Good morning, Friends! It’s great to see you all again. Today I want to share a Scripture that we read a couple of weeks ago for our Wednesday night Bible study. It’s from a letter that Paul wrote, to a church that was struggling.
Paul wanted to encourage the church. He wanted to help them to discover themselves, and he wanted them to understand that everyone is needed, that we can’t do without anybody.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.
The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. Some of us can speak with wisdom, while others can speak with knowledge, but these gifts come from the same Spirit.
To others the Spirit has given great faith or the power to heal the sick or the power to work mighty miracles. Some of us are prophets, and some of us recognize when God’s Spirit is present.
Others can speak different kinds of languages, and still others can tell what these languages mean. But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us.
The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles.
Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit.
Our bodies don’t have just one part. They have many parts. Suppose a foot says, “I’m not a hand, and so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the foot still belong to the body? Or suppose an ear says, “I’m not an eye, and so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the ear still belong to the body?
If our bodies were only an eye, we couldn’t hear a thing. And if they were only an ear, we couldn’t smell a thing. But God has put all parts of our body together in the way that he decided is best.
A body isn’t really a body, unless there is more than one part. It takes many parts to make a single body. That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet.
In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest. We take special care to dress up some parts of our bodies. We are modest about our personal parts, but we don’t have to be modest about other parts.
God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable. He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others. If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy.1 Corinthians 12:4-26
If you look on the front of your bulletin, right underneath “Springfield Friends Meeting”, what does it say?
It says, “Everyone is a minister.” It’s there on every bulletin and it’s on every newsletter. This isn’t just a nice, warm idea. This is one of the core beliefs of Quakers, and it’s a core believe of our meeting.
Everyone is a minister. That means you, me, everybody.
We’re not all the same. Everybody’s different. But everybody is a minister here.
Suzanne is our minister of music. Tanna is our youth minister, with a lot of help from Tyler. Tanya runs the office. Sandra keeps track of the money. Gene keeps everything clean and buffed up.
I’m the pastor. That literally means I’m a shepherd. I care for people. I preach, I teach, I visit people. I do all sorts of things. But I’m far from being the only minister. And the people on the meeting staff aren’t the only ministers, either.
Everyone is a minister. We try to live up to that. No one here is just taking up space, or keeping a seat warm. You all have a call, a special gift as Paul says.
Paul names some of those gifts. He talks about people who have spiritual wisdom – the gift of knowing just the right thing to say.
Paul talks about people who know how to get things done, who know all the ins and outs and the rules and when to bend them. People everybody turns to when something breaks and needs fixing.
Paul talks about people with great faith. And those aren’t just the leaders. I don’t have more faith than anyone else. A lot of the time, I’m humbled by people who remind me to trust in God.
Jesus said that faith can move mountains. That doesn’t mean these people are tough or strong. They believe in God. They believe God can open a door. They believe God can make a way. If a church has people of faith, we can do anything. Because people of faith believe and trust that God has all the resources we need. They believe and trust that God loves them. All we need to do is ask.
Paul says that some people have the power to heal the sick. I don’t think that just means miraculous healing. I pray for healing all the time. But you know, we also need people who will stay up with us through the night, till the fever breaks. We all need people who know how to make folks feel more comfortable in bed, when everything hurts. We need people to hold our hand while we heal. We need people who can bring home-made soup, or read to us, or change the bed.
The big gifts, the high profile gifts, are the ones we usually think about. The apostles, the prophets, the missionaries. But everyone is a minister. You, and me, and everybody else here.
Paul talks about this in a lot of his letters. He says that the church needs leaders. Actually, the word Paul uses is “the person who steers the boat.” The person who stands up tall, looks ahead, and spots the rocks the church could crash on. The person who’s ready to jump overboard when people are drowning. The person who makes sure that everyone on board gets safe ashore.
Every church needs storytellers – the people who know our church’s story accurately and who can tell it to a new generation.
Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible? Mary was the one who stayed close to Jesus, who hung on his every word?
