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Summary: God ministers his grace to others through our service to the body of Christ. This sermon is for a service of appreciation for volunteers at a downtown mission church in Toronto, Canada

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1 Peter 4: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Today we’ve been celebrating those who have chosen to serve God in and through our congregation. We do this for a reason, frankly.

We really and truly value what volunteers do and, truth be told, we know that without people who give of their time and energies and love for God, we would not be a church.

You see a church is not the pastor. Jan is not, by herself, the church. Neither am I. Neither are any of us, by ourselves, the church.

A church is a church because it is called into being by God who for two thousand years, through the proclaiming of the gospel, has, by the Holy Spirit, given birth to communities of faith rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ.

And into these communities all peoples are called. Some respond to that call, and those ones, by coming to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, make up the character of the church. And so in Christ we share a common life. A connected life.

And it is the character of our church and the character of people who serve in the church that I want to talk about briefly today, realizing that our time is more limited than usual because of the time we have spent blessing our volunteers, and we will also share Holy Communion together today.

Let’s look at our passage today:

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others".

First off, we find that our gifts, whatever they might be, are to serve others. God blesses us in order to bless others through us. This is an extremely important truth. If we were to get our cue about why God blesses us in different areas from what we see for the most part on “Christian” TV, we’d think that God blesses us for our own sakes.

Christian TV gives us opportunities to “buy a blessing” in the form of ‘holy water’ or teaching DVD’s or sending money to buy air time. As though any blessing we receive from God is for our own consumption. Of course nothing could be further from the truth.

Any good thing that you can name in your life as a blessing...God gave it to you in order to bring blessing, to you first - often - yes, but more vitally, for others.

Do you consider your children a blessing? I do. They are an amazing blessing that God gave to Barb and me, yes, but he has given Jared and Elia to be a blessing to many others...those with whom they will interact for their entire lives.

Has God blessed you socially? Elia, our 13 year-old daughter, has about a thousand friends. She develops and maintains deep relationships with a lot of people. Those friendships bless her, for sure. But so many others are encouraged and, frankly, just laugh so much because of her natural funniness. If we are gifted with many friends, it is so that they might be blessed.

Has God blessed you financially? Are you stable financially? Newsflash. While that blesses you, God has blessed you financially so that you can be free to serve others without worrying about money, so you can give to support Kingdom ministries, so you can be in a position to advocate for the less fortunate.

May we never make the mistake of thinking that our blessings are for us alone. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others”.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms".

In SERVING OTHERS we administer God’s grace, we apply God’s grace to other’s lives. I find this truly amazing and humbling. We are called to be good stewards of the manifold grace of God. That’s the literal meaning of this verse.

Stewards of grace. Somehow in our service we are extending God’s grace. Grace is all of God’s goodness given even though it is not particularly merited. God is reaching out through undeserving me to bless an undeserving world.

So...it’s not about anyone being good enough for God. It’s not about me getting what I deserve from God because I’ve been O-So-Good. It’s because God loves me, worthy or unworthy just the same.

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