Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gifted to serve (Romans 12:1-12)

Having posted one sermon from this series on tongues I thought I might post the rest of the series. It works through passages in the New Testament that mention the gifts of the holy Spirit (mainly in Paul's teaching). Hopefully people will find them useful. I must admit that they are not an exhaustive comprehensive study on the gifts of the Spirit. They are my reflections and I hope therefor they will be helpful to people. This first one sounds more like a lecture on the failing of 'Autor theory in film studies' . 

The film ends and the credits start to roll and we get up to walk out of the theatre or we flick from the DVD player back to the TV just in time for the all important ads, and we miss something that is of utmost importance to the art of film making. Some movies put bloopers and outtakes amidst the credits to keep our attention so we won’t miss what is so special about the art of film making.

You see at the very heart of film making, the art form of the twentieth century, is the fact that it is a team effort. Not just the vision of one man a director or the abilities of a group of actors whose performances compels them to stardom and fame and everyone’s A list but those credits that roll around reveal, cinematographers, screen writers, editors, costume designers , composers and production designers they all get some recognition at places like the Oscars but also producers and financiers, administration staff, technicians, CGI artists, that’s people who do all the computer generated special effects, folley artists, that the people who do all the sound effects, and sound technicians, musicians, caterers, chauffeurs and truck drivers, animal handlers, set designers and builders, seamstresses, and roadies who lug copious amounts of equipment round , riggers who can put it all together, stunt people. The names roll past and we don’t often stop to think about all these people and their gifts and talents.

One way to talk about films is to see it as the work of an Autor which of course is French for artist. That a film was the work of one person, the director. Alfred Hitchcock is always held up as the prime example of an autor,

but now this idea of the autor is being challenged and as they began to look at Hitchcock and other great directors they found that a key talent they had was to gather around them a team of gifted people whose talents and abilities and characters complemented and offset their own.

Citizen Kane which is Orson Wells first ever movie perhaps epitomises this when Wells the director shares billing on screen with his cinematographer Greg Toland, whose innovation and brilliance enabled Wells to tell the story so well.

Films are acknowledged both as a body of work of a certain director but also the work of a body of people each with different parts to play and its only when they use their gifts together that the art piece forms that the story gets told.

This year we are taking some time to look at the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity. We did a series around Pentecost looking at the person and work of the Holy Spirit and now after a break we are starting a series looking at the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In our first series I introduced you to this diagram that expresses the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. That first and foremost the Spirit dwells within us and brings us into communion with God. That the spirit then works to reflect that central relationship to the world round us. The Spirit works on our character to make us more like Christ. That’s not at the bottom because it’s least important it’s there because it is foundational. Later in this series we will look at 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Paul, not denigrating the gifts of the Spirit but putting them into context says we maybe the most gifted person in the world but if we don’t have love then well, it’s like being a noisy gong, or if Paul lived in a 21st century urban setting might say its like a jack hammer and road works at dawn and all day long. And we are going to look at what the Spirit wants to develop within us when we do the third part of this series; Hey I’m a science fiction fan everything’s got to be a trilogy, looking at the fruit of the Holy spirit in Ephesians 5:22. The other thing that the spirit does within us is that it gives us a calling and the capability to serve and to witness to Christ. To do the things that Jesus did. Over the next few weeks we are going to be focusing on the passages in the new testament that talk about the gifts that the spirit give and how they are to be used.

In the passage we had read out to us from Romans Paul moves from having explained the gospel and how it relates to the gentile and Jews to deal with how that Good news is to be lived out. ‘Therefore he says’ because of what Christ has done for you. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice’ which is true or spiritual worship. We tend to think of what we do here in church as worship and we do call it public worship, and it is worship but Paul says that true worship is not just when we gather together to sing songs pray and hear the word read and preached that’s part of it, but it’s as we give our whole selves to God and dedicate everything we are and all we do to Christ. In my favourite worship song at the moment offering by the band “third day” the chorus says “lord I give you my life it’s all I have to give because you gave your life for me”.

Then Paul says that the believers are not to be conformed to the world but to allow the Spirit to renew their minds, and it’s in this context then that Paul writes about us being the body of Christ and using the gifts that have been given by grace to all. He says that we are not to think too highly of ourselves rather has sober judgement.

Let’s look at that in three ways.

