Good Morning! Welcome to this mornings service. The message today comes from Tracy Shaw and our virtual Worship leader is Margaret Jackaman.
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Thank you to all those who contributed to the music this week, including Colin Bullett from Arnold Methodist Church on the violin. If you would like to get involved musically please let us know.
God Bless x
Message - Tracy Shaw
We heard in our reading from Romans about gifts that God blesses people with – to not only ensure the body of the church has all the gifts it needs, but also to ensure that our gifts are used for the benefit of others.
I hope that you can think of a time when someone has done something good for you. How have others blessed you? When have you been really low and someone made you feel better? Can you think of a time when you have struggled with something and someone had helped?
So how does the idea of gifts apply to us? How can we always know what our gifts are?
We already have some ideas of when people have been there for us, sharing their gifts and helping make life a little bit better by being there. I want to encourage you now to think about situations where you could bless others. What could you do to help someone else feel better? Or help someone who is struggling?
We are all blessed with gifts so we can be a blessing to those we meet.
It’s not always a matter of having money and being able to buy gifts for others.
It’s not always a case of having loads of spare time.
It is about being alert to when someone needs you to bless them.
Paul likens each person to the parts of the body. We need all parts for the body to function. Likewise, we need each member of the church and their gifts for the church to function. By church I mean a body of people who worship God. Not what the word ‘church’ is frequently misinterpreted – as the building in which the people of God meet.
But our gifts from God aren’t just confined to the church. They are there for the benefit of those around us also. We need everybody’s gifts to make the world a better place. The people we live with and meet during the week. After all it is these people that really need ministry. The people who don’t belong to a church, who don’t pray, who don’t know God. This is the real ministry in our lives, and these are the people Christ wants us to make disciples of. Whatever it is we should be doing for the good of others is our calling. But are you listening and are you willing to answer that call.
Paul told us:
“offer your bodies as a living sacrifice….do not think of yourself more highly than you ought….”
This can be taken two ways – don’t think that you’re far greater, and you can perform your gifts far better than others. But the flip side is don’t start thinking that you’re not good enough either, and that others are far better at exercising their gifts than you – so you’ll leave it to them. We are all individuals and God loves us just the way we are. Our gifts are God given therefore we have an obligation to God to practise them whenever we have the chance. We may not be perfect but we are just what God intended. We may not feel that our gifts are that great, but just imagine what we might become if we practise them.
When we step out in faith, through the grace of God, and the strength of the Holy Spirit we become those living sacrifices. And when we exercise our gifts for the good of others, we bless everyone we come into contact with, and most of all we bless God. We are living examples of what it is to be a Christian, we are shining a light to Christ, and we show others what it is to be a follower of Christ. And maybe, just maybe, they will see something in use that they want for themselves, and maybe, just maybe they will choose to also follow Christ for themselves.
God made us all unique through his Grace. We all have our own gifts to share. Paul listed these out:
“prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving,
leading and showing mercy”
That’s quite a list, surely you can see yourself exercising at least some of these gifts. I want to very briefly look at each one in turn. Just to point out that some of these ideas may not be suitable during the social distancing rules of the COVID pandemic, but I am trying to think beyond our current situation.
There were many prophets in the Bible – Moses, Isaiah and Jesus to name a few, who knew and understood God’s promptings and stood tall in faith to speak the words given to them. Prophesising refers to the prediction of the future through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. A gift that requires courage and faith. Prophesy also refers to speech prompted by the Holy Spirit, not necessarily predicting the future. This may be through obvious things like song, prayer or preaching. But prophesy can also take the form of finding the right words to say at the right time. Perhaps in comforting or encouraging a friend. A friend of mine some time ago was newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He was struggling with trying to find the correct dose of his medication. God had put him on my heart to pray for him. I asked God for the opportunity to tell him this – not easy when my friend didn’t attend church. But I found myself on my own with him at work, pre-COVID, and told him. He thanked me for my prayers and felt blessed that he was being prayed for.
