Rev. Merv Lanctot
St. Andrews on the Red     St. Matthews
Email: pastor@standrewsonthered.ca
Cell: (204) 880-7727

 Merv’s Musing                                            

This weeks Musings is the sermon that was taped for St Aidan’s Anglican Church, Winnipeg, Church Service for Sunday, May 17, 2020.

Romans 12:6-8

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

One of the great men of Christendom is Brother Lawrence. A monk in the 1600’s who wrote a little devotional called Practicing the Presence of God.  He joined a monastery when he was in his 50’s. His sole responsibility was  dishwasher and in time became  a cook in the community. People came from all over France seeking his knowledge and guidance in seeking  God’s presence.

If you have the gift of serving, you have the Spirit-given capacity and desire to serve God by giving practical help in both physical and spiritual matters. You are the person who meets the practical needs of the people around you and within the church.

Lawrence, through the most ordinary of activities, was able to achieve a profound intimacy with God. At any moment and in any circumstance, he taught, we can “practice the presence of God”—by thinking on Him, loving Him, and offering up our daily tasks as acts of worship.

Brother Lawrence reminds me of Joshua’s remarkable summons to the Eastern tribes of Israel. You may reminder the scene from the book of Joshua …..as the people of God are getting set to enter into the promised land that Moses had shown to them: Joshua  says to the people: Remember…. 

Love the Lord your God, walk in all his ways, obey his commands, hold firmly to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul.  (Joshua 22:5)

Serve Him with all your heart and all your soul. Paul reinforces that in his letter to the Church in Rome…..

“If your gift is serving others, serve them well.”  

Only the Holy Spirit can bring about that kind of life! That kind of intimacy with Our Lord. It is this special gift given by God in acts of service. 

Every Christian has been uniquely gifted for service. It maybe administrative gifts, serving gifts, mercy gifts or the gift of helps to name a few.

If we think about it for any amount of time… we all know a person who has the gift of serving.

I know it has been a long time since we met together in person on Sunday morning. But think back to the last time we met. All the activities that took place to make the worship service happen. Greeters, worship leaders, overheads, readers, speakers, Sunday School teachers, counters… 

Gifts of service given to God’s Glory. Through these acts of worship ……God’s presence was felt.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, We are empowered to serve with a willing heart. We are given the wisdom, knowledge, and discernment to Love the Lord our God, walk in all his ways, obey his commands, hold firmly to him, and serve him with all our heart and all our soul.

Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) was a woman in the Bible whom God used as an example of the Server (Acts 9:36-42). She used her talent of sewing in the gift of Serving. She was faithful in helping the widows of the church where she served, and she exercised her gift under the lordship of Christ. Just before Simon Peter arrived for a preaching engagement, Tabitha died. The widows showed Peter the dresses that she had made them. Without her help, they would have had nothing to wear. Peter was so touched by the scene that he raised Tabitha from the dead.

The Gifts of service

  1. Gift of Administration – Romans 12:8 calls this gift leading. While in    1 Corinthians 12:28 calls it administration. There are many things in the Church that require preparation or oversight. Financial and secretarial tasks cannot be left undone. St Aidan’s is blessed with numerous staff and volunteers who look after and manage the administration of the church. During this pandemic we appreciate more and more the work they do to keep us up and running and keep us in contact with one another. From Pastor Dave, to the office staff, wardens , vestry. These folks have the gift of leading or administering the day to day activities of St. Aidans

2. Serving/ Ministering – Romans 12:7 and 1 Peter 4:11 both refer to ministry. The word minister is diakono” and means, a servant, a minister, a helper, a deacon. Acts chapter 6: describes the ministry of the first deacons. 

The apostles found themselves over committed, over worked and the widows and children were going hungry… something had to be done. and so they decided to appoint deacons to help with the ministry that was in desperate need of help. Rev Margaret is a deacon here at St. Aidans!

When I was first ordained, Bishop Read was the honorary assistant at the Cathedral in Kingston Ontario. He would often say: Yes I was ordained Bishop, Yes I was ordained Priest but I never left my first calling as that of Deacon. His life was a life of service.

But of coarse the gift of serving, a gift given by the Holy Spirit, is not just for the ordained. We hear of Phoebe in  Romans 16:1-2

I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.”

In my early years of ministry, my wife Susan had a picture given to her of ministry. Last week Pastor Dave spoke of us having such pictures that build up the church!

It was a picture of the Priest sitting on a large table with balls rolling  all around him. some small, some large. different sizes, different colours. and as the table begins to move some of the balls begin to fall off the edge. Trying as he might, he couldn’t contain all the balls and thus they begin falling off one by one.

But as different people came beside him and sat on the table with him,  all of a sudden the balls were all contained on the table and nothing fell off. 

