Summary: Fourth in a series on the Purpose Driven Life.


March 28, 2004

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

The Rev. M. Anthony Seel , Jr.

Romans 12:1-8

“Shaped for Serving God”

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence. May your Word be our rule, Your Spirit our teacher, and your greater glory our supreme concern, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

John Share, writer for The Business Journal of Minneapolis/St. Paul asks, “It’s 10 p.m. – do you know where your tax return is?” Shore reports

It might be farther away than you think, because tax preparers

increasingly are outsourcing work to India and other countries,

This is according to Mark Sellner of the Minneapolis-based accounting firm LarsonAllen. Shore continues

The practice enables Minnesota accountants to catch some

overnight shuteye while offshore vendors process individual

tax returns during their regular workday.

"It’s a workflow issue," said Sellner, noting that offshore

outsourcing appeals to tax preparers who need temporary help

during their busy season, which starts in mid-February. Many

accounting firms "are sitting here three weeks from April 15th

with probably five weeks of work to do," he said. [MSNBC]

Outsourcing has become a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail these days, and the issue shows no signs of cooling down any time soon. A Reuters news service survey released on Friday says that 86% of American companies plan to increase their use of offshore employment. Surprising to me at least is that IBM is one of the largest outsourcing providers for the U.S., according to the same Reuters story.

Outsourcing is today’s term for a business practice that has a long history. The business community has been outsourcing jobs for a long time as a way to keep the payroll for permanent employees lean. It’s just that the jobs went to subcontractors and the like who kept the work closer to home.

Even closer to home, outsourcing has become a mark of lifestyle levels in America. We have someone to pre-wash our salad, someone to do our nails, someone to make sure that we burn off all those excess calories that we eat. We can hire someone to take the kids to school and to pick them up afterwards. There’s someone who will walk the dog. Someone to iron, to dust or clean, to mow the lawn, trim the hedges, and weed the garden.

We can even outsource the care of our souls, did you know that? Sure. You can hire a spiritual director who will listen to you talk about your experiences of the Divine. Business is booming for spiritual directors worldwide. Spiritual Directors International has seen its membership more than triple since 1995. In 156 regions of the world, there are over 4300 registered and presumably trained spiritual directors. There are 117 training centers scattered around the globe, with dozens more on the way.

Some spiritual directors do an enormous amount of good. However, as the apostle Paul argues, the notion of an isolated, outsourced spirituality is alien to the Christian way. As good as some spiritual directors are, we need the full body of Christ for the kind of spirituality that truly honors God. Christianity is group work, and it has been so for 2,000 years.

Paul begins our second lesson this morning, saying

v. 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is your spiritual worship.

Many of the religions of the ancient world practiced animal sacrifices, and so the first century world was well acquainted with the idea of sacrifice. Instead of animal sacrifices, Paul encourages a lifestyle based on the premise that Christians will offer themselves to God through sacrificial love.

Paul had first hand knowledge of what it meant to be a living sacrifice. In his ministry, Paul endured all kinds of hardships. Paul’s understanding of what it means to be a living sacrifice can be seen in a statement he makes about his aim in life. In his parting words to a group of friends, Paul explains his sense of calling from God in this way,

“I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I have received from the Lord Jesus… Acts 20:24

Paul was willing to say for his own life, “come what may,” I will do the will of God. He says to us, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is your spiritual worship.” Furthermore, Paul says

v. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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