“I’m to Do, What!”
August 27, 2017 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost – Year A
I look out on an amazing group of people. You folks! I love the whole bunch of you! I see before me (and beside me) creative, generous, skilled, and kind folk. You have been blessed with gifts of: medical aptitude, organizational skills, teaching talents, the ability to fix things, tender hearts, talent in growing things, patience, leadership abilities, and many other gifts that I haven’t named, but the Apostle Paul did identify for the Roman listeners.
I am deeply blessed to be your minister. I have the privilege of knowing you in your good days and your not so good days. I learn of the many things that are important in your life. Often you share health concerns, worries about ones’ you love, and faith crises. I also join with you in celebrations of new beginnings, whether it be the birth of a grandchild, the baptism of a great grandchild, 60th wedding anniversary parties, and celebration of life services where we honour the life and faith of one we have known and loved.
If the Apostle Paul were standing in this pulpit rather than me, I suspect he would say exactly as he did some 2000 years ago when he addressed the Roman people. Good old Paul, who is so passionate about Christ, urges his listeners to be humble, share generously, support one another, and use your gifts for God’s service. All this we do out of response to God’s great gift of love made known in Christ. That sounds reasonable enough, don’t you think? We can do all that. But then Paul throws in the clincher. We are to be living sacrifices. “I’m to Do, what?!,” we say collectively. In other words, we are to bring our whole selves – body, mind, heart and spirit – and yes, our bankbook too, and anything else that holds us back from freely offering your whole self – now that is sacrifice.
We are to be like Anna Moerkoert and write the most heartfelt card to the sick and shut-in. We are to be like Jim Freestone who comes into the building one Saturday a month and tests our fire alarm system, making sure it is working to its capacity. We are to be like Dyane MacDonald who comes in a few times a year and defrosts our freezers and cleans them and along with the refrigerators. We are to be like Mike Carnes who has researched the best systems, speakers and microphones for our sanctuary and hall – all on his own initiative, before taking it to council. We are to be like Carolyn Dircks who comes in once a month to do some back up book keeping, concerning double checking the recording of our offerings. We are grateful to these faithful followers of Christ who share their gifts in quiet, unrecognized ways. I could continue and name each one of you and identify the quiet and unassuming gifts you share in this community of faith.
We give God praise for Fern Gibbard and Sarah Tupholme’s gift of prophecy, Harvie Barker’s and Jean Sherwood’s gift of Ministry, Pat Fraser for the gift of teaching Sunday School, Marty Godsmart for exhortation, Joe Jackson for his generous gifts to our Food Cupboard, Patti Skinner for her diligence in leadership, and our whole congregation for the gift of compassion offered in cheerfulness. Now, it is your turn to think about what Paul means when he says, “we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”
I think one of the reasons that the Wise Elders project has been so successful is that all 3 original congregations and now with Oasis Church joining in, are clear about their own strengths and weaknesses. Each knows the gifts they bring to the group. There is a genuine respect for one another’s faith traditions. We are able to be honest with one another. I think this is why the shared services are so well received, and keep getting better and better. The theme for the upcoming forum in April 2018 will be on Shared Ministry. This is a ministry where 2 or more denominations worship and live together sharing the same minister and building. Naramata Community Church is a Shared Ministry of United Church of Canada and Anglican Church of Canada congregations worshipping as one body in Christ. It is a way of being church that I believe we will be doing more and more. As congregational size lessens, finances more limited, and Ministers less willing to accept part-time positions – Shared Ministry becomes more viable. But, it calls for a willingness to be flexible, adaptable, and open-hearted. Perhaps now is the time for Penticton United Church to invite St. Andrew’s Presbyterian and St. Saviour’s Anglican churches to a meeting about considering becoming a shared ministry. If we want to take that step, we need to have explored the question that Jesus asked Peter in our Gospel text.
Jesus experience in Caesarea Philippi is an interesting addendum to Paul’s proclamation on gift sharing. Just like modern teachers, Jesus offers a quiz at the conclusion of a unit: “Who do people say that the Son of Humanity is?” The disciples answer eagerly. You can almost imagine them throwing up their hands excited to answer. But then, Jesus raises the stakes: “But who do you say that I am?”
The disciples did not associate Jesus with the great voices of history – They were not throwing out the great names of faith. John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Moses, Elijah and others, were all left off the roll. Yet, here we have Peter, describing Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Peter’s confession was a calm, calculated answer drawn from the experiences in which God had unfolded this revelation before the disciples. So, it is with each of us today.
Any true church is built on the same claim Peter made. Jesus is the Teacher, Brother, Redeemer, Anointed One, and Sustainer. In his response Jesus outlines a positive action for all disciples and followers. That is the message you and I hear, alongside our sisters and brothers of faith in other Churches that seek to follow Christ’s ways.
I have been finding myself calling Jesus “Friend, companion, intimate One and My Delight” more regularly than in past years. I have come to this as my faith grows and changes. With incredible help and support from my Spiritual Director each month, we explore a faith issue or challenge. Over the past 7 years we have delved deep as I try to answer, “Who is Jesus, in my life?” I challenge you to answer that question for yourself. “Who is Jesus, in your life?” As you hold the rock that we talked about earlier in the service, use it as a tactile tool for prayer. May it help you to answer, “Who is Jesus, in your life?” Also reflect on “I’m to Do, What!” as you list the many gifts and skills and talents with which God has blessed you.
Peter may well be the Petra, (the deep earth and rock) – and the church of all time is built rock solid – but no particular church building is so permanent that we cannot find another place to gather and worship in the name of Creator, Rock and Wind – better known as Maker, Christ and Spirit. So, when disaster ravages a church building, the rock solid community of faith continues to use their gifts so they may carry on the timeless message of faith.
Let’s go back to how I opened this message. I look out on an amazing group of people. You folks! I love the whole bunch of you! I see before me (and beside me) imaginative, generous, accomplished, and sympathetic folk. You have been blessed with gifts of: accounting skills, artistic talents, kindness, mentoring abilities, dexterity, a green thumb, compassion, open-hearted ways, and many other gifts that I haven’t named, but the Apostle Paul did identify for the Roman listeners.
So, friends – keep being who you are. Thanks be to God for each and every one of you. Amen.