I Corinthians 12:4-12 or 12:4-27
"You have a vital need for the gifts and ministries of every other member; and every other member has a vital need for the unique gift(s) and ministry you bring to the whole Body of Christ.
" . . . how absolutely interdependent we are: how much we truly need one another for our faith and life and ministry in Jesus Christ.
"How truly needed significant every single one of you is to the ministry and mission of your congregation and to the whole Church of Jesus Christ."
What Is This 'Just' Stuff?
("Only'? . . . . .'Only'?)
This sermon can be used with:
I Corinthians 12:4-12 or 12:4-27
I Corinthians 12:4-12
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it the same God who inspires them all in very one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
To one is given through the spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, through many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
The living God and Lord
Has called us by name,
Gathered us into the fellowship
We call The Church,
to be the People of God.
The living God then gifts us
And empowers us and sends us
Right back out into the world,
To be the means, the designated
Instruments and channels through
Which God's will and purpose --
In and for the world --
Is to be realized!
We -- and our lives -- are those
Through whom God's presence, God's love,
God's promise and saving grace
Can be revealed and known
And experienced by the
World and those around us.
Now That, people, is
One glorious calling!
It is also one awesome task
Our God and Lord has
Sometimes, as we stand in the presence of that calling and that task; sometimes, as we see Just how great
That calling and task are . . .
There steals over us an awful sense -- not only of inadequacy, but also of insignificance.
Again and again, in my meetings with congregations, with Congregational Councils and with committees . . .
. . .as we talk together of this awesome, glorious calling and task which is our as God's people,
Again and again, I hear people respond : -
'But I'm only a lay person; I don't have great and significant gifts that can really make a difference. I can't do anything that truly matters.'
I know. I know.
There's a whole bunch of you
That feels that way, too, aren't there?
'I'm only' . . . or
'I'm just' . . . or
'what I may have certainly isn't very important.'
OK . . . . . that's enough.
I want you to slowly -- and deliberately -- read this list of names: -
Prisca & Aquilla
There is not a person named there who is really famous or well-known.
It is not likely that Ralph Edwards would have been interested in having any one of them do a quest shot on "this is your life" (if you're old enough to remember that show).
There is not one of them whose name would be emblazoned in the headlines of the daily newspaper.
"20/20" wouldn't even give any of them a first glance, let alone a second.
And you wouldn't look for any of them as featured guests on any of today's talk shows.
Oh -- incidentally -- I got this list from a friend of yours -- a fellow named St. Paul.
Every one of these persons is named in the closing sentences of one of the letters Paul wrote to various congregations in various locations.
Phoebe . . . "She has been a great help to myself, and to many."
On one occasion, St. Paul entrusted Phoebe to deliver the Epistle to the Romans, which he had written to them.
Barnabas & Justus . . . "the only men from the Gentiles among my fellow -- workers for the kingdom of God."
Prisca & Aquilla . . . "Fellow workers in Christ who risked their necks for my life."
Their home was a rendezvous point for Christians on the run, because of persecution.
These quiet, unassuming believers ran an underground railway, if you will.
Tychicus . . .St. Paul wrote terribly urgent and significant letters to the congregations in both Collosia and Ephesis . . .
Tychicus was not only given the very important trust of delivering those letters, but also brought personal word to the people of those congregations concerning the personal welfare of their beloved apostle.
Fortunatus . . . came to make a personal visit on St. Paul, when St. Paul was in prison.
"He refreshed my spirit as well as yours," writes the apostle.
Tertius . . . hand -- wrote the entire Epistle to the Romans as St. Paul dictated that letter (16 full chapters!)
These are a few of the persons -- pretty much unknown -- who are mentioned by name.
There are others; others who helped and served and ministered persons who performed what most of us would be inclined to call
Pordinary" or "common" labors for the Lord and his kingdom . . .
Persons . . .lots of them . . . who are not even mentioned by name, but whose loving acts and service were significant, indeed . . . . . .
-The person(s) who gave that donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
-The woman who anointed Jesus' feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
-The folks who provided the upper room where Jesus and his disciples could observe the Passover.
None of these services . . .
None of these acts of love . . . .
Nothing at all, of what we have mentioned thus far could in any way be described as 'spectacular' or 'extraordinary' could they?
Look again at those names and recall the acts of those associated with them . . .
