Sermons

Apostle: Gifted For Others

When I was preparing to go live for 4 months in Turkey, trying to discern what God was doing in my life, preparing me for, a dear friend of mine reminded me of a passage – gave it to me as a blessing, and perhaps, prophetically:

“Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, 
   not where Christ has already been named,
   so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation,
21but as it is written,
‘Those who have never been told of him shall see,
   and those who have never heard of him shall understand.’”

(Romans 15:20-21)

            It resonated with me, strengthened me . . . and continues to inform the work God gives for me to be about. You know how, when you hear a passage or verse from scripture and your spirit quickens? like you just know in your deepest being that God is speaking to you, and only you, in this moment? It might be to comfort, or perhaps to encourage. Maybe it convicts or motivates to action – or all of the above?!

            This passage was like that for me. And I think it illustrates one of the ways God informs us, reveals to us how God is gifting us for the building up of the Body of Christ, making things right – the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

            How does God speak to you when you read or hear Scripture? Or when you participate in prayer, or listen to someone with wisdom in your life, or as you reflect when you stroll through the neighborhood, or glue together pieces of a model airplane?

10After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.

Luke 10:1-3

Ask Jesus to send laborers to harvest. Whom are we asking to go? And to where? And to do what?

The “sent ones” can also be designated apostles. The Scriptures provides ample evidence of this. Still, Jesus makes it clear we are all made to cultivate the land – literally, figuratively and spiritually. We are all created to be about making things right in this world. But that does not mean that we are all equipped to do every aspect of it individually – not by a long shot!

What God has created whole, namely, the Body of Christ – us – let no one separate! We are, together, apostles, for example. Some are apostles. But this cannot be understood individually, case by case. Apostles can do specific things, but cannot accomplish anything by them if done in isolation.

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9, 11

I love how the Message version frames it: “God entrusts to each a mission: One designs the blueprint, another puts up the walls, but Jesus is the Foundation.”

Some characteristics of one empowered by the Holy Spirit to be apostolic:

  • Visionary thinking and motivation
  • Comfortable crossing boundaries – intellectual, social or cultural
  • Starting something new is energizing
  • Pioneering new endeavors
  • Strategic decision maker
  • Innovative approaches and solutions
  • Uncomfortable with the status quo
  • See things holistically, part of larger system
  • Understands multiple dynamics and components (from, 5Q, Alan Hirsch)

Working outside the Spirit’s guidance and inspiration, they may also:

  • Dogmatic about vision
  • Domineering
  • Ignore those “who don’t get it”
  • Be impatient
  • Become easily disillusioned

Which is a major reason all the giftings need to be in leadership and the community as a whole. We sharpen each other (as iron does – Proverbs 27:17)

The church of Christ needs people who cast vision, or the church gets stuck and entropy has its way.

36-39 “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put wine in old, cracked bottles; you get strong, clean bottles for your fresh vintage wine. And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.”

Luke 5:36-39

Today is Human Relations Day for the United Methodist Church denomination. While we are commissioned to do mission, preach, live the gospel to the ends of the earth, we are also commissioned to do so in our neighborhood. As I know you more, I see the many ways you are doing this.

I also see how there are few young families who gather with us on a Sunday morning.

The 19th century British missionary, Charles T Studd (who started the mission I, coincidentally, happened to join when I went to China after college – WEC, Intl.) CT Studd said this:

“The light that shines farthest shines brightest nearest home.”

C T Studd

Paul explains,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone . . . 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11

This same Spirit that witnesses with ours that we belong to God, this same Spirit is in each of us. It is this same Spirit that activates – gives power to – us in order to live into our true self, your fullest character created in the very image of God. All of them to everyone.

Why?

            To equip you and me to minister, to build up the Body – each other! To know God, to mature – completely, fully.

            We are gifted for others.

            Let us not be tossed around, blown about by thoughtless quips, or well-intended plans that distract of from God’s heart, Jesus’ purpose coming to be with us in the first place.

            We are gifted to speak Love, to strengthen our bonds, intimately knit together – all working together with our unique gifts so that we grow stronger muscles, agile ligaments, stronger heart, a greater capacity to breathe in the power of the Spirit and breathe out the words of Love and Life that God so longs to communicate to the world.

            We are gifted for others – which means, when I grow more mature in faith (and age, let’s face it) the body will only continue to grow and mature when I invest this great wisdom (such as it is) to younger than I.

            The thing is, the younger set have different modi operandi. They are not coming into our gathering spaces. But they are coming into our paths. I keep meeting young families who live in our community, connected to members here in some way or another, but who are not actively connected to the life giving reality of the Body of Christ.

            Now, I have ideas and the ability to train, but I cannot do any of this, run anything effectively without others who are also gifted in the same way (to envision other possible ways to do the thing) and gifted in different ways (to strengthen and execute the mission in a holistic, healthy relevance). I will also not always be here. The pastorate for the UMC is an itinerancy – we are moved about, and sometimes often – as you are well aware.

            So it is my desire to do what God has gifted and equipped me to do to my fullest. Though even I grow weary and sometimes lack the strength or motivation to continue trying. That is why y’all are in my life! and why I am in yours!

            I have lots of ideas!:

  • A Podcast and/or YouTube videos with teens
  • Jam sessions
  • Mindfulness groups (mindful parenting – young children, teens; mindful aging – physical pain, chronic illness, spouse with dementia; mindful eating – natural healing, weight issues, as a mindful-living practice; mindful presence – siting with hospitalized, with homebound, as a listener – to the despondent, frantic parent overworked professional, angsty teen)

            Obviously, you and I cannot do everything! But what resonates with you? What are you hearing from the Spirit of God – the Spirit that is in you and in me, who gifts and empowers, who is a consuming fire! – what are you hearing?

This is the God we believe in:

One of steadfast love, a love that extends to the heavens,
   whose faithfulness also extends to the clouds – and beyond. 
6 A righteous and just God – mighty as mountains,
   deep as the deepest sea;
   saving all created beings. 


7 How precious is God’s steadfast love!
   All people may take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. 
8 God’s people are created to not want of food or drink. 
9 For with God is the fountain of life;
   in your light we see light. 

key points from Psalm

These things are all true of this God whom we worship today. Yet, do we not witness those who hunger, someone who doesn’t have the funds to fill his car’s tank, another whose power is about to be shut off, still someone else who is abused?

God is the foundation of life.

God is love.

God is our salvation – from hunger and thirst, from abuse. from myself.

God, who pierced our reality, limited God’s divinity, knowing us intimately by taking on flesh, and poured out a consuming fire, the Spirit of the Living God into our space, into you, into me – this same Spirit empowers us in unique ways, activates, gifts us – to BE, to be the fullest sense of our humanity!

            The Durand school holds teacher training on some Sunday mornings. Girls volleyball club, Boys basketball clinics – held on Sunday mornings. One teacher exclaimed, “it seems the school is running something 24/7!” We are not going to be the church to the community in the confines of the church walls – not effectively, comprehensively.

            By now, you might be getting an idea of what one of my primary gifts is.

One the website I will include a poll. I will include the ideas I listed above, and an option to add more. Where do we place our energies – especially when many of us are running out of it‽

Please, let me know!

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