Sermon

 

 

A Preaching Series on

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Week 4 of 16 – Hospitality, Martyrdom, Pastor & Deliverance – including slides #15—22

 

Gen. 18:1-15, 21:1-7; Psalm 116:1, 10-17; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8

 

God has a plan for my life.  Certainly finding out what gifts God has for us is trying to understand his plan for our lives.  And that is also the overriding theme in today’s readings.  God has a plan for my life.  God is love, and in the loving purposes of God, there is a “plan”—to love us now, so that God might love us for all eternity.   But the idea that God has a plan brings up a lot of questions, and many of you have asked them:  if God has plan for my life, what difference does it make what I do?   Why not just get everything I can out of this life, because if God is love, He will save me in the end, no matter what I do.  The fact that he loves me, is the bottom line, isn’t it?    Well, yes, it is, and he will love me—and you—no matter what we do.  But while a holy God indeed loves us enough to make a plan for our lives, we have the free will to accept or reject His plan.  That’s how much he loves us.  Because He has perfect love, he allows us to choose. He has to.  An all-holy, all-perfect God cannot distribute grace and forgiveness like a Pez dispenser unless the recipient of his grace understands the cost.  Salvation isn’t cheap; it cost Jesus His life. 

 

So we’re back today learning about those gifts that God has available to us to work out His plan for life. (SLIDE 16)

 

  Gifts of the Spirit 

             Administration          Apostleship            Celibacy                      Craftsman

             Deliverance             Discernment          Encourager                  Evangelist

Faith                          Generosity            Healing                        Helps           

Hospitality                  Intercessor            Interpreting tongues     Interpreting Dreams

Knowledge                 Leadership            Martyrdom                   Mercy

Miracles                     Missionary          Pastor                           Poverty (voluntary)

Prophecy                    Public Speaking     Service                        Speaking in tongues

Teaching                    Wisdom                 Worship

 

To date we have looked at Faith, Generosity and Worship.  Today we’re going to look at four more gifts:  Hospitality, Martyrdom, Pastor and Deliverance.  If you remember I told you last week that I was going to try to look at the readings, then try and make a connection with the gifts.  Having looked through the readings for the entire summer, it’s going to be a stretch!  But as I also said last week, it’s more important that you get the opportunity to hear about the gifts that are available than for me to always make a connection with the readings.

 

So the first gift we’re going to look at today is Hospitality (SLIDE #17).

 

HOSPITALITY

Philoxenos

Greek for “love for strangers”

Opening your home to others,

creating an environment of

warmth, safety and acceptance

The ability to make a stranger feel welcome in any setting

 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Dead fish and visitors both stink after three days.”  So it’s safe to say that he didn’t think much of the gift of hospitality!   The Greek word the apostle Peter used for this gift literally means, “love for strangers.”  It’s opening your home to others, creating an environment of warmth, safety and acceptance.  It’s truly a gift to make a stranger feel welcome in any setting.  I like to think that St. Francis is one of those places, and from what I see, many of you definitely have the gift of hospitality, and we hear about that gift in today’s reading from Genesis.  Abraham is minding his own business outside of his tent and there appears before him three men—out of nowhere, no warning, there they are!  And what does Abraham do?  He offers to feed them, to let them rest awhile before they continue their journey.  He rushes into the tent, tells Sarah they have guests, and the hospitality begins. 

 

So what are some of the characteristics of this gift?  (SLIDE #18).  

 

THREE Characteristics of Hospitality

You have a special ability to make others feel welcome

You enjoy entertaining and ministering to others in your home

You are comfortable with strangers

 

This gift specifically involves the desire to make another person feel welcome, feel “at home”, whether it is in your own home or in another setting where an honest welcome is needed.  A person with the gift of hospitality will open their home to others.  This person knows how to create a warm, accepting environment in which ministry can blossom, even with strangers.  There are several among you who have offered your homes to guest preachers or even to me when I have had to stay in town late.  These persons feel that they are blessed with such a home, some close to the church, and they graciously choose to share it through the gift of hospitality.   If your home is a ministry platform, if you desire to connect with people, to see them refreshed and restored, if you can’t wait to welcome the stranger into our midst on Sunday morning, you may have the gift of hospitality.

 

Even though the rest of the story of the three strangers has nothing to do with hospitality, I can’t just leave it unmentioned.  It could go under the heading of “Miracle,” but that gift will be for another day!  The strangers tell Abraham that he is going to be a father.  Sarah is listening in the tent, and she laughs!  I would too!  They are both almost 100 years old.  So the birth that eventually did happen could certainly qualify as a miracle, but it’s yet another example of God’s sense of humor and how he works out his plan in every way possible!

 

The next gift is one that we will not actively seek, but even today, many do indeed experience.  The gift is Martyrdom. (SLIDE #19).

MARTYRDOM

The unique, God-given ability to endure

suffering and persecution for the cause of Christ

and yet maintain a spirit of joy and thankfulness

for the opportunity to witness

 

…the ability to endure suffering and persecution for the cause of Christ while clinging to a spirit of joy and thankfulness.

 

It used to be that when we read about Christian martyrs, only Roman emperors like Nero or Diocletian would come up.  They made sport of killing Christians in the coliseums…like  eighty-three year old Polycarp who was burned at the stake in the year 156 for refusing to curse Jesus.  An eye-witness even wrote down what he saw and heard as the flames rose up around Polycarp.  This was his prayer:

“Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of upright who live in your presence, I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ… Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice… For all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through … Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come.  Amen.”