. . . Out of that whole list, Barnabas is the only one who was engaged in what we might call "full-time" church work.
All of the others were
Called by the Lord
And sent by the Lord
To serve him right where they were: -
In their daily occupations, and in their daily activities.
They were called to serve the Lord in the marketplace -- in the mainstream of their daily life.
They may not all have been full -- time church workers, but they are all full -- time Christians; and all are called to witness . . .t o serve . . . to minister,
Right there where they lived and worked an played.
Now, please, I want you to slowly and deliberately read this list of names: -
Keith & Annette
There is not one of those persons who is famous and well -- known, either.
None of them would get an invite to appear as subject for '20/20' or "meet the press'.
Their names would not be emblazoned on the front page of the local paper, nor would they be riding in an open convertible at the head of a parade.
You'll probably recognize those names; they're all members of your own congregation. One of those names may even be your own.
But . . . While these are mentioned by name, there are many, many others who also serve and help and minister;
Many, many others who regularly -- and faithfully - perform very 'ordinary' and 'unspectacular' labors of love and ministries of service for the Lord and his kingdom . . . .
Persons whose acts and services are helpful and significant for all of us: -
Acolytes, Church School teachers, ushers, choir members, youth advisors, assisting ministers, hospital visitors, persons who make coffee for meetings . . . and you.
For a moment, let your mind and attention entertain theses words from 1 Corinthians 12 -- words that so meticulously describe the Church, the Body of Christ.
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge, according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills."
Throughout this 12th chapter, and again in Ephesians, Saint Paul continues to talk about 'many members', not all of whom have the same function . . .
. . . But, what the apostle does take pains to point out is that every member does have at least one gift,
And that every member's gift -- and function -- as a member of the body --
Each member of the body doing its particular part
Build up . . . strengthens . .
Gives vitality . . . supplies needs
For every other member of the Whole Body!
It is so simple -- and, yet, so obvious : -
You have a very vital need for the gifts and ministries of every other member; and every other member has a very vital need for the unique
gift(s) and ministry you bring to the whole Body of Christ.
See it, please, . . . how absolutely interdependent we are: how much we truly need one another for our faith and life and ministry in Jesus Christ.
See it, please . . .
How truly needed and important and vital and significant every single one of you is to the ministries and mission of your congregation and of the whole Church of Jesus Christ.
Something does happen to each part of the whole body when one part is not there or does not contribute its unique gift of service.
(Your own physical body can be a good illustration. Many of you no longer have your appendix, and yet your body seems to get along just fine without it . . . )
. . . But did you know . . .
Persons who still have their appendix can withstand three times the dosage of radiation as those who no longer have an appendix?
The point I am trying to make is this: - that there is NO insignificant or unimportant task or service or function in the Body of Christ.
Each labor . . . each task . . . each service of love builds up the Body of Christ, and moves it one more significant step forward toward the fulfilling of its mission and its service of the Lord and his kingdom.
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Those persons whose names we read, they are the very beginning . . .
You can look all over the world but you will not find a statue or a monument in their honor
(By now, such monuments or statues would be gone, anyway -- eroded by the passing of time)
But statues and monuments don't really matter, anyways;
Headlines . . . being features on '20/20' . . riding in a convertible at the head of the parade isn't what's really important.
- People related to Jesus Christ
- People in covenant relationship with the living God
- Persons who, through that personal link and faith have The Live in Christ . . .
That's What Really Matters!
And You Can Do That!
Those are the greatest statues;
Those are the greatest monuments
Than can ever be built . . .
. . . people whose lives have been linked up with the Lord Jesus Christ; people who -- in and through Christ -- know
- the forgiveness of sins
- freedom from bondage to evil
- hope and joy
- victory over death and the grave
- eternal life
. . . those are the monuments and statues that endure for all eternity.
It isn't only that you Can do that . . .
You Do that . . .
Every time your life touches another with the love and the grace and the fights and the gospel God has given you.
And it isn't a matter of whether you are able, either.
You Are able, because God enable you and empowers you.
It isn't a matter of being able: it is a matter of being willing.
"Commit your hearts to seek the paths which Christ has trod and quickened by the Spirit's power, Rise up, O saints of God."
- George Haynes
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George Haynes was ordained in 1951 and is currently a mission developer for Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rockport, TX and is an ELCA Stewardship key leader.