There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NLT
Many years ago, back in the eighties, when I was at University studying Drama there was a film doing the rounds at the time called 'The Blues Brothers'. They played it one saturday night on the big screen in the lecture theatre and we all got dressed up and went to see it - the girls in black shift dresses, the boys in black suits, thin ties and pork pie hats and all of us wore dark shades. It's a great story about the redemption of paroled convict called Jake and his brother Elwood, who take on "a mission from God" to save the Catholic orphanage, in which they grew up, from being closed down. To do so they must reunite their blues band and organise a gig to earn $5,000 to pay the orphanages debts. Along the way, they are targeted by a destructive "mystery woman," Neo-Nazis, and a country and western band—and of course all while being relentlessly pursued by the police. But no matter what obstacles befell theses two men they kept going against all odds, they faced their enemies head on, and their mantra became ; 'we are on a mission from God'.
In the trailer for the film Elwood says ; 'The Lord works in mysterious ways' - he certainly does. Back in the '80's I remember that I used to use that iconic phrase 'I'm on a mission from God' all the time and have continued to do so for most of my adult life. It's ironic that now I actually find myself on a mission from God I no longer use the phrase. But you know, we are all on missions from God, every person in this church has a mission because God created us all with a purpose, for his mission, he knows us intimately he knows every part of us and he knows what great things we are all capable of.
Since I have been a Christian I have been given this verse from psalm 139 twice;
You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (Psalms 139:5-11, 13-16 NLT)
I love this scripture, I love the fact that it describes our wonderful God as always being beside us, knowing us, loving us watching over us wherever we go. He knows our deepest darkest secrets, he knows our failings and he also knows of our great potential. He knows what we are capable of and what we can do for him to further the kingdom, the trouble is convincing us of this. Because we all have have been given free will we can choose to ignore God when he calls us, refuse to be obedient, refuse to listen, and why?Because most likely we do not have the faith to believe that we can do what He created us to do, what he calls us to do. We don't have the faith in ourselves and this is translated to a lack of faith in Him. I wonder how many times you feel that you are not good enough? I wonder how often a little voice asks you to do something which challenges you or frightens you and you choose to ignore it. You ignore it and you make up good justifiable reasons to do so. Because sometimes that little voice asks you to do what you perceive as impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.
As I wrote this sermon early one Saturday morning, I realised that the words that came tumbling out of my head were not just for you, they were also for me. And I felt ashamed because I know that I regularly sit in lectures at college surrounded by my fellow students, who seem to find everything so easy, who are grounded in scripture and knowledge after a lifetime of being Christians and I ask - God why me? How can it be me you call, I'm not clever like them I don't have all the answers like them...I am not as good as them. I think you must be wrong on this one God, you must have got the wrong person.
How many times have I looked in the mirror and said I am not good enough for this journey that you have started me on, I'm not sure I can go on this mission from God, perhaps I didn't hear the calling right, God can’t possibly want me.
But then I stopped at this point, I re-read the words God had placed on my heart and I asked God to forgive me for having the audacity to question Him. My husband once said he was married to a woman with the faith to move mountains and yet here I found myself so lacking in faith, and so lacking in trust that I was questioning my heavenly father who has never let me down and has allowed me the privilege to feed his lambs and follow him. So as hard as I find it, I will keep going with these studies which at times are so difficult they literarily make my brain hurt, these studies which take up my time and make me exhausted, because I know that my father has given me a mission and I don't want to let him down.
But that is my story, and your story is that he has given you a mission as well and he has given this church a mission and we need to discover what this mission is, we need to discover what this mission is and begin it, begin it now. We need to start listening and when we hear his voice we don't start crying out I'm not clever enough I am not brave enough I am not young enough I am not old enough - we stop drowning out his ‘still small voice of calm’ and we listen, and we pray and we say ‘thy will be done’.
We now live in a throw away society, we work in throw away establishments who think when you reach a certain age your past it. In my own place of work, my 22 years of teaching experience counts for very little, my peers and I are seen as dinosaurs, yet its the dinosaurs they come to when they are in trouble! Because we have years of experience and wisdom and the names for things may have changed and the way we do things constantly changes in teaching, but we are ultimately working with people and so when you scrape away all these new buzz words and techniques, the way we relate to and teach people is the same no matter what you age. The way you care for people is the same and the way you share with people is the same. It really saddens me to think that so many people perhaps even people in this church feel that because they are elderly they have nothing left to give God, nothing left to give to this church community which they spent their lives building. It really saddens me to think that with age people feel that they become more and more useless forgetting the fact that they have a wealth of wisdom and experience which is worth all the gold and jewels in a treasure chest.
