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Romans 12:4-8 Building a Kingdom Kulture: Acknowledging and Cultivating Gifts

March 1, 2015

Romans 12:4-8

Building a Kingdom Kulture:  Acknowledging and Cultivating Gifts

 

Children’s Sermon

Who remembers what church season we are in?

And who remembers what we are doing? (Journey towards Easter)

And who remembers what we started with last week?  Can you go get it?

 

So we have our bag, what else do we need for this journey?  When you go on a long trip in the car, do you ever pack “car food”?  Is it anything special?

And along the way do you have to stop at a gas station to fill up the tank?

We need fuel for our journey! We use gas so the cars or planes we travel on will go, and we eat food so we have enough energy during the trip.

On this journey through Lent we also need the right kind of fuel because of all we have to do. We empty our hearts to let God come in, we remember the bad things we’ve done and ask God to forgive us, we try to follow God and we try to obey God.

 

It’s hard to do those things all alone, isn’t it? That’s why we come together in a congregation so we can support one another during our journey. That gives us the energy we need to continue through the journey.

 

But we also need energy that comes for God and God through Jesus has given us that energy in communion, which we participate in together. Have someone get a piece of communion bread out of the plate. When I bless the bread and the cup and share them with you, I say the words, “The body of Christ given for you, the blood of Christ shed for you,” we are receiving a gift from God, a reminder that we are God’s children because Jesus died for us, and we have the gift of grace, which gives us strength to continue living the life God wants us to live. And that’s a kind of fuel that really gives us energy we need to be God’s children everywhere we go.

 

Put bread piece in satchel and, offer crackers to children as a reminder of the fuel we’re given by God. Ask a volunteer to return the satchel to its hiding place. Then offer this prayer, or one of your choosing: Lord God, through the gift of Holy Communion you feed us and strengthen us to serve you. Thank you for this special meal that we can share with one another in this community of faith. Amen.

 

Review:

Over the last several weeks we have been working our way through Romans 12 with the aim of discovering what the culture of the Kingdom of God looks like.  Let’s begin with refreshing our minds with what we already know.

Read 12:1            The culture of the kingdom of God is marked by a people who are all in.  All invested.  All surrendered. Their very bodies offered to God as a sacrifice and as an act of the creatures worshipping the Creator.

Read 12:2   The culture of the kingdom of God is marked by a people being transformed.  Changed from looking like and thinking like this world and exhibiting God’s will and desire to the world surrounding them.

Read 12:3  The culture of the kingdom of God is marked by God’s people understanding and living by the truth, that not one of them is more important than another.  Each person has a responsibility and a personal mission within the larger context.

 

We think of ourselves with sober judgment because God has distributed all the gifts according to our faith.  Sometimes we judge those who seem to have more of the Holy Spirit than we do.  They scare us and we handle our fear with telling ourselves that there is something wrong with them.  For that reason and because of the judging that comes from thinking that people are not “holy enough” Paul goes on.

 

Read 12:4-8

God gave us all gifts

Illustration:  Everyone look at your feet.  Using just your eyes, take off your shoes.  Didn’t work?  Okay.  Men, using just your knees, take off your shirt.  Ladies, using just your elbows get into your purse and find a pen.  You may be able to do these tasks given enough time, but I think we can agree that eyes weren’t meant to take shoes off feet and knees weren’t meant to remove shirts and elbows weren’t intended to dig out small items.

 

Paul refers here in Romans to our physical bodies as examples of how the whole body of Christ is meant to function.  Each part of our body has a different role to play and is best suited for the task.  So each member of the body of Christ is best suited for a task on behalf of the kingdom of God.  You are a member of the body of Christ and many of you are covenant partners in this particular congregation.  Guess what.  You have a function that the rest of us need you to perform.  If you withhold, we are not complete. 

 

Some folks decide that they don’t need to come to church.  They can worship God on their own by walking in the woods.  True.  You can worship God while walking in the woods, but if you belong to Christ, you belong to something bigger than yourself.  You belong to the body and that church you’re avoiding needs your gift as much as you need theirs.  I know.  You’re here.  I don’t need to preach that to you!

 

You may not be aware of your special function yet.  You may think that it has outgrown its usefulness and it’s okay for you to just quit.  But remember that the gift given to you, God hand picked for your personality, your talents, your likes and dislikes.  As God has given you grace he has you a gift.  While you are still drawing breath, grace still abides and that gift needs to be available for the whole body of Christ.

 

Now Paul goes on to give a brief list of gifts.  His intent is not to make an exhaustive list but to make a statement that as a matter of fact each Christian has a gift and they need to employ it properly.  Listen to his words again:

 

God intends for us to each use our gift as it was intended and given

If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 

if it is serving, then serve;

if it is teaching, then teach; 

if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;

if it is giving, then give generously;

if it is to lead do it diligently;

if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

 

This is not rocket science!  It is plain, direct encouragement and wisdom.  If God has gifted you to do something, do it!  I wonder what would happen if someone here said, “You know, I have a talent for washing windows.  I wonder where I can do that!”  Now while Karin may not need help here, I bet someone around here knows someone who would be ministered to by your skill and if we could point you in that direction, two people would be blessed.  You for using your gift and the other for receiving it.

 

Have you ever thought about giving a word of encouragement to someone and then decided not to?  Paul says that if that’s your gift, you best do it!  One word of encouragement can change or save a life. 

 

I think that if you read between the lines on this, Paul eludes to the fact that you can have a gift and not use it or use it poorly.  Take the last injunction, “if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully”.  Apparently you can show mercy grumpily and who wants that!  I can see it now, _________________ goes to the door of someone in need of blankets (which by the way Grace Connection is in need of right now) and when the door is opened, they toss the blankets in and say, “Hmph.  Heard you needed these.  Now you have them.” And then scuttles away.

 

The using of the gifts goes back to how we offer our bodies to God.  Are they living sacrifices?  If so, how does that inform and impact how we use our gifts for the kingdom?

 

As we prepare ourselves to receive communion this morning I’d like to invite you to think about what gifts God has given you.  They may be wrapped up in what you do for a living or what you used to do.  They may be connected to how you choose to spend your free time.  They may be revealed by the yearning of your heart. 

 

Reflect on the words we say while we participate in this meal.  The focus is on a broken body – one, for all – and on blood poured out – from one body for all.  These are the gifts we have received and continue to be nurtured by because Jesus surrendered his will, his body, his heart and his soul to live in obedience to the Father.  He held back nothing so that we might have life.  He extended this gift not to a few but to all who would receive it and we are connected through it.  “In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

 

Let us stand and say what we believe using this unique statement of faith from the church in Australia.  You will note at the end that it becomes responsive.  I pray that you will pay particular attention to the words we now profess together.  Please stand.