given on Sunday, January 17, 2010
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Nothing beats a chocolate rush as good as one provided by M&M’s. You know the old advertising claim that they would not melt in your hand only in your mouth. Needless to say I have had ample opportunities to test that and I can assure you that you can make those little pieces melt in your hand, but the question then is why did they sit in my hand long enough to melt.
This may seem a little odd way to start a sermon, but if you think about how good you feel, how strangely warmed you are by a good dose of chocolate, then you may have a little better sense of how it feels when God is on your side and warming you up. This time, though, the question is not for how long has God been with you, but rather how have you kept God leading you.
M&M’s may be a great kick start of energy or a comfort food when you feel worn down, but the M&M’s for Christians is much more sustaining. You see, mission and ministry go together just as good as the different colored little candy bites we all love to eat. Mission and ministry is how we become God’s eyes, ears, hands, and feet. We are serving as God in action when we follow our mission and develop ministries that take God out of the sanctuary and into the real world.
The mission Christians were given is to make disciples of Christ. Now that seems so simple, but consider how many times we listen to speeches, arguments, discussions about just any kind of topic we can imagine whether it be the weather or whether it is the latest political battle. Do we listen with God’s ears? Do we find opportunities during these conversations to bring God’s message into action? Do we demonstrate solid Christian behaviors?
The Missouri Methodist, MeMo, website opens up with the mission stated in its banner: “Leading congregations to lead people to actively follow Jesus Christ.” That is our mission as a church, even state-wide church, for right now, right here. Serving as John Wesley so emphatically demonstrated throughout his life has been the understood role of Methodists in our communities for centuries, until now.
In I Corinthians 12, the mission is stated:
God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.
Are we, as Methodists right here in Henry and Johnson counties, truly demonstrating how to serve one another as God would have us serve? Are we maintaining our mission? Are we using all the skills and gifts that God has granted us to carry out the mission?
Look again at the words in I Corinthians 12 as Paul continues to explain how the mission can be carried out with each of us being unique:
11God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all.
Back to the M&M’s for a minute. Look at them. How many different colors are in that package? Each one is bright, bold, appealing, and holds the promise of just the sweetest bite possible. Try as the company might, each one may look exactly like the others—yet each one is valued separately. The mission of those M&M’s is clear. It is not written on the package nor is it written on each individual candy. The mission is I am going to make you happy. The promise is there—we all know it.
Sometimes we know we should not eat a single one of those candies (for instance if on a diet or our health restricts it), but yet the promise of that taste and that joy is there just waiting for us to experience it. We often times share it with others, especially our children or our friends, and on Halloween even with strangers. Do we try to hide this gift? No. The mission to make someone feel good with an M&M still needs to be demonstrated by an action or by serving the candies—another words a ministry.
The mission given us by Christ still has to be completed through ministry. Serving our fellow friends and neighbors is done through a multitude of ways; and these ways can be called ministries. As a congregation we have to decide what ministries, we are capable of doing. There is no limit to the possibilities. There is only the limit of our physical capabilities and our financial state. Remember what Paul listed in I Corinthians 12:
All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
healing the sick
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues.
I admit these sound like pretty hefty skills for us to handle when we are simply working middle class individuals or even retired. We may think we have given all we can in terms of actions and labor. Or maybe we are on limited income as almost all of us are with the struggling economy right now. So how in the world can anybody propose that we need to develop our ministries as a congregation!
Just like the dish or the package of M&M’s. You can find all kinds of ways to join in ministry. Maybe the package is just a single serving wrapped up and handed out one by one. Maybe the package is carefully designed as you make up a special gift with ribbons and fancy paper. Maybe the package is an open bowl sitting on the desk where anybody passing by can reach in and snag a handful—or just one.
Our ministries as a congregation depend on each one of us accepting the gifts God gave us and figure out as many ways as possible to use those gifts to spread his love. The ministries needed to carry out the mission can be done by oneself or it can be done by a team or by a fully-involved congregation.
Just like the warm feeling you get when gobbling down a handful of M&M’s, serving in ministry to carry out God’s mission, feels good. It will strangely warm your heart whether on a cold, snowy winter day, or on the hottest, driest summer day. The strangely warm heart is the Holy Spirit assuring you that God loves you just as much as you love one another. With the mission and ministries of our congregations, God’s love is definitely in action and others will notice.
Are you ready to hand out the M&M’s? The mission is there for us to implement. It is our ministries that will serve our friends, neighbors and even strangers as we serve. Whether the ministry is to write a check to UMCOR for the relief work it does, especially in our neighbor’s yard of Haiti, or whether it is a warm dish we carry over to a neighbor who fell on the ice. As long as we are using our talents, gifts, and resources to serve one another in love, we will be demonstrating God’s love and experience a strangely warmed heart.
Here Paul’s words again:
Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!
Doesn’t that promise warm your heart? Doesn’t that take some of the weight off that you have been feeling—you know, the one that made you feel you could not do more than you are? You probably are ministering in one-way or another. The challenge is simply to evaluate what else you can do or what else needs to be done and do it.
We do see the pain in this world, especially in Haiti, but also right here as our neighbors try to stay warm. We hear the cries of those in pain whether strangers or family. We weep when we feel no way to help, so we ask you to guide us. Help us to find our gifts and the means of serving our neighbors so we can continue your mission in this world. –Amen