This is a transcript from the January 26, 2020 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.
The last several weeks, in the month of January, I've been holding up this idea of a toolkit for 2021. It's not a typo, it's supposed to say "2021." There are changes that we make, and some of them are small, and we can make those. Then there's the big changes that we want to make and those take some time. The premise of this is to imagine what it is you want to be able to say about yourself, what kind of changes would we like to say about who we are a year from now? What are the things we need to be doing right now, so that those changes can begin to take place?
I've talked about five different types of tools as part of the way of New Hope that these are the strengths and to be able to say, I want you to imagine and would this not make a difference in your life in the lives of others, if these tools were prevalent in your life if they were available, if they were being well used, if you could know and be able to say, "This is why I'm here. Here's my purpose. I know why I wake up in the morning. I know why I'm in this time and place." Would it not also be something that would bring transformation if you had a group of people who were committed to you and to your growth and you were committed to them?
If you knew your profile, that unique mix that makes you, you, if you had a place where that could be expressed where it makes a difference in this world, and if in fact, you also had the practices to sustain all that. So it isn't just by jerks and spurts and back and forth, but there was something that could sustain all that, would that not make a difference? Would that not make a difference in your life? Would that not bring a deeper kind of a change in you, and in those around you? If we have a group of people doing that, would that not make a difference in this congregation, perhaps the world?
This morning, I want to focus on one that, I can't think of one that your life would benefit more than this one. That if you really want to make a change, if you really want to understand those kinds of changes that you're looking for, that we all look for, this idea of your profile. Your profile is that unique blend of gifts and talents, passions and experiences that makes you, you. It is, in a sense, your fingerprint, your DNA that is unique to you, That you bring to the party. There is nobody else in the world who has exactly the same kind of talents and skills with the same kind of experiences and passions. There's nobody in this time and place, and there is something that is unique that you bring.
If you could identify that and if you knew what that was, if you could claim that for yourself, and if you could work out of that place, would that not make a difference? The passage this morning is a passage that's talking about profile. It's one of the many passages, it's a common theme throughout the New Testament particularly Paul does it in the Corinthians, he does it here in Ephesians and he does it in different ways, but as you listen to it in this passage, listen for the different roles, different gifts, the interrelatedness, the interdependencies that are there, the connections and how it is working all together.
There's a certain synergy that happens when all those gifts and all those talents and all those roles and all that experience begins to work together and pull in the same direction. It's printed in your bulletin. I would invite you either to read along there, or maybe just close your eyes and imagine what that is and listen for this. "The gifts that he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry. For building up the body of Christ until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ."
"We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, and by their craftiness and deceitful scheming. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way and to him who is the head into Christ, from whom the whole body joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love." This synergy, this interrelatedness, this everyone with individual gifts that is in somehow being working together that brings real change is one of the great promises of the church.
When we see it, we know it. There's something there we've seen the joy that happens when people find that place that they're operating out of, that "This is me, and this is why I'm here and this is what I bring." We've also seen the tragedy, we've also seen the sadness when those things are ignored or neglected. I got a glimpse of this and this last week I was thinking about this idea that's not new, that we've talked about a lot. How do I bring something fresh to it? The image I got was an image of when I was growing up in Southern California and I was in Boy Scouts and we were on a bus going back and forth to a large event and we are on the backside of the desert of Los Angeles in an area that's well known called Palm Springs.
Back in those days, Palm Springs was still a resort, but it was a resort for very elite people at certain times of the year. It was a place that was mostly dry and completely a desert. You get to see this as a glimpse somewhere about that time, and most of it is desert. The bus driver, and I don't know how he knew this, I just have this memory as we were going along this road, and we just saw this vast expanse of desert everywhere. He said, "Right now we're in this place where right now there's a lot of litigation and people are fighting about water, because they can't get enough water. How do we exist in the desert? The funny thing is, most people don't understand this but right underneath them is this huge lake and if they ever figured that out, it would change everything." They figured it out.
They figured it out that there was this vast reservoir of water and when they began to tap into it, it transformed the area, we could have an argument about whether they should have done it and how they should have done it. That's not my point. My point is, this is sometimes how we approach problems and we are overwhelmed by what we don't have and what would it take that we don't have? At the same time, right there underneath us, right there all around us is the resource. That's what Paul's talking about. That's what the Bible is talking about, a profile. Because there is a great difference of when people are drawing from the resources that are right there, or when they're fighting for the scarcity of what they don't have.
