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Trusted With Grace
September 3, 1995

1 PETER 4:10-11

We are looking at spiritual gifts. This is the third sermon in a series of four on spiritual gifts. Every Christian has been given spiritual gifts to do God's work. Last week, one of the spiritual gifts discussed was teaching. Three people claimed their gift and offered to teach Sunday School. Praise God! We still need persons to work on a team for the Senior High Sunday School class, and to work with the two Youth Fellowships. The Holy Spirit is still at work. We wait on God to give spiritual gifts, and we wait for you to claim your gift and do God's work. Charles Bryant says there are at least 32 different spiritual gifts. Which are yours? Not talents. You are born with talents. Talents are also gifts from God. But, you are not born with spiritual gifts. They are special gifts God gives each of us so that the body of Christ may be strengthened, and the work of the church accomplished.

There are four passages of Scripture we are using as the bases for these four sermons. Today, we look at 1 Peter 4:10-11. What Peter says is amazing! The grace of God, the undeserved, unrestricted, boundless, irrepressible, measureless love of God--the heart of God--is entrusted to us! You and I are the stewards of God's manifold (varied, multi-faceted) grace. Steward is not a common word in our everyday vocabulary. A steward is a caretaker, a manager. God has entrusted the planet to humans. We are managers of God's earth. And, to Christians, God has entrusted grace. We are the managers, the caretakers, of God's grace. Fortunately, God's grace is not limited to you and me, not limited to the church, or the world would be in a terrible state. Actually, the world is in a terrible mess. Do you suppose it is in a mess because the grace of God is being poorly managed by God's people? What a humbling thought! Uncomfortable. Do you suppose we have little right to blame the mess on the politicians? Do you suppose we are bottle necks? Obstructing the grace of God?

Peter says we are entrusted with God's grace. Be good stewards of God's grace, be effective managers of God's grace. How? How do we take care of God's grace? By serving one another with our spiritual gifts. Not only do we have difficulty understanding and doing stewardship, we have difficulty understand the word serve. It struck me during our Thursday morning men's Bible study several months ago that serve and servant are no longer part of our culture; therefore, we don't really understand the concept. My mind has been pondering that discovery for months.

We don't have servants in our culture. We rarely use the word serve. When I think of servant, I think of the stereotype English mansion, with the men servants and the maids serving the lord and lady. There are upstairs servants and downstairs servants. When we had our revolution, and separated from England, it didn't take us long to abolish the notion of servants. When I was young, farmers had hired hands (not servants). Farm women had hired girls if they could afford them. Some today have housekeepers or cooks or help, but not servants.

In fact, the word servant receives very bad press. A distraught mother looks at her children's messy rooms, with dirty clothes lying all over the floor, and snarls, "I am not your servant!" Sometimes wives with husbands who expect to be waited on hand and foot, retort, "Get it yourself. I'm not your servant!" Is it any wonder our children, and perhaps ourselves if we think about it, have no clue what we are talking about when we say, "Serve one another." Does serve one another mean wait on one another?

The Greek word is diakonia, from which comes our word deacon, and in the United Methodist Church, diaconal ministers. Diakonia is usually translated serve or minister. The ministers of our church are all the members of our church. You are all ministers. What does minister mean? It means to serve. What does serve mean?

We look to the Bible for guidance. God demonstrated the true meaning of service in Jesus. Rather than write a creed for persons to recite, God came to the earth in the person of Jesus, in the form of a servant. Jesus said, "I came not to be served, but to serve." How did Jesus serve? Jesus responded to human need. Where there was illness, Jesus healed. Where there was emotional disturbance, Jesus cast out demons. Where there was ignorance, Jesus taught. Where children were reprimanded for being themselves, Jesus stood up for them, and gathered them in his arms. Where there was hurt, Jesus blessed. When the ;disciples' feet were dusty, Jesus washed them. Jesus responded to need.

Let's define serve as the doing of whatever needs to be done. For the steward, for the servant of Christ, no job is too small; no job is too messy. To serve is to respond to need, and to do it without fanfare, without recognition, without reward, simply because someone needs to do it, and you happen to be in the right place at the right time. I had been in Merced about three weeks when Elizabeth Bradley came into the office, leaning on her cane. She said to me, "Last Sunday, you asked us to write something on our bulletins. I looked for a pencil, but the pencil in the pew rack was broken. In fact, all the pencils in our entire pew were broken, so I have come to sharpen all the pencils in all the pew racks." I almost fainted. I almost had a heart attack. Based on my previous experience, I expected her to complain about the pencils being broken. I expected her to look for someone to blame by finding out, "Who is in charge of sharpening pencils?" But, no, she came to serve. She saw a need. The pencils were broken. She could address that need. Sharpening pencils was something she could do, and she came voluntarily. We didn't need to call a meeting of the Nominating Committee. She came of her own volition, without expecting reward, compensation, recognition or flowers. She served our church. She served you.

Peter tells us to be good stewards of God's grace by serving one another with our spiritual gifts. Use your spiritual gifts to respond to need. What are your spiritual gifts? Do you claim you don't have any? In the Disciple's Study Bible's section on spiritual gifts, we read,

If you look down on yourself as being unable to do anything significant for the Lord, you are not being humble. Instead, you are undiscerning and perhaps ungrateful. Therefore, a Christian should never say, "I'm a nobody." Instead, you should say, "I am a child of God. I have received spiritual gifts; therefore, I will exercise my gifts in ministry."

What are your spiritual gifts? You have some. Every Christian has some. Next week, I invite you to bring a bag lunch with you to the Social Hall at 12 noon, and participate in the workshop on spiritual gifts. It will be very personal. You will not be asked to share publicly.

Remember, God gives each of us, including you, spiritual gifts to do God's work-- to build up the body of Christ, and serve as Jesus served by responding to human need.

© 1995 Douglas I. Norris