The Voice of Ministry

Mark 8: 27-38  Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III

Psalm 19           September 13, 2015

“… their voice their goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

Prayer:  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Amen.

[sung] “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.  And, I know that it’s the spirit of the Lord!”  There is a sweet spirit in this place!  Can you feel it?  It’s Spirit Sunday, and the Spirit of God is moving among us!  Welcome back, everyone!

Pastor Fred, welcome back!  You help bring the sweet, sweet Spirit into this place!  Your voice is one we’ve longed to hear once again.  Thank you for your voice in ministry.

CollectiveSpirit, and director Jan Stouffer, welcome back.  It hasn’t been too long since you sang over the summer, but it’s good to hear your voices again anyway.  Thank you for your voice in ministry.  You help bring that sweet, spirit in this place.

Chancel Choir, and interim director Judy Collins, good to see you!  Welcome back!  I’ve said this to some of you already, but let me tell the story again… the first night when Chancel Choir got together to rehearse, I went downstairs to welcome them back.  First thing I noticed—there wasn’t an empty chair in the room!  Thank you for your love and dedication and commitment, for your voice in ministry.  Yes, there’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.

I know many of you got a chance to go downstairs to see the “Many Tables” of ministry showcasing what we hope to do in ministry this year!  If you haven’t gotten downstairs, please do so!  See what’s going on!  All the displays speak a language of joy, words of service, each one expressing their form of ministry in object and symbol, each one giving a person a chance to be a part of that form of ministry, lending your voice to many voices.  Thank you for your voices in ministry.  Do you feel the sweet, sweet spirit in this place?

And speaking of objects and symbols, just look at the beauty of this display gracing our sanctuary.  The symbols brought forth today don’t speak in audible words heard by our ears, but they beautifully declare the glory of God!  Their non-verbal voices in ministry proclaim God’s handiwork as each symbol represents the ministry the Spirit inspires us to do. 
And, the balloons!  These pour out speech by lifting to the sky, like our hearts do as we lift God’s name on high and sing of God’s praises!

All our voices—heard in word and in song, in symbol and in object, in the warmth of welcome and the joy of service—all our voices—go out from here to all the earth, our words, our joy, our message of God to the ends of the world.  Oh Yes!  There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place!  Amen?  Amen!

We are witnesses to this Spirit.  We sound out the voice of ministry right here at Christ Church and beyond!

But as soon as we sound out the voice of ministry, we find we are enmeshed in the many other competing voices that bombard us daily.  Radio ads blare at us in our cars, TV commercials do the same in our homes, elevators sing to us in buildings, and GPS units generate computer “voices” that advise us where and when to turn the corner, or how far away the next turn is.  I’m also convinced, by my very unscientific observations, that 90% of the people at the gym have a set of earphones on… lost in their own world while working out.  And of course, there’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube, and a whole bunch of others, all shout out voices to us that compete for our attention.

While we routinely live with all this noise, we remain highly susceptible to the messages shouted out by these various voices— “follow me.  You need me.  Get rich.  Live longer.  Don’t worry about the next person, look out for you.” Look out for #1!

How does the voice of ministry that that pours forth speech and sings praise to God compete with all that?  Perhaps one ways is to do as Jesus’ disciples had to do: Focus.  They had to zero in on Jesus.  They saw what

he did.  They listened to what he said.  They heard the voice of his ministry through parable and story, through the healing of people and interpreting God’s word.  They had to focus in on Jesus, who he was, and ignored the voices that said he might possibly be John the Baptist returned, or Elijah the prophet come back.  Peter listened to the heart of Jesus and the voice of his ministry and he knew that deep within Jesus was the Messiah.

I think that is what we must do…we must focus. In order to make the voice of ministry that we tout and sing about to be heard in our lives, in our community, and in our world, might we have to zero in on Jesus?  Might we have to deliberately take up the cross of our ministry and follow him?  Walk in his ways?  Reach out to others in his name?  Say “Thy will be done” and really mean it by conforming to the priorities of Jesus’ realm of love and peace and justice?

To do this I think would mean that the voice of Jesus’ ministry, and the voice of his ministry in his disciples, and the voice of his ministry in millions of his followers who have gone before us, Jesus’ voice would not have sounded out in vain, but rather would continue on through us.  The voice of our ministry IS the voice of Jesus’ extended ministry.

Perhaps it is up to us to create a healthy habitat for the voice of Jesus’ ministry, one in which we rely on God’s presence, like we rely on the sun, trusting in its light.  Perhaps it’s up to us to search diligently for the will of God among the many competing voices of contemporary life, discerning God’s precepts that revive our souls and enlighten our eyes, listening to the Christ, God’s Messiah. Focus.

Perhaps it’s up to us to shout out Christ’s voice of ministry on this Spirit Sunday today, calling out to the lame and the healthy, the insolent and the respectful, the gay and the straight, the black and the white, the young and the old, the poor and the wealthy, saying, “Come!  Come feel the sweet, sweet spirit in this place!”

Perhaps our voice of ministry sings a song today that says we are dedicated to the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ, a ministry of extravagant hospitality, a ministry of ongoing commitment and covenant that is steeped in the good news that Christ came for the world.

People of God, friends in Christ, I proclaim on this Spirit Sunday, that this “One Table,” filled with the elements of Holy Communion, inaudible to our ears, pours forth speech in Christ’s voice that goes out to all of us and to the end of the world.  It’s a voice that says we will be nourished at the “One Table” by God’s truth, that our thirst for forgiveness and grace will be quenched, that we will indeed be fed, refreshed, forgiven, empowered, and sent on our way rejoicing.

Come friends, come to the One Table.  Come to the place where the life-giving presence of God is more desired than gold, sweeter than honey.  Come to the table that is open and wide, the place where God gathers us in.  Come, not because you must, but because you may.  Not because you have been good or not so good, but because you are loved.  Come.  The One Table, Christ’s table is open and wide… for you.  Let this voice of ministry resound again and again. Come. Take in the sweet, sweet spirit in this place.

Let us pray… O holy God, we bring our hearts, our ministry, our church, our joy at being your servant to you.  Consecrate us, your church, your servants, your One Table, your bread, your juice all in your holy name, we humbly pray.  Amen.