The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon ~ St. Mary’s Church, Cathedral Road, Philadelphia
27 August 2017
It is well-worth your time to study the book of Romans. There is incredible wisdom and truth contained within this epistle by Paul to the Romans. Today’s portion of this letter is no different. Essential to this book is the deep and abiding sense that all that we are, and all that we have is from God. When Paul asserts that his hearers should “present your bodies as a living sacrifice,” he is affirming the deep reality that our bodies, minds, and spirits are all from God. When we offer sacrifice, we are offering a bit of what we have already been given back to God.
As we pray in the Rite I offering a bit of what we have received. “All things come of thee O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” We can cling to our selves, cling to our patterns, cling to our possessions and pathways, but it is deeply important to go into a prayer of gratitude so that we might recognize our own giftedness. When we abide this truth, we come to the discerning sense about what is important, and what is merely the “small stuff.” “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Even here, even in church, we can spend too much time on the particulars, and forget that the love of God is what is truly important. Love God, Love Your Neighbor. (the rest are merely details).
Here the listeners of Paul’s letter to the Romans are no longer “conformed to the world, but are transformed to the renewing of your minds.” Rather than merely cling to the world, to the practices of the worldly expectations, rather than becoming fastened to the limiting works of the world, here, Paul affirms that his listeners then will be TRANSFORMED - to the renewing of our minds and hearts. No longer merely conformed to the laws of the world, but rather TRANSFORMED by the law of love.
And, so this should also build humility, that we are pulled into a deep awareness that we don’t know the whole truth. We do not have the ability to do it all ourselves. We do not have pure thinking, and we do not have pure knowledge. We can be tempted to feel that our way is better, that we may actually have a corner on the Truth, that we can assert statements like “My way or the highway.” Doing a sober assessment of our gifts and particularities we get a clearer sense that while our own gifts are essential, that the entire Body of Christ the entire community needs a multiplicity of gifts. There are truly many gifts but the same Spirit. The many gifts of the Spirit are needed, and Paul has named a few of them...prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
However, let us be clear, the gifts of the spirit do not include toxicity, selfish criticism, griping, complaining, and negativity. Were these a part of the gifts mentioned by Paul. No. Just because there are many gifts, it does not mean that every single behavior are blessed. No. When we spend time to do an accurate and sober scan of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we begin the process toward true transformation. Through the work of the Spirit, it is our gifts that are affirmed, it is our gifts, motivated by love, that are affirmed. Setting aside the “works of the crud” - and affirming the “works of the spirit - of the Loving spirit of God” is what we each must do as persons in relationship. When each our our Spirit-fed gifts are named, affirmed, and fed, then the entire Body of Christ is powered by Love.
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Pray ~ Read ~ Reflect
First, I ask that you each include St. Mary’s, our entire church community, and the community surrounding St. Mary’s in your daily prayers. Whatever we do that is good and abiding will be grounded in prayer. Please pray for each of us and for our neighbors.
Second, I ask you to consider joining our Bishop, Daniel Gutierrez, as he has encouraged the Diocese of Pennsylvania to join the “Bible Challenge” by reading a portion of the Bible Daily, which will lead us to complete the entire Bible in one year. I realize this may not be possible for all of us, but I wonder if we could commit to reading even a small portion of the Bible daily? Please consider it.
Thirdly, I ask that you read and reflect upon the Mission of St. Mary’s Church at least weekly. I love this mission statement, and think it is a helpful vision for us.
"St. Mary's Church is a fellowship of Christians called by God to worship,
to witness God's love and concern for all persons,
and to serve our brothers and sisters under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."