What is your gift? We all have one, at least one. But we all have one. My gift has two parts. There is a preliminary step: first, I help people find their healing, to claim their belovedness by God, especially people who have been cast aside and pushed to the margins. We all have to start there.
But then, my gift is to help you claim your gift and your passion – your purpose for being on this earth. We all have a reason why God put us on this earth. My purpose is to help you find your purpose. It’s a great privilege. That’s my place of service – to help you know that you are special to God – and that you have a special gift to share. Every one of you, your life is a gift.
Most people don’t feel special. We don’t feel gifted. But we are. Each one of us is a special gift, a gift of God. Our job, as followers of Jesus, is to discover our gift, to claim it, and to use it to serve God, to make the world a better place. Together, using all our gifts, we can change the world. Just like we talk about each week in our Village Statement.
It’s a simple as finding a place to do our part, like Kurt and Becca giving some Saturday mornings to serve with Food for Thought. Projects like that can’t do what they do without people like us giving our time in service. The work is not hard. It does not take any special training. It just takes commitment. Carving out the time. Deciding to get out of bed on a Saturday morning. It takes a decision.
Of all the things we could do with a Saturday morning for myself, projects around my house, a bike ride, going shopping, reading a book, surfing the web, paying my bills, cleaning my bathroom, cooking a meal so I can have friends over for dinner, doing work for my job, and so on, time to time we decide to give some time to make a difference in the life of someone else. Because here at the Village we have a mission to follow Jesus and change the world.
You see, long before Jesus even came onto the scene the prophet Micah (we read Micah 6:6-8 in our worship celebration today for those who could not join us) put it simply, when he asked: does God want burnt offerings of sheep and rivers of oil? Because that kind of sacrifice was a huge part of the religious tradition in those days. People spent lots of time and energy in their worship practices. You could say they spent their time going to church on Sunday morning and thought that was enough. Micah’s response: “Heck no! That is not what God wants. This is what God wants”:
1) Do justice.
2) Love with kindness and compassion
3) Walk humbly with God, that means to pray and stay close to God.
Last week we talked about the spiritual practice of prayer. This week, our focus is service, practicing acts of compassion and kindness in the world, and doing justice. This is what God requires of God’s people, simple acts of service and changing the world –doing something to make a bad situation better. Just choose one – and so something! It’s not so hard. You can’t fix everything. You can’t help everyone. But you can help someone. You can make a difference in SOME situation.
So which one will it be? Here’s how to find out:
What do you love?
What brings you joy?
What keeps you awake at night?
Sue Kibbey, who is the Director of Missional Initiatives for our West Ohio Conference, when she was on staff at Ginghamsburg UMC (GUM for short) tells a story of being a new staff member here. She met a women who attended GUM and she asked that woman “where is your place of service?” Every Sunday Sue would greet this woman as she came into worship and Sue would have another suggestion for this woman about where she might serve. Because, you see, Sue shares my value, and the value we have here at The Village, that every follower of Jesus has a gift, and lives a more fulfilling life serving God in some way. Sue suggested something different each week:
1) children’s ministry, do you like children?
2) hospitality team, how about welcoming people and doling acts of hospitality?
3) working in their food pantry – how about serving the hungry?
Nothing appealed to the woman. Finally after several weeks, the woman came up to Sue beaming, and told Sue she had found her place of service. What she was doing was something Sue had never dreamed of.
The woman had a friend whose husband was terminally ill and needed constant care in their home. The woman had begun to make daily visits, helping her friend care for her dying husband. She was passionate about this ministry. Over time, she helped develop a team of folks at their church who would do similar ministry for other folks. It just became this amazing ministry of care.
Sue learned an important lesson from this encounter. She could not tell the woman what her gift was, could she? The woman had to claim it for herself. Just because a church might have a dream or a desire for some particular ministry, does not mean it is your gift. Often ministries in churches fall flat on their faces because one person gets an idea about what the church should do, but the passion and the right gifts just are not in that congregation. The timing is just not right. It may be a great idea, it might be a great need in the community, but the gifts just do not match up. Sometimes we may have to accept that it’s not the right time and place for that ministry, but later on it might be. Other times, if we see a need, that we are really passionate about, then we may need to learn new skills, and we may need to pray and look a little harder. God may show us that the skills and resources ARE right here under our noses within our congregation and among our networks if we will just dig a little deeper.
Here is the thing: We all have a place to serve, because every one of us has a gift that God has blessed us with and wants us to use. God wants every one of us to serve. I believe this with every fiber of my being. Do you?
We have enough gifts. We have enough gifts for serving and making this world a better place. We can’t change the world ourselves, but we can with others. So my question for you today is this: what is your gift? And are you using it? What gives you joy in serving? Are you worn out and need to make a change? What are you doing with your time and your skills to make a difference in the world? Have you found your one best place of service? And if not, will you pray about finding that place during this up-coming season of Lent (that’s the 40 days leading up to Easter – starting March 9). Will you consider trying out some new spiritual practice of service during the six weeks of Lent as a “Spiritual Practice.” Or will you get back to some place of service that you have let slip out of your routine, as a way of deepening your commitment as a follower of Jesus.
One place to start, is by claiming your gift, and recognizing that God gave you a gift so that you could use it to make the world a better place. If I asked you to name your gift, and how you already use your gift in service in the world, or how you might like to use it for service, could you do that?
In our worship celebration, we came forward and took a little gift (don’t get too jealous it was a beautifully wrapped piece of cardboard) and thought about how they can share it with the world. Do you have a place to discover your gifts? If not, think about joining us at the Village. You won’t be alone as many of us are still trying to figure out our gift, our place to serve in this world. You have something to offer, it’s just a matter of finding it and putting it into action.