Perhaps a question worth posing this morning is “what is worship to you? When you come here on Sunday morning, why do you come?”
Now, perhaps you come to feel inspired, or – as a fellow clergy puts it: “Get air in your tires” for the week ahead. Perhaps you come hoping to learn something about the bible or to give thanks to God for the blessings you’ve received. Perhaps, for you, this space is sacred and holy and here, together, with your brothers and sisters in Christ, you sense the divine presence, an encounter with the Almighty. Perhaps you come here to feel comforted or to find a sense of meaning in your life. Or perhaps you come out of a sense of obligation or guilt; or maybe a combination of those reasons. Now let me just say, I’m glad you’re here, whatever your reason. But might I suggest this morning that worship is contemporary in as much as it should not be an escape from our present reality. I go to yoga from time to time and, when I do, one of the first things the instructor says is, “For this hour leave everything outside the door; relax, this hour is for you.” Well, I appreciate yoga because it helps with my flexibility but that is hardly a philosophy we’d apply to worship. Worship can’t be about you and it is lacking in meaning and value, if we leave our concerns for the world outside the door for, although we worship an everlasting and omnipresent God, our worship of him does occur in a context, in a particular place and time, among particular people and, as such, it ought to impact – ought to exercise a profound influence on that time, that place and those people.
This morning’s gospel reading is a story about worship. It is, for Luke, our introduction to Jesus’ ministry. Luke is the only one of the gospel writers who begins Jesus’ ministry with this story and, by doing so, it says something very important about what Luke wants to communicate about Jesus – who he is and what he does. After being baptized and tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus returns to Galilee to begin his ministry which brings him, in short order, to Nazareth, his home town, on the Sabbath and so, he heads to his hometown synagogue.
This scene reminds us that God’s Word speaks to us in the context of worship – and it reminds us that worship doesn’t always make us feel better… in fact, it can leave us feeling unsettled, challenged, or just plain mad. Hopefully this morning I’ll strike a sweet spot somewhere between challenged and mad.
Now the interactions between Jesus and this congregation may leave some of us scratching our heads. So, hopefully I can provide some clarity because within this story, from our perspective, it looks as if Jesus was given a compliment and responded to it with an insult. So, just where do things go south?
Well, after Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah, he sits down to teach. But it turns out to be a very short message. "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing," he says. The passage Jesus selects is a kind of "mission statement" or "purpose statement" for his ministry. Jesus announces that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he will be about the work of bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to captives, giving sight to the blind and setting the oppressed free. Now, this is good news, right? The people of the congregation are amazed. Jesus is speaking so eloquently; their little Jesus. Ah, he's grown up so well. But, there’s a hint of disrespect in their question “Is not this Joseph’s son?” My New Testament professor, Tom Boomershine, frequently reminded us how important it is to consider the tone of voice in gospel dialogue... however speculative such a practice might be. So, while we 21st century Westerners might use this inflection, “Is not this Joseph’s son,” a 1st century Palestinian may have been more apt to voice, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” You see, in Jesus’ culture, people didn’t move between classes. If you were born a peasant, you were expected to die a peasant; none of this upward mobility stuff for them. So why is Jesus, the son of a blue collar worker, presenting himself as something much more? How dare he do that? The encounter continues to deteriorate when Jesus – for his part – doesn't seem to respond very graciously. He speaks to the crowd a proverb that he suspects is on the tip of their tongues: "Doctor, cure yourself," which might more accurately be translated, “Doctor, cure yours,” as in your people; your neighbors; your own kin. Jesus anticipates they might ask him to do the kinds of miracles he's done elsewhere right here in his hometown. But Jesus offends them by calling attention to a part of their history they’d just as soon forget… those parts where God shows preferential treatment to people who are, well, not his people; non-Israelites; dirty, nasty, Gentile foreigners. What? How dare Jesus call to memory these embarrassing episodes of Jewish history? Just who does he think he is?
And here’s another cultural factor in this story: the people in Jesus’ culture believed in something known as "limited good." In other words, there was only so much good stuff to go around. Here in America today, we tend to assume that our ability to acquire and consume things is only limited by our wallets or our credit line. If something runs out, we assume that we – or someone, at least – can go get more or go make more. But, ancient eastern thinking was very different. Good was limited – like the slices in a pie. And, if I take two slices that means you might not get a slice. Good was limited and, if I took more than I was entitled to, you were likely to wind up getting cheated out of your fair share.
