Ephesians 4:1-2, 7, 11-12
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
August 1, 2021
Today’s scripture urges us “to lead a life worthy” of our “calling” as followers of Jesus and to do so by serving others with the gifts He’s given us for serving.
The Lord, this scripture says, gives each of us special talents and abilities. But they are not given to us for us alone; they are given to us for others as well. We fulfill our calling by using them, “with all humility”, to bless neighbors, “equip the saints for the work of ministry” and “build up the body of Christ”. We are to help others conquer their mountains!
The elders in one church took a weekend retreat in the Blue Ridge mountains. For a group-building exercise, they decided to climb a steep rock face using a rope system called belaying. A certain muscular elder stepped forward to serve as the belayer. Belayers secure themselves at the top and take care of the ropes for those climbing from below. For example, they manage the safety rope that keeps climbers from falling and getting hurt.
One climber was quite big, and kept losing her footing; but each time the belayer broke her fall and saved her from harm despite suffering pain himself as the rope, under her weight, cut into his waist and put a strain on his back. But he was bound to her, both literally and figuratively: determined to enable her to climb her mountain that day so that she could climb her other mountains in the days ahead. Though he couldn’t do her work for her, for she had to make it “on her own”, he resolved to do all his work in support of her effort. So he stuck to the task, using his physical and spiritual gifts. He kept her safe by the exertion of his strength and kept her spirits up by cheering her on with words of inspiration and faith.
When she reached the top, she beamed in triumph knowing she’d defied her self-doubt, controlled her fear, and met the challenge. She had climbed the mountain herself – thanks to the sturdy back and stout encouragement of a man using his God-given gifts.
That’s how all followers of Jesus lead a life worthy of their calling. We use our gifts to help others. None of us lacks gifts, though each of us has different gifts and thus different forms of service, whether apostolic or more prosaic. Yet, while some gifts get more notoriety and human glory, in God’s eyes none is of greater value than any other. For God made each one, and made it perfect for the person and the purpose to which He assigned it. Any gift used in the way God intended is equally worthy of honor. For serving others is always serving God.
A Sunday School teacher was making this point when a little girl named Sarah scowled, raised her hand and protested, “But what can I do?” The teacher glanced around, spotted an empty vase on a windowsill, and said, “You could bring a flower and put it in the vase.” “That’s nothing,” Sarah pouted. “No,” the teacher replied, “If you do what you can to bless others, it’s big and God honors it.”
So the next week Sarah brought a dandelion to put in the vase. She then went on to fill the vase with a bright yellow flower every Sunday. Noticing her faithfulness, the pastor took the vase one Sunday into the Sanctuary, and in worship pointed to it to illustrate serving however one is able. Folks were so touched that they asked that Sarah’s vase adorn the Sanctuary every week.
Some months later, Sarah was found to have leukemia. The cancer advanced rapidly, and soon her parents brought her to church for what they said would be the last time – which turned out to be, to everyone’s surprise, four days before her dying.
That Sunday her parents half-carried their little girl, bundled in a blanket, into the Chancel so she could – with a big, bright, proud smile – place her latest golden flower in the vase. As she turned to sit down in the pew, she slipped a folded paper underneath the vase.
After worship, the curious pastor went over to look at it. He opened it and read this message, written in pink crayon: “Dear God: This has been the biggest honor of my life. I love you!”
Each of us can lead a life worthy of our calling as we use God’s gifts to us for others. It will be the biggest honor of our life!