Jan 17, 2016 – God’s Tool Box
(A toolbox full of tools. Point out one box, many tools. Each tool has its own unique use. I wouldn’t use a hammer to fix my glasses and I wouldn’t use a screwdriver to pound a nail into a wall. Sometimes I do use a tool for something other than what it was made for and that usually has disastrous results. The main point is that there is one tool box and many tools. We are one church and we are all here in God’s love, which is His power in us. But we are all different and God uses us according to what He has made us for.)
This illustration helps with understanding the epistle lesson for today. The verses in the middle of this lesson are the key here. They read: 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 point is that the Spirit is the one who empowers us all. And it is only the Holy Spirit of God that does that. We don’t get ‘energy’ from crystals, mantras or pyramids. It’s the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, who comes to us through our baptism and by faith, which empowers, enables and enlightens us with His gifts. Of course His greatest gift is that of salvation. Salvation by grace through faith isn’t something we achieve by our effort. That too is gift, pure gift. Faith is something that we’d never have thought up on our own. It’s something far distant from our lost human nature.
“‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,” goes the line from the hymn ‘Amazing Grace,’ implying, correctly, that – faith, trust in God’s grace, is not a human discovery but a divine disclosure (-X2). Faith is something taught to us by God. Moreover, faith is not ‘faith that’ something is true; but ‘faith in’ Someone who is Truth… Truth in human flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ. We’re in the season of epiphany, the time when we celebrate the revelation to the world that Jesus is both fully God and fully man.
And in the gospel lesson today we see the God/Man, Jesus performing His first miracle that begins to show His followers His divine power. And in this miracle even Jesus uses tools. As Jesus turns the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, He uses the jars for purification. And that’s interesting as you can bet, from what the steward of the feast said, that this wine was the best. I think there’s a connection of some sort between the rite of purification in the wedding ceremony and the fact that Jesus uses those jars to put the best wine in. Jesus is the one who purifies His church, His bride, by giving us the best wine there is, His own blood that cleanses us. Then of course the best wine that Jesus gives us is the wine that we partake of on communion Sundays. In His flesh and blood that we partake of in, with and under the forms of bread and wine in Holy Communion, Jesus delivers to us His gift of forgiveness.
He took on human flesh to win for us that gift of forgiveness by dying on the cross and rising again to life – in the flesh. He gave His flesh as a ransom for the price of our sin. God’s wrath and vengeance that we deserved because of our refusal to obey His loving commands required justice. And Jesus took that on in our place and then freely grants His forgiveness to all who trust in Him.
Forgiveness is not a natural, universal, inborn human virtue; it’s not something native to our sinful human natures. Revenge is natural and inborn. It’s normal for a human being to strike back when struck. Forgiveness is the peculiar attribute of a people who know that they first have been forgiven all, each and every one of their sins, through the gift of Jesus Christ. Having been forgiven, we are empowered to be forgiving.
In a hospital emergency room, an injured little boy holds out his arms for his father and cries, “Daddy, Daddy!” His father cries too, but he lets them take away his son because he knows it’s necessary. Our heavenly Father let His Son enter this world in human flesh to be our Savior, the sacrificial lamb who would die on the cross for the sins of the world. The Father let His Son go because He knew it was necessary – not for Jesus, but for us, for our salvation for our cleansing. His Son went willingly because He too knew it was necessary for our eternal benefit.
Before we can bring any offering to our Lord, before we can receive any other of His gifts and put them to work for Him, before we can ask anything of Christ, before all that, we must first trust Him as the One who takes away the sin of the world – the One who has forgiven all of our sins. It’s that supreme gift of forgiveness that we have received from Christ that opens the door to heaven and frees us so that we can bring our gifts to our loving God and use them for His glory by His power!
So we don’t put any effort of our own into salvation in any way. But we do put effort into using the other gifts, the gifts of the Spirit, He has empowered us with. We put forth our efforts together here to do what our mission statement says we do together; Hearing, Sharing, and Living the Gospel.
That doesn’t happen by keeping our tools in the box. That doesn’t happen by withholding the use of the tools – the gifts – God has given each of us here. As Paul says in the lesson today, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” and that ‘good’ is for each of us and for the good of others beyond our walls.
Let me point out some of the things that go on here ‘for the common good’ the things that it takes just to have worship each week. Now I’m not going to include myself or Gordon. He and I have our parts and you generously support us in what we do.
But to have worship each week someone has to – fill the candles with oil, light the candles, fill the flower vases, hand out the bulletins, change the paraments, move the banners, collect the offerings, count the offerings, deposit the offerings in the bank, write the checks that keep the heat and lights on, turn on the sound board, run the organ and projectors and open and close the building. All of that is done by you, by people who have responded to God’s call to serve in these ways.
Also we have communion twice a month. Luther has said, “Also the people are to be taught that this sign has been instituted not only to awaken faith but also to instruct us in love… We are not to harbor envy and hatred, but each is to care for the other, to help the other with alms and every kind of service which God has commanded us.”
It’s takes people who have volunteered to do the work of setting up and cleaning up the vessels, the host and the wine and counting and recording the number of people taking communion. That task, though it seems a simple matter, like turning on the heat and taking up the offering, that too needs only someone to exercise the gift of service to have happen. I’m grateful for those who’ve stepped up in this important service to the congregation.
Exercising the gifts, using the tools we’ve been given by the Holy Spirit is up to us. We’re not in charge of handing out the gifts we’ve been given, the Holy Spirit does that, but it is up to us to actually put those gifts to use. The doing of those things is in our control and so the question becomes, what have we done with what we’ve been given?
I’d like to quote something from The Hand Tools Institute (HTI). HTI is an association of North American hand tool manufacturers. They say, “Be certain that the hand tools you use are the correct ones to do the job. For example, many people are surprised to learn that there are at least 10 different types of wrenches, over 125 types of pliers, 12 types of screwdrivers, 15 types of hammers and many other tools that can save hours of labor.”
God may have many of us here who can do similar things, like those 125 types of pliers or 15 types of hammers, but that is God’s choice for this toolbox called Zion Lutheran Church. Our choice is about being faithful and responsive to what God would have each of do here and now.
Then HTI says something that fits so well with our scripture today, they say, “Remember one tool is not enough; there are many types of wrenches, pliers, screwdriver, hammers, etc., each suitable for a specific job.” God knows what you are suitable for, that’s why He’s given you the talents, skills, abilities, empathies and compassions that you have.
Luciano Pavarotti once praised by an interviewer for his marvelous voice, gave this reply: “Don’t praise me for the instrument. God made it. All I did was to have the discipline to learn how to play it!” May God give all of us the discipline to learn to use the tools He’s given us so that the world might be blessed through them.
We have been given the gift of salvation free and clear with no strings attached. This isn’t about showing God that He made a ‘good deal’ when He got you. Heavens, He knows what He got in the bargain with you and I so we know this isn’t about showing Him our goodness. No, this about responding to His grace. How do you put into action the gifts, the tools, that in Jesus Christ, He has freely given you?
In Jesus name, amen.
Sermon #806 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 62:1-5
62 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. 2 The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. 5 As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
Epistle Reading 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Holy Gospel John 2:1-11
2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.