away her sin as ‘her choice’ or a necessity because of the situation she is faced with. A nominal Christian sees sin as not that serious a problem or sees others sins as being worse.

A ‘nominal’ Christian doesn't see that even if salvation were given to every human being on earth, except themselves, then God would still be perfectly just in allowing that person to go to eternal destruction. Sin, all sin is so bad that even a single instance sentences us to an eternal life without God. 1 John Chapter 3 verse 15 says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Even a sustained hateful thought of another Christian can lead to eternal death. And we all have those hateful thoughts. The Samaritan woman lived a sustained sinful life without repentance, until Jesus came along. He revealed her sinful behavior, not so she would feel worse, but so she would repent and drink from the well of eternal life. And she did. Her confession is in verse 17 where she says, “I have no husband.” Without her confession the well of living water is dry. She is turning the corner to becoming a strong and not a nominal Christian, but there is more work for Jesus.

He sees that she is not immersed in the full account of God’s Word. A Samaritan, like many Christians today accepts only part of the Bible as God’s Word. A Samaritan believes that only the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch is actually the Word of God. They can do without Proverbs, Psalms, Isaiah and all of the other books. Many Christians today accept only those words that Jesus spoke in the four Gospels as the Word of God. Those things that St. Paul wrote in his epistles, especially those things that are controversial can be ignored as either not relevant to modern society or as not God’s Word at all.

A nominal Christian has two choices; either continue to live guided by their own idea of how they should live or they can turn to God and seek the living water Jesus speaks about in verses 10 and 14. A nominal Christian thinks, “I am doing enough” while a Christian who is growing in their faith thinks, “What more can I do?” A nominal Christian thinks some sins are worse than others, while a strong Christian knows all sin condemns. A nominal Christian thinks the Bible is God’s Word insofar as it applies to modern standards while a strong Christian believes the entire Bible is the Word of God and that we know God only through His Word.

I’m tired of being a nominal Christian. I’m tired of drinking from the water the world offers; a water that taste’s good but only nourishes for a moment. I want the water God gives; the living water that springs to eternal life. I want God to convince me of His will in my life and not try to convince Him of my will. I, like many of you at some point in your life am tired of drinking from the well that never satisfies. There has to be more to life than our day to day activities that leave us feeling empty and alone. And there is.

We have God’s own account of all we need to function in this world. We have His story written down so that we can believe and have faith in His promises that lead to eternal life. This water that leads to eternal life is found in every home; it is the Word of God. The Samaritan woman was convinced by Jesus’ Word that she was a sinner and needed to repent. Once she does, she receives forgiveness and reacts just as Jesus wants her to. She runs home to spread the Good News that the Savior was in the world. Because of her testimony, many others came to the saving faith she now had. Verses 41 and 42 say, “Many more believed BECAUSE OF HIS WORD, and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’”

A nominal Christian hears the testimony of others and believes that testimony but a strong Christian believes that testimony and then begins a life long study of God’s Word to strengthen their faith. Hearing the lessons being read and the sermon on Sunday morning introduces us to the Christian faith. Continuing by reading God’s Word on our own and attending Bible Studies strengthens our faith and allows us to endure all kinds of trials and temptations.

But more than that it fills us with God’s living water to where we no longer seek satisfaction from the world, but only from Jesus. Jesus comes to us. He offers us the living water of eternal life. By believing in him, we are drinking of that water freely, fully. Our consciences rest. Our haunting doubts dissolve. Our vain pursuit for real life, empty and hopeless without Jesus, is over. Jesus satisfies our thirst. By the gospel in Word and sacrament, the Holy Spirit has called us to faith in Jesus. The gifts of forgiveness of sins, peace with God, the confidence to call God our Father, and fellowship with God now and forever in heaven quench our thirst for eternal life. Amen.
Most of you know, of course, that my pastor is my Husband, so I am sort of focused when it comes to listening to sermons...and pray that congregation members are as well...this one was just speaking to my heart, to my soul, and I adore the way that the pastor claims the law for himself as well...never pointing fingers at the congregation, always inclusive. I pray that you too are touched by God's precious Word. Shawn <><

Friday, February 22, 2008

2008 Mission Statement...

Years ago, when my 16yog was in a baby seat, I attended a Lutheran Women's Missionary League Spring Rally, where we were guided on writing a mission statement for our selves and home life. With great surprise, when I found it many years later the "goals" section was found to have been true...and although we have traveled across the United States, mostly the "home" section was true as well.

So, here I am with a tweener and two teens, and I am re-evaluating my mission statement. I am so focused on being a created child of God, encourager of my husband, motherhood, a hospitable friend, and live in this time with only the financial blessing HE has given me today. Here it goes...

Shawn Wright's Mission Statement for 2008

This year, with the help of the Lord, I am going to spend time daily in the Holy Word of God...

This year, with the help of the Lord, I will encourage my husband with kind words, loving actions and a gentle touch, keep my home a sanctuary for him and provide tasty and nutritious meals...

This year, with the help of the Lord, I will hug my children each day, pray for them, teach them, listen to them with my eyes looking into theirs, and be their biggest fan...

This year, with the help of the Lord, I will keep my home prepared to receive friends, make the environment welcoming and verbally invite others into our home...

This year, with the help of the Lord, I will not live beyond my means, I will use extra $ toward debt and vacation only within my financial ability...

Headlines: Coffee Snob turns husband into a Tea Snob!

Really, I am the total Coffee Snob, drinking my
quad/2%/Latte heated at 140 degrees EVERYsingledayofmylife...
my dh is not a coffee drinker (funny that we currently own a Christian Coffee House) and so we carry a line of great teas and his new favorite is
Acai Berry...and he just gags at the ole' standby that he swore by, lipton. So, welcome to my world! I LOVE you dh!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Okay, so I am not just speaking of our winter wonderland outdoors...this is weird, I know, and now I know why....

I have, for the past 8 months or year been addicted to ice...



chewing ice by the bowl-full. WEIRD

So I thought. BUT, I decided to google: "chewing ice habbit" and there were pages full of other gals with the same issue, and the problem: LOW IRON. The other items people like to chew when low in iron is chalk, laundry soap and dirt...so I guess ice wasn't so bad. I went out the next day, bought an iron supplement, along with my woman's daily vitamin and guess what?! NO CRAVINGS FOR ICE!!! The weirdest thing I have ever experienced! So, I learned something new this week. Thanks be to God.