Input sound file: Audio 2018_10_21.mp3
Last two Sundays, we’ve been talking about the basic idea, at least in my opinion, of what we do as a church. Church 101. The very first thing is this: we are the people who love one another. Why? Because Jesus said that the Commandment was to love God with all your– remember? Heart, soul, mind, strength. To love our neighbor as we love ourself. So, we are the people who love one another. That’s the basis, the foundation. When our needs for love are met, just like children, we become curious. We begin to ask questions. And then we become the people who learn together. We have different kinds of classes and levels of classes here at the church, so that we can learn together. What comes next? Here’s what comes next. After a certain point in time, of learning, you want to do something. You can only read through a cookbook so long, before you get the urge to cook something. You can only watch golf on television – although I really question how anyone can watch golf on television – because after you watch some of it, you want to go do it. If, as we grow, it’s wonderful to be loved and it’s wonderful to learn. But, finally, we want to do something. And the history of this – I used this as an example in a sermon four years ago – the whole point was, if you’re on a bicycle, you will stay in balance as long as you’re moving forward and doing something. If you try to stay in one place on a bicycle, you’ll fall down. We are human beings who are meant to do things. So, what should we do? Well, here’s another way to say the same thing. Pastor once quoted this in a sermon, “I’ll never forget the athlete who came up to me, and he said, ‘I don’t want to give my life to Christ. I’m afraid of the will of God.'” You know how we pray in the Lord’s Prayers, “Thy will be done.” If we keep saying, “Thy will be done,” what’s God going to make us do? As the preacher said, the typical athlete, who thinks that God wants to break both his legs and make him play a flute. But if God’s will is going to be done, you would have to give up doing what you loved and do something that you really hate, just to show how much you love God. There’s a lot of that in the hearts of people. And here’s the truth about that: we see Jesus in Gethsemane, praying, “Thy will be done. But Lord, if it’s possible, take this cup away from me. Take this cross away from me. I know it’s going to be very painful.” And we think, “That must be the cross that God wants us to carry. That must be the sort of thing God wants us to do.” And, in fact, it says it right there in Mark 8:38, “Jesus called to him the multitude, with his disciples, everyone at every stage of their spiritual growth, and he said to them, ‘All, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. And you know what scares the athlete? You know what scares us sometimes? I’m not able to die on a cross the way Jesus did. I don’t know that my faith is strong enough for me to suffer and die on a cross the way Jesus did. And if God wants me to be like Jesus, maybe God wants me to suffer like that. Well, I only have one response to that kind of thinking, in all honesty. Who do you think you are? Read that bottom line with me, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross.” His cross. You are not supposed to take up the cross of Jesus. You’re not Jesus. Not only was Jesus the son of God, God prepared him his entire life to die upon a cross for our sins. You’re not supposed to take up his cross, you’re supposed to take up your cross. And just as there’s a difference between who Jesus is and who you are, between who Jesus is and who I am, our cross will be different. Because every single one of us has something we’re supposed to do. The second thing about taking up your cross, you’ve heard me say this before, huge pet peeve for me, never say this around me. You know, that husband of mine, he’s just my cross to bear. Those migraine headaches, they’re just my cross to bear. Well, sometimes we do suffer in this life, we really do. But, the cross that Jesus carried was not for him, it was for you and it was to benefit you and help you. And I’ll be honest with you, I know some people who go through migraines. I’ve never known anyone whos migraines helped anyone else with anything. Your cross is the thing you do for Jesus that helps people. And you are made, as clearly as this spatula is made, to do something specific and whatever it is you ought to get busy doing it. And unfortunately, I can’t tell you what it is because every single one of you are different, and some of us are so busy trying to be like other people, we haven’t spent any time trying to be ourselves, so we figure out who God made us to be and what God made us to do. But, your cross is how God works through you to benefit someone else because that’s what God did with Jesus’s cross. It’s the same thing, just on a different scale, just with a different kind of cross. Because there’s so many people that have needs and the needs are so different, God needs lots of different people to meet all those different needs. We are the people who love one another. We are the people who learn together. We are the people who serve together. Your cross, whatever it is, is customized for you. You have been shaped your entire life to do that thing And the most likely truth is this, it’s something that comes so natural to you that you don’t even realize how good you are because it’s how you’re made and you’re made that way because God chooses to love people through us. Now, if there was anything that I would want to argue with God that was not a smart thing to do is depend on me instead of for him to use his almighty power. Because I, infallible, and I am human and so are all the rest of us. But God has chosen to love the world through us and that’s the way it is. And so, therefore, we are a church that seeks to obey Jesus because when you love God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength, you’re going to seek to obey him. We seek to love others, like yourself, and that leads us to [inaudible]. We are the people who serve together.
Let’s talk just about what these various factors mean. The first one is this– 1 Corinthians, chapter 12 verse 7– to each, there are no exceptions. To each is given the manifestation of the spirit the way God shows up to help people. God shows up in every person in some way to help people for the common good, right there in the word of God. There is something that God wants to do through you. Every one of us is necessary. Every one of us is important. Everyone is [inaudible]. But most human beings don’t know what they’re supposed to do. Most human beings aren’t aware of their spiritual gift. Many human beings feel so badly about themselves it’s hard for them to imagine that God can use them in any way. If you want to know what your spiritual gift is, if you want to know who it is God wants you to help, here is how you can find it. You look at your shape. What does my heart love and who do I love. You will be drawn to certain people. You will feel a great sympathy and empathy for certain people. That’s where your heart is. God will prepare you serve and therefore if you look at your abilities, God wants you to use them in some way. What do you do well? Many of you have heard me say this, never ask me to do anything with tools. I’m not good at it, but there are other things I’m good at. Whatever you do well, there’s a place where God can use it. And not only that, you have preferences. God shapes your preferences too and they will tell you something about what God wants you to do.
