Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Third Sunday after the Epiphany (January 24, 2016)
- First reading
- Second reading
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 | NLT
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.
29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! 31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
Last week, our scripture was from the beginning part of 1 Corinthians 12. Today we finish up the chapter. As we begin looking at this scripture today, we are reminded that this season between Epiphany and Lent is the season about the mission of Christ and subsequently the mission of the church.
This scripture reminds us again of the diversity in the church and that Jesus needs each one of us working in the church to do the thing that he has called us to do. I think churches (using that in meaning the assembly of the saints) struggle with this. We forget that Christ has given each one of us different jobs to do within his church. All of us can’t do the same thing – just as our human bodies aren’t all one part.
One of the things that I see churches struggle with is those who are in the public ministry. Yes, those people seem always to get all the acclaim. For some, they let that acclaim go to their heads. I know that in my life, it can be easy to be caught up in the acclamation. That’s why I purposely do the “behind-the-scenes” things. I figure as a pastor and worship leader that if I can’t help set up and tear down chairs and tables, and other other tasks that stay out of the limelight – then something is wrong. We should not purposely seek out the attention, but on the other hand, when we are called to do something we should do it.
God has given me a gift that I have only recently recognized. It has only been in the last couple of years that I realized the gift of music that I have been given. Yes, I can read music and play several instruments and sing, but God has given me the uncanny ability to pick up songs quickly – some of that comes from sight singing skills and ear training skills that I learned at Indiana Wesleyan University, some of it is natural talent and I believe that natural talent is a gift from God – specifically because it builds up the church. After all that is the purpose of the gifts.
The church needs all of its members and each one needs to find where they fit within the body. I see many who are not cut out for a public, up front ministry struggle and those who are not cut out for nursery or children’s ministry struggle, simply because we need a warm body. Perhaps the nursery worker needs to be up front and the up front person needs to be in the nursery or children’s ministry. It seems, at times, that everyone wants to be on the platform because it is the public ministry. Guess what? Those of us on the platform who get all those accolades have already received our reward. The real unsung heroes of the church are the children’s ministry workers, nursery workers, janitors and housekeeping people – especially those who clean the bathrooms, the greeters and safety teams, the youth workers, those who work in the kitchen. That’s just a small list of the behind the scenes jobs that sometimes go unfulfilled in the church. God has a part for you!
So what gift has God given you, specifically to build up the church. Are you desiring the gift that gets you noticed? Are you doing a job that you think is not honorable (however you define that)? Remember each one of us are part of the church — each one has a job to do. What helpful gift is God working in you?
One of the TV shows that my daughter Anna and I like to watch is Project Runway. One of the most famous phrases that have come out of Project Runway is from Tim Gunn, he says in every show “make it work”. This has become my motto since we started to help out at Waynesboro Wesleyan Church. Why, because most of my ministry supplies are packed in boxes which are sitting in my son’s room. I do not know which boxes have what, so I have to use the resources I can find in our home which are Children Ministry Deal curriculum that has been downloaded to my computer. Also we when from a church that understood the value of technology in the children ministry where I had a large screen TV to use Power Point, to a church that is not even connected to the internet. I started to use the computer and a desktop computer monitor and a little Bluetooth speaker because there is something wrong with my computer speakers, which works out pretty good. I also have to work with the fact that every other week most of the children have to miss because their parents separation which in a normal event in most churches these days. Unfortunately, most of the older children are gone and most of those weeks I will only have a three year old in my class. I has been over sixteen years since I taught two and three year olds, most of my resources are for elementary children. I had to make the lesson work for younger children. I am really not complaining, this has been a growing moment in my life. You know the saying what does not break you makes you a better person. That is what this period in my life has been.
What does God require? That is a great question. I suppose if you would ask 10 people, you might get 10 different answers. Some would have really complicated answers. Some wouldn’t really know. I think many would come up with an answer that mentions loving people. That’s at least part of the answer. Other’s would say that we should please God in the things we do. Again, that would be part of the answer.
What I want to look at this morning is a scripture from one of the minor prophets – Micah. God is speaking to his people once again and in Micah 6:8 we find these words.
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
Earlier in Micah, we find God chastising the people Israel – in the introduction of the book, we find that these words were spoken to both Jerusalem and Samaria – the capitals of the southern and northern kingdoms of Israel.
God was angry at Israel because they were acting unjustly. Listen to these words of Micah from chapter 3:
9 Listen to me, you leaders of Israel!
You hate justice and twist all that is right.
10 You are building Jerusalem
on a foundation of murder and corruption.
11 You rulers make decisions based on bribes;
you priests teach God’s laws only for a price;
you prophets won’t prophesy unless you are paid.
Yet all of you claim to depend on the Lord.
“No harm can come to us,” you say,
“for the Lord is here among us.”
Talk about a prophecy that has contemporary implications. God is upset with his people because they hate good and love evil. He did not like the way they were treating people. Leaders are supposed to know what is right, just, and fair, but they weren’t any of those. These are strong words for any of us who are leaders. God wants us to lead, but He despises abuse of power. I think many of us can relate to leaders or others who have abused their power. It’s interesting to note that (at least in this book) God is more interested in Israel’s lack of injustice to the abused than He is with their idolatry.
God’s answer is mercy – these seems to be a familiar theme over the last couple of weeks. We are reminded that God doesn’t desire our sacrifice or our burnt offerings – no – he wants our obedience – God wants mercy – not sacrifice. God gave us both in his son.
Not only has God showed us what is good, but He has told us what is good and what he requires of us. We are to do what is right — we are to love mercy — we are to walk humbly with our God. James reminds us that “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” In other words, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
What does that look like? The ten commandments give us an idea. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. As we are reminded in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Listen O Israel!, The Lord our God is the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” The last six commandments deal with our relationship with our neighbors.
Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. He replied “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And the second one is like it to love your neighbor as yourself.” Interesting, Jesus echos the ten commandments. Then in the letter of James we find these words, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
So, what does this mean to us? We live in a world were people have no access to clean water, children have never been to school, children are exploited through the sex trade, people are enslaved around the world, and people are starving to death. Jesus said when we take care of the least of these, we take care of him.
Sometimes we look around and say “what can be done?” Sometimes it is just the little things, like showing mercy, acting justly. And then walk with your God. It’s not either or, but both and. How will you show mercy, act justly and walk humbly with your God this week?
As most of you know, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s interesting to note that this year MLK Day follows Sanctity of Life Sunday, which was yesterday. Check out this verse that was from yesterday’s Sunday School lesson:
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT)
I share with you today Matt Maher’s “Sons and Daughters” which was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and has several voice overs from his speeches.