Serving is the act of helping others through working for another, or performing tasks to help another. Serving is sometimes seen as someone giving up their own freedom for the good of others. Such as someone working as a missionary for God or for charity. My daughter is a teenager and looking for work, she currently volunteers in a charity shop to gain experience. My daughter enabled the shop to re-open post lockdown, as at the time she was the only volunteer not self-isolating. Jesus taught his disciples to serve one another when he washed their feet. Serving can be humbling to both parties. It means not believing you are better than anyone else. In a modern-day setting, serving can simply be making someone a drink or helping them to their seat. It could be baking a cake for a charity sale. It could be offering lift so someone can get to church, or maybe visiting someone housebound. Serving can also be a vocation such as medicine or shop-work.
Teaching is obviously the vocation of teachers and lecturers. But teaching also entails teaching and training others as a mentor, a church minister, a youth worker, in any setting – a gift that requires patience and the ability to sometimes find the right words. It can also include the teaching within the church such as preaching, leading a house group, or a prayer group. All parents (try to) teach their children how to do all the basic functions – eating, talking, walking, and how to behave in society – not swearing, thinking of others and helping with school work. By teaching others in the church, we have more people able to come forward and help with the tasks that are needed. We have younger people able to take over. As a member of Synod we often have to vote on whether a church can shut at the request of the congregation – often the reason is dwindling numbers and an elderly congregation who cannot perform all the tasks needed to run a church. Teaching ensures our future generation are able to take on the tasks they are called to, and ensures companies have staff with the ability to do their jobs well.
And surely you can see some of these gifts mentioned in others. And when you do – tell them what God-given gifts you can see in them. After all encouraging is one of the gifts. We can all encourage one another. Often, we can see the gifts of a friend better than they can see them for themselves. In fact, we can usually see the gifts in others better than we do in ourselves. When we encourage one another, we are opening others up to their gifts, and enabling them to go ahead exercise their gifts. Encouragement is also helping keep someone going – perhaps when they are struggling with work, with their health, with a friendship. Maybe someone who doesn’t believe in themselves. Who amongst us would have persevered with learning something difficult if it wasn’t for the encouragement shown by family, friends and teachers?
Giving means the giving of possessions to others. There is the traditionally of tithing in the Old Testament which involves giving a percentage of income to the church offertory or to other charities. We are instructed to give generously, and this is demonstrated in the Gospels by the widow who puts 2 coins in the collection, yet Jesus corrected those who judged, that she gave far generously for her situation than those feeling smug because they were able to contribute more. Giving generously means within what we have available to us. But giving can also be the giving of our time to help the church, to help charities and to help others. It can be baking a cake for a sale or giving flowers to comfort a friend in need.
Then Paul mentions leading. This again can have a multitude of examples, for example within the church a person can be a member of the leadership team or worship group, leading others in worship as a preacher or as worship leader. It can also include leading a small group either in your home, or within the church such as the children’s and youth groups. It is enabling others to exercise their gifts and giving them encouragement. It may also be your paid work, leading a team or helping lead groups for charities. In my paid work I often mentor colleagues new to the company and present training courses.
Showing mercy or kindness is looking out for those most in need. This can be offering money or time to someone we know or to help a charity. It is being there when someone most needs support and being generous with your time. It could be visiting someone in hospital, or giving a lift to someone who is housebound – this is sometimes the only way people are able to go shopping or get to church. It is showing consideration and love. It is a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.
When we look at the gifts in this passage, we can easily see how they seem to merge together. Leading can also involve teaching. Giving our time can also involve showing mercy. Prophesy can also include serving, as demonstrated by Jesus. The edges and definitions are blurred.
Not only do we have gifts today, but through God’s grace, our gifts change at different phases of our lives. We are less energetic as we get older, our responsibilities change. Possibly through retirement, the extra time you may find at your disposal means you are able to exercise your gifts to different groups of people, or perhaps you are able to exercise other gifts that you weren’t able to do earlier in your life. I know my parents say they don’t know who they had time to work now!
To summarise, there are many gifts bestowed upon us by God. But do not feel that you should have all the gifts in Paul’s passage - everybody is not expected to have every gift mentioned, it is through the Holy Spirit we are equipped with and enabled to share our gifts with others to minister to and make disciples of others and to enable the church to function. The challenge is to listen to God’s call and act upon it. Our gifts are given by God. What we do with them is our gift back to God.