Summary: We are a gifted church, with diversely gifted members, and we need to turn that into creative expressions of love for our community.
I don’t get to watch the Miss America pageant any more. Used to be, every September I would hunker down in front of a TV set and prepare to ogle. Gorgeous gals, we called them, in those Neanderthal days, before our language had to become politically correct. Beauty contest, we called it, before the critics suggested that it wasn’t enough for young American women just to look good; they were supposed to do something, and be something, as well. I don’t get to watch the Miss America pageant any more. The last time I watched it was with Miss Margaret a few months before we got married. I think I grinned too much during the show. I don’t get to watch it any more.
But they tell me things have changed. They tell me that now Miss America has to have a cause. She has not only to stand up straight, but she has to stand for something positive. She not only has to be drop dead gorgeous, she has to believe in some cause. Why, they tell me she actually has to answer questions now, and not just hold her mouth in a Vaseline-glossy smile! Diabetes, the hearing-impaired, AIDS, world hunger, child abuse, whatever she chooses. But some cause. I hear, but I wouldn’t know first hand, that even Miss America now knows that it is not enough just to look good. She has to be involved with something beyond herself. Her gifts are not just for her enjoyment, nor just for the thrills of those red-blooded American men who are still allowed to peek; nor are her gifts to be hidden under a bushel of feminine modesty. She is supposed to speak out, to act, and be for some thing.
I’d like to think that the Church of Jesus Christ has learned that lesson too. I’d like to think that the people of God have found out, by now, that it’s not good enough just to look good. It is more important to be good and to do good. It is vitally important to stand for something and to bring something positive to the world. I’d like to think that we who are Christ’s beloved, His church, know at least as much as Miss America. Because, after all, the world is not very interested in mere beauty. The world we live in is not very interested in our architecture, our stained glass, or our exalted language. The world is thirsty for something else. The world needs a gift from us. The problem is, that like Miss America in the old days, we all to seldom give it. We thought it was good enough to be beautiful, but it isn’t. Our need is to discover our gifts and to use them.
Today I am going to remind you how gifted we are as a church. And I am going to argued that we are gifted as a church because we are gifted as individuals. Then I am going to remind us how we got to be gifted individuals, and I am going to bring the circle to a close by focusing on what we are to do with those gifts. We are gifted; how did we get that way and what do we do with that?
First, this morning you and I need to become aware that we are a gifted church. We are a congregation of God’s people who have been blessed in ways far beyond anything we deserved and certainly far beyond what we could have done on our own. God has given us much. And I think it is time to reflect on this and start to ask what it means. After all, the central truth about the church is given by Paul at the beginning of our passage: “Now you are the body of Christ.” That sounds pretty important. The very body of Christ. Wonderfully gifted.
How are we a gifted church? Let me count the ways! I will name only a few things, just enough to set the tone:
We are gifted with a strong and caring heritage. Our history, for nearly 80 years, has been of a church where the Christian faith was diligently taught, and where there has always been a desire to include rather than to exclude. If you go back to the very first message preached by the very first pastor in this room, you will find that it was on the text, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.” We are gifted with the right kind of heritage and vision.
We are gifted with considerable resources. Those who came before us provided us with space and land and buildings and good stewardship, so that we have much to work with. How grateful I am that we do not have to do what some churches must do, namely beg and scrape and pinch and cry for money all the time, just to keep going. We are gifted with resources.