Sunday 4th October 2020
Call to Worship- Claude
Song: we really want you thank you Lord
Prayers & Lord’s Prayer – Claude
Song: Like a mighty river flowing
Song: I am a new creation
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 read by Jenny
Romans 12:1-8 read by Angela
Song – Knowing You
Back in the early seventies as a teenager I attended a Church in Aston called The Gospel Hall, just as we use to do here at Elmwood the children would leave the main service after the Bible reading. There was always a mad dash to get into Sunday school almost a stampede especially in the winter, what could cause such a rush, was it to hear the word of God, sadly I have to admit it was a race to get hold of one of the comfortable seats right next to the radiator, and I am sorry to say that would be that for I was often reluctant to take part and my mind elsewhere wandering I would have sooner been at home watching Star Soccer seeing Bob Latchford or Trevor Francis scoring goals for Birmingham City. I knew that when our Sunday school teacher would start asking questions about the Bible reading there would be more than enough others with the answers, no need for me to take part just sit back and chill. I am happy to say that my involvement in the Church life nowadays is now a lot more involved older and wiser wanting to do Gods work here on Earth.
Of course it is tempting to sit back, to take it easy, and to let others do the work. The result however can be devastating. First of all to the church, because there is a lot more work than a few so-called experts can handle. But also for those who think they can sit back and watch. Not taking part and being involved means dying for both the church and those members, who unlike Jesus, seek to be ministered unto, rather than to minister. The comfortable Church seat means that the burdens of the ministry are left for the shoulders of a few. And it will result in quick burn-out. It will result in, sometimes, severe criticism and resentment on the part of those who do nothing. And that will bring more discouragement to hard workers. And one more result may be that those who stand back will live on the edge of the church, always in danger of falling over the edge and losing it all. Cast your minds back to new years eve 2019 when we were all making plans and wishes for 2020, who could have imagined what was about to unfold so fast forward to October 2020 and we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic and without a Minister, so now more than ever we
need to encourage each other to come forward with the different gifts we all have at our disposal in order to maintain the running of our Church and its ministry, we can all play a part be it large or small, myself and all the other Elders are working tirelessly to maintain the new normal.
The Bible has news for us. Being a member of the church means that you according to your ability will take part in the ministry of the church. No one is exempted, not even those who think there is nothing they have to contribute. Every church member has been given at least one gift. So what we need to do is to: DISCOVER OUR GIFTS. These gifts are: l. Body, 2. Spiritual gifts.
In 1 Corinthians 12:11, Paul, writing about the Spirit giving gifts, says: "He gives them to each man and woman." And that gift is a body gift. By that he means that these gifts are given to the body of Jesus for the work of the church. It is important for us to think about the fact that together all members form the body of Jesus not ten, twenty or thirty but all members. And of that body, Jesus is the Head. What do I mean by that?
When Jesus was with us, here on earth, He finished the work that He came to do. He opened the way to the Father, the way home. He removed the terrible heavy load formed by our sin. That however did not mean that nothing remained to be done. For instance there are people who need to be informed that the way home is open. They need an invitation to come back to the Father. They need to be guided. Furthermore all God's children need to be prepared for living at home. They need that simply because they know naturally how to live here on Earth with all its distractions and all we take for granted, the mobile phones, tablets and other computer devices that seem to have taken over our day to day lives, they have to learn anew how to live in the home with their Father. They need to be integrated into the body; they need to learn about fellowship, and many other aspects of living with and for God. They need to learn how to live in the kingdom; they need to learn how to assist in the coming of that kingdom.
So Jesus, when He had to return to heaven, from there to rule His church, sent us the Holy Spirit in His place. The Spirit came to live in our hearts, to transform us, or sanctify us for living at home. By His very nature, He remains in the background. He is always working behind the scenes. There He encourages us to do the work of Jesus, to finish what is still left uncompleted: Gathering all nations as one, calling all men and women to give God the glory, uniting into the body of Jesus.
