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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Friday, November 17, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

Holy and Acceptable

Holy and Acceptable
Romans 12:1-8
 
Water seems to be very much a part of my life lately. We had that terrific deluge a week ago as some were serving food for the national kayak and canoe races. We had flooding in our basement and watched as a literal river ran down the street during the worst of the rainstorm. We have enjoyed the beauty of this river in its quieter moments as we walked the path going from one end of town to the other. Water can be both destructive and life giving. Joe and I are quite familiar with the Muskegon River, me more than him probably for this reason: we have canoed the Muskegon on several occasions. And I will warn you now never to get in a canoe with Joe. It inevitably ends up that I end up in the river. You see I have not quite figured out what it is he does to tip the canoe in such a way that I end up in the river and he ends up securely in the canoe laughing. I am drenched and he is dry. But when all is said and done I think I am the lucky one because I am refreshed by the water,s cooling temperatures especially on a hot day down the river. Water can be refreshing on the one hand and unnerving on the other, life giving and destructive.
 
If we were to compare ourselves to water, most of us would find ourselves somewhere in the middle of those extremes. We have the capacity to be both life giving and destructive. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he calls us to be Holy and acceptable to God. Perhaps a good analogy would be that of good water which in its goodness has many good uses. We are called to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, to do God’s good will. But often we find ourselves becoming muddied by the struggles of life, our purity sullied by the temptations that come our way. We feel we are anything but holy and sometimes believe we are unacceptable in God’s eyes. 
 
But God has given us a filter through which we pour our lives, through which we cleanse ourselves and rid ourselves of the impurities that constantly bombard us and threaten to make us unfit for living our Christian lives. Jesus gives us the example of what it is like to live holy lives and gives us the capacity and strength and motivation to become life giving people, acting out of love rather than greed, selfishness, hatred, fear and guilt. Jesus is the filter that makes us holy and acceptable to God.
 
But Paul, in his letter to the Romans goes on to tell us that we each have been given specific capacities to do God’s work. Each of us has been given a charisma, a gift from God, something that cannot be acquired or attained. Someone might practice years at the piano or at woodworking or at speaking and never attain that special something that makes a person be able to rise above the ordinary and gift the world with their extraordinary ability. I may be able to speak but cannot for the life of me sing with any quality. Yet others are able to sing in ways that make the words of a song reach deep in my heart. “We all have our own charisma.” Says William Barclay, a gifted theologian with an incredible charisma of writing. “It may be for writing sermons, building houses, sowing seeds, carving wood, working with figures, playing the piano, singing songs, teaching children, playing football or golf. It is something ‘plus’ given to each one of us by God.” Sometimes it takes us 50 years or more to “discover” what our charisma is.  But we each have a charisma.
 
I did not know I could speak until I was asked by a sick pastor to read one of her sermons the next day. Without hesitation, without even thinking something possessed me to say “yes.” But the fear and agony that happened those next few hours, until I stood up to that pulpit, were over whelming. I knew I couldn’t speak in front of two or three people let alone a congregation of 60 or 70. But the next morning, knees shaking, stomach doing flip flops, and head spinning, I stepped into the pulpit and something happened. I didn’t just read that sermon, I preached it. The charisma I did not know I had definitely came to light that day.
 
How can we tell what our charisma, what our gift from God is? Most often it is that which energizes us, something we enjoy doing given the right circumstances. Others may tell us that we are good at something. How many times have we heard someone say, “You are so good at that?” or “I wish I had your ability to do that.” We may get that sense that “this is who I am.” Many of us use our gifts not knowing that it is a gift. If anyone is puzzled or pondering what their charismas or gifts are I would certainly be willing to sit down and help you think about what those might be. Let’s have that conversation sometime.
 
But the charisma or gifts that we have do not do any good unless we use them. And they do the world the most good when we use them for God’s purposes, when we use them for God’s live giving purposes. Charismas or gifts can be used for destructive purposes. All we have to do is look at the David Karesches, and Jim Jones, the Hitlers and Husseins to see the horrific horrors that can be brought about when gifts are used for self -serving purposes.
 
Opportunities will come in the next month in particular for some of us to think about using our gifts in the ways we serve in this church. It is a time to ask people to serve in various capacities, on various committees. Often in our churches we think about who the best person for any position is, but often we simply fill in names, with permission of course, to get committees formed to present for voting on at our church conference in October. But it would be wonderful if we could match gifts with those areas of service within our community of faith. For example, I am excited about a new format for children’s Sunday School. The curriculum we might be using is one that does not require a lot of preparation. What is said and done is printed on cards the children get to choose through a simple game format. Anyone could run the class, but what we are looking for are those people who have a heart for children (a charisma), who have a knack for communicating with children (another charisma), who have creativity (another charisma), or who like leading children (another charisma) or who like to teach (another charisma) or who are spontaneous in interactions with activities (another charisma). Any one of those gifts and I am sure there are others will make for a successful experience for our children. If that piques anyone’s interest let me know. 
 
God calls us to be holy and acceptable, by using the gifts he has given us in the community of faith and in the world around us. Our task as Christians is to recognize our charismas, then put them to good use in serving God and our brothers and sisters in God’s good creation. Faith without serving God is a dead faith, it may make us feel good initially, but it doesn’t grow or give us a sense of completeness. But faith that strives to express itself in serving God by using our gifts is a vital faith that becomes living water, replenishing the world around it, offering hope to those who live in the darkness of hopelessness. 
 
I wonder what kind of water we are these days! Do we perceive ourselves as holy and acceptable? Are we using our gifts, our charismas in service to God through the living Christ? After our offering we will be singing a song that speaks to our willingness to acknowledge our lives lived in God. It says, take my life, take my moments, take my hands, take my feet, take my voice, take my lips, take my silver and my gold, take my intellect, take my will, take my heart, take my love, take myself. Get the message? Take all of me Lord! In offering ourselves and serving God as faith is given us we are holy and acceptable. Thank you God! Amen and Amen. 

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