I heard a story from one of my lecturers at college last month, it was about an elderly priest with altzimers living in Japan, which is a predominantly Buddhist country. He had become so frail that he had to go into hospital. He had limited speech and his body was very weak, and yet something about this man brought three of the Drs nursing him to God. In the last months of his life by some miracle this man brought people to faith, God hadn't done with him yet. And he hasn't done with us either.
God will use us till our last breath if we let Him because He has a mission for us all - no matter how young or how old, no matter how clever or unschooled we are, no matter how confident or how shy, because, as people keep telling me our God looks to the heart, and a heart for Jesus is all he asks of us. A heart that's willing to say yes, a heart like the heart in the Blues Brothers who against all odds, against all obstacles continued on their mission from God through to the end. God hasn't set a retirement age for any of us.
At college we have studied a module on mission and its been an incredible journey and the thing which really blew me away and what I finally want to share with you today is that the bible is the story of Gods mission. We can start to understand our mission and our lives in a completely different way if we start to read the bible in this way. We can start to use it in our lives in a completely different way. Every word and every story, every person every experience is an experience and a story of Gods mission for the world he so lovingly created and a people he so lovingly created to live and enjoy it. It's a story of his mission for the world and his mission for us. But the bible is just the beginning, because where the bible finishes we and future generations begin. When we hear these inspiring stories of these biblical giants who also felt that they were totally incapable of fulfilling any kind of mission and when we hear of their amazing victories, what they have done in Gods name then we realise that those stories can be our stories. This isn't something I haven’t said before. It's not that I like repeating myself but God is putting this on my heart over and over again, for this church for this church family. God wants you to see that you all have a mission and God hasn't finished with any of you yet. He wants to embower you, to encourage you, to use you, right here, right now, this Sunday in this place. When we start to see the potential in each other, when we start to recognise and celebrate in each others gifts then we can encourage each other, then we can work together and then we can be be Gods hands and feet. God doesn't have a retirement age, nowhere in the bible does he say, sit back take it easy I don't need you any more, here’s your bus pass. Because God has a mission for us right until our last breath. And like all great stories that mission will change as we continue in our walk with Him we will have new mountains to climb, new challenges and new adventures. Sometimes that mission is something as simple as listening, and giving wise and good advice, its sharing scripture, it's encouraging someone, it's praying, its holding people who are on their knees and can pray no more- and all of us can do that. Every person in this church can pray, every person in this church can listen, every person in this church can love, every person in this church can care. We can notice when somebody isn't at church and we can make a phone call, we can notice when somebody looks sad and we can give a kind word and a smile, we can notice when someone is in hospital or they have lost a loved one and we can send a card or make a visit, we can all do something. We can all do something and when we do, we have a church alive with possibilities. We have a church alive with people who love and care for each other who want to grasp every opportunity to work together using their gifts to further the kingdom, its a church alive with people on a mission. People who will stand with each other and support each other and pray for each other in their own personal missions. Who encourage each other and hold out a hand to lift those who may stumble or fall, who offer a strong arm on a dark and difficult path, who shine a light in the darkness. I believe that it is those little things that make a loving church and a caring church and Gods mission for us to love one another as he loves us is fulfilled.
When we work together as a family the world can see Gods love shining in us and like moths they are drawn to the light. When we listen and when we let God in, then amazing things, which we never dreamed of can happen. God has a very clear message for us, God is moving I can feel it. He has a mission for you and he has a mission for me. A church full of loving people who all recognise each others gifts, accept each others differences and work together is a church which will be filled. It's a church with mission, it's a church with Gods mission as it says in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men"
The same God works all of them in all men, and women, in old and young. The same God will work in you and he will work in me, in the most extraordinary ways - if we let him, if we say yes. If we put away our fears and let go of our pride. We have been seeing growth in my church recently, I can feel God at work in my church I can feel that he is moving amongst us and I rejoice. But we need to be on our guard, because as God moves the enemy awakes and tries to divide and destroy.
I had a very clear vision many years ago when I first became a member of my home church, I was standing looking at the cross behind the altar as I turned slowly I saw my church packed full of people, every pew was full and I head Gods voice say "you will be a part of this ", back then I had no idea what he meant, but now I do and not only am I a part of Gods mission but each and everyone in my church is too, they have to be, because the mission of a church isn't just down to just one person - it's a mission for everyone, different kinds of service, but the same lord, different kinds of working but the same God working in us all.