Guest Post by my husband, Mr. Wonderful:
Today is the day in the church year when we remember and celebrate Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. It is always a special Sunday to me, because it marks a beginning to Jesus’ work and ministry. This year it falls during a time when I am preaching a series of messages on stewardship.
I used to think that stewardship was not a particularly spiritual thing. honestly I used to not be a cheerful giver either because I felt like I did not have enough to be able to afford a tithe or because I felt like I worked for it, so I should be able to keep it. But, God has helped me to see that God created me and everything that I have or earn really comes to me from him and he is continuing to help me grow in that knowledge.
So today I preached on Luke 19:12-26 (The Parable of the Pounds) along with Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 about the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Christ. God was building me up for this message and I was praying for him to pour out his Holy Spirit on us and on me all week long, It was a tough week of prep though because Little Sis was home sick every day and then Mrs. Wonderful, Big Sis and Little Sis were all feeling sick on Saturday and Sunday so they decided to stay home instead of attending worship.
When I arrived at the church, Mr. Mike, our sound and video guy was the only one there. God spoke to my spirit and told me to get the baptismal fount ready for use in worship. I wondered why God wanted me to do that, but I went ahead and set it up anyway. Next our church treasurer arrived with her per-schooler to join us for Sunday School opening. Mrs. Wonderful normally leads and teaches our Sunday School program, but this week God provided for me to be able to teach it with our Jesus Storybook Bible and some coloring pages.
There is a woman from our neighborhood that comes around about once every year explaining how she has this trouble in her life, or that relative of her has passed away and she is homeless or has no power at home and no running water, so she wants money for travel, or money for her bills plus something to buy her food and medicine. Today she decided to come by and see us. My heart started to fall as I saw her approaching the church. She is false and she only wants money for her drink and her drugs. She gave me her story, “there was no room for me in the women’s shelters and I am homeless…I am hungry cause I do not have anything to eat…One of my relatives down south died and I need to raise some money to travel down there for services and this time I am going to stay there because there is nothing for me here.” This is just a slight variation from the stories that she has come to the church with twice before. The first time we took up a collection for her and bought food and gas cards for her. The second time I allowed her to ask for hand outs from people that were in attendance at worship. Today, I invited her to stay in worship, told her that I would not take up a collection for her, but I would pray for her and do what God told me to do to assist her.
God helped me to overcome and rattling that my spirit might have felt by leading people to come to Sunday School and worship that have not been with us for months and others that were new guests. Some very dear friends from the church who moved out of state also surprised us by coming to worship with us since they were in town. Suffice it to say, even without some of our regular attenders, especially my wife and children, we had a good turn out for both Sunday School and worship.
In Sunday School, I had help reading and serving the snack to the younger children by one older girl. We shared the same scriptures and story lines that they would see and hear presented in worship. I talked with the children about how sometimes our pets will take things and bury them, I told them that sometimes we are like that, like the servant that took his master’s pound and wrapped it up and put it away for fear of losing it. I told them that each of them have gifts and abilities that God gives them and invites them to share and use to help the people around them. The youngest boy with us in class then got up and began to work at cleaning up his napkin and his place at the table from his crumbs and spills left after snack.
In worship things were fairly routine. The singing of “Shall We Gather at the River” went well and I could here our guest, the woman who came for money, singing out beautifully. The Praise Music went well, even though we did not have the slide presentations in order to share verses with the congregation because the Praise Team sang very familiar songs and hymns.
Then I shared the message. God had called me to share part of my testimony about his gifts to me and his call to me to become a pastor. I explained that I had been like the servant who buried his pound. I felt when I was 13 and 14 that God was calling me to be a pastor, but I buried that feeling. I saw that calling presented to me objectively when I did an aptitude and interest battery as a freshman in highschool, it came up with teacher, clergy or computer programmer as my three top recommended fields. I kept that all buried. I did not want that responsibility. I liked computers, they were predictable. I could program some BASIC code and debug it and get the same desired output each time and I could make money at that.
Flash forward, when I was 29 God called me to be a pastor and I knew it. I could not deny it any longer. God got me ready. God moved me to the United Methodist Church and lead me through many other experiences in my life that prepared me to be a pastor along with the gifts and talents that he had entrusted to me so I finally dug up those treasures and started trading in the marketplace of the mission field and earning more treasure for the Lord God, my Master.
God loves each one of us and gives us gifts and talents and abilities along with everything else that he makes of us and for us. We may be able to preach or teach, or we may have discernment of the needs of others, or we may be prayer warriors. God wants us to trade those treasures in the marketplaces of the world as well. We might have buried them until now, or used them only for our own personal gain, or used them within small, safe comfortable boundaries, but God wants us to really engage them as far and as deep and as wide as God has planned. We have not been comfortable going that far before, but God is ready to help us do it now.
This is not a matter of humility or pride in human abilities or ownership of pet projects because God does it all and without him we have nothing. We may read 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, where Paul is trying to quench a conflict among the church members because they are claiming discipleship of Paul or Apollos, but there is a message there for servants of God. God made Paul with his gifts and abilities to plant the church and he made Apollos to water it and God gave the growth and the harvest.
In the accounts of the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus we learn of two kinds of baptism. The baptism of John was that of repentance, a washing away of old sin and regret and burden and ascent to follow the will of God. The baptism instituted, received and blessed by God through his Son, Jesus is that of the Holy Spirit and new birth for the spirit in connection and relationship with our Creator. When we feel stuck, either because we have buried the treasure that God has entrusted to us, or we have traded only for our own benefit, or only within those safe boundaries. Today receive and accept the invitation of the Holy Spirit to remember your baptism, if you have been baptized by water and the Spirit.
I shared an invitation similar to the one above and almost everyone in attendance came forward to remember and rededicate their baptisms. God was gracious and the Holy Spirit was poured out in words of prayer and prophecy for each one that came forward through me like more water being poured from a vessel. Many were moved and renewed and revived in the Spirit. God is good all the time! All the time God is good for He touched us and made us whole!!