Good morning friends.
It's good to be back in the saddle again after a month down with pneumonia. I want to thank everyone for the prayers and for the way that you all have stepped up to do things that needed to be done. Keep it up!
The Lord has used this time, as He does with many of us, to re-prioritize some things for me, not the least of which is the way I see myself - especially in relation to Him and in relation to the work that I'm called to do. As a result you will be seeing more of me here in the pulpit and in a direct teaching role with Bible in hand. I'm still really unable to sing very much so, Valerie and the worship team have taken over the music. I'll be doing a little guitar work, but the team will be leading vocally, and we have a newly forming choir!! Praise the Lord. I understand that slots are still open for singers! Rehearsal is at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
This morning, our readings are very instructive - regarding the work of the prophet in our midst and prophecy in general.
Last week's message by Deacon Ethel had a prophetic 'edge' to it. I use the word 'edge' advisedly because the prophet is supposed to, is called to, speak to the Body of Christ with God's Word, the "sword of the Spirit" - in the present tense! There are several here who have been used in that way, and it is a fearful thing! It is a fearful ( and I use that word in the sense of filled with awe) because this is the one time that we are, as a Body, allowed to and encouraged to "judge." Now judging here isn't the kind of condemnation we typically experience - it IS Enhanced Listening ! The word of a prophet in a local body or a regional Body is one that is to be heeded with careful scrutiny.
When any of us "speak for God" we are putting ourselves out on a line - open to criticism (like Jesus experienced in his hometown) or open to rejection (which is a hard place, especially when people want to throw you off a hill!) That is probably the reason that so few avail themselves of this gifting. It's a gift we often want to take back and return for something else!
The life of Jeremiah is a testimony of the hardship and persecution that comes along with this gift. It's never an easy calling, but the prophets are unanimous that the calling is like a "fire, shut up in the bones!" Prophets, yesterday, today and forever, are called to "tell forth" God's Word in the moment - there is less "foretelling" than Forth Telling.
In our modern culture the place of Prophecy has often been limited to those who stand week by week in the Pulpit. Telling forth the Word of God, which is itself described as a fire or a sword, has been the purview of the preacher. Last week the prophetic part of the sermon was a call for us to be aware of a creeping spirit of fear in our midst. Fear is the opposite and the enemy of faith! And of all people - of all congregations - we need to be moving in faith right now, not in fear! We need to be speaking, as Lawrence is quick to remind us, "what we want, not what we don't want!"
This coming Tuesday evening, we have an opportunity to speak "what we want" as we go before the Greenwood Village Planning and Zoning Commission. I urge your prayers for us as you watch the State of the Union address on TV, or you can come to something that is "really interesting." Our time is 7 pm at the GWV City Building. And I would like to ask us to consider fasting a meal that day as a church, if you can. Take that time and pray into Favor for us who are presenting.
Prophetic ministry is something that is being restored to the Church these days and Paul's advice to the Corinthian church is worth heeding. In fact, one verse in 1 Cor 14 kind of says it all: [1Co 14:12 RSV] "12 So with yourselves; since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church."
And isn't that what we all need to do? EXCEL in building up the church!
That was the point of last week's sermon - the point of this week's sermon - the point of all the sermons preached in this place... is to build up the church. All of us, in whatever gifts we employ by the Power of the Spirit, are to make the end of our use of the gifts the purpose of edification, of encouragement in the Holy Spirit, and of greater and greater growth into the image of Jesus, by both individuals and all of us together.
So with Paul and Deacon Ethel I say, Let us be eager to be used by the Holy Spirit, without fear and let us push toward the goal of building up the Church, both as individuals and as a whole Body of Christ!
Let me finish with a word from another place about our gifts:
[1Pe 4:10-11 NLT] 10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
Shall we pray...
Glorious and everlasting God...
You have called us and gifted us by Your grace with many gifts of grace, each one supplied by Your Spirit's power. Give us grace and wisdom to employ all that we have been given for your Glory and for the up-building of your church, the Body of Christ.
Help us to be mindful of your direction and guidance in our service, and to look to you, who came to be servant of all. Use us Lord, individually and severally, to bring encouragement, comfort and edification to all we meet, both in and outside these walls.
To the glory of your Name, Jesus, and for the sake of Your Kingdom come.
Amen and amen.