We need to think about what that means to us. If we are His body, and if He completes what He began, but through us, that means that unless we the church members do the work, it will not get done. It means that if Jesus wants to speak to the world, we are His mouth. We have to do the speaking we have to go from Elmwood into our places of work, schools and spread the word. We are the voice of Jesus if we obey and listen to Him. No one can hear Jesus except through us. If Jesus wishes to go into the world, there, where His lost children are, we are His feet. Jesus can only go there through us. And if He wishes to touch anyone in blessing, He will do so only through the touch of our hands. That is what it means to be His body.
The one task the church has is to finish the work of salvation. To prepare the world for His return. To get everyone ready for the great climax when the earth and the heavens will be renewed and united. Everything we do here on earth is geared towards that purpose. The production of food, transportation, working with computers, work in the health care system everything we do, must be to the glory of God, that is, to get His work done. Even recreation is never an end in itself, but a way to gain new energy to continue to serve Him in ALL that we do. Anything else is a waste of time. Or worse, it could even hamper the completion of the work and the return of Jesus.
If we then are the body of Jesus, it must be helpful to think for a moment how God made the human body. Because Jesus' body functions just like it.
What do you think will happen when even one small part of our body malfunctions? Let us say that we have a hurting, infected small toe. It is surely not the end of the world. But what will it do? First of all it drains us. It takes time and energy to fight and overcome the infection. We cannot ignore it just in case it spreads to other parts of the body. We reluctantly go and see the doctor, when you can get an appointment, then it means
sitting in the surgery for some time just to be told there is nothing wrong with you. We probably will have to go to the chemist to pick up a prescription. We may have to bathe that toe keep the foot in an elevated position we may have to lose time from off work all this for a small toe. Such a small thing can be a bit of a nuisance, because it takes us away from things we would rather do. Things that are far more important. Furthermore, an infected little toe can be very painful. It may make walking difficult. It may, if the pain is severe, make concentrating difficult and sleeping impossible. All in all it is a pain to have even an infected little toe, so just imagine the struggle with a kidney, liver or heart problems.
That is what happens in the church. When one small member does not function, it interferes with the task of the body. When one small member is infected and needs time and attention, it drains the church of energy, and makes it difficult to get on with her calling. If that same member begins to cause pain, when that member becomes critical, when he gets into spiritual trouble, you can just imagine what that will do in a church. Such member drains energy, siphons it from doing the work of God. The comfortable seat holders, those who seek only their own comfort, those who contribute little or nothing, those who fail to give according to their ability, are the cause of a church that is often sick, weak and unable to do much for the Lord.
Sometimes we may wonder why some people in some churches are not more happy after all Church should be a happy and joyous place to be when worshiping The Lord, why is it that there are sometimes financial strains, why it is difficult to get people to teach or lead, in short, why it is such a struggle. It is because part of the body fails to cooperate, to give, to share and instead drains the church of resources and energy.
The body that is totally healthy — the body where all parts function as they should — and are doing what they were made to do — is a healthy body. Only the church where everyone gives as he or she has been given can be productive, a growing and a happy church. For the gifts we have been given are body gifts. Gifts to be fully used for and through the body of Jesus.
The next thing we want to notice is that these gifts are spiritual. That means first of all as Paul, again, says in 1 Corinthians 12:11, that these gifts are given by the Spirit. Each member, no matter who he or she is, has a minimum of one gift. Often people have more than one gift. These gifts therefore, are spiritual, they come from heaven. Spiritual gifts are different to our natural gifts but the two are very closely related.
Let us say that there is a young man who is naturally gifted in sports. He is a talented footballer for instance. That is a natural gift. Not all that different from a spiritual gift, in that this gift is also heavenly, this young man holds this gift via creation. The God who made Him, the Spirit who was involved in creation, gave him that special gift. Not everyone has it.
