Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

January 2018

Gifted By God


Have you ever considered that the Lone Ranger was not really alone? He had his loyal indian, Tonto with him all the time. Robinson Caruso had his man Friday. Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway had a volley ball he named Wilson who became his trusty companion. The point being that God does not ever ask us to do things, ‘all on our own’. When it comes to the work of the church, God gathers us in community so that we are not alone, so we don’t have to do it all. If we follow the edicts of God, there are no ‘Lone Rangers’ when it comes to doing God’s work.
From the beginnings of the stories of God’s people it becomes obvious that God intends for us to be ‘part’ of the community of faith. Adam was not alone for very long when God realized he needed a companion - the actual Hebrew word means ‘help mate’. Noah had a family to help him, Abraham and Sarah had a myriad of servants to work with him, Jacob had 12 sons who did his work, Jeremiah had Baruch - we could continue on with every one of the ‘heroes’ we read about; all had people who traveled with them and who helped them in the work God gave them to do. None were ever asked to do it all by themselves.
In the scripture passage we read this morning from the book of Exodus, we read about
Moses. Moses was the leader God called to shepherd the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. Remember the story: The people of God had lived in a beautiful, lush valley in Egypt for many hundreds of years. The Pharaoh of Egypt realized they were there and became nervous that such a large group of people could easily organize and take over the country. He also needed storage houses built to keep all his ‘stuff’. So he figured he could kill two birds with one stone by making these Hebrews his slaves - as slaves he would then have them under his control and they would be less likely to rebel and he would get his store houses built!
After suffering as slaves, the Hebrews cried out to God who called Moses to go to Egypt and free them. After several ‘discussions’ with Pharaoh and some miracles by God, Pharaoh agrees to let the people go and Moses begins to lead them through the sea and into the wilderness to ‘the promised land’ - a land God would give them for their very own where they could live together in peace as God’s people. But it was an arduous journey - these Hebrews had never lived in the desert before, they didn’t know how to survive on their own, they had never traveled and so this was all new for them and the leadership and guidance all fell on the shoulders of Moses. Not only was Moses trying to get this huge crowd of people to travel in new territory, to make sure they had food and water and what they needed, making sure that all was well when they set up camp and that they had everyone and everything when they broke camp and moved on, but he also found himself arbitrating disputes between the people.
After all these are just people, everyday people put into a new and often difficult situation, and what happens when people in these circumstances have to live closely together with other people? There are going to be issues between people and families and between families and other families and people and other people. Moses not only had to make sure the traveling part was going well, but he also became the one everyone went to to settle their disputes. So as you can imagine, Moses was worn out. He’s the travel director, the spiritual leader, and the counselor for all these travelers off on this long journey - about 2.4 million people.
At one point during the trip, the Israelites set up camp and found themselves camped close to where Moses’ father in law, Jethro, lived. So Jethro came over to visit Moses and spend some time with him. Very quickly Jethro sees all that Moses is trying to get done and says to him, “Moses, you can’t continue to do all this by yourself. You need some help. You have all these capable people around you who aren’t doing anything - let them help you.” And Moses’ answer was sort of something along the lines of “This is just the way it has always been and I really hadn’t ever considered any other way.

But you are right, I am getting rather tired!” So Jethro came up with a plan for Moses to choose leaders from the people and have the leaders be in charge of a certain number of people. Those leaders would then take care of ‘their’ people and only would go to Moses if there were problems the leaders couldn’t handle. This would drastically reduce Moses’ work load and make for a more efficient way for the Hebrews to continue on their journey through the desert and to the promised land. By dividing up the work load, more people became involved in this journey and no one had to do it all themselves.
This was a model that came to be used as God continued to work with his people. When it comes time to build the Tabernacle, God’s mobile church, they gather people with different talents and different gifts and different abilities and together the Tabernacle gets built. When it comes to build the second Temple, the one after the original one was destroyed, God gathered workers from within the Hebrew people with various gifts and abilities and talents to do the work - and together the Temple was built. On and on through the story of the people of God we see God assemble people together of various gifts and together they accomplish what God needs done.
We even see this same pattern as Jesus gathers his disciples. Andrew had a gift for bringing people to Jesus, Peter had a gift for leadership, John was the spiritual one, Matthew was a writer, Judas was the money keeper....... Each had different gifts and abilities that benefited the whole group. And it was God who brought them together so that they could accomplish the job God intended for them to do - to learn and become the leaders of this new life of living as followers of Jesus. So each contributed to the group as they were able - each used their own gifts for the benefit of the whole.
Look around. We are a particular community of faith in this particular location in this particular time. We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are all different. We come from different places and different backgrounds and different traditions. We have different experiences and different things we have learned. But yet we all fit here together. God has gathered us here
because we are all different. And by bringing our different perspectives and our different histories and our different abilities together, we are able to accomplish the work God puts before us - together.
The Apostle Paul probably puts it the best when he has us remember that we are called the ‘body’ of Christ. And we are just like a body - the body has ears and eyes and feet and hands and a mouth and a heart and a stomach and all those other body parts. Each body part is different, each has a different job. The ears hear and the eyes see and the feet walk and stand and the mouth talks and the skin feels and it is only because we have all these different parts that we can truly function and do anything. Paul says “What would happen if all we were was an ear, or an eye or skin? What could we accomplish? Nothing....”
And so it is with the church - the body of Christ. We are all different, we all have different gifts and we all have different abilities and because each of us uses our particular gifts for a common purpose, we are able to carry out what we need to do.
Look around - we all take a part, we all contribute, no one has to ‘go it alone’, no one has to feel like a Lone Ranger, no one has to feel the pressure of ‘doing it all’ because just like Jethro when to Moses and said, “Let some other people help you!”, God says to us - “I gathered you together as my church, as my people. I collected those whom I knew could do my work. I gave you the gifts and talents and abilities you would need, and I gave you a purpose to fulfill in this community. I gave you each other - to work and live and love together. Each doing what they are able to do”
And it is together that we live out God’s will for us and this church.