 

In the year 202, Perpetua and her Companions refused to deny their Christianity and they were thrown into the arena to be mangled by a leopard, a boar, a bear, and a savage cow.  And Perpetua even aided her killers.  When the animals didn’t complete the task, and when a soldier’s attempt at stabbing her didn’t work, she guided his hand to finish the job.  And the church has numerous records of so many others who were martyred for their belief in Jesus.   But the truth is that more Christians have been killed for their faith in the current and last century than in all previous centuries combined.  In his book Spiritual Gifts, Bryan Carraway writes:  “It is as if the spirit of the anti-Christ and the forces of darkness grow more desperately wicked as they sense the coming of the Lord drawing ever closer.  Satan’s last-days strategy has been to stir up in groups and nations a hatred of Christ and His people on a scale that is almost unimaginable.”    When I hear of groups proclaiming that we are no longer a Christian nation, that “under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, that prayer isn’t welcome in our schools, I think about the evil powers in today’s world, and I wonder how long God will put up with it before He comes again.  

 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he talks about boasting in our suffering because he knows that suffering produces endurance, character, hope, and the knowledge that the love of God and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit will be poured into our hearts.  Thinking about the recent atrocities in London and even in our own country, truer words were never spoken.

 

Now moving on to another gift, when I read the Gospel for today, I thought of two gifts.  The first is that of being a Pastor.  (SLIDE #20)

 

PASTOR

This gift is that special ability that God gives

to certain members of the Body of Christ to assume a

long-term personal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of

a group of believers with Jesus, the Good Shepherd

as the model.

 

God gives certain people the ability to “shepherd” a group of believers and a pastor usually has a long-term personal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of this group of believers.  In today’s Gospel Jesus sees the multitude of people who are like “sheep without a shepherd,” and he commissions his apostles to take care of them, to bring them into the fold.  If I had done a study of the Gifts of the Spirit in my twenties, the gift of being a Pastor would not have been my choice.  Yet, many years later, here I am.  But looking at all those years, it’s a perfect example of how God prepares us for whatever gift he wants us to have.  When God nudges, and we ignore, he is not moved to change course.  It took over fourteen years from that first nudge of this gift of Pastor to my ordination and more hoops than you can imagine.  I bring this up in case the Lord is nudging you toward any particular gift, and you are running away from that gift.  God can’t make you open your hands to receive what he has for you.  You have to be willing to trust that he knows what he’s doing.   For those of you who have done the Alpha program, remember the photo of Jesus at the Door?   He’s holding a lantern and he’s ready to come into the dwelling, but there is one problem:  there is NO DOOR KNOB on the outside of the door.  The person inside the dwelling must open the door in order for Jesus to come in.   So take that into consideration as you try and determine what gifts God has for you.   

 

The last gift we’re going to look at today is the gift of Deliverance.  (SLIDE #21) 

 

DELIVERANCE

ekballosien

(to throw out or to drive out)

A God-given ability to perceive and confront

demonic forces and to bring freedom to those

trapped in demonic bondage

 

This is a special gift that is given to only a few, but it’s one we hear about in Scripture.  In the Gospel today Jesus gives his apostles “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out…”  This gift is more commonly known as exorcism.  And while the movies have shown us some pretty wild things attributed to the devil, Scripture too gives us examples of demon-possession.   In the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services (p.170), there is a rubric called “Concerning Exorcism.”   The gift of deliverance takes evil seriously and understands that it can actually take the form of a person.   And if you really think about it, it’s not that difficult to understand.  Look at the emperors we just talked about, and in more modern times, look at Isis.  Certainly they are evil personified!   And there are many gospel accounts where we hear of Jesus casting out demons.  Now whether Jesus dealt with situations that today we might identify as schizophrenia or whether they were actual creatures, Christians can hardly ignore the reality of evil forces in the world:  violence, warfare, even our own self-righteousness can be evil.  The confession we say on Ash Wednesday uses very strong language regarding the world’s evil:  “We confess to you, Lord, … our self-indulgent appetites… our exploitation of other people…our indifference to suffering and cruelty… (BCP, p.268)   To describe those sins we might use words like “wrong-doing,” “unkindness,” but  in many cases the correct word is “evil.” 

Have you ever heard the expression “spiritual warfare?”   The Bible does indeed teach that there is a real devil and that there are real demons under his control and it’s critical that we believe that. We must be aware of the devil and on guard at all times.  But don’t go in the opposite direction, thinking that there is a demon around every corner.   While bad things can be attributed to evil in the world, calling all situations demon-possessed, is another story.  Typically the gift of deliverance is found in very few and there is always a serious learning curve as well as prayerful backing.   So if the gift of deliverance doesn’t make much sense to you, don’t be concerned.   It’s given to precious few and at least now, you’ve heard about it.

So we’ve added four more gifts to our study (SLIDE #22).  

 

Hospitality?   Martyrdom?

Pastor?    Deliverance?

Lord, what do you have for me?

Where can you use me?

And how can I serve you better?

 

May you continue to be blessed by what the Lord has to give you,  and may you be open to receive it.  Lord, how can I serve you better?