Stewardship 3 – 2021 LSB #’s 706, 782, 783
Text – 1 Peter 4:10
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
THE IMPORTANCE & PURPOSE OF Ministry
Changing diapers is a dirty business as every parent, & child care worker knows. It is also not an especially gratifying experience, as I heard someone comment over a baby’s loud objections to a clean diaper, “You’d think they would be grateful.”
I have also heard it said that, of the many blessings of being a grandparent, one of the best is to spend time playing happily with the grandchildren &, when the times comes, to hand the beloved bundle of joy back to the parents saying something to this effect, “I think she needs changing.”
It is not glorious work. I doubt any parents would list it among their top ten favorite things about being a parent. But it is necessary, & through this simple act parents love their children, in addition to all the other ways they show that love.
They are doing what God has given them to do. They are caring for those God has placed into their hands, they are doing ministry, ministering to their children, although this is likely not the first example that comes to mind when we hear the word ministry.
When the word usually gets tossed around, a word that follows close behind in our minds is ‘Pastor.’ And sure, that makes sense. I’m the one talking to you most often about ministry, about serving God & our neighbors, about living the Christian life. Yes, pastors do serve, & a great deal of our service is fulfilling the vocation of pastor, but that is not all we do.
We are also sons, brothers, husbands, friends, & we fulfill a host of other vocations that God has placed into our hands. We serve, but only a part of that service involves the title pastor. The gospel is proclaimed from the pulpit, through the Scriptures, through the entire worship service, but certainly God does not minister to His church only through pastors. The heavenly Father does not minister to us only here in this place. God works through pastors, musicians, teachers, & a small army that regularly works or volunteers here, so we can then go out there.
Out there are those who have not heard. Out there are those who wallow in darkness, chasing after peace & joy which the world cannot give. In here, & out there, are sinners, but the difference is we know our Savior; they do not. Christ works through us; all of us, to bring back the sheep of His hand that are lost.
Like the good shepherd He is, Christ searches for the lost in every way He can. He will search for them where you work, & He uses you to find them. He uses your words & your actions to minster to them. The example we set, how we live & work is important, but perhaps the most terrifying reality of serving Christ is that sometimes we get to mention Jesus by name.
The shepherd calls out using your voice. When those conversations happen, often when we don’t expect them & feel least prepared, there Christ is working through you, there the Holy Spirit is reaching out, there ministry is happening, regardless of the outcome. Like screaming babies, just because you show God’s love to someone does not mean they will be grateful.
And fear of that rejection, fear of failure, fear that we are not worthy enough, good enough, skilled enough, for God to work through us, is something that will pass, that must pass, because God has chosen you. He has chosen you to be His steward. As we read in the sermon text, we are given gifts to serve one another as “good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
Even before He chose you to be His steward, God chose you to be His child. He chose you to inherit His kingdom. He chose to forgive you, to bless you, to love you, & something we get to do, something we have to do, depending on how we’re feeling that particular day, is to share the love of God with a world desperately in need of His love. Yes, you are flawed. I am flawed. We are actually far more than just flawed; we are sinners & we know what we deserve, the same as everyone else out there. But we also know that Christ came for but one purpose – to save sinners, & He is pretty good at His job.
He saved you through the work of the Holy Spirit, & that same Spirit is at work through you, each & every day. You do not leave this place alone, but full of God’s grace, accompanied by the Spirit of God.
Knowing this, trusting in our Savior, then we can say goodbye to fear, march boldly forward proclaiming Christ at every turn, at least we wish we were like that. Because yes, it is going to be a struggle.
Remember, “Take up your cross & follow Me,” but if Christ can bring us through death, He can bring us through fear, at work, with our friends, at school, & everywhere in between. Jesus can & will work through us to serve a world in need of its Savior. Sometimes the response will be rejection, sometimes even worse; only one disciple lived to old age.
Sometimes we’ll be uncomfortable & wish we could pass off our vocation to someone else. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of people trying to do exactly this. Think of Moses trying to convince God that He really should send someone else.
Yet, if we trust God enough to believe that He loves us, died for us, & is coming back for us, we should trust Him to guide us in ministering to those that cross our path in this life, even knowing there will be times that we march forward reluctantly.
As we march forward, as we look to our vocations, who & what God has placed before us, we will also see that most of our service is pretty mundane stuff. We are not often called to walk on water, feed thousands with almost nothing, or to raise the dead. We are called to help those in need, to feed those who are hungry, to care for the sick. Often this starts in our very home with those closest to us. Any caregiver, nurse, really anyone in the medical field, knows that caring for the sick is rarely considered a glorious task. It is difficult, dirty, at times dangerous, & yet, hopefully we can see God at work. But you do not have to go to medical school to care & to serve.
From food banks & thrift stores, to caring for your own children or aging parents, God works through these vocations to further His kingdom. From medical mission work, & relief work of all kinds, around the world, to feeding & sheltering those in our own communities, God is at work through you as volunteers, paid workers, family members, friends, and the people of God.
In shanty towns, disaster areas, shelters, hospitals, work places, schools, homes, at diaper changing tables, God works through us to share His love, to share His good news, that just one more might be brought to the faith. There is no question, “Is God working through me, or will God work through me?” He already is, every day.
You are fellow workers because the Lord has created you & made you His sons & daughters. He has not made all of us pastors, or parents, or teachers. Instead, He has given each of us different combinations of vocations in which to serve.
Thank God, because the pulpit’s not big enough to hold everyone. But the Church is big enough for God to work through countless gifts, opportunities, even through countless sinners who have been made into saints through our one Savior.
That is why we are here at all. Christ called out to you. He brought you into His family through your Baptism, working through parents, grandparents, pastors & who knows how many others. Jesus is still calling to you, reminding you of His forgiveness, His love, His promise that He is always with you, & that we will forever be on His team, through faith. Amen.
Gracious God, You send great blessings new each morning all our days. For your mercies never ending, for Your love we offer praise. By Your Word You formed creation filled with creatures large & small; as we tend that endless treasure may our care encircle all. Heavenly Father, may our caring bear the imprint of Your grace; with the Son & Holy Spirit, praise be Yours in every place! Lord, we pray that we, Your people who Your gifts un-numbered claim, through the sharing of Your blessings may bring glory to Your name. Amen. LSB 782:1-2, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet