Monday, March 3, 2014

Sermon for March 2, 2014

Rev. George Miller
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 & Galatians 5:22-23
“Surprising Gifts of the Spirit”
March 2, 2014

Today I have two stories to share. First, there was a young woman wandering the world, lost and lonely, no idea where she was going.

One day she came across an amazing find: a beautiful gem. She held it up to the light and every color of the rainbow shined bright.

Finding that gem brought her great joy, the greatest gift she could have ever found. It empowered her to continue her journey with new found excitement and confidence.

To the first person she met, she said “Let me show you what I’ve found.”

Oohing and aahing the person said “How priceless this must be. It is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen!”

The woman thought “Yes it is. Perhaps I should hold onto it tighter to make sure it doesn’t get lost or stolen.”

With the gem in her possession she realized she was done journeying and stopped at the first place that provided safety and shelter.

Because of the gem, she felt encouraged and applied for the best job she could find and built a home to call her own.

She carried the gem in her coat pocket, near her heart, until fearing it may fall out, she placed it in her pants pocket, then tucked it into her sock.

Finally, she locked the gem away in a box.

The woman grew older. She had a loving family, wonderful job, a fabulous home, and the most resplendent gem that had ever been seen.

But she stopped sharing her find with others, fearing that if people knew what she had they’d hurt her or steal it, so she hid the gem away where no one could ever see it.

Each day she’d take it out of hiding to admire its beauty until one day a knock came at the door. She quickly hid the gem and when the person left she thought “That was a close one. Perhaps I should limit how often I look at it.”

She looked at the gem only once a week, but that seemed too much. Then once a month, but the risk was still too great. So she limited viewing to holidays only.

Finally, she decided the safest thing to do was to tuck the gem away in a dark, secret place that no one could ever find.

Years passed. The woman grew older. Her health became frail. Although her days of wandering were long over, she felt more lost than ever before.

Realizing she was not much longer for this earth, she decided to take out the gem and look at it once more.

She hobbled into the basement, dug behind the secret brick, moved the fresh earth, pulled out the locked box, took out the smaller box inside it, pulled out the rolled up sock, unwrapped the tissue paper…

…and the gem was not there.

After years of being hidden in secret, after years of not being shared, the special and unique gem had deteriorated to dust.

In agony the woman grabbed the handful of the remains and lifted it up hoping the particles would still catch the light, but no luck.

By keeping the priceless gem in a permanent state of security the woman had rendered it useless and brought about its demise.

She spent the last days of her life mourning what she had lost…

And now the second story: One day Jesus took Peter, James and John on a journey up a mountain and the most amazing thing happened: Jesus was transfigured before them, his face shining like the sun, his clothes dazzling white.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter stated “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I’ll make three dwellings here for you, Moses and Elijah.”

Who knows why Peter felt moved to say what he did.

Was it because he felt Jesus was a precious gem and if not hidden away he’d be lost forever?

Was it because the moment was so amazing, so free of the world’s worries that Peter never wanted it to end?

We’ll never know because a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice said “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The disciples fell to the ground, but Jesus touched them, saying “Get up and do not be afraid.” When they looked up, Jesus was alone.

They walked down the mountain where they were greeted by a crowd and a man came up, asking that they help his son. (Matthew 17)

Today is Transfiguration Sunday, when we recall this memorable day in the ministry of Jesus.

This biblical story resonates because it speaks about those times in which we experience the Holy as being so present, so real, that we want time to be frozen forever.

We’ve all had those moments that we wish we could bottle up: a day on the golf course where everything is just right, a relaxing vacation we don’t want to end, a romantic date, or the holding of a newborn baby.

So much better than real life where people are sick, war looms and weather gets in the way.

Peter has an experience so perfect, so right, he wants to stay on that mountain with Jesus forever, but they come back down.

Why? Because there is life to be lived, relationships to be made and ministry to perform.

There are gifts to be given. There is fruit to be shared.

Today is not just Transfiguration Sunday, but it’s also the day our Stewardship Committee passes out Intent to Give cards.

Today we invite you to think about not just the mountaintop moments you’ve had with Jesus, but how we are each called to share Christ’s ministry, to share our fruit, to share our gifts with our neighbors.

Over the last few weeks we’ve talked a lot about what it means to be a person of Christian faith; about finding the holy in every day experiences, acknowledging that we belong to God, and the ways in which worship allows us to connect with God and to discover what God wants.

As Christians we get to have mountaintop moments, we get to experience God as loving parent; we get to experience God in ways that are affirming and life-giving.

As Christians we are blessed with so many gifts: we have an identity, we have assurance and we are the recipients of fruit of the Holy Spirit, freely given so that what makes us unique, what makes us special can be appreciated by all.

In Galatians 5, Paul refers to love, joy and peace, patience, kindness and generosity, gentleness and self-control.

Throughout this month of Stewardship we will focus on these gifts, on these fruit.

And since we are also entering the Season of Lent, we’d like to offer a friendly challenge: instead of finding things to give up for the next 40 days, we invite you to find ways to share these fruit, bit by bit, each week.

Why? Because the gifts of God are not meant to be frugally used or to be horded.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is not meant to be locked in a basement or kept in a tent on top of a mountain.

They are meant to be freely given; trusting that in Christ there is enough.

They are meant to be shared, trusting that we are not only sharing what makes us unique and special, but in our own sharing others are also given a chance to shine.

In closing, in Christ we have been given great gifts and told not to be afraid. The Holy Spirit blesses us with fruit sweeter than any the world has ever produced and we are encouraged to share them with all.

Lets trust that in God’s kingdom there is enough to go round, there is enough to share and that what makes us special and unique also allows us to shine, never to run out, never to be shut off from the world to view.

In Christ’s plentiful goodness, we all have love, joy and peace, patience, kindness and generosity, gentleness and self-control.

Why hold onto them tightly, locking them away or safely storing them on top of mountains?

In Christ’s plentiful goodness, we can all say “Amen.”

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