Home » Worship Sermons » February 5, 2012 Sermon “SERVANT OF ALL”


February 5, 2012 Sermon “SERVANT OF ALL”


Scripture: I Corinthians 9:16-23

Date: February 5, 2012

     Does anyone else feel that there are too many trophies today? I’m thinking of the little plastic trophies that every player gets at the end of every season: baseball, soccer, basketball. When Aaron was young, I had to clean our house twice a week dusting thoroughly because he was/is allergic to dust mites. And every week I would run into this collection of trophies on the bookshelf. Do you know how hard those things are to dust? (Note: Aaron is the pastor’s son.)

     I understand that the intent not to award only the few so that everyone feels equal. It is a noble intent. But the fact of reality is we do live in a trophy culture. After this these young people are going to grow up expecting a trophy and suddenly they aren’t going to get it.

     Poor Andrew Luck missed getting the Heisman Trophy two years in a row. But I’m sure he has more than one bookshelf full of little ones at home to dust. In the real world it is about who gets the trophy and who doesn’t: Who gets the scholarship? Who gets the job? Blue, red and white chip players? Who wins American Idol?

     I didn’t get any trophies when I played little league baseball. I don’t think we even received certificates and I turned out all right! I say, get rid of the trophies altogether, even the Heisman, even the Super Bowl trophy! Besides cluttering up our shelves and cluttering up our lives, they inculcate the expectation that we ought to be rewarded for anything we do however small.

     Paul is responding to a Reward Culture in Corinth when he says: For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward;but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.

     Or, in The Message: I want it made clear that I’ve never gotten anything out of this for myself.  I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives.  If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself.  I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t.

     We also live in a world that asks, “Where’s my reward?” And Paul would say to us also, “Do not do what you do for yourselves for your reward or gain. Do what you do because you are compelled to by God compelled to love other people” Paul uses the language of being a slave to all or, if we want to soften it up a bit, servant to all. Paul would say to us, rather than find yourself, lose yourself into the lives of others. Make relationships more important than personal boasting the only thing Paul boasted of was the gospel after that it was all about others. And again, this is a counter cultural message

     A number of years ago I made the observation that the names of magazines have changed. I grew up with LIFE, TIME and National Geographic and I can remember when PEOPLE came out. Not too long after that there was US and finally, SELF. LIFE doesn’t exist any longer and that’s what Paul was worried about because he knew that Life is not in the self, but is in Jesus Christ who calls us out of ourselves and into relationships with others.

     If Paul were to run for elected office today he would be charged with being a flip flopper. A comment like being “All Things to All People” would come back to haunt him. Can’t you see the negative ad on that?

     The Apostle Paul says he is for the weak but his advisors are all amongst the strong. He talks about caring for the poor in Jerusalem, but he sought out and imbibes with the rich. Like Priscilla and Aquila, just who is the Real Paul? The Apostle Paul – not one of us.

     Yes, Paul changed to meet people where they were at, but he didn’t compromise on the gospel. He didn’t flip flop when it came to Jesus Christ. Paul was a “Changeling” Do any of you remember what that is? From “Star Wars Episode II,” I think. The would-be assassin of Princess Amidala was a changeling. She could morph into any form.

     If he were to evangelize Naboo, he could look like a human. And if he went down below to evangelize, he could change into a Gugan and slobber the gospel. Whatever it took to share the gospel – he would eat their food, speak their language, wear their clothes and come to understand their social mores.

     Many early missionaries made the mistake of joining the Message with their culture. To become Christian required adapting Western European Culture as well. Fortunately things have changed, and we now understand that to share the gospel, we must enter the worlds of others, not only eat their food and wear their clothes, but even change the way we think in order to know others. We know this, don’t we? We use the idiom walk a mile in the shoes of another, at least with regard to avoiding judging others. But Paul is calling us to do that as a way of life. We do get some practice at this, I believe, with those we are closest to, with those we love the most.

     In our families, marriage is built on the ability to be empathetic. To feel the feelings of one’s spouse/partner. Parenting can become difficult and increasingly confrontational if we don’t make the effort to enter into the world of our children. I may not care about what others think about how I dress (I’m sure you’ve noticed this), but you can sure bet it matters to young people.

     Paul would ask us to extend this way of thinking and being beyond those we love the most – to everyone. I suppose we could think of it as going on to perfection.

     This is the last of the loosely connected sermon series entitled, “Bigger Than Us”.  To review: 

     The first Sunday was about the vast size of the cosmos. Science is telling us incredible things that are very difficult to understand. That most fundamentally reality is a soup of probabilities that the Universe is really a Multi-verse so that it is difficult to claim to know it all; and that gospel is God’s gift of Jesus Christ, who is mindful of us in spite of how huge the multi-verse is, in spite of not knowing it all.                                                       

    The second Sunday was about calling in the face of a culture of “friends with benefits.” That meaning is not found in what we like or in indulging ourselves, but through our commitments.

     The Third Sunday was about the Church and asking not what our Church can do for us, but what we can do for our Church to see the larger vision of the kin-dom of God.

     And today – to broaden our perspective as we enter the world of other people – to love and to serve others as a way of life.

     All of these are about seeing that which is Bigger Than Us: Orienting our lives and purpose around God’s larger life and purpose; believing that as our lives open and broaden, a burden will be lifted, Grace will be abundant, and we shall be born anew.                                                                                                                                

     In retrospect, now that I’ve lived long enough to have retrospect, the most meaningful parts of my life offered no tangible, quantifiable rewards. There were no trophies for them. There are no certificates for a good marriage. I do not know of little plastic trophies with a parent holding the hand of his/her child. It would be cool if each year at Annual conference there was rewarded something like the Oscars: Best Pastor, Best Supporting Pastor, Best use of multi-media in ministry and Preacher of the Year.

     Tall golden statues would be handed out with the image of Paul. They could be called “The Apostles”. But it doesn’t work that way. After 40 years of ministry a retiring pastor stands before the Annual Conference who say, “Thank you”. But greater is their reward. The most meaningful things in life are about something that cannot be rewarded, for which there are no trophies, because they are Bigger Than Us.

     Even God, that we know in Jesus Christ. 


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