First Sermon, transition, One Body, Many Gifts

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One Body, Many Gifts

            It is good to stand before you today and “officially” begin our ministry together.  The first weeks and months together are always an interesting combination of excitement, confusion, some frustration, and many great joys. I trust this transition will have many of those same aspects as we come together. I will also say that transition is always challenging, but adding Covid 19 to transition just adds to the confusion and frustration. It makes Paul’s writing from Ephesians 4 that much more meaningful as he tells the church in Ephesus, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” That is a great description of how we need to respond to one another during this time of uncertainty.

            There have been some things that have definitely been a joy and a blessing during this season of Covid 19 as well. One of the things I have heard many people talk about has been the multiple worship services they have been attending over the last few months. For example, my sister in Pittsburgh has been watching the worship service from church, Southminster Presbyterian every Sunday. Then she switches websites and listens to my other sister as she cantors and sings for the mass at her church in New Jersey, and then she will shift websites again and at least listen to my sermon from that week as well. This never happened prior to Covid 19. And I know Nancy is not alone in that process. There are many folks who are enjoying the freedom to worship in many different traditions and styles during the onslaught of on-line services that have been started during this pandemic. In that way, certainly we begin to gain a better image as to the breadth of the body of Christ, in that all of these Christian churches each represent a part of the body of Christ.

            While I see that as a great opportunity for us to share with the wider body of Christ, I don’t want us to get the idea that being at home and worshipping virtually is just as good or better than being together with brothers and sisters in Christ in fellowship in your home church. Being together as a church goes well beyond just listening to the same message together, but instead it is Christ’s desire that we come together as the body of Christ. This reminds me of the statement that I get from many different people who will tell me, “Well, I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, I just have to have faith.” And, while by the letter of the law that is correct, it is a very limited view of what if means to live as a Christian in this world. Our faith was never meant to be just about our own individual salvation, but it has always been tied into the faith of those whom we encounter in this world. Even as Jesus departed this earth he told the apostles, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The job Jesus gave to the disciples was not to just assure themselves of their own salvation, but instead it was to go and make disciples of all nations.

            That makes me ask the question, “Why?” Why do we need to make disciples of all nations or peoples? And let’s not glance over the fact that Jesus used the term “nations” which the Greeks interpreted as “ethnos” which according to Strong’s concordance means, “a race, A tribe; specially, a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually, by implication, pagan) -- Gentile, heathen, nation, people.” This call to make disciples wasn’t even just about reaching those within our families or our neighborhoods, but went to including as well those whom we have had little to no contact with. Jesus is letting us know that his body of believers is to be as broad as the world, in order for the church to be all that Christ intends it to be. Again as Paul describes the church in Ephesians 4, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” This is Christ’s vision for the Church.

            So it is in this vision of the Church that we then find Paul’s writing to the Romans. Paul is expressing to this new diverse church that, despite their differences, Jew and gentile, rich and poor, slave or free, that they have all been called by Christ to become this one body of believers. Despite the differences between them, they each have been called to be a part of that larger body of Christ, and that call to Christ supersedes all other parts of their being. Thus the call to not think more highly of yourself than you ought was made, and instead we are told to think about the faith God has distributed to each one of us.

            The reason why this is so important to us as a church is because we are not as complete in our faith without one another. I bring to you a different set of gifts to you than Pastor Bruce brought. Not a better set of gifts, or a worse set of gifts, but a different set of gifts. You as a church have a different set of gifts than my last church had. Again, not a better set of gifts, or a worse set of gifts, but a different set of gifts.  The fact of the matter is that each of us, individually has been given different gifts that are essential for the building up of the church, and we need all of those gifts to be present and used. As Paul states it in Ephesians 4:11-13, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Each of the gifts we have been given has been given so we can reach unity in the faith as the full body of Christ.

            With all of that being said, I am anxious to learn of who you are, and how God is using you to bring him glory. It is exciting to see and learn about the ministry that is being done here at Asbury. It is different than the ministry that was done at other churches that I have attended or served over the years of my life. It is different because you are different. You have been called by God and gifted by God to use your spiritual gifts to make his church more complete. As I come along side you, the church will also be a little different than it was before because God has changed the ingredients in the recipe. Just the same as if Gordy was making sugar cookies, but in a particular batch mixed in some orange juice and orange zest; he is still making sugar cookies, but they will not be exactly like they were before.

            The body of Christ is to be built up in such a way that we need each and every spiritual gift to be present for us to be complete. Because of this we need to be adaptable, welcoming, and always seeking where God may be leading us. I like being comfortable and doing things in the familiar way, but sometimes God presents someone to us to invite us to experience a better way. This is why we need to continue to reach out, invite new believers into our fellowship, and see what God is doing with us with this new set of ingredients in His body, the Church. However, that blend of ingredients only works if we put all the ingredients into the mix. Again, if you don’t put the baking soda or baking powder into the batter of your cake, it won’t rise and it won’t be the delicious treat it was meant to be. We need all of the ingredients.

            So again I return to the writing of Paul in Romans 12. He tells the church then, and tells us now, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. 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.” It boils down to the fact that we need to all do what we are called to do, together, with joy in our hearts.

            Let’s look forward to being the body of Christ. Let’s look forward to see how God is tweaking us and allowing us to grow in him. And finally let’s get excited about how God will challenge us to be the best Church for him that we can be. Amen and Amen.


Asbury United Methodist Church

July 5, 2020

Ephesians 4:1-7 & Romans 12:3-12

William E. Hastings