Summary: There is room for everyone in the Spirit!
Rejoice in the Power of the Holy Spirit
Matthew 28:16-20 and Various Verses from the Epistles
The Reverend Anne Benefield
Geneva Presbyterian Church, February 15, 2009
Introduction: Our passage today is made up of phrases from Paul’s letters to the early churches. It is an inspiring array of powerful quotes.
Go out into the world in peace;
hold on to what is good;
return no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted;
support the weak, and help the suffering;
honor all people;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Overwhelm us with Your Spirit, O God, that the words we hear will speak to our hearts as Your Word, made known to us in Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen
Just a few minutes ago, we ordained and installed new officers for the church. As I prepared the liturgy for the service I came across the “charge” to the congregation that I’m using as our scripture today. It seemed to me to make an especially good credo for Christians.
Sometimes when we ordain and install officers I preach to them and let everyone else listen in, but today I’m preaching to everyone because each of us has a call. When we are baptized we are called into the family of God and we promise to serve God. We are called to live as the collection of scriptures above instruct us.
Dick Sanderson is kind enough to give me a subscription to Leadership, Real Ministry in a Complex World. It is an exceptional magazine. This quarter there was an insert that carried a story called “A Cast of Thousands” by Lillian Daniel. She writes:
At my daughter’s elementary school musical, the printed program noted: “This musical was written for 15 actors, but it has been adapted to accommodate our cast of 206.” You know what kind of show this was. No-cut auditions, no performer left without something special to do.
It was not a short program.
The church’s calling is to be like the volunteer geniuses that took a script with 15 parts and creatively made room for 206. We take a task that we could simply pay someone to do, and we divide it into parts so that everyone has a job. Is it efficient? No.
But the church cares less about getting the job done and more about the people doing it. We are not in the efficiency business. Our business is to make disciples. We want to offer as many people as possible the chance to know Christ in service and community.
The church remains the home of the no-cut audition. You have to want to get in, but once you are here, we will find a part for you to play. So when I thank God for the church, my mind is awash in the sheer number of volunteers I have known. There are so many parts in this musical. It will not be a short program. It will last from generation to generation.
Sometimes we forget that Jesus started this venture with just twelve disciples, but the script has been adapted to accommodate a cast of thousands. As a pastor, I give thanks for every character in the show. [www.leadershipjournal.net]
This sermon is for everyone here because everyone has a part—an important part.
As we look at the passage above, we see that it begins with peace and courage. Those two ideas often come together because it usually takes courage to come in peace. We are a mistrusting people.
I was talking on Thursday with an old friend who works for the Gazette newspapers. We had worked together in Anderson, SC. He was talking about how they can measure the “hits” they get on the stories they publish online. He said, “It’s politics and religion that get people excited. We haven’t done much on religion.” I laughed and said that I would be glad to write a column, but I wasn’t sure I would be contentious enough to get lots of hits.
The fact is that each of us is called to be an ambassador for Christ. We are the church.
St. Lawrence was martyred in 258 A.D., but we remember him, not for his martyrdom. We remember him as the Archdeacon of Rome. His responsibilities included maintaining the sacred vessels of the small, struggling church and distributing alms to the poor. While he was Archdeacon, the Governor of Rome took Pope Sextus captive and demanded, “Where is the treasure of the church?” The Pope would not tell, and they tortured him to death. Next the Romans took Lawrence captive.
“Where is the treasure of the Church?” they demanded, threatening with the same fate that befell the Pope.