Challenged to Change
Who is our Master?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Take your Bibles and let’s start at I Corinthians 12:12, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.
But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is no irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures al things. Love never ends.” May god enable us to live in that. Amen.
We live so much in ourselves you know, I think we all fight all the time to try to get words to take us out of ourselves. We are so self centered, not in the usual form, “Oh you know, I’m selfish.” But we – our thoughts revolve around ourselves so much and our own little lives. So I’ll attempt to put all as Barth has said. It’s one of his many statements where he sums the whole thing up, “In the beginning before time and space as we know them, before creation, before there was any reality distinct from God which could be the object of the love of God or the setting for his acts of freedom, before all that God anticipated and determined within himself in the power of his love and freedom, of his knowing and willing, that the goal and meaning of all this dealings with us, the goal and meaning of all dealings with the as yet nonexistent universe should be the fact that in his son he would be gracious towards man united himself with him.”
So that’s so big that I’ll do it again especially since I read it so badly. “The objective of the love of god, or the setting for his acts of freedom, God anticipated and determined within himself that the goal and meaning of all his dealings with the as yet nonexistent universe should be the fact that in his son he would be gracious towards man, united himself with him.” So he’s saying that from the very beginning before there was any world or any universe, God determined within himself that he would be gracious to us. That he could be gracious to us. That we would be his friends and that we would be part of him.
“In the beginning it was the choice of the Father himself to establish this covenant with man by giving up his son for them that he himself might become man in the fulfillment of his grace.” That God himself might become man. In other words, when God conceived of all of us he conceived at that same moment that he himself would be one of us. He would still be God but he would be one of us.
“In the beginning it was the choice of the son to be obedient to grace and therefore to offer up himself and to become man in order that this covenant might be made a reality.” And so it was the choice of Jesus in the harmony with his Father’s will that he would become man and that in him all of us would be born. It’s with that background that I think we need now to see the year before us. The year before us is built on the fact that you are a part of Jesus that none of the rest of us is.
And somehow or other we have to grasp that. Somehow or other we have to look into Jesus’ eyes and say, “Lord, I am individually a member of you and you have planned to live a life in me that you have not planned to live in anyone else.” And somehow or other we have to get out of our heads all psychological games that think, “Yeah, that’s a nice way of trying to impress upon me that I’m not a nothing. That I’m not a nobody that God really does love me. It’s a nice little analogy, or it’s a nice little illustration. And I must hold on to that, that somehow God does know me and loves me, and in some funny way Jesus can do something through me that he can’t do through anybody else. Yeah that’s right I play the piano a certain way, or I write a certain way.”
We’ve got to throw all that silliness out of our heads and we’ve got to say, “No.” God means what he says, you yourself are part of Jesus and Jesus has things to do through you this coming year that he has no plans to do through anybody else. I don’t think this is a team effort in that sense, that human sense. I don’t think we’re involved in a team effort, “Oh now, Myron, and Mary, and Dan, you know, they make the jewelry and then we sell the jewelry and Joe is good at making little boxes, and carpentry, and Greg is good at electricity and computers, and Joanne is great – so it’s kind of a team effort.”
It’s not a team effort. It is the Savior Jesus who has things that he has planned to do this coming year and he has planned to do some of them through you, you individually independent of the team. Independent of what I tell you to do, or what Myron tells you, or somebody else tells you to do. Jesus has things that he wants to do, and say, and think. He has attitudes that he wants to express through each one of us here that he cannot do through anybody else. That’s why the year is so exciting, because you’ve to discover what Jesus wants to do through you this year. And that’s the reality of it, you know.
I mean, I agree with you that it may result in what looks like kind of an organization. It may result in a piece of jewelry starting off with Dan on the EDM machine and then going through Mary’s hands, and then coming through Joanne, and Greg, and into our hands. It may, but that’s incidental, that’s all incidental. That’s just the little outward things that Christ does through us, but he
has all kinds of thoughts to think, and attitudes to express, and beauty to show through you that he cannot show and he has no intention of showing, through anyone else.
Somehow, loved ones, we have to allow the Holy Spirit to lift us into that. Because I think we get so preoccupied with this earthly life, and so preoccupied with the things we’re doing that we are missing the wonder, and the reason for your existence here on earth. And I think, because of that, we miss a lot of the beauty that Jesus has not only to show us through each other but especially to show through us to the world. That’s what all this is about.
Somehow or other, you have to get your mind out of the enslavement that it’s in. And you know the enslavement that it’s in, “What does pastor want me to do? What does Greg want me to do? What have I to do today? What must I get done today? Oh, I have all this list of things to get done. I have to call this person, and I have to call,” and we’re just driven people. We’re driven, driven by wonderful things, our responsibility, our duty, our sense of obligation, or even our love for each other but driven by human pressures.
Of course, we have experienced enough of the other to know that the thing about Christ flowing through us is that his load is actually easy, and his burden is light, and we end up achieving all these other things incidentally in a remarkably effortless way. So we have each one experienced a little of that. We know a little of those grapes of Eshcol from that promise land. But that’s God’s will for us, that we would live in continual love with him and we would be in no doubt that the other people know us as Lucy. The other people know us as Dan and the rest of the world knows us as Trish but I know who I am. I am inside Jesus and he is inside me, and this is his life, and he has things to do this Monday morning, and he has thoughts to think this Friday evening that he wants to think and speak through me. And that’s it, loved ones.
That’s the heart of it. That’s the heart of it all and everything else is incidental to that. That’s the heart of everything, that’s why we’re here. You are part of Jesus and you have the Lord of glory inside you. So when we make our covenant today, it isn’t a covenant where we promise to do things for God, or he demands things from us, it is a covenant between our Father and his son Jesus. His son Jesus is completing that covenant through your lips, and through your heart, and through your mind, and it is him reaching up to this Father and putting their arms around each other and we are lucky enough to be part of him and therefore to be in the midst of that embrace.
So that’s what the covenant is today. Not so much us promising to do things, but us embracing our Father in his son Jesus and saying, “We’re together Lord. We go forward together. Thank you that you have committed yourself to us and we are committed to you.”
Let us stand. Maybe you’ll take that brochure in your hands. Now beloved, let us bind ourselves with willing bones to our covenant God and take the yolk of Christ upon us. This taking of his yolk upon us means that we are heartedly content that he appoints us our place and work, and that he alone be our reward. Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honor, others bring approach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests. Others are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.
Yet the power to do all these things is assuredly given us in Christ who strengthens us. Therefore, let us make the covenant of God our own. Let us engage our heart to the Lord and resolve in his strength never to go back. Being thus prepared, let us now in sincere dependence on his grace and
trusting in his promises, yield ourselves anew to him.
Now let us repeat the covenant together, “I am no longer my own but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee. Exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartedly yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, oh glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine and I am thine. So be it and the covenant which I have made on earth let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Let us be seated as we pray.