Your “SHAPE” Makes You a Unique Member
of the Body of Christ!
Third Sunday of Epiphany
3 Epiphany, C: Nehemiah 8:2-10; Psalm 113; I Corinthians 12:12-27; Luke 4:14-21
January 21, 2007
Pastor Mary Blessing,
Vicar, St. Philip’s, Scotts Valley CA
During the Season of Epiphany we hear stories of Jesus making God “manifest” in various ways. Using various spiritual gifts, Jesus reveals God’s power in the world. Last week the Gospel of John told of Jesus attending a wedding in Cana, where he used the spiritual gift of leadership to order the servants to fill the water jars—and, lo and behold, doing so allowed God’s creative power to “turn water to wine.” Jesus used the gifts God gave him, and God did the rest.
Today we hear Luke’s story of Jesus coming back to his hometown of Nazareth, where he starts off doing what is expected: he attends synagogue on the Sabbath. In the midst of the service he is handed the scroll to read the word of God—it is customary to have a guest teacher read, and although this is Jesus’ home town, he is treated like a special visitor. He carefully chooses the passage of Isaiah that best describes his understanding of the spiritual gift God has given him. Jesus understands that God has anointed him for the special work of ministering to the poor, prisoners, the blind, those who are marginalized, and to proclaim hope to all. Jesus has been so completely filled with the Spirit through his baptism and wilderness ventures that he knows he must use the Spiritual Gifts God has given him. He announces this to his hometown synagogue. At this point of the story all we know is that Jesus is completely confident of using the gifts God has given him—come what may. (If you know the rest of the story, I ask that you keep it to yourself, as this is all the text we are given today—we will have to wait until next week to hear the response of the congregation.)
We could say that Jesus knows his purpose in life and is now proclaiming that purpose to his family, friends and neighbors. You could say that Jesus lets his town know that he has a “purpose driven life.” Perhaps many of you have read Rick Warren’s book, “Purpose Driven Life” in which he helps people discover why they are alive. He invites the reader to ask: “What on earth am I here for?” And then he proceeds to guide the reader into an understanding of their life in terms of the unique way God has created each one of us for God’s purposes—a purpose that is greater than any human goal you or I could imagine creating for ourselves. In this moment of Jesus reading the scroll of Isaiah, we see that he completely understands that his life has a God-purpose; and he is ready to live that life.
Over the next few months I will be preaching from various aspects of Rick Warren’s book.* Just as Jesus lived his life to bring glory to God, so, too, are we called to lives that bring glory to God. To live a life that brings glory to God is to live a spiritually mature life. Today I want to consider how we can bring glory to God through ministry. Not just the ministry of the ordained leader, but through ministry of the “whole body”, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians. No matter who you are, Paul says if you are baptized into Christ, you are part of the Body of Christ, and you have a purpose—a unique purpose which adds to the whole functioning of the Body. (*adapting sermons delivered at St. Jude’s, 2004)
Rick Warren says we are all called to listen to God encouraging us to use our gifts and abilities, our talents and our passions, to serve others for the glory of God. That is, to bring about transformation of the world through individual transformation of our lives. He says, “You were shaped to serve God.” If you accept your assignment to serve God, to serve beyond yourself, that is when you discover the uniqueness of who you are. You are a particular shape, on that is YOU, like no one else.
In order to activate the spiritual gifts of ministry within you, Rick Warren suggests you consider 5 factors that uniquely combine to make you. He created a simple acrostic to help explain what he calls your SHAPE:
S spiritual Gifts
S Spiritual gifts: Unwrap your spiritual gifts and use them! You did not earn these nor do you deserve them—that’s why they are GIFTS! They are an expression of God’s grace living in you, but gifts are only realized when you use them. Gifts of discernment of truth, prophecy, wisdom, knowledge, and faith are given for the common good, not just for your personal well being. For Paul, a mature Christian is one that recognizes his or her spiritual gift (or gifts), and activates that gift for God’s purposes. In the future I look forward to working with you in discovering your spiritual gifts, not just for your own spiritual satisfaction, but for the good of the Body of Christ—all of us together.
H Heart: Did you know that every single person’s heart beat is unique? Just as we each have a unique thumbprint and eye print, our hearts beat in a unique pattern. The Bible uses the term heart to describe various things—our dreams, ambitions, interests—what we value, what we feel passionate about. It is possible that the very thing you feel most passionate about has been placed in you heart by God. Listen to the inner promptings of your heart, and always remember to “serve the Lord with all your heart” and “Love God with all your heart.” If you love God with all your heart, and find a passion that serves the common good, chances are this passion is of God. Find a place to offer your passion in the building up of the body of Christ. And go do it!
A Abilities: These are the natural talents you were born with. Some people are good with words, some are good with numbers, others have special abilities as musicians, some are excellent athletes, others can paint a portrait, some can build a house. Whatever your ability, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” says Paul (I Cor. 10:31). Abilities are not the same as spiritual gifts, because abilities are “natural” to us; we are born with them. Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as needed. Abilities are important, as are spiritual gifts, in shaping God’s purpose in your life. But you must use your abilities to the glory of God if you are to fulfill God’s purpose, and not just your own purpose for your own self-interested goals.
P Personality: Each person has a unique personality. We all have a basic temperament that our personality expresses—God uses all temperaments for ministry. There is no one ideal personality that we must all emulate—just take a look at the variety of personalities among Jesus’ disciples. Impetuous Peter, curious Philip, doubting Thomas, competitive James, elitist Nathaniel, fuss-budget Martha, and adoring Mary. Each one unique! Whatever your personality, offer yourself to the glory of God, and God will use you.
E Experience: Whatever your life experiences, good, bad or indifferent, you are shaped by them. God uses whatever your experiences have been to draw you closer to his purposes, to allow your experience to teach not only you but others more about how God works in the lives of those who give themselves to God’s service. Your growing up, your educational experiences, your work experience, your spiritual experiences, your past ministry experiences—anything you have done helps shape who you are now and how God can further shape you to God’s glory as you fulfill your life purpose. Even your most painful experiences of life will not go wasted, as God uses all of life’s experiences to God’s glory.
Can you think of any people who are living spiritually mature lives, fully activating the spiritual gifts that God has given them, not for their own glory, but for the Glory of God? People who have listened to their hearts and follow their passion, people who know their abilities (and their limitations) and have offered those abilities to God’s service, people who understand their personality, accept who they are and encourage others to be all that they are, and finally people who have taken their life experience and used what they have learned to benefit others. Ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things following their passion?
We have heard of some famous people: e.g. Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. How about some of us a little closer to home? Last week I spoke of the spiritual gift of intercessory prayer that is activated through the faithfulness of Bobbi Bond. Many of you have been sustained by her prayers, as have I. And there are others in our midst. I don’t want to embarrass anyone else right now, but I see people here at St. Philip’s that live lives of spiritual maturity because they have activated what God has given them. They don’t toot a special horn to announce this work of God within them, but I can see they have lives that are “purpose driven” because they are centered on the work of Christ and have dedicated themselves to God in a way that fully activates all of who they for God’s glory.
It is my prayer that we will grow as a community together in which we will each fully activate what God has given us, that each of us will discover a “purpose driven life” that leads us as a community into wholeness, so that “each member of the body is honored, and all rejoice together” as the Body of Christ.
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