Oct 28, 2018

“Stewards Of The Good News Of Faith Communities”

“Stewards Of The Good News Of Faith Communities”

            Every Friday night after work, Bubba would fire up his outdoor grill and cook up some venison steak.  But all of Bubba's neighbors were Catholic.  And since it was Lent, they were forbidden from eating red meat on Friday.  The delicious aroma from the grilled steaks was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they ended up talking to their priest about it.

            When the priest heard about it, he visited Bubba and suggested that he become a Catholic.  Bubba agreed.  And after several classes and much study, Bubba was ready.  On that special day, the priest sprinkled holy water over Bubba and said these words.  "You were born a Baptist.  You were raised as a Baptist.  But now you are Catholic."

            Bubba's neighbors were greatly relieved.  But their relief was very short lived.  For when Friday night rolled around again, the wonderful aroma of grilled steak again filled the neighborhood.  They immediately summoned the priest.

            He rushed into Bubba's back yard, clutching a rosary.  He was all set to let Bubba have it with both barrels.  But when he rounded the corner of the house and heard what Bubba was saying, he was stopped dead in his tracks with amazement.  For, there stood Bubba clutching a small bottle of holy water.  And he was carefully sprinkling it over the grilling meat while he chanted these words.  "You wuz born a deer.  You wuz raised a deer.  But now you iz a catfish."

            Our stewardship series continues.  And today Paul has something to say to the First Christian Church of Corinth about the importance of living together as Christians.  On what it means to be good stewards.  On what it means for faith communities to be stewards of the good news.

            Of course, Paul is talking to us as well.  Those of us right here at Hickman Mills Community Christian Church.  And it all began when we said “Yes” to being baptized.  For in the waters of baptism, we became something new.  We became a part of Christ’s church.  And together, we also became something new.  Not catfish.  No, something even more miraculous than that.  Paul tells us we were changed into the very body of Christ here on planet Earth.  Truly, what could be more miraculous?

            Let us pray.  Dear God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

            Paul kicks things off by pointing out that there are lots of gifts.  Lots of services.  Lots of activities.  But there is only one Spirit.  One Lord.  One God.  And all of the gifts.  All of the services.  All of the activities.  They all come from one place.  They all come from God.  God is the source.  God is the one behind it all.  God is the one who initiates it all.  God is the one who gets the whole ball rolling.  Also, God energizes it all.  That’s right.  God is the one who keeps the whole ball rolling.

            And believe it or not, according to Paul, each one of us here in worship this morning has gifts that are unique.  Gifts that make us special.  But there’s no room for us to boast about this.  That’s because all gifts come from God.  And they’re all meant for the common good.

It’s sort of like in an old TV show called “Captain Planet.”  In it, there were five teens called Planeteers.  Each teen had a ring.  And each ring had a different power.  One ring was earth.  One ring was wind.  One was water.  One was fire.  And the final ring was heart.

            Five individual gifts.  Five individual talents.  Five individual powers.  Yet, when these powers were combined, something truly amazing happened.  Captain Planet would appear.  And when he came, he took away all pollution from the Earth.  Together, all was cleaned up.

            Paul says that a similar thing happens with us.  He says that something truly amazing happens when all of our different gifts combine for the common good.  Yes, something truly miraculous takes place.  Of course, we don’t summon Captain Planet.  But something even more incredible occurs.  We become the very body of Christ.  The body of Christ that works to make it here “on earth as it is in heaven.”

            Paul names some of those tremendous gifts that are given to us by the Spirit.  Wisdom.  Knowledge.  Faith.  Healing.  Discernment.  Speech.  Plus, there are many, many more.  There’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.  Just to name a few.

            Paul says that all of these gifts are activated by one and the same Spirit.  God’s Spirit, who allots to each of us exactly what is needed to accomplish God’s purposes.  It’s kind of like a lottery drawing where everyone wins.  But nothing is random.  Nothing is left to luck or chance.

            That’s because God knows every single one of us.  We are special.  We matter.  God loves each one of us as the apple of God’s eyes.  So God gives us good gifts.  Gifts that are meant to stretch us and to help us grow.  Gifts meant to bring out the best in us and in those around us.  Gifts meant to share and not to hoard.  Gifts meant to bring together and not to tear apart.  Gifts meant to build up and not to break down.

            A story is told of a man who went to his minister with a question.  “I believe that God has given me the gift of criticism.  What should I do with it?”  The minister thought a moment and then replied.  “Remember the parable of the talents?  What did the third man do with his talent?”  The man said, “Why, he buried it in his back yard.”  The minister smiled.  “That’s what I think you should do with your talent of criticism.”  That’s because God’s precious gifts are meant to build up.  Not to tear down.

            Paul wraps it all up with these wise words.  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.”

            Of course, we have our differences.  Some of us are male.  Some are female.  Some of us are old.  Some are young.  Some of us are rich.  Some poor.  Some are Republican.  Some Democrat.  Some Independent.

            Despite that, no one is a stranger here.  Everyone belongs.  We all were led by the Spirit to enter the waters of baptism.  All of us said “Yes” to being his followers.  Said “Yes” to becoming disciples Christ.  And in doing so, we all became one.  Joined as Christ’s very body the church. 

            As members of the body of Christ, we are sort of like a big jigsaw puzzle.  Each piece has protrusions and indentations.  Parts that stick out represent our strengths.  Indented parts represent our weaknesses.  The beautiful thing is that the pieces are designed to complement each other and to produce a beautiful whole.  So, just as each piece of a puzzle is important, so each member of the body of Christ is important.  When even one single piece is missing, its absence is very obvious and damages the whole picture.  In like manner, when even one of us is absent from the body of Christ, the whole is weakened.  And when each piece of a puzzle is in place, any one piece is not conspicuous but blends in to form the whole picture.  So it should be in the body of Christ.

            Indeed, we are one in the Spirit.  We are one in the Lord.  We are called to work with each other.  To work side by side.  To spread the news that God is in our land.  To help bring God’s Kingdom to earth.

            And we do that by sharing the gifts that we’ve been given.  That’s what being a steward is all about.  It’s about giving.  It’s about sharing.  Sharing our time.  Sharing our talents.  Sharing our abilities.  Yes, we share what we’ve graciously received.  That’s right.  After all, every single bit of it comes from God.  And God wants us to use what we’ve been given as a blessing.  To use our gifts to bless God’s beloved world. 

You see, the church is truly Christ’s body.  And that’s a big deal.  It’s Christ’s body, not a corporation.  It’s a living organism, not just an organization.  It’s the very body of the living Christ, not just a bunch of Christians.  It’s Christ’s church.  Called and chosen by the Spirit of the living God to bless the world.  Called and chosen by the Spirit of the living god to be a blessing for the world.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.