A spiritual gift differs from a natural one in that it is used through the church for God. Let us say someone is good with little children, or young people. That sometimes quite naturally leads to becoming a good teacher. That gift may be used in Christian education or church education. It may be used to lead children to the Lord, to strengthen them in the faith, or beyond that in shaping them and their gifts in the service of God. That is a spiritual gift.
So how do you then discover what your gift or gifts, received from the Holy Spirit, really are? There are a number of things that will point the way. First there are things you enjoy doing. You enjoy them, because you are good at them. And you are good at them more than likely because that is a gift, a spiritual gift. Secondly, you may discover that there is something that you can do better than most people. Probably because that is a gift of the Spirit. And a third thing is the confirmation of others. People by their very nature tend to be very critical. But when someone does an excellent job there are always people who will tell you that. They will show amazement, surprise, gratitude for what you have done. Probably because that is a gift.
But some spiritual gifts are slumbering. That is because sometimes we are not aware of them. Again we may have the gift of teaching, but we were never in the position of testing ourselves and so we remain unaware of it. Hidden talents must be discovered, because the church has an urgent need of them.
I would like to mention also the difference between the more ordinary gifts we have spoken about, and the sensational ones that Paul mentions here in Corinthians. There is the gift of speaking in tongues, of healing, of miracles. Especially the last two are much desired, simply because you can make a powerful impression when you miraculously heal other people. It is sensational compared to, for instance, the gift of serving, helping behind the scenes, which go largely, unnoticed.
We need to say first of all that the Bible nowhere tells us that these gifts have ceased. As a matter of fact they never ceased. The spectacular gifts of prayer, healing and miracles are witnessed here at Elmwood every Week.
But it also needs to be said that these spectacular gifts are not always the most important. In the case of Jesus and the early church they demonstrated that the claim of God's almighty, loving power was not just a matter of words. Miracles and healing demonstrated that God's love and power are real.
Paul himself urges the Corinthians to seek the more important gifts, like teaching, serving, giving. As a matter of ever day living, Paul strongly emphasizes that the most excellent gift is love. To love is not always easy. With civil wars raging all over Gods world, hatred because of race, creed, colour and religion it makes it very hard for us to love all of our brother men. But the gift of love is a transforming gift. Jesus when he called the Disciples said he would make them “Fishers of Men” he never asked them to be or do anything he knew they were not capable of doing or that he could not enable them to do. That is how Jesus is with us he is not asking us to do the impossible but only to use the gifts he has given us.
What all this means is simply this: the discovery and development and use of our gifts is of the greatest importance. Just think of a congregation where everyone is using some gift. Think of a Church leadership which does not appoint people to do something merely because it needs to be done and there is no one else to do it. But such a leadership that appoints people to do the things they are gifted to do. That would make for a
very happy church. Little or no burn out. Burn out happens when people are asked to do what they are not gifted to do. Here at Elmwood we are blessed with a wide spectrum of skills and gifts among us we have teachers, bank managers, Engineers, solicitors, Police officers, senior social workers, nurses and doctors to name but a few I could go on and because of this we need to harness these gifts and encourage each and every one young and old alike.
Paying attention to people’s gifts is paying attention to the leading of the Spirit. It means to be open to His blessing and power. A church where every member is giving according to gift and ability is a church that will grow, both spiritually and in numbers.
So let us, if we have not done so already, discover what our gifts are. Let us recognize in these gifts the blessing of the Spirit. Let us encourage one another to develop these gifts. And then let us put them to full use. Whatever your gifts or talents are I encourage you all to put them to use. Blessed is the church that welcomes gifts from God. And then returns them in their use to Him, for His glory. There is so much potential here at Elmwood just waiting to be unleashed and you all hold the key to unlocking the door. That key is your willingness to be involved in some kind of service to the master. So I will leave you all this morning with 3 challenges.
1. Pray for a new understanding.
2. Look around at our needs.
3. Attempt new things for God.
Song – Be still and know that I am God
Prayers of Healing/Intercession- Claude
Song: Great is thy faithfulness