Monday, September 19, 2011

 Luke 19:42 – 47
Grace and Peace to you from Him who is and who was and who is to come,
            Some of you may have heard that I made a trip to Israel earlier in the year.  Our tour group went to Jerusalem last, where we spent three days. We visited the Mount of Olives one chilling morning and retraced the path Jesus followed on Palm Sunday.  There are numerous churches and church buildings on the Mount of Olives, and one of them has the Latin name “Dominus Flevit,” which means the Lord wept. It’s a new church by Jerusalem standards, built in 1955 and something in the shape of a teardrop.    It commemorates the event Luke describes at the beginning of this morning’s gospel, where Jesus expressed his sadness over the sins of Jerusalem’s people, in particular that they ignored the one who had come to save them and bring them peace.   
            After stopping at Dominus Flevit, for a few minutes we made our way down the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane, where our guide told us that 8 of the many olive trees growing there were also growing in Jesus’ time.  We then crossed the road entered the Old City of Jerusalem through the gate Jesus used on Palm Sunday.  Later in the day, we went to the Western wall which is all that remains of the temple where Jesus taught and drove out the money changer and men selling animals for sacrifice.   Others found the temple corrupt, too, the Essenes, for example, who left Jerusalem to get away from the temple and establish a purer walk with God.
            We’ll switch gears now and look at the church and God’s people from a different viewpoint.   Our Lord expresses his intention to heal and to save in the Bible and through his church.  The church is the assembly of all believers who worship God and walk with him in faith and holiness.  God makes us wise and builds up our understanding through Scripture and the church.  He strengthens our ability to persevere through our worship at Our Saviour.  He heals our spiritual ailments and sometimes our physical ones, too, through the faith he builds up in us through the church and our Scripture-reading at home.
            The passage from First Corinthians emphasizes the part the Holy Spirit plays in God’s work of healing and salvation.  He goes about his work quietly and does not call attention to himself, but the Spirit is a vital part of the way God carries out his intentions.  He brings us to faith in Christ.  He enlightens us, makes us holy, and keeps us true to God’s Word.  He gathers the Christian church and will raise us believers up on the last day to eternal life in Christ.
            Besides this, God’s Spirit empowers us to carry out our tasks for the church and her Lord. When Jesus once spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth, he said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.  Since we are his sisters and brothers, God’s Spirit also rests on us.  He empowers us with special gifts.  By means of these gifts, God uses his people to help him carry his intentions for the world.  Our epistle text focuses on these gifts.
            Every Christian confesses that Christ is Lord.  We all have saving faith and love and the opportunity to turn to God at all times.  The Spirit also grants us special gifts.  Paul lists nine of them in this morning’s epistle text:  wisdom, knowledge, sturdy faith in God’s actions, and so on.  In other passages Paul mentions other gifts, such as teaching, leadership, the ability to administer church affairs, and the ability to give.  There are many gifts.
            While Jesus possesses all of them, Paul wrote that each Christian possesses at least one.  We should be encouraged, then, if we feel inferior or think we’re too old or too tired or too frustrated or even too young to be of use.  The fact that God has given us at least one gift reassures us that he has a place for us in his kingdom and that he’ll use us to help carry out his intentions for the church.  We can also find out more about our gifts and identify with the Spirit’s help the ones he has bestowed on us.  
            Discovering our particular gifts may take time.  We pray and try out different activities to find what suits us and that we enjoy doing.  We may need to read articles or talk to others. If we have a gift, chances are we’ll find a use for it to help the Lord and his church.  Others encourage us when we use our gifts rightly. 
            Now, a spiritual gift is not necessarily the same thing as a talent.  It may be that you have a talent for baking or singing or climbing ladders, which I do not.  At the same time, God may have blessed you with the gift of wisdom, which one Lutheran defined as the ability to understand God’s will and his work and to apply your understanding to the lives of other Christians.  Similarly, you may have a talent for making friends, and at the same God may have given you the ability to grasp the great truths that he reveals to us in the Bible along with the enthusiasm to share the gospel with others.  Then, too, it may be that you have a talent for working with figures or working out complicated plans as well as the gift of listening patiently to others and finding words in your own heart and the Bible to help them come to the Lord in faith.
            There are countless possibilities.  What counts is that God has given each of us at least one gift, and he will energize us to use it.
            I suspect that our congregaton is like others I’ve known that the lord has blessed with gifted administrators, teachers, folks with a keen eye for Scriptural truth, and many with a sturdy faith that God will resolve all challenges for his glory and the good of his people.  From what I’ve seen, I know that Our Saviour has people who like to provide for the physical needs of others and folks who make sure that the church property is well-cared for.  The congregation has gifted musicians and leaders and people with generous hearts that never fail.  The various gifts God has given our people bring balance to community life and enrich it.  Like other congregations in the LC-C, the Lord has made Our Saviour sturdy, vibrant, and faithful.  We give thanks that he has found a place in his kingdom where each of us may serve him.  Paul wrote in the passage after this morning’s epistle text that just as the body is made up of many parts – feet and ears and eyes, so does the church need administrators and helpers and people with a strong faith that every circumstance will turn out well.  Every gift, every spiritual aptitude helps build the kingdom.  We give thanks for the faith that the Lord will continue to use each of us and that he will continue to bless our Saviour and the Lutheran Church-Canada with gifted Christians.
            We also remember the reasons that God gives spiritually gifted people to his church.  The first is to build up each other in the faith and to maintain the church, so that believers have a place to hear the word of God and receive the sacraments.  The other has to do with spreading the gospel of truth.
            I once heard an artist say on the radio that there is a wound in human life that can’t be healed. No matter what people do, nothing can fee us from spiritual or emotional pain.  I suppose many folks think the way he does, as if they moved through the darkness of night with a flashlight that keeps flickering on and off to guide them.  The gospel, by contrast, is a bright floodlight that shines through darkness and lights up the path ahead for miles and miles into eternity.  The Lord equips his people with various gifts so that we may help him bring the light to travelers struggling through darkness. We help lost and wondering folks learn about God’s love for them and his intentions for their lives.  This is another reason why he blesses his church with capable teachers, helpers, administrators, and folks attuned to God’s wisdom.  The Spirit calls us to high and joyful service.  We rejoice in our trust that the light will continue to shine in our midst and that the Spirit will continue to equip us to serve God and his church.  AMEN.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge of Christ Jesus.  AMEN.                                                      


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