Finally, God will make sure you have lots of experience because he shapes you throughout your lifetime to do what you’re supposed to do so that you’ve been there before. It’s not challenging or difficult for you. That’s how you’ll know when you’re supposed to do. You’ll find out how God is showing up in you to help other people. Here’s the next verse in 1 Corinthians 12– all these are inspired by one of the same spirit who [inaudible] to each one individually as he will. I’ll be honest with you, most of us if we could pick what our gift was, we would pick something else because in us as human beings there’s a desire to admire and respect other people and we think to yourself, “Oh, I wish I could play the piano.” I wish I could play the organ like Gerry. I wish I could preach really long sermons like pastor Dave. Well may you may not but because we admire other people, we want to be like them instead of being like ourselves. God has shaped you and you’ll find meaning in your life when you’re doing what God made you to do. Friends, your heart needs to beat. Your lungs need to breathe. If your lungs really admire the heart and decide to stop breathing, you’re in a lot of trouble. The more each of us does what God made us to do, the more each one of us expects who God made us be, the more each one of us opens up and allows God to love other people through how we’re made, the stronger and healthier a church will be. Like [colleagues?] had a name for it, it’s called differentiation. Ask me about this some other time. But God created you to be who you are. Please keep that in mind. John 20, 21 please remember this, after the resurrection the day of the resurrection, Jesus sat with the disciples and said to them, peace be with you, as the father has sent me, now that I’ve died on the cross, and I have risen from the dead, now I want to send you and you going to do for other what I did because you working together are going to be the body of Christ, living and acting in this world. Well, pastor pass through, what is it the pastors are supposed to do? Well, if you look at Ephesians 4, and the whole context is on the back page of the [booklet?]. The job of pastors and all the leaders in the early Christian church, their job fall in the three things, and all three are really the same jobs. Pastors are to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The word ministry mean serve, we are the people who serve together. And here is the other thing, there are whole a lot of ways to serve but the ways that God want you to serve are ones that build up the body of Christ. And that’s the connection between people that make the church come together. So the way you serve is a part of loving one another and loving your neighbor as yourself. The way you serve, people are going to learn and grow. The way you serve is God loving people through you. And the word equipped? well, it means to make ready but it’s also the same word that’s translated when John and Andrew were mending the nets. The pastor’s job is to go among the people helping them to be mended. So when you’re mended and able to do what you’re supposed to do then you just keep serving. This is what we do. Now if you are Matthew, Joan, Kim, you probably seeing this, this is statistical– they call it the [bell card?], if you take a hundred people and you ask them how much they love baseball, or how much they know about cooking, they’ll divide into this sort of graph. A few people will be experts, a whole lot of people are in the middle, they know some but not a lot and there’s other people on the far end the [Liggers?] who really don’t know much, they don’t have much answers. Somebody else seems to cook for them these churches are being encouraged to love the neighborhood around the church building. And at first, when you think about it, that sounds really good, until you realize the neighborhood is a thing. It’s not individual people. Well, the second problem with it is what Jesus said is for Christians to love the people, the individuals around the Christians. In other words, it’s not the people who live next door to the church building. It’s the people who live next door to you. That’s who we’re supposed to love. Now, I guarantee you, if we begin to do that, all the people who live around the church building will find themselves also being loved. But there’s a huge difference between looking at people and trying to organize an institution or a community. In a previous church, I called this the rule of three. Remember you are interested and excited about something. If there’s three people in this church who are interested and excited about something, we need to find a way to help them do what they feel God wants them to do. Because they [peg their eternal?] needs to [inaudible] and needs to lead people who work together in teams to do God’s work. But the network way of looking at it, I think, works so much better for a smaller church because that’s who we are. We’re people who are family. We’re connected to each other into a spiritual family. So by finding out what you love, we can connect you to the neighbor who needs that particular thing.
Now, there’s a movie about hearts and we’re going to watch it now because this feels how this sort of loving people looks. In just a moment, the movie will magically start.
We are the people that love one another. When we do that, hearts are strangely warmed. And what warms our hearts, God’s love living inside of us, begins to move into the hearts of other people and they also feel God’s love. And they feel God’s forgiveness. And they feel all that we have felt to be meaningful and valuable in our faith because the cross that we carry is customized. It is made for us, but it is also how God chooses to love other people through us. And sometimes what institutions do with committees and other stuff, it gets in the way of that actually happening. If you look at what Jesus did in the New Testament, again and again, over and over, He would walk and He would meet people and He would love on them and then He would walk some more. We need to walk slowly through the crowd and notice our neighbor and maybe we’ll see the task that God wants us to do to serve.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we’re people that are learning how to love you and how to love each other and how to love ourselves. Lord, we’re people who are learning what you want us to do. We’re learning about you, Jesus. As we grow, we get to the point where we just want to do more than learn. We want to do something. We have the sense that we are made to do something. Lord, help us to find that thing we are meant to do. And then, Lord, help us to be able to do it with all of our strength, with all of our mind, with all of our heart, with all of our spirit. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
As a tool that will help us think about what we might be meant to do, this little thing is in your bulletin. Please feel free to fill it out. Check the boxes that fit with who you are. Please don’t forget to put your name on it. Somebody played a joke on me once. Checked every single box and didn’t put their name down, I almost had a heart attack [laughter]. Some of these are things you’re meant to do. Please help us to know who they are so that we can ask you when your help is needed. Finally, this song is the song we sing where we talk about the Lord asking us to serve. Let’s stand and sing it together. [music]
The photo …
This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.