January 23, 2019- Sacrifice, Vocation, All Parts of One Body- Romans 12:1-8

body of christ

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable 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, 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.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:1-8 (ESV)

It has been said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they are always wriggling themselves off of the altar. We do not live the Christian life perfectly. Thankfully in Christ, because we are baptized, and made children of God by faith, we can start each day knowing that He is renewing our minds and giving us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) in exchange for our hearts of stone.  We can trust that he forgives our sins and He gives us the strength to face a new day every day.  God works this transformation in us through the Holy Spirit.

We walk a balancing act between being sinner and saint. As Paul said in Romans 8, we do the things we know we shouldn’t do, and we don’t do the things we should do.  Even so, God has created each of us as an individual with a set of strengths and a set of weaknesses.  Everyone has been given a vocation- a reason for being and a reason for doing- which should complement the vocations of others. A farmer grows grain for the baker to bake bread.  Drivers transport raw materials so that factory workers can fabricate and assemble machines and cars and other things.  Police and firefighters keep order and respond to emergencies.  We have vocations in both the earthly kingdom and God’s kingdom.  Sometimes they intersect, but we are made to embrace and pursue our vocations to the glory of God.

Paul has a complementary view of how we are to work together at being the Body of Christ. Some of us are positively not suited for doing certain things.   Not everyone is in the position to volunteer to go do missions in Africa for a year, or to do plumbing and carpentry work, or to bake cookies.  Some people have the gift of hospitality, or the ability to go abroad do missions work, but others may be more able to give financially, or teach, or encourage.  Everyone has equally valid – though necessarily different and varied- vocations that we have been gifted with to serve God.

We have every reason as God’s people to appreciate and thank God for the gifts we have been given. We are also called to appreciate and thank God for the gifts God has given others, especially the gifts they share that with us we do not possess.  We serve others out of a joyful response to God’s goodness, no matter what our gifts may be.

August 2, 2017- What Are We Asking For? Matthew 7:7-11

ugly skater pants

(Jesus said): “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?  Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11 (NRSV)

“Now you’re asking for it!” How many times did we hear that phrase directed at us when we were children?  How many times have we said it to our own kids?  It was always a phrase that meant you were asking for trouble, and you were about to receive it.

Kids ask for some pretty outrageous things. My son once begged me for a pair of horrendously ugly $100 skater pants- during a summer in which he miraculously grew from about 5’6” to about 6’ in the span of about three months.  Even had I been foolish enough to spend that kind of money on a rather (in my mind anyway) ugly and impractical pair of pants, by the end of the summer they wouldn’t have fit.  It was better for him- and for my wallet at the time- for him to wear the cargo shorts he already had in the summer, and for us to seek out more sensible and affordable pants to wear in the fall.

I wanted my son to have serviceable and affordable clothing, and for him not to be mocked too severely by his friends for his clothing choices.

Sometimes what we want and what we need are two different things.

Sometimes we come to God asking for silly or impractical things like the awful skater pants my son asked for when he was fourteen. Sometimes we ask for things that appear to be good on the surface, but would ultimately be harmful for us.  Sometimes we ask to be delivered from trials that are difficult and painful, but necessary for us to learn and grow into being the people God created us to be.

We don’t see the complete picture. God does, and He is out for our ultimate good.  He is equipping us for eternal life as well as for life right now. So sometimes His answer to our requests needs to be no.

It has been said that the purpose of prayer is not so much to come to God asking for gifts in the way that a child might make out a list for Santa Claus, but to come to God and talk with Him, to let Him speak to us and align our wills with His will.

God does hear our prayers, and through our prayers He does transform our hearts so that we desire the things that He desires for us. Even if we don’t always get what we ask for, God provides what we need- abundantly, fully and always.