Sermon:         Giving it Away Scripture:       1 Peter 4:7-11 Preacher:       Rev. Michael Bodger Location:        First Presbyterian, DeLand Date:               March 11, 2018   So this week we enter into Week 3 of Living the Five and we take a look at what it means that Saved People Serve People. Last week we were given 7 practical action steps, which would in essence feed the Spirit within us, so that we can bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. One of those Action Steps was that we are to go about serving others enthusiastically. Christ came not to be served, but to serve and Christ sends us out as the Father sent Him and so implicitly we as Christ Followers are to serve others. Sometimes that is easier said than done, sometimes it’s hard to see what that might look like, sometimes we get in the way with our own desires or understandings of what serving others actually means. Our scripture reading today comes from First Peter Chapter 4 and it completes a section in Peter’s letter that began back in Chapter 3:8. Peter, just like Paul does in many of his letters, is extolling the Christ Followers to live lives that are full of faith which translate into lives that are communally and mutually encouraging and uplifting. Peter writes to the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia – modern day Western Turkey with instructions on how to live faithful lives and how that manifests itself into daily routines, habits and encounters that they have with one another and others around them. The call to serving others – it’s not something new to us, but is something that we need to focus on in our walk with the Lord. Why, because serving others, is one of the ways in which our faith grows and stretches.   So open up your bibles today at 1 Peter as we read from Chapter 4:7-11 and listen to what the Spirit is telling the church this day.   1 Peter 4:7-11 7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever  speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.   This particular passage is very densely packed in how Peter is extolling the church to live faithful lives, which does have implications on our daily practices and mindset of approaching life. One such mindset Peter says comes in the fact that we are to serve others. We could spend a few weeks unpacking this text and yet our focus today is Saved People Serve People, so the focus is going to be on those elements that relate specifically to serving. Peter starts out our text by putting an urgency into our actions. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.   In other words, and it isn’t as if we haven’t heard this before either, time is short, you don’t know how long you have got, so get busy living life in the manner that reflects a faithful life. It takes a lifestyle, a mindset, be serious about it Peter says. Be serious it has the understanding of thinking wisely in the midst of the ways of life. The word for disciplined has its root in ‘be sober.’ Be wise and sober in thought about what living life means and do not go to the excesses of the world, to not follow the works of the flesh as we heard about last week. Why, well for one reason, for the sake of our prayers. What is one of the things that we do in prayer? We generally want everything to be alright for those who we lift up, it’s human nature. We don’t like to see people suffering, we don’t like to see people grieving. Our prayers in our understanding and our desires are that things in the here and now, would go smoothly and yet that is not what always happens and God works on an eternal timeline, which doesn’t always fit ours. It’s difficult to understand just what is meant by be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers, but the suggestion is about bringing wisdom and not so much earthly expectations to our prayers – after all every week we pray in the Lord’s Prayer ‘thy will be done’ – do we mean it, even if it means that it might not line up with what we want?   Likewise, Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Did we all hear that – without complaining. It should be no surprise that as we engage with one another, that above all, love has to be present. It‘s the agape love that is lifted up, just as it is lifted up in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s a love that takes effort – maintain constant agape love. It is made possible only by working at it, so that we can love those we might not see eye to eye with. Love those we would ordinarily avoid. Love those we might consider un-loveable especially if they are Christ Followers alongside us. As we work out what we believe God is asking us to do, we are going to upset and frustrate each other, even annoy each other – but agape love wins out and covers a multitude of sins. Then Peter says, be hospitable to one another without complaining. Really, do we have to? Peter is saying, be generous to guests and in doing so do not act begrudgingly. No muttering under your breath, no harboring ill thoughts – simply be generous, be hospitable. I’ve mentioned this before, but it has always been something I have done, which is to open the door for others, keeping the door open to make it easier for other people. It always put a smile on my face, until I got to the point that I expected a response from others. I began to expect a response like a thank you or some other type of acknowledgement, and when I didn’t get one, I would mutter and did so, not so much under my breath, but so the person could hear, and I would loudly say “You’re welcome.” My actions became more about the response and me feeling good, than it did about simply opening the door for others. More about the recognition, than the action or about the other person! Peter tells us, tells me – you have succumbed to the desire for earthly rewards, instant recognition, instead Be hospitable to one another without complaining. So now bearing all that in mind – thinking wisely, acting soberly, that is with discipline, living out agape love, acting hospitably without complaining – then Peter says, Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.   We are vessels of God’s grace because we have received it freely and accepted it and Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, we are to give it away. Serving others. Does it sound like a broken old record? That as Christ Followers we are exhorted to serve others? There is no question raised as to whether or not each of us has received a gift. That is simply a given. Each and everyone of us has been given a gift and we are to use that gift in serving one another. Saved People – Peter is talking to those within the church, those who are Christ Followers. Peter is talking to you and me and alongside Jesus, Paul, James, Matthew, Mark Luke and John and the others is saying, as those who have accepted Jesus Christ –you and I need to be serving other people. Because when we serve people, we are Giving it Away. We are giving away the grace of God that we have freely received. If we don’t serve others, we keep it to ourselves and that was never the intention.   