So, those people of Nazareth thought they had first dibs on their hometown boy. Jesus was a healer and a miracle worker and – in the minds of his villagers – these were good things with a limited supply. In their minds, whatever “good” Jesus had belonged to them first and foremost. In other words, they should be served first from that metaphorical pie. And here’s the reason why: Eastern culture was – and still is – a communal or collective culture. In eastern thinking, I am not an individual entitled to pursuing my personal dreams and doing my own thing. I am part of the group. And, I ought to be living in a way that benefits my group. So, how dare Jesus take his “limited good” of healing and miracles to outsiders? Jesus belonged to his village, he belonged to this synagogue, and whatever good he had – the ability to heal and to liberate – belonged to them first.
The people in the congregation get angry. Their rage turns deadly. Not only do they drive Jesus out of the synagogue. They run him out of town. They're so angry, they try to kill him. This congregation of God’s chosen people has evolved into something like an angry lynch mob.
But, that wasn’t how it started. They began as a congregation that had come together in worship to hear the Word of God and to hear something about what that word meant for them… which is, at least in part, why we came together this morning. But these Nazarenes don’t like the way Jesus interprets God’s Word. Jesus makes clear that, just as he doesn’t belong exclusively to them, neither does God’s Word and neither does God’s grace and goodness.
Contemporary… “belonging to the present.” Friends, sometimes we behave as if we want to keep Jesus and the good news of his gospel to ourselves. But Jesus makes pretty clear that God’s Word and God’s grace need to be taken outside this congregation to those who need it the most. Within the context of worship, God’s Word makes clear our call to ministry: our call to serve the poor, the sick, and the oppressed. Jesus says that today God’s Word is fulfilled – a word of action, the bringing of real, personal, transformative power into people’s lives. And here’s why we need to understand Jesus’ mission statement as our own call to ministry; because the gospel of Luke is a two-part series. And part 2 of Luke’s story is Acts; which tells the story of how the Spirit of the Lord came upon the followers of Jesus so they could say and do the same things Jesus said and did.
Friends, long before K-Love, Jesus was a big proponent of contemporary worship: worship that belongs to the present; worship that impacts our relationships with those outside our doors right now in transformative and life-changing ways. Worship doesn’t simply connect us with God; it also connects us to others. Worship ought to make clear our mission – bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, bringing sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free.
I was thinking over the weekend that we shouldn’t approach worship like we approach entertainment, books and movies… but, then again, maybe we should. After all, if you have seen the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, I’m betting that you’re friends and your co-workers know it. I bet you’ve talked about it with them. But do you ever talk to people about what we see and hear and do in this place? I mean, anytime we read a great book or see a really good movie; we talk to people about it, right? And, if it’s based on a true story, we talk about the impact it’s had on us. Well, guess what folks, we’re in luck, ‘cause this book is based on a true story. And, the question is, are we sharing it with others? We can’t keep it to ourselves; we’ve got to share the good news with those who need it the most.
The truly good news is this: that the good news of the grace of Christ has come to us in order that we might pass it on to others because God's grace, God’s goodness, is for everyone; even if they are someone whose lifestyle or identity offend us. From the very start of his ministry, Jesus made it clear – no boundaries would contain or limit what God was doing through him.
Folks, often I hear you say, “But all my friends already go to church.” And, believe me, I get it. It’s hard. I mean, I didn’t know anyone when I moved here 18 months ago and everyone I know at work really does go to church.
But we have to find new ways to reach out beyond these walls because there are a lot of people in our area who experience oppression, who are enslaved by destructive habits or relationships, whose vision distorts their view of the world around them.
