Sermon: The Church is not a “one man show”
As I was thinking about the sermon for today, I was struck by the thought that the Church is not a “one man show”
God calls us to be a community – and the Church has no passengers.
As our Bishops often remind us – our baptism is a calling to ministry
– we just have to find out what our ministry IS!
No one person – not even the Vicar – has all the gifts needed to run the Church.
We need each other.
Our New Testament reading from 1 Corinthian 12 tells us that God gives us spiritual gifts
St Paul writes:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.
5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
It is more than just “your natural abilities.
I came across a good definition of spiritual gifts from a Christian leader Bruce Bugbee, founder and president of Network Ministries, who said
“Spiritual gifts are divine abilities distributed by the Holy Spirit to every believer according to God’s design and grace for the common good of the body of Christ”
(“What You Do Best in the Body of Christ,” Bruce Bugbee, page 52).
I am sure if I asked you - if you would like to fulfil your God given ministry – you would say yes.
Yet so few of us seem to find our God given ministry
It seems to me that many Christians are like the Caterpillar.
Someone once said of the caterpillar:
"The caterpillar is the most confused creature which roams the planet, because undoubtedly stamped in his soul is the call to fly."
We want to fly – yet we still find ourselves on the ground.
Story: Did you know that Caterpillars must go through four stages before their metamorphosis into a butterfly is complete.
1. They begin as eggs.
2. Next they hatch as caterpillars.
3. Then they go through a stage where they eat, and eat, and eat some more and eventually, they become a chrysalis.
4. And then when the transformation is complete, they can finally emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
And as the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us:
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." (Eccl 3:1)
(My thanks to Ajai Prakash for the Caterpillar story in his sermon “Discovering God’s Will )
Although we may have a longing to fly, we may not yet be ready
So how do we get ready
I think there are tow important ingredients
Ingredient No 1. Read your Bible and pray
God has given us the Bible so that we can grow as Christians
St Paul tells us that
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2 Tim 3:16)
We need to take on board what the Bible teaches if God is going to use us in ministry
And Prayer is the means by which we listen and speak to the Holy Spirit.
I suggest prayer works more effectively if we start by listening to God.
2. Ingredient No. 2 Fellowship
Story: A man from the city of Chicago decided to travel to Wisconsin to go duck hunting.
He shot and killed a bird, but it fell into a farmer’s field on the other side of the fence.
As the hunter climbed over the fence, the dairy farmer drove up on his tractor and asked what was going on.
The hunter said, “I shot a duck and I’m retrieving it.”
The old farmer replied, “This is my property and you’re not coming over here!”
Well, this made the hunter mad and so he said,
“If you don’t let me come over the fence I’ll call my lawyer and I’ll sue you.”
The farmer smiled and said, “Apparently you don’t know how we do things up here.
We settle disagreements with the Wisconsin three-kick rule.
I’ll kick you three times, and then you kick me three times, and so on, back and forth, until someone gives up.”
The hunter liked this challenge because he thought he could easily take on the old farmer.
So the Wisconsin farmer climbed down from the tractor.
With his first kick he planted the steel toe of his heavy work boot into the man’s shin. The man fell to his knees.
His second kick went directly to his stomach, knocking the wind out of him.
The farmer then landed his third kick to the side of the hunter’s head.
The disoriented hunter slowly got up and said, “Okay, you old codger, now it’s my turn!”
To which the farmer responded, “Nah, I give up. You can have the duck.”
Sometimes Christian fellowship can feel like that, can’t it?
Yet true Christian fellowship is unique
What I have found fascinating is that where I travel anywhere in the world and meet other born again Christians – even when I was on the other side of the world in in Australia - there is something special about true Christian fellowship.
God in his graciousness does use other Christians to impact your life.
Story: In May 1994, I had a rather unusual experience at a Swiss Christian conference I went to.
I was introduced to a Texan Harold Fox
I asked Harold what he did – and he said he was a prophet.
So I said, without really thinking about it:
“Oh do you have a word from God for me”
“Yes, actually” he replied “ you won’t be in Switzerland
▪ I had a steady job that paid well at Sandoz which I enjoyed,
▪We had two Swiss houses and an Austrian house and
▪ We had only recently put in a swimming pool in the back garden.
So as we drove home that evening, I said to Maddy
“That guy’s out to lunch – what on earth is he talking about. We’re not moving”
The Wednesday following Harold Fox’s prophecy on the Saturday, the phone rang and it was a headhunter.
The headhunter Marion Poole – who had never even heard of Harold Fox - let alone met him - asked me “ Are you interested in a job in Hull?”.
I was about to say “No thank you” when I recalled the prophecy the previous Saturday and simply asked “Where is Hull”
As a result of that call, and after praying about the matter, I went on to become Head of Group Patents Department at Reckitt & Colman, based in Hull.
Let me leave you with a short clip that shows how important Christian fellowship is.
As the clip says: It’s smarter to travel in groups
Because as we travel on our Christian journey we can encourage one another.
As the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes puts it so elegantly
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Eccl 4:10)