Every December in North Dakota, while streetlights shine off the snow and ice, three people sit down at a table in an empty church with phone books open. They are the nominating committee, tasked with finding a group of people willing to serve on council for the coming year.
They start with a list of suggestions. But by the end of the night, their enthusiastic invitation to serve has dropped into a desperate plea, “We need two more people to be on council and everyone else has said no.”
Maybe some of you have been on one or the other side of the phone in a conversation like that. It’s no fun either way. The callers feel discouraged that no one will care enough about their church to take on leadership. The ones who answer later in the night feel undervalued, wishing the church would see them as more than a live body to fill a slot.
It doesn’t have to be this way! I was at a conference in Moorhead when someone finally let me in on the secret: people in every congregation have gifts! When they lead from their gifts, everyone wins.
Duh, right?! When you do things that match your passions, when you serve by doing something you’re good at— that feels right. You bring energy and joy- you do good work. We don’t have to do work or have committees that no one wants to be a part of. Things can be dormant for a season.
Today is about you discovering your gifts, celebrating and claiming them, and committing to putting them to use in specific ways here at Cross and wherever your daily life takes you. If you haven’t already, take some time now, during the offering, or after worship to respond to the statements on the pink Spiritual Gifts bulletin insert to discover your gifts and ways to use them through our shared ministries.
Not all of us find it easy to say we’re good at something. If you’ve ever filled out an application for a job, college, or scholarship, you know it can be hard to tease out those skills you’ve developed. We might look at an opportunity and think, “I don’t have what it takes to do that.”
You might get a big red stamp of rejection from employers, admissions, or other organizations, but you won’t from God. God is all about calling those who would never have thought they were eligible to apply. God doesn’t wait until you’ve mastered a skill, God calls you into a mission and gives you what you need along the way.
The Bible is full of stories in which God calls the unsuspecting, the outcast, the unskilled, and the sinner into big jobs of carrying out God’s mission. We read two examples this morning.
The first is Moses. More typically, he’s pictured as the great hero and patriarch- a strong faith leader who leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, delivers God’s commandments, and guides the freed slaves through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
We might think of Moses as larger than life, but today we see him true to size. God’s heard the cries of the suffering slaves in Egypt and has decided to do something about it. God wants to send someone to carry God’s message of freedom. God speaks to Moses. God says, “I will send you” and Moses questions, “Who am I?” and ends, “O my Lord, please send someone else.”
“Please send someone else.” I can feel that phrase sinking to the pit of my stomach- that moment when someone needs to step up and lead, but instead I just look down and try not to make eye contact. So often we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, we wouldn’t do it as well as someone else… but here is God, calling someone who doesn’t think he can do it, and with God’s help he will- not perfectly- but in the end God will free the Israelites and settle them in a new land.
In the Gospel of Mark, we witness Jesus calling Levi to be his disciple. Levi is a tax collector, a person most people would avoid. Jesus hangs out with Levi and his friends, the other tax collectors and sinners, inviting them into a relationship of transformation and ministry with him. Certainly the people who thought they had it all together, the religious people, didn’t think any of those sinners had what it takes to serve God. But Jesus did.
Jesus does. Today, God is still pulling us who aren’t quite ready, don’t think we’re good enough, and maybe aren’t even willing – God is pushing us into the big work God’s already doing: restoring creation, bringing healing, embodying forgiveness, and sustaining life. God is at work for the sake of all creation and is calling you to join in.
God is creating a team, a body to work together for the sake of the world. Not one of us has everything the world needs. To us in a culture valuing self-reliance, Paul casts a vision of a community as a single body. Each person is a member of the whole. Every member is in relationship with the other, needs the other in order for the body to function. We are each members of the body of Christ, and together we carry out God’s purposes in the world.
God calls, God equips, and God places you within a community. God invites you into the joy of witnessing God’s life-giving work firsthand, coming into being through the work of your hands, your words, your gifts at work.
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