I think all of you are aware that we are selling the Graves House and, perhaps you think that is entirely in order to help reduce the debt on our loan or provide money for tuck pointing the church… and it is to some degree. But it is also about not wasting our resources on a house and, by resources, I’m not talking about money… I’m talking about our time; the amount of time we have available to develop relationships… especially with those in need. We support a lot of missions here at Trinity and they are amazing missions and we shouldn’t stop supporting them… but they can’t ever be a substitute for us moving beyond our walls to build relationships with people in need; people who need to hear the good news of Jesus. Together we need to work to discern what God is calling us to do as a congregation to bring good news to those beyond our walls in ways that will bring transformation to their lives… because, if we are not willing to reach out in new and bold ways beyond our walls to offer the unlimited good of Jesus to those in need, then we too are in danger of driving Jesus out of our house of worship, as well.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-11
The summer after my freshman year of college, my dad – who was also a United Methodist pastor – was moved to a new church. It was the longest distance move my dad had ever made and also happened to be the worst moving company experience we ever endured. The movers arrived that day at 8:00 a.m. and put the last item on the truck at 9:00… p.m. We didn’t arrive at the new parsonage until 1:30 a.m. The moving company had promised they would not show up at the new house until 10:00 the next morning. Thankful for the opportunity to sleep in, we all nestled wearily into our sleeping bags. It seemed I had only just drifted off to sleep when the chimes of a doorbell awakened me. It was 7:00 a.m. My father stumbled to the front door and was greeted by a gentleman from his new congregation who had arrived wanting to know if he could take us out for breakfast. That was, obviously, an invitation my father felt he shouldn’t decline. So, we quickly groomed ourselves and headed to the local pancake house. Now, initially, we thought this gentleman must have the gift of hospitality. But, over breakfast, we became suspicious of his intentions. Now, I confess that – on 5 hours of sleep – my mind was a little fuzzy. But, the gist of the conversation went something like this. This man wanted to testify to my father that he was a Charismatic Christian. The church my dad had been appointed to serve, according to this gentleman’s evaluation, had a small group of Charismatic believers who had been accustomed to meeting with the pastor weekly and functioning as his ministerial advisors. Some within the church didn’t appreciate their spiritual giftedness and were reluctant to render them the proper respect. So, the gentleman wanted to know right up front if my dad was a Charismatic Christian. He was delighted when my dad affirmed that he, too, was a Charismatic Christian; but, became a little baffled when my dad affirmed the state of all Christians as Charismatic. Surely my dad didn’t think that everyone had the gift of “speaking in tongues,” did he? By now, the gentleman was a little dubious about my dad’s spiritual state, as well. When he discovered my father did not speak in tongues, he was baffled, frustrated and disgusted with this new shepherd who, he felt quite certain, did not have the qualifications to be his spiritual leader.
Now, it wasn’t until I arrived at seminary a few years later that I made the mental connection that my father’s experience with that church in Pennsylvania was almost an exact replication of the apostle Paul’s struggle with the church at Corinth captured for posterity in our Christian scriptures. And this is why...
Within the church at Corinth, Greece in the first century A.D., there were some who had the gift of glossalalia – what we today generally refer to as “speaking in tongues.” They would, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, begin to say things in a language they didn’t comprehend. Now, this wasn’t gibberish. It was real speech. And, as you can imagine, it made for a very sensational display. Now, some of you may have experience in this area. You may have grown up in a church where “speaking in tongues” occurred in the context of worship. Or, you, yourself, may have experience speaking in tongues. And if you or someone you know has spoken in tongues, this morning’s sermon is not meant in any way to ridicule or degrade that spiritual gift. It is a valid, biblical gift. But, it is also a gift that – as I’ve mentioned – can appear quite sensational and, consequently, become quite divisive. And the apostle Paul, and my dad, both faced this challenge. Those within the church at Corinth – just like that group within my dad’s parish in Pennsylvania – had created a hierarchy of spiritual gifts. In their estimation, the gift of speaking in tongues put you at the top of the spiritual heap, so to speak. Possession of such an important spiritual gift was, by their standards, a sure and certain indication of spiritual maturity and superiority. And, since it clearly indicated spiritual superiority, those who possessed such a gift should, obviously, exercise positions of power and authority within the church.
There was, however, one small flaw in the Corinthians’ logic and their misunderstanding was the same one that resulted in such confusion in the mind of the gentleman who took us to breakfast. For the word “charis” – from which we get our word “charismatic” – simply means “gift” or “grace.” One who is a Charismatic Christian is one who has been given a spiritual gift OR, specifically, a gift from the Holy Spirit. And so, as my father asserted at the breakfast table, every Christian, is Charismatic. One cannot be a Christian without being Charismatic. This is true on more than one level.
