Glencairn Methodist Church
"Saved and Stuck or Saved and Serving?"
Last Sunday (31 May) was Trinity Sunday and the lectionary readings included Isaiah 6:1-8 and John 3:1-13. The Isaiah passage related the calling of Isaiah to the office and work of a Prophet of Yahweh, the God of Israel. Isaiah has a vision of heaven with God sitting on a throne and the angels were hovering about. They were singing the famous passage fin Verse 3, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." This is the "thrice holy" quotation that is recited at every service of Holy Communion and which helps to convey the idea of God as a Holy Trinity of three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, hence its inclusion in a reading for Trinity Sunday.
But Isaiah was horrified to be in such close proximity to God because he recognised that he shared the sinful nature of all humanity. What he said was, "Woe to me, I am a man of unclean lips, and have seen God." But one of the angels took a live coal from the altar and touched Isaiah's lips with it, declaring that "This has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." This process of repentance and forgiveness was necessary both for God to ensure that his candidate for ordination was with him, and also for Isaiah, to reassure him that God was with him. Having settled this, God got to the nitty-gritty of the visit. God says, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And Isaiah was read to reply, "here am I send me."
June used to be the regular month for ordinations in the Church of Ireland. Indeed I was ordained Deacon on the 23rd June 1985, the Eve of the day on which we celebrate the Birth of St John the Baptist - now thirty years ago. (These days regular ordinations are in September to accommodate the recent changes in the training programme for ordained ministry.) I recognise the process that Isaiah went through.
What about the passage from St John's gospel? This is the incident when Jesus teaches Nicodemus (and also all readers of the Gospel) that "no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are 'born again' of water and the Spirit." In common parlance a person who experiences this would be said "to be saved" and they might be able to recite the day, the time and the place when and where this happed to them. I shall not discuss "routes to salvation" in this Message, so let us suppose that all members of a church are "saved" and therefore are "members of Christ, children of God and inheritors of the Kingdom of God" are the C of I catechism puts it.
Which beings us nicely to the title of this piece, "Saved and Stuck of Saved and Serving"? On Trinity Sunday, Emma preached on this theme, referring to the two passages of Scripture mentioned above. (So thank you Emma for inspiring me to write this piece.) Emma referred to the book Saved but Stuck, by J C (Jim) Matthews subtitled "30 Days to Spiritual Revival". Many Christians, after the euphoria of "being saved" has worn off, sometimes become stuck in their spiritual journey, and Matthews' 30 Day programme is designed to bring stuck Christians back to full fitness. Just as Isaiah was called to fulfil a particular assignment, so too each Christian is given a unique assignment by God, an assignment which is tailored to the spiritual gifts given by the Spirit to the individual, and is not just for the benefit of that person but also for the benefit of the Body of Christ, namely the congregation of the faithful, perhaps a local church or the worldwide church. And that assignment will invariably involve service. The assignment of some people, like clergy persons and other leaders, is to "prepare God's people for works of service", according to St Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus (4:12), so that "the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and ... become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
What's your assignment? It might be what some would consider a menial task like cleaning the church or making tea at meetings, but always remember that, whatever it is, from being called to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, to helping out in the Sunday School, it is God's unique assignment to you and God values all servers equally and fully. Leaders can sometimes become downhearted when their calls for "tea makers" are ignored. So think about it - what is YOUR assignment? Are you Saved and Stuck or Saved and Serving?
There are two contemporary holy songs that I commend to you. Poetry and song so often speak more powerfully than prose.
The first is to do with "calling and responding" is by Daniel L Schutte, © 1981. The first verse and chorus are
Lord of sea and sky,
Find it online or in a hymn book, read
it and make it your own. [Church Hymnal 5th ed. no 581; Complete Mission
Praise no 857]
Again, the first verse and chorus are
Every word you say, (wo-oh)
Every game you play, (wo-oh)
Every silly face, (wo-oh)
Every single place, (wo-oh)
You can build up,
1, 2, 3, 4, 5!
Or you can tear down.
Build up one another,
Build up your sisters and brothers,
Build up one another,
8 June 2015
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm