(EDITOR'S NOTE: Faith Matters is a column written by the social concerns committee of the United Churches of Lycoming County. The monthly feature will include local faith-based comment on issues facing us today. Opinions expressed in the columns are those of the writers and the social concerns committee, not necessarily the Sun-Gazette.)
As we discuss something as critical as the topic, "Does our faith Matter," we first need to discuss this question from either a personal viewpoint or a community viewpoint.
The question of whether our faith matters to each of us on a personal level is one I will leave for later. In this article, I want us to focus on the question as it pertains beyond the individual. Does our faith matter to our family, our community, our country, our world? It is actually from this viewpoint that God has mostly answered this question. God wants our faith to matter to others. God wants us to improve the world because of our personal faith. So allow me very briefly to reflect on some ways our faith matters through the glasses of United Churches of Lycoming County.
"Does our faith matter?" is a question not asked by those of us involved at United Churches but rather is a question that needs to be asked by those whom we serve. To the thousands who benefit from our Shepherd of the Streets program (now 25 years young), we hear, "Yes, it matters!"
To another thousand or so who receive food from our on-going food pantry, the same answer is heard - "Yes, it matters!"
From those who are students at Penn College and have benefited from our campus ministry program and for their families who are so grateful that while their child is away from home there is someone there keeping them close to God, yes, it matters!
Another group heard from each week are those in our nursing homes, assisted living homes and prisons who may not be able to attend a church on Sunday mornings but receive the word of God from one of our volunteers in over 800 worship services each year, we hear, "Yes, thank you. It matters!
Or how about to those children throughout the world who still are alive because of our support of CROP? Do you think they might be willing to say, "Oh yes, it mattered enough to keep me alive?" Or for those we helped during the flood of a few years back? Or those who receive one of our personal care kits?
We hear it during our community worship services such as last week's pre-Lenten service and during the services Church Women United leads several times a year. We hear it from our interfaith community that has grown closer together through seminars and informational sessions where we have learned about each other's faiths. We hear "Yes, it matters" from all those other ministries I have failed to list, and yes, we do - but there simply is no room left to list them all.
And so the question "Does your faith matter?" indeed can be answered "Yes" by many who are so thankful we have a faith that leads us to do these ministries.
Yet, it also is why we need to continue to raise money either through your generous donations or through a fundraiser like our golf tournament (Sept. 26). Because our faith matters to so many in very important ways. I end this section with a simple question. Have you not experienced some blessing in your life at some point because someone else had faith that mattered to them, enough to be there when you were in need?
So, back to the beginning. "Does our faith matter?" is both a personal question and a question for the greater community. I think we have answered the one about the general community. It is clear that faith matters a great deal to many. And in turn, this answers the question about our personal viewpoint. For in fact, because it matters to so many we help because of our faith, it means that our faith matters to each of us as well.
Our personal faith makes us better people and brings us a happier existence because it is one that forces us not to focus every waking moment on self. By the definition of a person of faith, we are called to look outward. In the words of some of our younger friends, a "selfie" is fun and nice at times, but the purpose of the camera is really to focus outward, to see those around us and to act on the needs that are before us. Since our faith matters in some very real ways, we are part of God's solution to the world's problems as we live each day of our lives in a way that shows others that indeed, our faith matters!
- Weiss is the owner-director of Caring Outreach ... Helping People to Plan the Future