First, to be a Christian, means that one puts their faith or trust in Christ and that one freely accepts God’s grace through Christ. To be a Christian means admitting that we are incapable of earning God’s approval by our own efforts. One can’t earn God’s love and acceptance. One can only receive God’s love and approval as a gift. A gift can’t be earned. That would make it compensation or a wage. So, if there’s nothing anyone can do to earn God’s grace, then it stands to reason, that no one is more or less deserving of it than anyone else.
Secondly, if you were in worship last Sunday, you might remember that the sermon was about Jesus’ baptism and how it relates to our baptism. You might remember me saying that, like Jesus, at baptism we are named as God’s beloved sons and daughters. And that, like Jesus, when we are baptized, the Holy Spirit is present and at work. When one is baptized into the Christian faith, one receives the Holy Spirit to dwell or live within us. The Holy Spirit is also a gift. The Holy Spirit is present within us – to teach, guide and equip us to be the Christian people our baptism has declared us to be. And, that with which the Holy Spirit equips us, is also a gift. If one is able to speak eloquently – in English or any other language, it’s because the Holy Spirit has given him or her that particularly gift or ability. If one is able to listen to others with patience and empathy, it is because the Holy Spirit has given that gift or ability. If one is able to teach or lead or serve others particularly well, that is evidence that the Spirit has blessed them with that gift.
The Greek word charis means “gift” or “grace” and so, anyone who receives the grace of Christ also receives the Spirit’s gifts and thus becomes a Charismatic Christian. And that is simply what it means, according to scripture, to be a Charismatic Christian.
But there is one more additional thing that Paul wants to convey to these Corinthian Christians. And this is what really blows their hierarchical thinking out of the water. For, Paul assures them, the gifts the Spirit gives are not given whilly-nilly, randomly. They are given with purpose or intent. And the intent is this: that each church may be equipped with all that it needs to do the work which Christ has given it to do.
I want to say that sentence again because it’s the crux of Paul’s message and this sermon. The Holy Spirit dispenses gifts or abilities in order that each church may be equipped with whatever skills and resources it needs to do the work that Christ calls it to do in a particular time and place. Each one of you here this morning who have placed your trust in the grace of Christ has been given a spiritual gift. And Jesus expects you to use that gift, to contribute that gift toward the work that God has called Trinity to do. As I said last week, serving the church isn’t simply about what we like to do or what fits conveniently into our schedule. Serving in the church, my friends, is about living out our baptism by utilizing the spiritual gift God has given you. What Paul makes clear to the Corinthians and to us is that each one of you here this morning have been drawn to this place, this church, because you have a gift the Holy Spirit wants to put to use in this place, in this church: Trinity UM. Scripture, particularly the teachings of the apostle Paul, assure us that each and every local congregation has been called together and gifted in such a way that they have what they need to do the work God has called them to do. God doesn’t call us to do something without providing the resources to do it. All that our church in this time and place has been called by Jesus to do, we can do. We’re not lacking in any resource if – and this is the big “if” – if each of us puts our spiritual gifts to use. Let me say that one more time. I don’t want you to miss it. Jesus has a mission for Trinity United Methodist Church – right here, right now. And Jesus has drawn us together as his people and the Spirit has gifted us in such a way so that, if WE are faithful in using our gifts, we can achieve all that Jesus asks of us and entrusts to us.
The church – Paul makes clear in everything he ever writes – is not simply a social group. Hopefully, we do enjoy one another’s company; but that is not the primary reason why we are here. We’re here because God has called us into ministry as a church. Church, my friends, is never static. The church is a living organism. That’s why Paul frequently employs the metaphor of a physical body. The body is made up of particular parts. And each part has a specific role to play that contributes to the body’s overall function.
I’m standing here preaching a sermon to you. But, I’m not just some chattering mouth. I’m a whole person. My brain is keeping my thoughts and my speech coordinated – well, most of the time, at least. I need lungs and a diaphragm to propel my breath. My voice box creates sound. My lips and tongue and teeth shape that sound into intelligible words. All of it works together just as God intended.
