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    Rev. Cameron Schnarr

Beautiful Savior Lutheran School

Lutheran Church Canada - What do you believe?

LCC - Lutheran Church Canada

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, Canada
How do I Belong to Others?

How do I Belong to Others?

Based on Romans 12:3-5

Preached on October 11, 2015

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In Jesus Christ, sisters and brothers, one and all! Grandma's sister, my Aunt Hazel, loved playing canasta. She had friends who were big on that card game, too. So back in the 1940s they organized a neighbourhood women's card club. This is how many human organizations came to be. People who had common goals and the will to pursue those goals got them started. The Rotary Club began that way. So did political parties and the United Nations and the Parent-Teacher Association of the school where I grew up. That's why many organizations feel free to change their mission and purpose if enough members decide to do it. It's also why organizations can go out of existence if the same members vote to close ... or lose interest. The Church of Jesus Christ looks that way to some people, perhaps because it took a group of like-minded men and women to organize a local congregation like ours. But the Church of Jesus Christ -- I'm talking now about that worldwide family -- is totally different. Your personal faith is a new birth, according to the Bible, something conceived by God. You didn't make it happen; He gave it to you as a gift. And Jesus said, I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, because He's the One Who created and rooted it in the world; He's the One Who keeps it alive even though individual congregations here and there may shut their doors at times. It's always important to grasp what the church is, because grasping that has a huge impact on how you live your life in it. Today's text wants you to grapple with the way you live your life in God's church by asking you to ponder, "How do I Belong to Others?" I. As a member of the church, the Lord calls you to sober judgment; II. As a member of the church, the Lord calls you to function. I. I suppose if Christ's apostles would have wanted to, they could have come to town, preached the message of how Jesus died for sinners and came alive again; and, if some of their listeners believed that message, they could have put those names on a mailing list, left town, and then just communicated with those people through newsletters and magazines every once in a while, trying to equip those new followers of Christ to live their lives as believers privately and on their own. Christ's men didn't do it that way. When people believed the Good News, they immediately began gathering those people together into local churches, congregations like ours. The Lord never expected believers to be able to meet all their own needs as individuals, or to cope with weaknesses by themselves, or to stay encouraged and to endure in the faith alone. IN [CHRIST], Paul told the Ephesians, YOU ... ARE BEING BUILT TOGETHER TO BECOME A DWELLING IN WHICH GOD LIVES BY HIS SPIRIT. He places you and me into believing families like this Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church. In this family you are so constantly benefitting from other people's gifts that it's easy to overlook that fact. We've got a consecrated young pastor who trusts God's Word, knows how to preach it to people, and is willing to work very hard. We've got musicians who know how to use instruments and human voices to make the Lord's praises very appealing. We've got officers with sharp minds who understand financial record-keeping, how to handle a payroll, and comply with tax laws. We have servants who can care for this building and the ground it sits on. If you came here today and found doors already open, lights already on, the altar prepared for the Lord's Supper, bulletins printed, appropriate music filling the air, a preacher ready with something worthwhile to listen to, it all happened because the Lord planted you into a body of believers. Those things are being so thoroughly done that most Sundays you don't have to give them a second thought. Believe me, you would feel it immediately if others in Christ's body were not doing their thing for you. While we're busy this weekend marking Thanksgiving and praising God for wealth and food and the blessing of living in Canada, here's something massive to thank God for! Thank God for every way you have received precious support from others in the family. Now on three October Sundays you and I are taking time to grapple with the other side of the matter. In other words, how may I not just take from others in the body of Christ, but give to them? How may I, under God, make a real contribution to the life and well-being of this body into which God planted me? The Lord calls you to exercise sober judgment on this subject. Paul writes, BY THE GRACE GIVEN ME I SAY TO EVERY ONE OF YOU: DO NOT THINK OF YOURSELF MORE HIGHLY THAN YOU OUGHT, BUT RATHER THINK OF YOURSELVES WITH SOBER JUDGMENT, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE MEASURE OF FAITH GOD HAS GIVEN YOU. I've seen people cause damage in a church family where folks did exactly what St. Paul warns against here, that is, thought of themselves too highly. In other words, I know what's best, and you don't. These were folks who figured their view of things was always superior to everyone else's, were very fond of talking and quite slow to listen, would not encourage other people to grow up and take responsibility, but preferred co-workers who would behave like puppets and carry out what the smart ones wanted to have done. The damage that mindset can cause is not hard to see. But Paul warns against the other extreme, too. There is such a thing as "false modesty," imagining - or even daring to say, "I really cannot do anything." This sort of overblown modesty can signify a frightful ingratitude, almost as if to accuse God of not giving me any gifts or abilities I can put to work to build the body of Christ. Other times, to be perfectly honest, I've had the impression that false modesty is a sign of laziness; I just don't feel much like working to build Christ's family of believers. But because it doesn't sound polite to say I don't feel like it, I'll play modest and claim I