Joyful Service

    May 03, 2015

    Passage: 1 Peter 4:10

    Preacher: William (Tex) Culton

    Summary:

    Joyful Service: We are a church committed to serving our neighbors as ourselves by dedication some of our time, talents, and treasure to others.

    Detail:

    1 Peter 4:10

    Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you have received. 11: Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ….

    Philippians 4: 4-9

    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. 5: Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    1 Corinthians 12: 7-10

    To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8: To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same spirit, 9: to another faith by the same Spirit, to another the gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10: to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

     

    I read these because I want you to know the gifts by which we joyfully serve one another; meaning fellow members of the church and the greater community in which we live and work and go to school and play. And these are real gifts that come from God and are given for a purpose. They are to be applied so that Christ may be glorified.

    AND WHY DO WE CARE IF CHRIST IS GLORIFIED?

         Because we want the truth to be known that GOD LOVES!!!!!!!

    There is this prevailing idea that GOD is a wrathful Spirit hovering above the earth looking for flaws in our lives and seeking to punish us for our sins, which are any thoughts or actions that are displeasing to God. OUR LIVES MUST BE LIVED IN SUCH A WAY THAT THE WORLD WILL UNDERSTAND THAT GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON (JESUS THE CHRIST)…..

    So when we say Joyful Service is one of our core values, the emphasis is on both Joyful and service.

    We go into life serving others with a glad heart so that the world might know the peace of God that is in our hearts and get a glimpse of life in Christ and respond to our love by seeking God’s Spirit in their own life.

    Do you have that joyful Spirit within you?

    I don’t think we project a mean spirit, a judgmental spirit, a condemning spirit that demands an exact replica of the way we live and the words we use to describe our beliefs in order to escape God’s wrathful judgment. I’ve been here for a while and you all seem pretty happy. You are not afraid to laugh in worship, or share a joke or take yourselves too seriously. You are able to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

    You seem to be able to balance the bad news that comes in a steady CNN stream, with the blessings of God that have been showered on us. Many of you are involved in charitable organizations and do work that addresses some of the worst ills afflicting the world. And you seem to do it joyfully (You don’t do it grudgingly, and you don’t seem to do it for praise). You serve in government; a hard, time consuming, thankless task. You serve on school boards and groups that support education and the arts. You coach teams and you live responsibly.   However these patterns of living have been developed in your lives; however these responses to the needs of others have come to you, I believe that they are the result of the Spirit of God working to bring you peace and to bring peace to the world.

    If there is one thing that I want to communicate to you while I am with you, it is that God’s love comes through others. I want you to see Christ in others when they are kind to you and when they joke with you and when they complement you and even when they criticize you. We are trained to see Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters, because our fears need to be overcome so that we don’t avoid them. But we often take for granted the love of parents and neighbors and mistake it for their response to our good behavior.

    I have a favorite joke that I say to myself to keep me on the path that I feel God wants me to follow. I say it to myself in the face of bad news. I say it to myself when I begin to get discouraged, and when I feel helpless and when I begin to feel sorry for myself… and I say it to myself when I want to smile and feel joy. It is a joke that made me belly laugh for years whenever I heard it. Now I simply smile.

    I hesitate to tell it, but here goes:

    “A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “Why the long face?”

    Isn’t it ironic that we take responsibility for all sorts of situations that are completely out of our control? Isn’t it funny that we get ourselves into “long face” moods over the state of the world and refuse to enjoy anything, and expect others, family members and friends, to do something nice to cheer us up; or we expect everyone else to “get serious” and join us in our down mood. We take an attitude that there is nothing that we can do to address the ills of the world except be seriously sad.

    There are a lot of reasons for sadness in life, and I don’t want you to believe that Christians should avoid them, but steeped in the knowledge that God loves us and calls us to joyful service, we are allowed to smile in even the most difficult situations.

    I shared a memorial service last week for a grandfather who taught his little granddaughter to play the trumpet. She stood in front of 250 adults and played her grandfather’s favorite piece… (hum it for the congregation…Tequila!)   The entire congregation yelled tequila and then burst into applause, laughing and crying (you can do both at once)… Making a joyful noise in the midst of a great loss.

    Humor is a gift to the church even though Paul didn’t mention it in Romans 12, he did urge us to rejoice in Philippians. There is suffering in the world and grave issues facing our government and the church; there are widespread theological divisions that keep Christians separated, but the Body of Christ can still be fun. Humor is often the leaven for flat times, the light in dark times and the salt in bland times. We are the human manifestation of God’s kingdom, and I believe that god wants us to enjoy ourselves ant to appreciate the absurdities of life and not to take ourselves too seriously. It is too easy to become DEADLY SERIOUS.

    Levity is often considered excessive if it is offered at all in church. Presbyterians used to be referred to as God’s chosen frozen. We hear of the protestant work ethic, but not the protestant play ethic. We have concentrated on the “Thou-shall-not’s” and have a reputation of being grim, dour and rigid according to Professor Martin Marty a theologian at Princeton.

    If we take ourselves too seriously, we are in danger of taking other things, including God, too lightly. We should be able to laugh at ourselves like the other who related her little boy’s grace before a meal she had prepared that she thought would be delicious. “Dear Jesus, please help me. This looks nasty!”

    Or the aging gentleman who told of a 95 year old man confessing to a priest that he had been out on a date with a 25 year old super model. The priest said “Catholics don’t consider dating a sin.” “Oh,” said the 95 year old, “I’m not Catholic, I’m Jewish.”  

    The priest replied, “Then why are you telling me this?” The old man said, “I’m 95 years old, I’m telling everybody!”

    We have to be able to accept that we’re not perfect, and yet continue to be committed to our Lord and know that God wants us to be a window into God’s heart for the world.

    In Frenchtown we had a man who was always active in the church, but he had the most negative attitude; almost to the point of being humorous. If we had a work day, he would spend it complaining about the people who didn’t come. At Easter he would complain that the once a year people kept him from his favorite seat. Presbyterian hymns were dirges, but clapping in church was disrespectful. The people who received our missions were ungrateful, and the poor should get a decent paying job! He never missed a Sunday and always rated my sermons on a scale from one to ten. One week he gave me a two and a friend of mine reminded him that the preacher got at least a five just for showing up! Joy was there, but he kept it well hidden.

    Being a minister is being the sounding board for every complaint that anyone has toward God, our government, the church, and organized religion. At some clergy conferences I attended, I would listen to how unappreciated these ministers of the Gospel felt. And I would ask, “Then why do you stay in ministry, if you are so miserable?”   I read a little book on prayer by a monk who learned to thank god for everything he had to do in life. I took it to heart and it has taken me years, but I am finally getting it. I thank God for heavy traffic and for inconsiderate people and for bowel movements and for the opportunity to share someone’s burden and for bad jokes told well and for good jokes told poorly. It is a mind-set, or rather a heart-set to be so grateful for the Love of God and for life that everything is seen in the light of that gratitude. If you consider yourself precious in the eyes of God; if you believe that you are so loved that God gave his Son, Jesus to die once and for all for the sins of the entire world, and yours and that there is nothing in this world or beyond that can separate you from that love… well your life becomes joy-filled.

    One last thought. There is nothing more satisfying than giving yourself for the welfare of others… Nothing. Joy in the eyes of God is us, and joy in our hearts is loving all the other “USES” as God loves us. And that’s the truth. Try it with thanksgiving and tell me it isn’t so.