And, likewise, the church works together. Each and every person with their distinctive gifts and abilities, each person contributes to the body’s overall function. Paul puts it this way. He says: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” “For the common good…” Spiritual gifts are given not simply for individual enjoyment or individual benefit. In other words, each and every Christian has received some particular skill or ability for the good of the Church, for the good of this church. You didn’t do anything special to earn it. It was the Holy Spirit’s free gift to you. No, cancel that. That’s not exactly right. It’s more precisely like this: it was the Holy Spirit’s gift to our church that is received and experienced by us through you. Because our individual abilities and skills are not given so that we might feel impressed with ourselves or pat ourselves on the back; nor are they given so that we might act like big shots in the church or in the world. The Holy Spirit has given you the gifts he has given you so that some specific thing that Trinity United Methodist Church needs in order to do what Jesus has called us to do, our church receives, from the Holy Spirit through you.
People of God, we are the Body of Christ. Not simply names on a membership list. Not just a group of people who know and like one another. Not even just a group of people who strive to get along with one another and help one another. We’re more than that. We are the Body of Christ in Lafayette, IN in 2016. And each one of us has an essential role to play, a unique function to perform, in this Body of Christ. To each of us has been given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. The Holy Spirit has given our church all the gifts and graces we need to be all that God wants us to be. We are, each one of us, a charismatic Christian; given an ability, a knowledge, even a particular experience that is no more or less important than the other folks in this church.
They are God’s gift to us and putting them to good use is our gift back to God. When we want to say “thank you” to God for the blessings he’s given us; using those blessings and gifts is the right way to give thanks to God. Put your gift from God to use because it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Amen.
Who Are You?
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Gospel lesson: Luke 3:15-18, 21-22
The first year Britt and I were in ministry, we came across an article advertising a religious product: "The Bapto Robe." Now, if you've been a Methodist all your life, this will need a little explaining. If you have a Baptist background – or come from another denomination which baptizes by immersion – it will make more sense. In those denominations, when an individual is baptized, they are immersed completely under the water. Sometimes this occurs in a lake or a stream. More often nowadays, it occurs indoors in the church's baptistery – a see-through tank of water designed specifically for baptism by immersion.
So, back to the Bapto Robe. Its advertisement lauded the following attributes: it was water-proof, fire-proof and disposable. Let me repeat that: water-proof, fire-proof and disposal. Now, I'm the first person to admit to a little vanity when it comes to my hair and makeup. And, I imagine such a product could have appeal for that reason. But, consider the irony. First of all, baptism – in any denomination – can only be accomplished with WATER. Second, fire and water are common symbols for the Holy Spirit throughout scripture. In this morning’s scripture, John says of his ministry, “I baptize you with water,” but elevates Jesus’ work by saying, “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Furthermore, since baptism is always tied to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the recipient… well, therein lays the irony of the Bapto Robe's guarantee to be both water-proof and fire-proof. (This Bapto Robe sounds more like a strategy to hold the Spirit at bay.) Finally, there's the Bapto Robe's assurance that it is a disposal garment. Once again, I imagine its inventors saw this as a plus in the hygiene department. But, from early scripture and church tradition, an image for baptism was that of putting on a new garment – being "clothed with righteousness." And, one would hardly want to cast off righteousness like a disposable paper hospital gown or, in this case, a disposable Bapto Robe. The paradox of The Bapto Robe lay in its apparent claim that, by wearing this garment, one need not suffer the "effects" of baptism. One could go under the water sealed in one's water-proof, fire-proof "suit" and re-surface as if nothing had happened at all. Now, that's hardly the effect the church – regardless of denomination – is going for.
And, it’s a far cry from what the scriptures and early church tradition teach about baptism. The word itself – baptism – comes from a Greek word whose root meaning is "death by drowning." The very word baptism communicates the idea that, through the act of baptism, one is not only "effected," but even "put to death" in a certain sense. In the early church, all baptisms were baptism by immersion for this symbolic purpose. Remember that water in the ancient world – long before the days of submarines or deep sea diving – was mysterious, chaotic and threatening. So, as one went under the water, it was a symbolic death, as if one were being buried in this deep, watery grave. And the death that baptism celebrated was a death to our sinful and selfish natures; those parts of ourselves that look out for number one and claw to get to the top – those parts of ourselves that fearfully and selfishly grasp at what we desire. It was that selfish human nature that was, symbolically, drowned to death as one went under the water. And, as one resurfaced, it symbolized a resurrection of sorts – a newness of life – for now, through the action of baptism, the Spirit of the risen Christ found a residence, so to speak, within the newly baptized person. The apostle Paul described it like this: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.[i]” So, the actions and attitudes of those who were baptized were to reflect the actions and attitudes of Christ – actions and attitudes of humility and service. One who was baptized no longer lived for one's own self-interests, but now lived, primarily, for God’s purposes and priorities.