don't have any ability to do so. The Lord calls you to something completely different: Not the pride that thinks it knows everything, and not the fake modesty that acts like it knows nothing, but what the old NIV Bible calls "sober judgment." That would be a good, honest look at the strengths the Lord has very obviously given you; a good, honest look at other things that are clearly over your head; and even a good, honest look at areas where you may not have experience but have the brains and the imagination to grow into them. St. Paul did not ask the church members in Rome to carry out sober judgment merely so they would think about things. Speaking by the grace God gave him, Paul expected this kind of sober, honest thinking would lead to something. That's the second thing I want to touch on this morning. II. As a member of the church, the Lord calls you to function. JUST AS EACH OF US HAS ONE BODY WITH MANY MEMBERS, AND THESE MEMBERS DO NOT ALL HAVE THE SAME FUNCTION, SO IN CHRIST WE WHO ARE MANY FORM ONE BODY. You, dear brother, dear sister, do well to ponder what sorts of things you are able to do for the body of Christ, in other words, this believing church family into which the Lord has placed you. Not everybody has the same function. That's no surprise. In your physical body each part has a different function. And yet all of them do something to benefit the body as a whole. If I get a speck of sawdust in my eye, my fingers never say, "That's the eye's problem!" No, without even thinking, that finger reaches up and tries to help my eye in its distress. If an overweight pastor like me steps on your foot, your other body parts don't think, "It's none of our business!" No, your hand starts pushing me away ... your face screws up in sympathy ...your mouth calls out, "Overweight pastor, sir, would you please remove yourself from my injured foot?" Other body parts don't have to be lectured or shamed into helping; they just know they're to do it. You and I do well during these October days to ponder quite seriously, "What am I gifted to do to build up the body of Christ?" God has given you what this text calls A MEASURE OF FAITH, in other words, a certain level of confidence that you indeed you have the ability to strengthen this family in some concrete way. Then Paul picks up where I just left off: IN CHRIST WE WHO ARE MANY FORM ONE BODY, AND EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS. That last part is deeply important: EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS. To say it a different way: Other people in the body of Christ have a claim on you. You are not your own. You belong to the Lord Who bought you with the price of His own blood, shed to set you free. And you belong to all the others in the Lord's believing family. They have a claim on you. This is why I tried to explain at the beginning how the Christ's Church is fundamentally different from other clubs and agencies created by people out there in the world. If the church were just an organization you and I started because we had a few common interests, then it's up to us to decide if we feel like functioning in it or if we don't. The real truth is this: God gave you His Son to be your Rescuer from sin and death. God sent His Spirit into the world to bring the message that delivers this rescue to you personally. God laid hold of your heart and gave you faith to believe that Jesus Christ's sacrifice is for you. God planted His church into the world. And just as you were born into the family headed up by your mother and father without your decision, the Lord has now borne you into His church, His family. His holy will is nowthat you give time and energy to build that family. The Lord's call to function in this way is not some burdensome demand. It is a very healthy response to the saving mercy of the Christ Who died in your place and was raised to life to forgive sins and set you free. Perhaps you remember from Pastor Schnarr's message last Sunday just how this Chapter 12 of Romans begins the whole discussion. OFFER YOUR BODIES ... IN VIEW OF GOD'S MERCY. That is the launching pad for you, dear friend. Keep the saving mercy of your Father God in front of your eyes all the time. Keep in view all that Jesus Christ did - willingly - to rescue fallen humankind. Keep in view how the Lord of love came to you personally in your lifetime and gave you the faith to truly trust in Jesus Christ. Keep in view the bottomless pardon of the Lord that forgives you and bears with your failures and even your broken promises year after year. Keep in view the way that He has heard your prayers, even though many times it didn't dawn on you until much later that the Lord was doing so. Keep in view all the people the Lord has used to build the family of God and all the ways their servant actions have done you good. Keep all those saving, nurturing, loving, undeserved, countless details in view! Then, IN VIEW OF GOD'S MERCY, ask yourself with sober judgment: How do I Belong to Others? What concrete acts of love can I carry out to build up the body? My Gail and I got a letter this past week from the church office with a few cards in it. I imagine most of you got the same letter. One of those cards has to do with the faith-promise we're asked to make to support the Lord's work with our money in the coming year. It's a very important thing, and it deserves your careful thought and your sincere prayers. But on these October Sundays we're focusing also on that other card; the one that asks you to commit time ... and effort ... and even dedicated prayer every day as a visible offering this coming year IN VIEW OF GOD'S MERCY. Aunt Hazel died 42 years ago. All the gals who played canasta with her are long gone, too. The old neighbourhood card club went under decades ago. It's no surprise. It was thought up, started, and kept alive by human beings who had their day. Jesus says, I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, AND THE GATES OF HADES WILL NEVER PREVAIL AGAINST IT. God has borne you into a family that will endure forever. For the New Year of 2016 He is also honouring you by inviting you to spend, not only money, but also time, devotion and care to strengthen the family He's given you. How do I Belong to Others? Clinging to your Lord Christ, He'll help you figure out your personal answer to that one! Amen.

Rev. Robert Bugbee