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Monday, January 23, 2017

01222017 3rd Sunday After Epiphany - We are to exercise our gifts!

January 22, 2017
We are to exercise our gifts!
New Years resolutions by this time of the month of January are for some a distant memory.  Whether of a ‘new lifestyle’, a new way of doing life or even some resolutions to exercise.  But for a few resolute individuals, they still have their goal and resolutions firmly in mind.  Some of the reasons some still hold to their ‘resolutions’ is because they are preparing for a vacation at a beach on a distant shore, others because of the one day most young girls look forward to of their wedding day.
In our Epistle lesson this morning, Paul has a different take not only on resolutions, but especially on exercise.  For Paul it isn’t about lifting weights or reshaping our physical or spiritual bodies.  Paul’s main goal in this passage is the exercise of our gifts.  Not the ones found under the Christmas tree less than a month ago, nor the ones we receive on our birthday.  The gifts Paul is attempting to inspire his readers in Rome to understand and for us today is how we can use the gifts God specifically gives each us, our spiritual gifts.
Those who attend Lutheranism 101 have heard me not only mention and talk about Spiritual Gifts and their importance.  I have even asked class members and especially council members to learn more about their gifts, so we can use our individual gifts for the spread of the Gospel.  And this is exactly what Paul is inspiring the Romans who read his letter to understand.  In essence, everyone has spiritual gifts and Paul wants the people to use their gifts for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tuesday night at our Lutheranism 101 class, we spoke about some of the local churches and how some of the churches understand the use of spiritual gifts differently.  Some use fear to motivate, some ask a simple question, ‘are you saved?’ and still others rely more upon grace for motivation.  Paul specifically in writing to the Romans wants everybody to work in their comfort zone.  Just as you would not want a surgeon to be a plumber and vice versa you wouldn’t want a plumber to do brain surgery, Paul has as his sole intent everybody working in our comfort zone with the gifts each of us are given by God.
When we work in our comfort zone, we then not only know our gifts and our abilities, but we can use them to clearly and specifically use them for God’s glory.  This doesn’t change our opinions, but it does change how each of us can be inspired and use our gifts for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But why should we use our gifts?  For what purpose would our gifts given to us have any use for the glory of God to be demonstrated or revealed today?  Ironically, God throughout all of human history has inspired men, women and children to have profound affects upon people’s lives, from discoveries like penicillin, DNA or even machinery like the cotton gin or the assembly line.
No better story could be told than when a truck was wedged under a bridge from an accident.  From early in the morning engineers and machinists had been sent out from the main office and struggled with how they could remove the stuck truck from the bridge so the flow of traffic could resume.  Ideas were raised of removing the cargo, which should make the truck easier to move.  It was done, but the truck remained stuck firmly in place.  The engineers and all of the personnel worked throughout the day, trying one idea after another, without moving the truck a single inch.
Towards the end of the day the engineers and personnel finally determined they would have to remove the bolts of the bridge and get a huge crane and lift the bridge in order to extract the clearly stuck truck.  So they began to make plans for where and how they would try the next day.
When from the adjoining yard to the bridge and road, a young boy who had watched throughout the day timidly walked forward and tugged at the sleeve of the head engineer overseeing the trucks removal.  Distraught at being disturbed while trying to solve this problem, the engineer, quickly tried to ‘shoo’ the little boy back to the yard.
With a resolve unseen in a person his age, the boy continued to pull at the man’s sleeve.  Seeing he wouldn’t leave him alone, the engineer nearly yelled at the boy, ‘what do you want?’  Unsure, but quietly, the boy said, “I’ve been watching you try and get the truck unstuck.”  The engineer with no patience for such an interruption said, “Yes, and I bet you have an idea as well”.  The little boy squared his shoulders and said simply.  “Yes I do.  Why don’t you just let some air out of the tires and back the truck out.” 
The engineer could have been ‘blown over’ by a gentle breeze.  The engineer was exercising his intellect, but this boy was exercising his simple desire to help.  And lo and behold, the tires were deflated and the truck easily backed out from under the overpass.

We who gather here today are no different.  As members of the body of Christ we gather to hear God’s Word and what He offers us through His Son Jesus Christ.  Each of us has gifts given to us by God.  And we have the opportunity to use these gifts for God’s glory.  The question becomes, are we going to be like the engineer and use our intellect or our position or the people that we are neighbors and friends with and not listen to everyone’s input, or will we humbly be the little boy?  It is my prayer we ‘dig down deep’ and humbly use the gifts given to each and every one of us with the sole intent of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For this this the core of our beliefs and God clearly and unmistakably wants to not only equip us to use our gifts, but to enable each and every one of us to say no matter the circumstance, the unchristian force of others, but with boldness and love say with Paul, “We are to exercise our gifts!”  AMEN.

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