I have found there have been times in my ministry when I was the Rector of a small congregation. I could keep the balls on the table in order.. I could open the church, set up communion tables, write the newsletter, set up tables for meetings look after the sound system, visit the sick. I was able to do pretty well all of it. Not singing of coarse!!! Not the finances!! well, not the building stuff either!!! The church would not grow but I could handle all or at least most of the duties. Of coarse I rejoiced ever so loudly when folks gave of their time and talents to help in building the church. It didn’t take long before I realized I needed lots of help from the congregation.

However, once we get to be a church the size of St Aidans. There is no possible way Pastor Dave and Elaine can look after everything with in the church. Not enough hours in the day. Pastor Dave as great as he is, can not do all the administration, lead the worship, play the piano, teach Sunday school, control the sound board, set up tables for meetings, look after the website, visit all the shut-ins, lead the youth group,  lead house groups, . you get my point…. for the list goes on and on.

Pauls writes that there are many parts to the body.  we all have a part to do. we look for the talents and gifts people have to be able to be the Church Jesus has called us to be .

My home church where Susan and I were married, where our children were baptized and where I came to faith,  was a small Anglican Church in southern Ontario. It was part of a three point parish and it relied on everyone doing their part to survive. In recent years If they don’t  make and sell dozens pies every month the church doors would close for good.

At any rate, over the years  they would hold all kinds of fund raisers to keep the doors open. Mrs Unsworth was at all of the events. From Bible studies to Pancake suppers. She was a wonderful woman of faith. She was so well respected she could have held any position in the church she wanted. But her role was that of helper. She was always at the kitchen sink doing up the dishes. 

She could always be found in the kitchen, cleaning up. behind the scenes. and yet as I look back she was the Christian witness who gave me tremendous insight into what Christian service looked like.

People with this gift of service enjoy manual projects. They are happy working behind the scenes.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit the gifts that have been spoken of over the last weeks are available for us to claim as we minister in the name of Jesus Christ. Especially wisdom knowledge and discernment. 

The Holy Spirit gives us gifts as he sees fit to empower the church to be the church. What we might think as mundane tasks become a spiritual and physical blessing to others and to our selves. 

Servers are not people who believe that since they can do nothing else in the church, they must have the gift of Serving. That attitude would belittle the gift and would be an insult to the person who has the gift of Serving. There are no menial tasks in God’s work. It is possible that more people have this gift than any other. Servers paint the walls, pick up the trash, sort the hymnals, clean the church, keep the nursery, bake the cakes, cook the meals, paint the signs, and a million and one other necessary tasks in the church. They can always be found late in the evening doing some seemingly small job like fixing the public address system . They usually do not realize that their love for the Lord shows every time the doors of the church are open,.

3. Helps – Helps, is mentioned once in 1 Corinthians 12:28: Basically it means to aid, to help, to do helpful deeds. I am sure that usually when this gift is used people don’t even know it. We just notice that everything runs smoothly because of these helpers behind the scenes.

My friend Jim has the gift of helps. Each time he comes to Winnipeg, I ask so what is new with St. Peter, St Paul Church in Ottawa.

He would begin to list the things he is doing: removing front doors of the church so they open easier, fixing the old boiler, going to elderly parishioners and fixing the broken plumbing. volunteering at a local mens shelter where at Christmas he would carve 100 turkeys. visit with the homeless that come to the church drop-in centre. Jim has the gift of service and helps.

 I bet you can think of people right here at St. Aidans who are like that!

4. Giving – Only Romans 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:3 refer to this gift. Paul says those who have this gift should use it freely. Barnabas and others in the Early Church exercised this gift. People with this gift provide for the needs in the Church. They support missions and evangelism. God blesses them materially so that they can give. Because they are faithful stewards.

5. Romans 12:8 refers to the gift of mercy. The gift of mercy involves showing care for the needy. This includes visiting the sick, caring for the disabled, and providing for the poor. what wonderful gift of service.

We have numerous people in these ministries in our midst. 

In a New England village a home and barn burned down. Some furniture was saved and 4 cows, but not much else. The victims needed almost everything. A neighbour drove up to look at the smoldering ruins and to poke around. Shaking his head as though in disbelief and clearing his throat, he told his long-time neighbor, “If there’s anything I can do, just say the word.” 

Other neighbours came too, but instead of asking what they could do, they went back home and returned with help: a motor home, beds, mattresses, potatoes, vegetables, cooking pots, clothes, hay for the cows, a heifer to start up the man’s herd again, and a back-hoe to clean up from the fire. Those with the gift of serving will adhere to the age old adage:

“Just do something.”  

Those with the gift of serving will have God place upon their heart a desire to serve! to Act! To Love! To show compassion!

Ask God? May He give you the wisdom, knowledge or discernment as to where and how you might serve Him? What time, talents and treasure do you possess  ………      that you might offer to God.

Amen

In Christ:

Rev Merv Lanctot

Faith grows in the soil of hope