Today is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. Although there are some slight variations, our gospels are all in agreement that the baptism of Jesus was a revelatory experience. Jesus’ baptism revealed his identity as God’s beloved son; one who brought pleasure to the heavenly Father. Now, Matthew, Mark and Luke also agree that Jesus’ baptism was followed immediately by his temptation in the wilderness. Those accounts have some variation, but here’s what all those accounts and all those temptations share in common: they all boil down, most simply, to this: the devil tries to coerce Jesus into acting in his own, personal self-interest. But consistently, resolutely, Jesus chooses to pursue his heavenly Father’s interests instead.
Now, within the church, Baptism of our Lord Sunday is a day when we not only remember the baptism of Jesus. It is also a day when we remember our own baptisms. For in baptism, we too are named as God’s beloved sons and daughters who bring pleasure to the heavenly Father. Now there is nothing magical about baptism; it doesn’t function like some incantation that makes us impervious to all temptation. In fact, we will – throughout our lives – face temptation; and by that I don’t mean little things like decadent dessert or skipping a day at the gym. No; I’m talking about true biblical temptation, the kind that Jesus faced in the wilderness: life situations when we too are tempted to act in our own personal self-interest; those times when we are tempted to pursue our own purposes rather than the purposes of our heavenly Father. In other words, we choose our way instead of choosing God’s way.
But, while baptism isn’t magic and doesn’t give us a pass on all of life’s temptations, it is for us – just as it was for Jesus – a revelation of our identity. To the question “Who are you?” baptism provides the answer: We too, like Jesus, are the beloved sons and daughters of God. At baptism we, like Jesus, are affirmed as God’s beloved children and filled with the same Holy Spirit that inspired the work of Jesus.
Let me tell you, in the gospel of Luke, a summary of the sequence of events that inaugurate the ministry of Jesus.
So you see, not only does baptism answer the question, “Who are you?” with the assurance that we are God’s children; it fills us with the Holy Spirit who accompanies us all along life’s journey – even through the temptations and the trials – and that same Holy Spirit fills us and equips us for the work of ministry; a ministry that reflects the actions and attitudes of Jesus – actions and attitudes of humility and service; actions and attitudes that reveal the purposes and priorities of God. People are drawn to Jesus when they see Jesus in us. Friends, if you don’t remember anything else I say this morning, hang on to this next sentence, OK? Here it is: If we are going to offer Jesus to the world it will need to be through our actions and attitudes and not just religious talk or instruction – actions and attitudes of humility and service; actions and attitudes that reveal the purposes and priorities of God.
This morning we will reaffirm our baptism vows. Each time we reaffirm our baptism, we remind ourselves of who we are and whose we are. We celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit within us. And we acknowledge that, as God’s beloved children filled with his Spirit, we – like Jesus – have been called into ministry. Baptism lays the groundwork for our ministry.
And that’s also why today is such an appropriate day to install and bless our church leaders for this new year because this morning, when your name is read and you stand in the midst of your brothers and sisters, we’ll all together acknowledge that you’re doing more than filling a slot on a committee and showing up at meetings to vote yea or nay. You’re living out your baptism. Baptism answers the question of who we are and whose we are and reminds us that we belong to God, along with all our talents and skills, our time, our money, and even our relationships. You didn’t just answer the call of a member on the Nominations Committee who phoned to ask if you’d serve on Staff Parish or Finance or whatever. You also answered the call of God. Friends, we live in a world where lots of people pursue their own interests, their own desires, their own advancement. But if we are God’s beloved children, we look after the interests of God; we pursue the purposes of God. In the act of baptism, we are inviting God to drown to death those parts of us that are sinful and selfish and self-aggrandizing and to raise us up to a new life that mirrors the actions and attitudes of Jesus, actions and attitudes of humility and service.
Brothers and sisters, serving the church isn’t simply about what we like to do and what fits conveniently into our schedule. Serving in church leadership, my friends, is about living out our baptism; a baptism that names us as God’s children, fills us with God’s Spirit, and sends us out to do God’s work. So, let’s get ‘er done in 2016. Amen.
[i] Romans 6:5, New Revised Standard Version
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