Laity Sunday 5

Luke 10:17-20

It is so easy sometimes to miss the point of an activity or to miss the deeper meaning behind something. Many of the holidays we observe have lost much of their original meaning, lost to the excitement and busy-ness of the celebration.

So, also, did the seventy-two who were sent out. What were they celebrating upon their return? What did Jesus point out?

I must admit that if I had been among these seventy-two I would be excited about the fact that demons submitted to the authority that I had been given. Likewise, whenever I am involved in any kind of ministry it is easy to pat myself on the back and congratulate myself on what a wonderful job I did.

We can all fall into that mistake. And, in many ways, there is good reason to be proud of what you have accomplished when indeed you have done a good job, especially a good job serving the Lord. What we need to remember, and what these seventy-two needed to remember, is that we are unable to do anything on our own. It is God who gives us the authority.

But more than that, we need to celebrate not the specific activity or the specific accomplishment, but the spirit in which it is done. While we may be well pleased with the fact that we were able to feed the hungry, or help the poor, or spread the Gospel message, it is more important to celebrate that God’s kingdom was served. Whenever we serve God we should celebrate more than what we have done, and celebrate that we indeed did something that brought glory and service to our loving and merciful God.

We can celebrate not just the act but the willing and trusting spirit that we have adopted.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Thank God that He has given you a willing spirit of service in addition to the skills to serve.

Laity Sunday 4

Psalm 139:1-4

My father-in-law has an expression that my wife and I have adopted. If someone isn’t up front about what they are doing or where they are going and so forth, we call them a “Secret Sam.” Many people are Secret Sams, wanting to be very private about what they do and who they are.

No one can be a Secret Sam with God. Psalm 139 describes God’s all-knowing character. How do these descriptions make you feel about God?

Some people are Secret Sams to themselves. They don’t know themselves as much as they should. Many people are not at all aware of what they are capable of accomplishing.

Many people have many self-doubts. They don’t think too highly of themselves, certain that they are not as good as other people. Many folks use this self-doubt, this low self-esteem, to do very little in life. Many people allow doubt to keep them from serving God the way they could and should.

If God created us, if God formed us, then He knows all about us. God knows all that we do and say, and the psalmist says that God even knows our thoughts. Why, God even knows the words we will say before we say them.

If God knows all this about us, then God also knows about our potential. He knows what we can and cannot do. And the one that gets me the most, the one we so often overlook, is that God knows what HE can do.

If God calls you to some service or ministry, then you must know and trust that God knows whether or not you are capable. If you feel God nudging you in this direction or that, then go confidently, aware that God has chosen you for a purpose and He is completely aware of what you can do. Also remember that God can fill in the gaps, the lapses and shortcomings, with His own great presence.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where do you feel called to serve? What reminder do you need to know God has confidence in you?

Laity Sunday 3

Ezekiel 3:1-4

For my first year working at Origin, a consulting firm, I did corporate training – traveling to various client site locations and training groups of employees on how to operate specific software applications. Gosh, that sounds impressive when I type that.

It boils down to being the teacher of adults on how to work their computer. I wasn’t hired because I knew all the software. I was hired because I knew how to teach. Origin fed me the information, and I presented it to the students.

Like Jeremiah (and Isaiah and others) Ezekiel is called by God to spread God’s word – to be in ministry for God. What does God give him? Why do you think the scroll tasted sweet as honey? What is God’s final command in verse 4?

Ezekiel is described as a priest (Ezekiel 1:3), rather than a prophet (like Jeremiah and Isaiah). Yet Ezekiel is still not simply sent into the world without first being equipped. This priest is being sent to Israel with a message from God. Ezekiel is not left to his own devices or imagination. Instead, God literally gives him words to chew on, a message to digest.

God has filled this prophet with the words that need to be communicated. Ezekiel has internalized what God has given him and will carry the message to God’s people.

God calls all of us to serve Him in some way. It can be intimidating. It can be scary. And one of the greatest fears is worrying about whether or not you have the skills necessary and the right message.

We need to remember that God calls us because He knows we can do what He has called us to do. We need to remember that God is with us when we obey Him. And finally, we need to remember that God supplies us with the message.

We should not be preaching and teaching our own views and ideas. We need to be preaching God’s Word, and that is found in the Bible. But like Ezekiel, we may need to chew on these words, digest them, internalize them, and understand them before we go off preaching.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Which message from God has been the hardest for you to “chew on?” What can you do to increase your understanding?

Laity Sunday 2

Jeremiah 1:4-8

The Book of Jeremiah is a record of the prophecies of Jeremiah. It is a significant book in the Bible, and it is a name most people are familiar with. Yet, like so many people, when God called Jeremiah he was less than enthusiastic.

According to verse 5, what three things did God do? How does Jeremiah describe himself? What is God’s response?

I have been in the ministry of preaching and making hospital visits for about seven or eight years now. I usually receive positive responses from people about my messages, and most people seem to appreciate my visits.

Yet, there is not a week that goes by where I do not feel like Jeremiah. “I do not know how to speak.”

We can all claim this. We can all say that we have no skill or talent that could be called a ministry. We can all think of ourselves as less than adequate for serving God.

But that is all simply an excuse to get out of what God wants us to do. Like Jeremiah we all need to be reminded that God knew all about us before we were even formed in the womb. If God has called each of us to be in ministry in some way, then we must remember it was God who set us apart and appointed us for whatever task it may be.

If God has set us apart for a particular ministry, and He has called us, then He must know we are able to accomplish the ministry – even if we don’t know that.

Two things register with me as key. The first is addressed in verse 7. God does not say “I would like you to go” or “It would just tickle me pink if you go.” God says, “You must go.” Don’t those words apply to us?

The second is addressed in verse 8. God assures that “I am with you.” How can we fear when God is with us?

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to remind yourself that God is with you when you do His work?

The artwork today is actually from 2 Corinthians 3.

Laity Sunday 1

Luke 10:1-9

Ministry cannot be done by a very small amount of people. It requires the work of many people to accomplish ministry. Even the smallest of churches with simple services requires the efforts of more than just a pastor.

It helps to have someone who will read the Scripture. Greeters are needed. The offering is collected and counted. Ushers for the offering, candle-lighters, and – in our church – volunteers who gather prayer requests and count the attendance all facilitate worship.

Even the first ministry, that of Jesus Christ, involved more than just himself. We are familiar with the twelve disciples, but Jesus had more than the twelve who worked with him.

How many did Jesus send out in this story? What warning does he give? In verses 5 through 9 Jesus gives very specific instructions. Why do you think he is so explicit?

It is common to imagine Jesus walking the countryside preaching and teaching and healing. It is easy to imagine him as a loner, wandering by himself, in charge of his own ministry.

But then we recall that he surrounded himself with twelve disciples, faithful followers who became his inner circle. They too were given authority to preach, teach and heal (Luke 9:1-2).

And now we have an often-overlooked passage of Jesus expanding his ministry even further. Seventy-two were sent out ahead of him in pairs. They were obviously meant to ready the people to receive Jesus, to prepare them for a more detailed message.

But these seventy-two were to do ministry. They were to bring peace (verse 5), heal the sick (verse 9) and ready the people for Christ’s message. That is the work of ministry.

And who were these seventy-two? No one we are familiar with. There are no names listed. They must have been average people who were willing to obey Jesus and do whatever ministry they were told to do.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What ministry do you feel called to?