Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 19, 2020

Sermon: “Serving Passionately – SHAPE & PLACE”

When I was in college I didn’t have much money for anything.  I didn't own a car because I couldn't afford gas, or insurance so getting a job was difficult.  I was always grateful for events on campus that provided food.  You know the key with students, “If you feed them, they will come.”  There was this great Bible study on campus called “BuRPE”.  It stood for “Bible, readers, pizza eaters.”  It was the perfect Bible study for me, but it was only once a week. 

A friend of mine told me about a job that quite a few other students from school were doing.  It sounded wonderful to me.  It was a four-hour shift, not too far from campus.  They fed you every time you worked and all you had to do was talk to people on the phone.  “Where do I sign up?’  It sounded great.  Sure, I don't really like the phone much, but I could get a ride, I got fed, sounded great.

My friend who was working there told me come along with him.  I was figuring there would be an interview, or some form of hiring process, there wasn’t, I just had to give them my name and address. Looking back, that should have been my first clue.  I was then welcomed, given a script and a headset and strapped to a computer that started making robo calls to unsuspecting households.  Yes, I was that guy.  I had no idea what to do, no training to do it, and it was incessant.  As soon as someone on the other end hung up, and it was often preceded with some un-pleasantries the computer dialed a new number.  There was no rest.  It was awful.  My belly was empty, my anxiety was rising, and I was ready to cry.  About 90 minutes into this hell on earth I was given a break.  In an adjacent break room there were a few boxes of cold stale pizza.  I grabbed about four pieces and walked out the door and didn't stop until I got back to campus…about 90 minutes later.  I was not fit for that position.  It was not a place I wanted to be. I was like the proverbial square peg in a round hole.  It was like jamming one of these pieces into the wrong place.   

SHAPE and PLACE, it's the key to Serving Passionately.  Before we go any further lets dig into Scripture. 

All three of our readings this morning reveal to us God’s shape and God’s place, for us.  In our Old Testament lesson for today the prophet Isaiah wrote, “He shaped the earth and all that comes from it.” (Isaiah 42:5) This hearkens back to the Garden of Eden where God got His hands dirty and formed humanity from the dust of the ground and breathed into them the breath of life.  God shaped Adam and Eve in time and space and placed them in the best place to serve passionately.  God shaped Isaiah for a purpose and gave him a place in which God’s power and provision would be displayed. He does the same for you, but let’s look at the second lesson.

As Paul opens his letter to the church in Corinth he reminds them, “Through Christ Jesus you have become rich in every way—in speech and knowledge of every kind.  Our message about Christ has been verified among you.  Therefore, you don’t lack any gift as you wait eagerly for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” (1 Corinthians 1:5-7) The church has been given everything it needs.  In Christ we have become heirs of salvation and given every good and perfect gift.

In our Gospel lesson today we see John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and says, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29b) John was perfectly shaped and divinely placed in time and space to do God’s work…that is to point others the Messiah…so have you. 

What do we see next in John’s Gospel?  The next day Jesus begins to form a group of those He will SHAPE and PLACE to further the kingdom as He calls His disciples, those who would follow in pointing others to Christ.  And he does the same for you and for me.

So, it’s easy, find your SHAPE and know your PLACE, right?

Perhaps it’s not that easy.  So how do you know your SHAPE and how do you define your PLACE?

In his book SHAPE, Erik Reese describes how to uncover your God given shape.  Without going into great detail here, he writes that your SHAPE consists of:

  •  Spiritual Gifts - those things given to you by God to serve your neighbor. 
  • Heart - those things that excite you and get you up in the morning or keep you motivated at all times. 
  • Abilities - the talents that God has given you, mental and physical. 
  • Personality - how God has wired you to view the world and through which you interact with others. 
  • Experiences - those things, good or bad that have made you into the person you are today.  

If you want to dive deeper into this let me know.  I have a whole bunch of videos and activities you can do.  But more than just your SHAPE you need to know your PLACE. What do I mean by your PLACE? 

Your PLACE includes,
  • Your Position - what many refer to as your vocation.  It could be as a parent, employee, student, child, boss, grandparent, etc.
  • Your Location - where God has physically placed you including your neighborhood, your family, your role as a citizen, etc.
  • Your Area of Influence - those people who listen to you or follow what you say or do.
  • Your Circumstances - The reasons you are where you are, what you are doing, and who you can influence.
  • Your Endeavors - what you do with your time, hobbies, clubs, activities like going to the gym, coaching little league, volunteering.

But as many of you are feverishly taking notes let me stop you as perhaps we have gotten ahead of ourselves.  All this talk about our SHAPE and our PLACE us may give the wrong impression.  I’m not here to give you a spiritual self-help pep talk.   It wouldn't do any good anyway. The truth is that we are all misshapen by sin.  We have been twisted and turned in ways that take us far from what God intended.   And it’s by our fault, our own fault, our own most grievous fault.  In thought, word and deed we fall short of the glory of God.

If you are worried that you don’t know your shape and can’t find your place you may be struggling trying to push a square peg in a round hole.  The more you work, the more frustrated you get. The true place we find ourselves is not on the path of righteousness but on the highway to destruction.  The truth we find in Scripture is that your shape and your place find meaning and value in another shape and another place.

At the cross the mess of sin, yours and mine is nailed with Christ buried in the earth and destroyed by the open tomb forever.  Only Jesus was perfect shaped to be the Messiah.  John gave witness to this as he called out, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29b) Only Jesus was perfectly placed in time and space to take the pain of sin from you.  It's a job we could never do. It’s not what you do, or how you struggle, for that can never justify your shape or your place.

Serving passionately takes place at the intersection of shape and place.  The shape?  The savior!  The place? The cross!

The shape of the Savior and the place of the cross come together at the perfect moment and at this intersection salvation is secured and peace is provided.  Christ’s passionate service for you has been revealed in the pages of the Bible.  This revelation is what the season of Epiphany is all about.

“Through Christ Jesus you have become rich in every way—in speech and knowledge of every kind.  Our message about Christ has been verified among you.  Therefore, you don’t lack any gift as you wait eagerly for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” (1 Corinthians 1:5-7)

At this intersection of SHAPE and PLACE we are given everything.  In Christ we lack nothing.  The passionate service of Christ intersects with us as he shapes us and places us where he wants to be remember the words of Isaiah, “He shaped the earth and all that comes from it.” (Isaiah 42:5)

Now that we have seen the intersection of His Shape and His place we can move forward with our own SHAPE and our own PLACE so that God’s glory may be displayed through us.  You see God works through means and stuff.  Words on a page, simple water, bread wine and one another.  Through this stuff God calls and sends. 

Like the disciples you have been called.  Called by water and Word and Christ’s shape and His place as Redeemer of the world calls you to share your SHAPE in a particular PLACE.  This is what Serving Passionately is all about.   To Serve Passionately is to do what John the Baptist did, using your SHAPE (all those ways God has formed you) and your PLACE (all those ways God has positioned you) to point to the savior.   At this intersection, your words become Christ’s words, your hands His hands, your feet, His feet, to forgive and to free.  In words on a page spoken to your heart; in water that washes away every sin even committed; in wine and bread which literally bring you back from the dead, the shape of Christ flows through you to others.  That is what Serving Passionately is all about.  It’s for others!

Don’t get bogged down in the details, you don't lack any gift so put your faith in the sure and certain hope that in this place the shape of the Savior is placed in your ears as you hear, and in your hands so you know that you are perfectly positioned to use your own God given SHAPE and PLACE to serve your neighbor, to display God’s glory and to say, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29b) every day and in every way, this is serving passionately!
- Pr. Seth Moorman


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