Ephesians 4:1-16. YAHOO! A week ago Saturday August 19th 18 of us completed a HANDS IN MISSION Team Project on at Wright City Community Food Pantry. 38 Birthday Bags were created for families wanting to celebrate a child’s birthday (cake mix, frosting, disposable cooking pan, party hats, party favors, small gift, decorations, etc.)
We also remove some bushes by the new freezer, outside the building; trimmed some bushes, spread 10 bags of mulch, and planted a little bit of grass seed. YAHOO!! We served GOD and our neighbors!! There is a great picture of our group in the recent Warren County Record.
Back in 1994 Hope and I said “Yes!” that our family would go to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona for 17 days with our kids, Sarah 6 and Jacob 8. When we pulled up to Blue Gap Full Gospel United Methodist Church we saw the outhouse, found out there was no running water, and LATER saw that the outhouse was full. By the way do you know what a full outhouse smells like? I wondered what I had gotten my family into.
Our commitments to Jesus and His Church include PRAYERS, PRESENCE, GIFTS, SERVICE AND WITNESS. After this worship, I want you to know that SERVICE is The Way, The Truth, and The Life of following Jesus Christ.
The fourth practice of our commitment to Jesus Christ is to SERVICE. Since the beginning of the church at Pentecost Christians were committed to helping those in need, often with food ministries that were the result of sharing abundance among them so that others might have their needs met.
Acts 2:44, “All who believed were together (in the Message Translation it reads, ‘They lived in a wonderful Harmony)’ and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” The beginning of the Jesus’ Church was right there in The Acts of The Apostles!!
If you want to follow along in your pew Bible turn to page 976. Before we turn to today’s Scripture, I have to offer one of my favorites from Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8 and following,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of GOD, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Verse 10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” So, my friends, we should walk in the good works that GOD has prepared for us. Seems clear to me that GOD was us to serve…
In today’s Scripture on the next page of Ephesians, Paul has described the new world as GOD would have it.
Really listen to how GOD wants us to live…
Chapter 4 verse 1 and following, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.”
My friends, Paul does not ask us to create that unity; this has already been accomplished through the work of our Savior and His Spirit. Rather, he calls us believers to guard that unity—a more modest but no less significant task—because that unity is founded on GOD’S oneness and work in the world.
Back in 2001 and in 2010 I was able to hear Rev. Michael Slaughter preach at two different Conferences. Bishop Robert Schnase had invited Rev. Mike Slaughter from Ohio to teach what is called the “Bishop’s Learning Time” to our gathering of about 1500 people gathered in 2010. I was excited to hear Pastor Mike after having heard him speak about 9 years earlier. But this time he really knocked me out. I still remember his words after 13 years.
Pastor Mike Slaughter talked about how churches 30 years ago were program churches and if you had the right programs then people would come. That time has passed. Churches are dying and scrambling to survive and it’s because they are not tapping into the power of the risen Christ to do the mission of Jesus Christ.
About 2700 years ago people were crying out to God, “How come you’re not hearing us?” Isaiah 58:3, “'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you, God, have not noticed?'”
God’s prophet Isaiah speaks to God’s people, "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?”
Pastor Slaughter said some churches are arguing over contemporary or traditional worship and GOD is not hearing any of our singing, because we’re not doing GOD’S work.
In Matthew’s Gospel chapter 25 Jesus gives us the answers to our final exam. He said when I come back, I going to separate you all like a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats; and you want to be on the sheep side. Really, you want to be on the sheep side.
So how do you get on the sheep side? Don’t you just love Jesus; He gives us the answers. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came and visited me. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to GOD.
If it’s not good news to the poor, it is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we aren’t working directly with the oppressed, we are not the Body of Christ being the hands and feet of Jesus. The true Church is the Body of Christ, acting on the mission of Christ, through the resources of Christ’s Holy Spirit in the world.
Mike said it must be service before proclamation.
People need to know how much we care, before they care how much we know. Our job is not to get people into heaven, that’s GOD’S job. Our job is to love GOD and love neighbor; that’s bringing GOD’S Kingdom to earth.
We don’t have to have a lot of people. We don’t have to have a lot of money. We don’t have to have 15 musicians. We don’t have to have a giant building.
We’ve been given everything we need: The resurrected Christ said, “‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit.’” We’ve been sent by Jesus and he’s given us the Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us.
GOD’S Holy Spirit comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. God calls us out of our comfort zone. Every person has spiritual gifts from God to use in service to God’s mission.
Not everyone has the personal temperament, or the physical stamina, or the call from GOD, to go to Haiti or Africa, but we can all do something. If our church is to tackle service ministries, some will be able to courageously and faithfully tackle the projects and they will need the support, encouragement, and prayers of the rest of our congregation.
Jesus set an example of his mission when he washed the disciples’ feet, taking the form of a servant.
Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant…The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” We need to think of ourselves as servants, not volunteers. Volunteers are ones who pick their time and place to spend a little time.
As servants of GOD we are led by the Holy Spirit to serve in ways we have never imagined.
29 years ago we came back from Blue Gap Full Gospel United Methodist Church on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona; and I was a changed man. We offered Vacation Bible School, helped build an addition to the church, fed about 100 people a day, and dug a new hole for the outhouse. I came back a changed man. Servant ministries in the name of Jesus Christ change the receivers of the mission. And the servants themselves are transformed by serving in the name of Jesus to God’s Glory.
GOD was calling me into full time ministry through short term missions. Be careful—short-term missions can be life changing.
*Every follower of Christ is united with every other follower of Christ in one mission of the church.
*Every follower of Jesus Christ has been given a gift.
*Every gift makes a difference.
*Every gift is given for the common good.
Every follower of Christ becomes a coworker with God in God’s transformation of this world when we discover and use our gifts.
Each one of us has been sent by Jesus to do the work of Jesus. Together let’s ask GOD to guide us to new “hands and feet of Christ” ministries. Loving God and Loving Neighbor.