Monday, October 1, 2012

Sunday's Sermon: Ministry is Not Done By One

Moses was finally tired of it all. He was ready to give up. Perhaps he knew this was coming those many months ago when he knelt in front of that burning bush and begged God to find someone else to send to free the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. "Please, Lord, send somebody else," was Moses’ last plea; a plea that was ignored by God saying, "Go!"

Since that time, the miraculous had occurred. God showed many acts of power to the Egyptians and to the Israelites. God sent the 10 plagues. He led them by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. At the Red Sea, God’s hand opened the waters and provided a dry path to escape Pharaoh’s army. And when Pharaoh’s army followed, God closed the waters and ensured the Israelites wouldn’t be chased again.
But God was not finished. God continued to provide for the Israelites and show them great deeds of power and of mercy. When hunger threatened, God rained down bread from heaven. When the people needed meat, God sent quail. When they were thirsty, God always provided water. At every point, God provided for His people as they experienced the first tastes of freedom. But it was never enough. No matter how much God provided, the people still found reason to complain, and most of the time, they directed their complaints at Moses.

And Moses had finally had enough of the complaining. He finally had enough of the moaning and groaning. He didn’t want to deal with it anymore. He had been completely faithful to God, and what was he getting from it? Grief and a bunch of head aches. And so Moses lifts up his own prayer to God, ""Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child, to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors’? 13Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once–if I have found favor in your sight–and do not let me see my misery."

What a prayer. Moses asks to die. He is fed up. He is tired. He wants to leave it all behind and be released from this burden.

But God is not done with Moses’ leadership. God still has a purpose for this man who carried into the peoples’ midst the 10 Commandments, and it is an intriguing thing God does. He doesn’t quiet the peoples’ complaints. He doesn’t give Moses any special powers or prowess. He doesn’t give Moses any extra energy or portion of His Spirit.  He doesn't even send Moses to therapy!

God tells Moses to gather seventy elders–elders who were leaders among the Israelites. Moses gathered this group and brought them before the tent of meeting. When they arrived, God took part of His Spirit off of Moses and gave it to the 70 who were gathered there. They were now commissioned to share in carrying the burden of the people. And interestingly enough, the sharing of the Spirit didn’t stop there. Two others who were in camp–who could have been in the original 70--began to prophesy as well. Someone wanted to stop this from happening. After all, they didn’t report to the tent like the rest of them, but Moses says something quite profound, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!"

Moses was longing for a day when all of God’s people would have God’s Spirit–all of God’s people would hear His voice–all of God’s people would be inspired to proclaim God’s Word through their own words and their own actions. Moses was longing for a day when God’s people would not be focused on any one person who was supposed to speak for God, but instead would take responsibility for doing God’s work themselves without having to rely on someone to tell them what to do. "Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!"

Ah, but what if indeed God has put His Spirit on God’s people? What if Moses’ request has actually become a reality? What would that mean?

First, let’s tackle the first question. What if God has put His Spirit on all of God’s people. Take a listen to these Bible verses from 1 Corinthians chapter 12 verses 1 through 7:

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Did you catch the gist of these verses. First of all, you cannot say that Jesus is Lord unless God’s Spirit has led you to do so. That means, if you believe Jesus is Lord, the Holy Spirit has come upon you. "Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!" He has! You have the Lord’s Spirit upon you! Whether you like it or not, by the way.

Further, the text from Corinthians goes on, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." The Spirit of God has fallen on you, not for you to be selfish with, not for you to revel in, not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of all of God’s people! St. Paul continues in Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians with these words:

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

If it is not yet obvious, I will hopefully make it so. When it comes to doing ministry, it is not done by one. The ministry of God’s Church is done by all who have had God’s Spirit fall upon them. In a word, each and every one of you are an important part of doing God’s work on this earth, in the global community that is called the Church, and in this congregation called St. John Lutheran Church of Cat Spring. Each and every one of you have had God’s Spirit fall upon you and give you certain gifts and qualities and traits which are important to the building up of this congregation and community. Each of us is different, no doubt. Each of us functions differently, no doubt, but we are a team in this process. And there is no "I" in team.

Today, God is reminding us that we are important to His plan of spreading His Word in this world. We cannot sit back and think that ministry is done by one. It is a shared responsibility by all who call upon Jesus as Lord and Savior. Amen.

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