O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Many Tasks, One Resolve
Many Tasks, One Resolve
Based on Romans 12:6-8
Preached on October 18, 2015
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So far we have heard Paul say, "I therefore encourage you brothers, on the basis of the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual worship. And stop being conformed to this world, but rather let yourselves be transformed in the renewal of your mind, so that you probe what is the will of God, the good and pleasing and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members,[e] and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."
And our text today - "Having - then - gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[f] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"I've got three more for you," I said, as I lay down the shirts in front of Ausman. He was the ironing pro in our division. We had been on basic training three weeks, and we had learned a critical lesson: you can't make it alone. You live and die as an unit. Every morning the training staff would come in and rip us all to shreds. Fail. Fail. Fail. None of us had passed a single inspection. Our kit just wasn't good enough.
The boots had to be polished so that the inspector could see the colour of their eyes in them. The bed had to be made so that the sheets tucked under the mattress at a perfect 45 degree angle. Oh, and no creases or wrinkles of any kind. Every article of clothing, yes, even the ones hanging in the closet and the ones folded 8x8 in the drawer, even the underwear! - had to be ironed flat - looking the same as everyone else's. There could not be water in the sink, or garbage in the garbage can. It was impossible.
But then - the leaders in the division started talking and that's when we learned our lesson. Ausman never got picked up for bad ironing. Smith, Welsh and Smad never got picked up for bad boots. Nussbaumer knew how to make a bed. Schnarr knew how to fold. And member by member we made sure every task was taken care of. Not everyone liked their task. I, for one, don't want to fold another pair of underwear again for the rest of my life, but I'll never forget the look on my inspector's face the day we started working as a team. "How did you iron your shirt so well, Mr. Schnarr?" he asked, expecting to pick me up for a shoddy job as he had done every day before. "Ausman ironed it," I said. "Ausman! Ausman!" He stormed out of the room and down the hall to find Ausman. "Who folded your clothes?" he demanded of Ausman crustily. "Schnarr folded them," Ausman answered. (pause) That day Ausman passed his inspection. He was the first but certainly not the last.
St. Paul has been teaching us this month that the Lord has made us into an unit - in His one body, the Church. We've learned that in His merciful act of saving us God has united us to Jesus, making our whole life worship - and that the way we worship Him is by putting our body into action for the sake of "the team." We've learned that He calls us to sober judgment about how He might use each of us individually - not everyone irons, not everyone folds - but that the individual skills He has given you are for the benefit of your Christian family here to whom you belong. Faith doesn't go it alone. It lives and dies in Jesus along with all the others He has united to Himself by baptism.
Everyday the Evil One wants to come in and rip us all to shreds - pull us all apart - from Christ and one another. And He will give us any reason he can - so that we aren't here on Sunday, so that we aren't praying for the needs of the congregation, so that we don't pitch in and help where our help is needed. Divide and conquer. And He is going to try every tactic he can.
He is going to push all your failures in your face - like an inspection - all the garbage in your garbage can and all the smudges on your boots. He is going to call your salvation into question - how could Jesus ever take you to heaven - and make you doubt whether or not you belong here - in order to drive you away. Or, he is going to make you feel comfortable in your faith - like "I know I trust in Jesus - I don't need to be at church" - thus robbing you from your weaker brothers and sisters in Christ - the ones here who do need you. Or when a need arises, he is going to whisper into your ear - "You've done your turn - let someone else take a turn" - as though we take turns worshipping God with our time, thus keeping us away - always keeping us away.
But Christ is the One who makes His Church. He is the Captain who named you a part of His team. He is the One who - as Paul says - gives different gifts according to His grace. He is here now, and His team surrounds you - that they might confirm "you do belong here" - To tell you again "Christ is your salvation" - To gather around the font with you - Say the saving words of the creed with you - kneel at God's altar by your side and drink His precious blood with you. Christ is captaining His whole Church - who in view of God's mercy towards them act to put God's mercy in your view.
Take your preacher as an example. Seeing you here encourages me to preach better - to more clearly, and more sweetly hold up Jesus as your certainty against all things - but the benefit doesn't stop there - even the person on the other side of the nave - over on the bridgewing of the ark over there - is encouraged by seeing you here as well. God has made you a living sacrifice. There is no end to what He will do with you and you don't always know what that is.
Brothers and sisters, God is building us all up together in Christ. He uses us, member by member, to make sure every task is taken care of. And though there are many different tasks in the congregation, and not all of them we like - we each approach our own task with the same resolve. Be it ironing, folding or polishing. No, you may not be ironing shirts, perhaps you're ironing out a newcomer's first visit to our congregation. No, you're not polishing boots. Perhaps you are keeping God's house looking like God's house. No, you're not making beds. Perhaps you are making things ready for the service as an usher, greeter or on the altar guild. And Thank God you're not folding underwear, (pause) but you are folding your hands to pray - for your family - here at Beautiful Savior - for the pure preaching of the saving Gospel - that we might grow in our faith in Christ, and our acting love for one another. This is your prayer.
Older members, the younger members need you to coach them and mentor them and walk with them as they serve - this is a form of leadership. Younger members, the congregation needs you with your energy and your zeal - that we might show one another acts of mercy. (pause) God calls us to take an honest look into what is needed here at Beautiful Savior. To care about the needs of the family. To set our focus with Christ on His mission to save.
For there is One task that you and I could never do. It is impossible for man. There is One task only our Captain dare undertake. And it is His zeal, His focus to save you that drove His body to the cross. Even when you have failed, Christ Jesus is your Savior. Even when the devil is tearing you to shreds, Christ's spilled blood is your refuge. Even - NO, especially - when you are weak and burdened and tired, Jesus is your strength - for He has died and risen and has joined Himself to you in a watery promise that cannot be taken away. He has made you belong to something worth more than you can possibly imagine. Something righteous. Something eternal. Something you have now by faith that you wait to see on the Last Day when your Captain returns and reveals His glory to all the world.
You know, Ausman and I - we didn't always get along. We didn't always like each other. But we acted for one another, because we were an unit. Our Lord's Church is an even stronger unit, because we share a life that goes beyond this world. We believe in the life of the world to come. A new life that God's Spirit is working in us, even now, as He moves our bodies into worship for Him. May the Lord keep us in the life of His Son forever. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr