I Love You, But…

I Love You, But…

June 30, 2019*

By Pastor John Partridge

 

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14                Luke 9:51-62              Galatians 5:1, 13-25

 

Have you ever watched those Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel?  Or even old westerns, or some of the romanticized war movies?  In a great many of those movies, there is a scene where the two romantic leads go their separate ways, and there is always a conversation that runs along the lines of, “I love you honey, but this thing is bigger than two of us.”  It’s a phrase that’s been around for so long, and used in so many books and movies, that no one can even guess where it was used first.  It’s a cliché in movies, but it has obvious, and tragic, uses in “real life” too. 

Whether it has been said out loud or not, how many times have relationships ended because one person was more in love with their independence than they were with the other person?  Or their commitment to another person, or an addiction, or any number of things was greater than their commitment to the other romantic lead.  In these cases, the phrase “I love you, but…” can just as easily be replaced with, I don’t love you enough to be what you need, or what you want.  Or maybe it’s too harsh to boil that down to just, “I don’t love you enough.”

Those kinds of break-up stories aren’t limited to romantic relationships.  We leave jobs for many of the same reasons and tell our employers that our families, or our checkbooks, or our feeling of self-fulfillment is more important to us than they are.  And unfortunately, our relationships with God are often much the same.  Too often, we tell God, through our actions, if not our words, that other things are more important to us than God is.

But before we talk about abandonment, let’s begin this morning with a story that illustrates true commitment and dedication.  We begin this morning with one of the greatest stories of transition and succession in all of history.  As the great prophet Elijah, advanced in age and near death, comes to the end of his career, he is followed and assisted in everything that he does by his protégé, Elisha.  And, as God calls Elijah home, we hear this story in 2 Kings 2:1-14.

2:1 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So, they went down to Bethel.

The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So, they went to Jericho.

The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So, the two of them walked on.

Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

Elisha declares that he will never leave his mentor Elijah even though they both knew that this was the day that God would take Elijah from the earth.  And, as they travel, they discover that all the other prophets of Israel know that as well.  Each time they pass by one of the places where God’s prophets gather, the prophets in that place already know what’s going on.  And when the time finally comes, and God sends a chariot of fire to carry Elijah away, it was necessary for the horses of the chariot to separate them because Elisha stayed true to his word and refused to leave his mentor’s side.  And even then, he tears his garment in a sign of mourning that they have been separated. 

Elisha was true to his word no matter what.

But the reverse is true for everyone who makes those same kinds of promises to Jesus in Luke 9:51-62.

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

The Samaritans don’t want Jesus because they knew he was traveling to the temple in Jerusalem and not to their temple.  Their position was, “We love you, but only if you worship like us.”  The disciples wanted to destroy the Samaritans and it was as if they were saying, “We love you, but we were hoping you would destroy anyone who isn’t like us.”  The next man offers to follow Jesus, but Jesus knows that he won’t.  Jesus knows that what he’s really saying is, “I love you, but not if you’re homeless.”  The next two are willing, but essentially answer Jesus by saying, “I love you, but only when it’s convenient.”  But none of these answers rise to the level of Jesus’ expectation.  Jesus says that when you set out to plow a field, you focus on what is ahead and not on what is behind.  The focus of the farmer must be on farming and if it isn’t then he should probably be doing something else.

What God wants is the kind of dedication that Elisha had for Elijah, a single-minded determination that was focused exclusively on his love for his mentor.  For Elisha, “I will not leave you” meant exactly that and nothing else.  Only God himself could separate them.  And that’s what Jesus wants for us as his followers as well.  When we are called to be the followers of Jesus, we are called to love him with our whole heart, but that’s often harder than we expect it to be when put into practice.  In real life, we are easily distracted by the things that make us feel good.  In Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Paul explains it this way:

5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

In Paul’s mind, because we have been set free from sin, then we ought to do everything we can to live lives separate from sin so that we do not become burdened and tied to the same sin from which we were once set free.  As Americans, we often talk about enjoying freedom, and many times that discussion involves talking about how we are free to do the things that scripture teaches us not to do.  But Paul’s idea is quite different.  Real freedom, he says, is not found in indulging ourselves and doing things that feel good, instead, real freedom is found in service to others, humility, love, and obedience to God.  The Spirit of God and the desires of our fleshly bodies often run contrary to one another.  Our freedom means that we should not do whatever we want to do because Jesus died so that we could be set free from sin, not set free for sin. 

But, just to be sure that we are getting his point, Paul lists some of the common things of the flesh that cause human beings to go astray, “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”  When we pursue these things, we wander from the path of salvation and risk losing our inheritance altogether.  Instead, we are to seek to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit.  When we are truly following the example of Jesus Christ, our neighbors and friends will see things like “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control” in our lives.

When we say “I love you” to God, it shouldn’t include exceptions that make it sound like “I love you, but…”  God wants us to love him without reservation, with all our heart, all our mind, and with all our soul.

If we want to follow Jesus, and become like Jesus, then we have to give one hundred percent.

If we want to bear spiritual fruit, “I love you, but…”

…is not going to get us where we want to go.

 

 

 

 

 


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

A New Fruit?

A New Fruit?

This week I was reading Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. This has been repeated so often that many of us have it memorized.  But as I read this familiar passage in the New International Version, one of the fruits was different.  Where I expected to find ““love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control,” instead I found, “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”

Somehow I had never noticed that before.

Where I expected to see “patience,” I found “forbearance” instead.  I thought I understood what patience was, but what the heck is forbearance?  Was King James wrong all these years?  Is patience not a virtue?

Relax.

I looked up forbearance so that I could understand why the translators thought this was a better word than patience.

And I think I agree.

I rather like this definition better.

Forbearance is patience, but not only patience.  Forbearance is “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.”  The example given was “Her unfailing courtesy and forbearance under provocation” along with a legal definition that I also thought was as meaningful as it was powerful: “The action of refraining from exercising a legal right, especially enforcing the payment of a debt.”

That means, forbearance is if someone hits you, and you have every legal right to hit them back, but you don’t, when you have been wronged and you have the legal right to sue, but you don’t, or when you have the legal right to collect a debt, or to do anything else, but you don’t.

I think this is a fuller, deeper, powerful, and more meaningful definition that not only included everything that “patience” did, but expands on “patience” and makes it richer and more understandable at the same time.

May we not only have patience, but also forbearance.

God’s Story is YOUR Story

“God’s Story is Your Story”

January 24, 2016

By John PartridgeU

 

Scripture: Nehemiah 8:1-10               1 Corinthians 12:12-31a                  

 

Do you watch the news about what is happening in Europe?

As we watch the Middle Eastern immigration into Europe, we are seeing some very ugly things.  Some, though certainly not all, of the men coming into Europe are behaving terribly.  Not only is there violence and bloodshed, but many European women are being disrespected, groped, abused and even raped simply because the morals and acceptable behaviors of Europe are very different than the places from which these men have come.  Since our morals are similar to those in Europe, we find the behavior of these men to be utterly inexcusable.  I do not condone their behavior in any way, but these news stories may provide an opportunity for us to see something in ourselves that we might ordinarily not see.  What would it be like, for us, if we were to find ourselves in a new place where all of the rules of behavior were different?

I have several friends who experienced this to varying degrees as they adapted to life on the mission field.  In other places, things that are absolutely normal to the people there are quite different to those of us who were raised in another part of the world.  Rules of conversation, behavior, and even simple gestures are entirely different.   And so, as we think about this sort of culture shock, let’s thinking about tis as well:  What would it be like if you had never heard the word of God, and then, as you came to faith in God, suddenly discovered that there were things that God wanted you to do, but many of them were things that you had never heard?  In that sense, the followers of God are much like the newest immigrants to Europe.  New believers come to church and suddenly discover that the rules of behavior, morality, and every day life have become much different than they used to be.

In our first passage of scripture this morning we read from Nehemiah 8:1-10, and in this passage the people if Israel, having recently returned from captivity in Babylon, and having completed a wall around the city of Jerusalem, gather together to hear the scriptures read to them.  Having grown up as Jewish slaves in Babylon, many of these people had heard only those parts of the scriptures that their parents and grandparents had memorized.  Even those who had been able to hear portions of scripture were unlikely to have heard all of it, and since almost no one had access to the few copies that were available, if they had heard any of God’s word at all, it was only in bits and pieces and on rare occasions.  And so, as soon as they have finished the walls of the city and have secured for themselves enough safety to take a day off and bring the people together, the priests call everyone in the city together for a day of celebration.


8:1
All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah tells us that all of the people in the city came together as one.  They were of one mind and they all came so that they could hear the words of the God.  As Ezra the priest began to read the scriptures, other priests echoed the words out to the crowd to be sure that everyone could hear and they explained the meaning of what Ezra had read.  As a sign of respect, when the word of God was read, the people stood.  And this went on for hours.  But there were times where the people heard things that made them worship God with all their might or repent of things that they had done, and at those times the people fell on their faces before God.

At the end of the day, Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest, and all of the Levites who were leading worship reassured the people and tried to calm them because many of them were weeping.  For years they had worshipped God, but as they heard his words read in public they had been convicted that they were doing wrong.  For the first time, they were hearing the instructions of God, instructions on the morality of God, and instructions on how God’s people were to behave and act.  And as they listened, they had culture shock.  They discovered that what they were doing was not what God wanted.  They discovered that the rules were different than they had expected, that the way that they were living was not acceptable to God, and that the way that they were behaving fell short of God’s standards.  But instead of condemning them, Nehemiah encouraged them to rejoice, enjoy the food and drinks that had been brought to the celebration, and to rejoice in the God that loved them.

The people had come to worship God, to honor him, and to praise him.  And in doing so, the people had been convicted of their guilt.  They learned for the first time, or remembered, what God had called them to do.  But because all of this was new to many of them, Nehemiah does not call on them to punish themselves.  They had heard the words of God, they had repented of their sins, and now they could adjust, and begin to live new lives.  Now they could do better.  Now they could begin to change their behavior to be more like the people God was calling them to be.

Eventually, the entire synagogue system eventually mirrored this model.  Each week, the people would gather in the synagogue, a portion of the scriptures would be read, and a priest would explain to everyone what it meant and how they might apply that teaching to their daily lives.  In fact, this remains a good description of Christian worship even today.  And so, with all of this in mind, let us turn to the words of the Apostle Paul where he teaches the words that I shared with the children just last week (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

One result that sometimes comes from reading scripture is that, as we begin to identify as Christians, and as we begin to model the beliefs and behaviors modelled in scripture, we also begin to excuse ourselves from some of the harder pieces.  We hear the stories about spiritual gifts and the fruits of the Spirit and we say to ourselves, “Those are the things that pastors do.” Or, “Those are the things that leaders do.” Or, “Those are the things that only people who are specially called and gifted can do.”  Or even, “I wish I was like that person because they are special and can do those special things.” None of this is new.  Paul was hearing the same excuses two thousand years ago and this was his response.  Paul says that we are all one body but we are not all the same.  Each of us has been created differently and each of us has been given different gifts.

But make no mistake, each of us have gifts.

And so each and every one of us must do that part that God has called us to do.  The body can’t work the way that it is supposed to with only one eye or with only one foot.  Paul addresses all of the people who have come to faith in Jesus Christ and he says, “ Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Each of you are a part of it.

When we come to faith in Jesus, not only are there new rules of behavior and morality to which we must adjust, we must constantly be reading, listening, and studying the word of God to discover where we fall short and what we ought to be doing better.  Nehemiah found that even people who had heard the word of God had forgotten parts of it and had to repent that they were not doing everything that God expected of them.  The same applies to us.  The Bible is a big book and there is always something new for us to learn and we can always find something that we can do better.  But more than that, Paul reminds us that following Jesus is not a spectator sport.  We cannot just sit back and watch what others are doing.

God’s story is your story.

We are all called to be a part of the body, and there is work for each of us to do.

Let us all eagerly desire to do the work of Jesus.

 

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U You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Power, Jesus, and You

“Power, Jesus, and You”

January 17, 2016

By John PartridgeU

 

 Scripture: Isaiah 62:1-5                      1 Corinthians 12:1-11                       John 2:1-11

My grandparents were marvelous gardeners.  They had composted, turned the soil, and nurtured their garden for five or six decades with such care that, even when the soil was dry, you could stick your bare hand wrist deep without much effort.  They had combined generations of practice and stewardship that they had learned from their family and combined it with the best that science had to offer and grew incredible, and delicious, things without chemicals, without fertilizers, and without very many weeds (and what weeds there were, didn’t last long under their watchful care).  When we visited them, we intended to, and were expected to, help.  But helping out came with a few rules.  Grandma and Grandpa were the bosses.  Whatever they said was the law.  You could help but you did what they told you to do, the way that they told you to do it.  Even though their house was a place of incredible love, there was a clear division of labor that was not to be toyed with.

It was good training for real life.

As we got older we discovered that work is often like that too.  At most places of employment there is a division of labor.  Sometimes it is a division between labor and management, or blue collar and white collar, or both, and even within those divisions there are divisions between sales and engineering, between laborers and electricians, skilled and unskilled, and lots of other divisions.

And so, as we come to faith in Jesus, it is fair for us to wonder what the division of labor might be in the church.  Especially in light of last week’s message where we learned how the Spirit of God lives with us and gives us the strength to do God’s will.  If we are called to do God’s work, then what is it that we are called to do?  What should I expect Jesus to do, what does the pastor do, and what am I expected to do?  And so this morning we’re going to talk about some of the ways that we discover a division of labor, as it were, in the Christian life.

We begin with the prophet Isaiah as God declares how he will use his people, and his blessing, to make his name knows throughout the world (Isaiah 62:1-5).

62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah, [Hephzibah means my delight is in her.]
and your land Beulah [Beulah means married.];
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.

First off, what we just heard says that God intends to use his power to restore Israel and to vindicate his people.  ‘Vindicate’ is not a word that we use a lot, but it means to clear someone of suspicion, to acquit, or exonerate them of the charges against them.  And so God intends to prove that his people were right in their belief in him and remove all doubts among the nations that Israel’s God was the creator of the universe and rules over everything in it.  God intends to prove to the world that he is the only true God.  But, at the same time, God intends to use his people to accomplish his purpose.  God intends for his people to be so obvious, so amazing, so wonderful, so blessed, and so good, that the entire world will be attracted to him because of them.

And then at the end of that passage, God speaks of his love for his people, his love for you.  God says that he loves you with the love that a bridegroom has for his bride.  God wants you to know that he not only loves you, but he wants to pour himself into you until he is thrilled with you.

And then in John 2:1-11, we see some of the power that Jesus wielded during his life on earth.  It is power that was sometimes a little different that the power of God that we see in the Old Testament, it is power that is a little more local and more personal, but it is still power that goes beyond anything that ordinary human beings could ever hope to accomplish.

2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The jars that Jesus ordered to be filled with water were not small pitchers; they were huge jars that, when full, would weigh between two hundred fifty and four hundred pounds.  Even empty they were probably fifty to a hundred pounds each.  It would have taken considerable time and many trips to the local well for the servants to fill six of these jars.  The servants could probably only carry between two and five gallons at a time, and so to fill the 180 gallons held in these six jars would require between 36 and 90 trips to the well.  And suddenly, without a word being spoken, all six of these huge jars are no longer filled with water, but wine, and not only is it wine, it is excellent wine that the steward in charge of the feast felt must be the best wine in the house.  When it comes to the division of labor, Jesus does those things that no one else can do, those things that require the power of God to do, and when he does them, he does so with outrageous excellence.

And then in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, the Apostle Paul describes how God’s power comes down to us, and how we can be called to do the will of God.

12:1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

What Paul describes is often referred to as the Spiritual Gifts, but this is not an exclusive list.  In other places there are other lists that include more gifts and those are also intended for use by God’s people.  But here we see not only the list, but some important rules on how these gifts can, and should, be used.  Paul says “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”  And so we know that we do not all receive the same gifts.  Each of us is different, we were created to be different, we are built differently, gifted differently, and inclined differently.

But regardless of our differences, it is the same God that works through us and the gifts that we are given are intended to be used for the common good.  God has given us different skills, abilities, inclinations, and different gifts, but that doesn’t make one gift better or more valuable than any other.  That doesn’t make pastors more important than the congregation, just different.  It doesn’t make prophets, or teachers, or healers, or evangelists, better than people who have different gifts, just different.  Engineers and designers have no reason to design if sales people can’t sell.  I may have been given a gift that allows me to teach and help lead worship, but I do not have the gifts that many of you have with music, with children, with food, hospitality, and many other things.  I am not the church, I cannot to do the work of the church by myself, and no one or two of us can.  What we do, we must all do together, using all of the gifts that God has poured out upon all of his people.  Each one of us has a role to play regardless of how important we think that role might be.  Each and every one of us is needed and the gifts of every one of us are required to get the job done.

And so, while the life of the church has an exclusive role for the power of God, and a role for the power of Jesus Christ as he does the things that none of us can do, there is also a role for each one of us.  Just as we saw in Isaiah, God intends to prove to the world that he is the only true God.  But, at the same time, God intends to use his people, God intends to use you, to accomplish his purpose.

God intends for us to be so obvious, so amazing, so wonderful, and so good, that the entire world will be attracted to him because of us.

No one of us is more important than any other.

No one of us is unnecessary.

To do the work that God has prepared for us will require the efforts of all of us, using all of our gifts, working together.

 
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U You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.