And remember her sister Martha, who put food on the table, so all those disciples didn’t go hungry. The church needs both Mary and Martha. It’s not either/or. We’d be spiritually starved without the Marys in our church. And we’d be physically starved without the Marthas.
We have some awesome cooks in our meeting. And every one of them is a minister. And so are the people who stay around to clean up afterward. And so are the people who set up the tables and bring the food and take the leftovers home to people who couldn’t be here. You’re all ministers, too.
We don’t have just one minister of music. We have many gifted musicians. Some are fully trained, and some are coming along. Everyone who sings is a minister. Not just the soloists. Not just the opera singers. Everyone who sings is a minister. Our worship would be really quiet, without you. So, sing like you mean it. Sing like it’s a gift from God, every time.
We need people who can bring out the beauty in the church – the people who arrange flowers, the people who can decorate, the people who notice the butterflies, the people who make everybody else stop to look at the stars and the sunsets.
Jesus once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” – the people who help everyone to reconcile and get along with each other. Jesus said that people who make peace are children of God.
We aren’t all the same. Paul said, “What would the body be, if everyone was an ear? What would the body be, if everyone was an eye?”
We are all different, and the church needs every one of us. No one is useless. We’re only useless, if we don’t use our gifts.
In the old days, the Quaker church didn’t even have pastors. But we had lots of ministers. Every Quaker meeting had at least half a dozen ministers.
These were people who knew their Bible well. They were people who prayed often, at home and not just on Sunday. They were people who spoke during the open worship. They visited families, and encouraged people to come.
Springfield used to have a lot of these recorded ministers. Right now, we only have four. I’m one of them. I’m a recorded minister.
Ashley Goad is another one. She works with a big church down in Louisiana. Heather Varner is a recorded minister. She’s not active in our meeting now, but she’s the director of Quaker Lake Camp. And Ken Wood is a recorded minister. He’s retired now, but he used to direct choirs, and Ken was a pastor for a while.
We have many people who are spiritual leaders in our meeting. I think our meeting would be stronger if we identified some of those people, and prayed for them, and encouraged them to use their spiritual gifts.
Who are the Marys and Marthas in our meeting? Who are the people of conscience and discernment? Who are the people with the gift of reaching out? Who are the people who really know the message of Jesus, and who really know about the love and mercy of God?
Look at the person sitting next to you. Look at the person across the room. Look in the mirror when you get home. It could be you!
Ministry isn’t about age and experience. There are young ministers, and older ministers. It’s about listening to God calling in your heart, and saying, “Here I am, Lord! Send me! Let me help!”
Think more about yourselves. You are a minister. Everyone here is!
The only question is, “What can you do? Where is God calling you?”
I was visiting one of our older members this week. She can’t come to worship on Sunday any more. She wept and said, “I feel so useless now!
But then she said, “But I read every word of the newsletter. And I pray for every person in it, and I pray for the church every day.” I think she prays more than almost anybody in our meeting. She’s still a minister.
She said, “I can’t see very well any more. But I like to sit here at my table, and color pictures with Scripture verses on them, and give them to people.” She gave me a dozen or so to bring back with me. I told her I’d put one now and then in the newsletter. She’s still a minister.
I’ve known ministers who are recovering alcoholics. I’ve known ministers who work the night shift at the hospital, and are too tired to come to church on Sunday morning. They never make the headlines, but Jesus knows what they do.
It changes your whole point of view if you think of yourself as a minister. In today’s reading, Paul says, “Some of you are slaves.” Think about how electrifying it would be if you were a slave and heard this.
“Some of you are outsiders. But the same Spirit has called you all. You are all essential parts of the body. You are all ministers. You are all part of Christ.”
I’m not asking anyone to sign up for a committee, or make a big donation, or anything like that.
I’m asking you to think about who you are, as a minister. Because you are one! I’m asking you to feel some joy in what you do, and feel that you’re helping.
And even if you don’t feel you can say it to anyone else, the next time you pray, I’m asking you to say, “I am a minister of Christ. Lord, what special thing do you want me to do for you?”