So, what gets in the way of us serving others? Is it Time? Motivation? We might question ourselves and not recognize the gift we have received. If we don’t know our gift, we get hesitant, we question our ability, we wonder if we know what we are doing? Are we doing the right thing? Are we in the right place? With not knowing, then we convince ourselves and wonder how can we serve one another and so we don’t, we don’t get involved and an intricate part of the puzzle of who we are, gets lost along the way. Our text says, think wisely, be deliberate – if we wonder about our gifts and we are supposed to be serving one another, then it is beholding upon us to find out what those gifts are. The reality is that everyone can do something – there are no barriers in place that prevent us from doing something. Lots of factors can of course get in the way, life’s circumstances, our age, our wellness and state of being. We simply might not be in a position to serve. Sometimes it’s just a question of what can be found to do and that will make us realize it either is or isn’t for us – then we can carry on or try something else. Often others can see the gift we have better than ourselves and so we need to listen. Sometimes it’s following what it is we enjoy and are fed by, even if that seems to be completely out of the ordinary for us in what we are currently doing. Then there are ways to determine your gifts. If you haven’t taken one of our gift profiles, then contact the church office and get one – you might be pleasantly surprised or even find a different path. Serving can find any avenue. You see praying for someone can have as a profound impact on them, as someone going down to Nicaragua on a Mission Trip. Putting a Manna Bag together so someone can give it away to a person in need may change someone’s life. Writing letters and sending packages to service personnel can impact families as we heard a few weeks ago. Simply calling someone who you have heard is not doing so well or about to have a surgical procedure can lift that person’s spirit. The ways to serve are innumerable and we don’t know how God will use any of our acts of service.   Our motivation in serving, is not only to imitate Christ who came to serve and not be served. It also extends to who we are serving. We are to serve one another and that is not as straightforward as it might seem! The book of Hebrews has a passage in it that says, Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. As was mentioned in Week 1, when we discussed that “We Can’t Do Life Alone,” when we gather together it is Bonhoeffer says, the Christ in us interacting with the Christ in the other. We don’t always get to choose who we might serve and that shouldn’t matter in the slightest. Sometimes we inhibit our own service, when we want to choose who it is we serve. The truth of the matter is brought out in Matthew 25:40 Jesus is telling those around him about their actions or inaction to the hungry, the thirsty, to strangers, the naked, the sick, those in prison and Jesus says ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ In serving others, we serve Christ and we should serve Christ with joy regardless of the human form in front of us? We trip ourselves up when we can’t get past the human form presented to us? What do we see is our motivation? [1]In Our Daily Bread in 1996, this devotion appeared. When I walked into the gift shop, I was greeted with a cheery “Good afternoon!” The young salesperson chattered brightly as she pointed out the shop’s unique products, shared my observations about the weather, helped me choose a gift, and neatly wrapped my purchase. “You must really enjoy what you’re doing,” I said. “Actually, I hate it,” she replied. “I’m only doing this because I have to. I can’t wait till 6 o’clock comes so I can join my friends on the beach!” The young woman had given the impression that she enjoyed her work. In reality, however, she was merely putting in time. Could we be accused of doing likewise? Do we greet people with a smile and pretend that we are serving God enthusiastically, even though there is no joy in our hearts? Our text continues and now it gets a little scary. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God;   Not when we are just in church, but everywhere? Maybe if we thought in that way, there would be much less said and what was said would be encouraging and uplifting and what’s more, everything that was said, would be said in love. This one verse is worthy of a sermon all on its own and we should be mindful of its implications. As we interact and speak with others, are we speaking the very words of God. Oh my!   Our text continues, whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies and what’s more, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.   How many times do we serve or not serve because we rely on our own strength? How many times do we question ourselves and our abilities to the point that we decide it is not worth our time or effort to serve in some capacity or other, because we can’t see ourselves doing a good job. An act of serving can be for a lifetime or a mere few seconds and we are not to wonder what the results might be, we are to leave that up to God who will be glorified. If we don’t step forward however, then nothing happens – no serving, no God being glorified – for they go hand in hand.   We do the best we can with what we have and we give what we have and we let God multiply it all. We are to let God determine what the outcome of our serving actions are! Ultimately, God gives the gifts, God gives the words, God gives the strength – so is it not right that the glory be God’s also.   In serving others, we imitate Christ, in serving others we literally serve Christ in those we are serving.   If this then, is what it means to serve, then with all the examples of serving that are around the world, the very best examples should be found within the church. Are they, are the very best examples found within our church?   Brothers and sisters, Serving comes in all forms and sizes, everyone can serve in some manner or another, in some capacity, everyone can do something. When we do, we find that serving is a blessing, not only to those who are being served, but those who are doing the serving, it grows our faith and we do it for no other reason other than,   so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. And all of God’s people said. Amen.       Bibliography   The New Interpreter’s Bible. Complete Twelve Volume Disk. Abingdon Press. 2002   Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2018 Michael D. Bodger. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved. [1] https://odb.org/1996/05/28/serve-joyfully/