Ours to own v. Gift of grace

Firstly, the world sees giftedness as being the possession of a person but the emphasis on the passage here is that the gifts are given by God by grace. As such all our talents and gifts and abilities are to cause us not to think more highly of ourselves but to thank God for what he has done and to present them back to him to use for the kingdom of God. Lets realise that they are not ours but God’s given to us. That dictates how we use them.

Individual v. Body

Secondly, In the world’s way of thinking, we see ourselves as individuals. But Paul says no In Christ you are a community together. It’s not just about you it’s about us being together as the body of Christ. We belong together and we all have a part to play. There is an irony that many films made today by teams focus on an individual who is gifted or talented and who is able to save the world or the girl by themselves. Christianity isn’t like that you and I are all together we are one body, and it’s the one whom we embody who has saved the world and we are invited to live out and tell forth that act of grace and service.

Status v. Service

Thirdly, the world tells us that the gifted person is to be respected and given kudos and honour. Gifted athletes command a king’s ransom, gifted actors or people gifted with beauty and pose before a camera get to live a lifestyle that even when it all falls to pieces still demands our attention and sell magazines and the clothes they wear and the accessories they accessorise with. But Paul says well actually we are all gifted we all have a part to play; we need to use those gifts to serve one another: It’s not about status but service. It’s not about getting the gift or the gifts and talents you have it’s about investing them and giving them. In fact did you notice that in the order of gifts Paul uses in this passage leadership comes second to last? That gifts such as service and giving and encouraging come before that. They are all to be used for the common good. We are gifted to serve.

Then like the credits rolling past Paul mentions some of the Gifts that God gives and some direction as to how they are to be used in the body of Christ.


Firstly is prophecy, Prophecy is God speaking to his people and his world today through his people. If we look at the Old Testament prophets you’ll see that they were ordinary people that God called out to tell forth his word to a certain situation. In the New Testament we are all filled with the spirit and all called to tell forth God’s word. Maybe it may simply being sharing a bible verse at the right time. Paul is encouraging people to use the gift they have with the amount of faith they have and for some they are more able to speak what they believe God is calling them to say as God gives them the faith to do it.


If servings your gift says Paul then serve. You know you don’t often have to tell people who have a gift of service to serve, they are usually doing it. But even people who like doing the things behind the scenes are gifted by grace to do it. Their doing it well is worship to God. This covers things like administration and organisation as well as doing the hands on things.


If your gift is to teach then teach. We need people who can both get up front and teach but also those who can get alongside and do what we call mentoring: Teaching by investing time and energy into another person or a small group so they might grow to have faith or grow in their faith. Jesus did both.


Encouragement is an important gift. Often in a church that is in decline or has been struggling just to survive our self speak, what we say to ourselves can be disheartening or reinforcing the way things have been, one of the things that encouragement does is allows us to see where things are going OK and to allow us to look to the future in a positive way. As new Zealanders we are not that good at encouraging each other, I guess we’ve made an art form of the old tall poppy syndrome. So if your gift is encouragement then encourage. We need it.


Giving is a gift and the encouragement from Paul is that if your gift is giving then you should do so generously. I remember a This is your life programme on Michael Jones when he was asked how given his Christian faith he could be such a ferocious tackler. He smiled at and answered ‘well the bible says it’s better to give than receive’. Because there are gifted givers the call on us all is still to give, but once again God has graced the body of Christ people for whom blessing other financially is their gift, there thing and Paul says go for it be generous,


If your gift is leadership then lead diligently. Leadership is a servant role within the body and maybe it easy for a leader to think they can focus on the status put Paul says no leadership is hard work. Those who lead need to be diligent. Also in leadership roles it’s easy to get distracted and leaders need to be diligent in keeping the main thing the main thing.


If your gift is mercy or caring then do so cheerfully. A person have gifts of compassion and mercy they thrive on caring for others and while we are called to all love one another god has given us people who are gifted carers. They can get down in the midst of the misery and suffering Paul’s encouragement for those who care is to do so with cheer. A merry heart is as good as a medicine.

While film is the art form of the twentieth century, a new art form emerging in the twenty first century is Photomosaic’s. That is using computer power making images out of photos. I’ve shown you this before I think but it’s a photo mosaic of a lion , the king of the beasts right! It’s made up of hundreds of pictures of lions. The computer had taken all these individual photos and arranged them is such a way that this bigger picture comes emerges. Each individual photo has a place where it belongs and a part to play so in this body of work people may see the King. We too have a place to belong and a part to play. God has given all of us gifts to use to be the body of Christ and embody Christ in the world. So the call is to use them and develop them that people would see Christ in us.

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