Hopefully, you start to see how the fullness of the church’s potential starts to becomes a reality as we live life together. United by corporate worship, we grow closer in C-Community, P-Progress, and finally we have a chance to…
R-Respond (1 Peter 4:10-11) Each one of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. What a remarkable response, as we grow we get to share the very words of God, serve with the very strength of God—we are able to do more being used by God than we could ever do simply by ourselves. We have a response that goes beyond our resources! Throughout Jesus ministry he called his followers to action—I wonder if he had in mind the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea—both a part of the regions landscape—as they names imply, both are quite different—the Sea of Galilee is blue and lively. The surrounding area is green and vibrant. The Dead Sea also known as the Killer Sea is 9 times saltier than the ocean—nothing lives in there. Here is what’s noteworthy, both seas receive water from the same river, but only the Sea of Galilee has an outlet, where the Dead Sea is a dead end. Growth isn’t simply a matter of inputs; it is a question of having an output! We either sit, soak things up or sour or we sit, soak things up and pour it out in service! Thom Rainer and his associates a few years back did a study to see if people were sticking with church. If you invited someone today and they showed up would they still be around in 5 years? Here is what they found—when people just came to worship serve—an input—but weren’t connected beyond that only 16% were around in 5 years, but if they were connected to a Sunday school class, a community of believers, the number skyrocketed to 85%. That is the difference between gasping for air and running a marathon. Where is God calling you to use what he has poured into you?
Pediatrician David Cerqueira in Christianity Today shared an interaction with a young 2nd grader named Sarah that reminded him that no service of God is pointless. “One Sunday my wife had prepared a lesson on being useful. She taught the children that everyone can be useful, that usefulness is serving God and that doing so is worthy of honor. The kids quietly soaked up my wife’s words, and as the lesson ended, there was a short moment of silence. [A little girl named] Sarah spoke up. “Teacher, what can I do? I don’t know how do to many useful things.”
“Not anticipating that kind of response, my wife quickly looked around and spotted an empty flower vase on the windowsill. “Sarah, you can bring in a flower and put it in the vase. That would be a useful thing.” Sarah frowned. “But that’s not important.” “It is,” replied my wife, “if you are helping someone.”
“Sure enough, the next Sunday Sarah brought in a dandelion and placed it in the vase. In fact, she continued to do so each week. Without reminders or help, she made sure the vase was filled with a bright yellow flower, Sunday after Sunday.
“When my wife told our pastor about Sarah’s faithfulness, he placed the vase upstairs in the main sanctuary next to the pulpit. That Sunday he gave a sermon on the honor of serving others, using Sarah’s vase as an example. The congregation was touched by the message, and the week started on a good note.
“During that same week I got a call from Sarah’s mother. She worried that Sarah seemed to have less energy than usual and that she didn’t have an appetite. Offering her some reassurances, I made room in my schedule to see Sarah the following day. After Sarah had a battery of tests and days of examinations, I sat numbly in my office, Sarah’s paperwork on my lap. The results were tragic. [She had leukemia.]
“Time pressed on. Sarah became confined to bed and to the visits that many people gave her. She lost her smile. She lost most of her weight. And then it came: another telephone call. Sarah’s mother asked me to come see her. I dropped everything and ran to the house.
“There she was, a small bundle that barely moved. After a short examination, I knew that Sarah would soon be leaving this world. I urged her parents to spend as much time as possible with her. That was a Friday afternoon. On Sunday morning church started as usual. The singing, the sermon it all seemed meaningless when I thought of Sarah. I felt enveloped in sadness.
“At the end of the sermon, the pastor suddenly stopped speaking. His eyes wide, he stared at the back of the church with utter amazement. Everyone turned to see what he was looking at. It was Sarah! Her parents had brought her for one last visit. She was bundled in a blanket, a dandelion in one little hand.
“She didn’t sit in the back row. Instead she slowly walked to the front of the church where her vase still perched by the pulpit. She put her flower in the vase and a piece of paper beside it. Then she returned to her parents. Seeing little Sarah place her flower in the vase for the last time moved everyone.
Four days later, Sarah died. I wasn’t expecting it, but our pastor asked to see me after the funeral. “We stood at the cemetery near our cars as people walked past us. In a low voice he said, “Dave, I’ve got something you ought to see.” He pulled out of his pocket the piece of paper that Sarah had left by the vase. Holding it out to me, he said, “You’d better keep this; it may help you in your line of work.”
“I opened the folded paper to read, in pink crayon, what Sarah had written: “Dear God, This vase has been the biggest honor of my life. Sarah.” Sarah’s note and her vase have helped me to understand. I now realize in a new way that life is an opportunity to serve God by serving people. And, as Sarah put it, that is the biggest honor of all.” (Today’s Christian International 2008)
There is no greater honor as Christians than loving God through those around, living life together, and ultimately changing lives for God’s glory.