There is a great difference when we begin to work from that place in our life, and not be overwhelmed by all the things that we don't have, but we begin to tap into the places and the gifts and the experience and the joy and the passion that we do have, something begins to happen. It happens in the church, it happens in our lives and why doesn't it happen more often? Why aren't we more on the right-hand side of that picture than on the left-hand side? Sometimes, I think it's just imagination. We can't imagine what it would be like, we become so overwhelmed with what we see that we can't begin to believe that there is something else that is around us.
Sometimes, I think we focus on the minimum rather than the maximum. What's the minimum we need to do and draw from in order to get by, rather than imagine the maximum. I mean, imagine the maximum, imagine the maximum of this congregation. Imagine all the gifts that are represented just in this room this morning. All the gifts, all the talents, all the experience, all the passions, and you begin to see that something might begin to change if we could tap into that, multiply that by the rest of the congregation, and you begin to see it. We don't have to actually just imagine it, because we already begin to see evidence of it. We began to see evidence of it just today.
We come in a place and we are gifted by the music and all the people who are gifted that way, the people who write, and who lead. All the people who do tech, all the greeters and the ushers, all the people who do hospitality and offer that with coffee and donuts, all the people who are doing mission, whether it is here talking about the two missions that we had here, Skycliff and Wellspring, or Zimbabwe, which we had in between the services, or Strive to Thrive with the Help and Hope Center, and then, working into the community for all the people, that's just today.
That's just today when our youth are up in the mountains with a winter retreat, and all the gifts and talents that are a part of that, our children and our children's ministry. We can go on, we've got classes for adults going on right now, we have events afterwards, that the expanse begins to be wonderful. It's not that look at what a busy place this is. That would be insanity. But look what happens when people begin to tap into those deep places, those wells, when they begin to claim that place that makes them them, and begin to live out of that.
Imagine that that is just scratching the surface. That's what Paul is holding up for the Ephesians. It's a new church, and they're still learning it and they're arguing about who's most important and least important. Then there's this other part, though, there's this other part, it's not just imagination, it's also that, I think service has a bad name. Service has a bad name in every place and including the church, service feels a little bit too much like servitude, service feels like that place where I'm going to be stuck doing something that I really don't want to do.
It's going to take way too much time, way too much energy and there's going to be less of me than I thought.
Sometimes the church is responsible for that, and certainly, in our history, we have been. The first church I was at, I ran into a woman and we were teaching a class about gifts and claiming your own gifts back then. She just came up afterwards and said, "Thank you for this. This was a breath of fresh air. I grew up in the church, and I was so turned off because for so many years--" She talked about the church that she went in. You went in and you announced you were here.
It was almost like a division. It's like, "Okay, if you're a guy, you go over here, you're in charge of the facility, and you're in charge of those things. If you're a woman, you go over here, and either you go to Sunday school and work with the children, or you go to the kitchen and you cook meals." She says, "I don't have kids and I can't cook. I never go into my own kitchen. There has never been a place for me." It turns out this woman is a very high power exec in her company. She had no place to go because nobody could imagine that we would, rather than just fill an org chart and spots, and put people to fill spots, that we would, in fact, begin to work with the destinies of people and begin to wonder, "What's the treasure that's right here? What would happen if we began to tap in to the treasure that's right here?"
One of the reasons we don't because we're afraid that, "If I do, I'm going to get stuck somewhere." I know this is still true because when we ask people, "What are you experienced in? What do you have? What have you done? What are you passionate about?" People will not let us have that information. The answer is not because they don't have it, it's because, "If I tell you, then you're going to ask me to do something with it." Somehow by doing that, it's like, "One more thing and you're going to ask me to do something, and there's going to be less of me, and I'm going to have less time, and less energy, and it's going to make me less like I truly am and who I want to be."
It is a wonderful thing to be able to hold up people like Eric Little. Eric Little is a guy who, 96 years ago, in the 1924 Olympics, he ran. He was known as the Flying Scotsman and he lived out of his profile. His parents were Scottish missionaries in China. He and his sister grew up there. He went back to England to get trained because he was going to go back there. There was something in his life going, "This is who I am. These are my experiences, these are the people I am passionate about, here's what I want to do." But as he was back there, he also understood, and people began to discover this guy could run like the wind. It's the 1920 Olympics, and he is helping to represent England.
By the way, if this story sounds vaguely familiar, you've got that Chariots of Fire DVD at home? Throw it in, it's his story. He goes to the 1920 Olympics, and he is the nation's best hope because his best event is the 100 meter, the event we call "The fastest man in the world" event. He gets there and he doesn't run it. Why? Because there's this tension, because the event is being run on a Sunday, and everything he believes about God says you shouldn't do that on the Sabbath. He's torn and he's facing a lot of pressure of, "Why can't you run on the Sabbath?" "Because this is who I am, this is my passion, this is my experience."
He would go counter to it. At the same time he's being pulled in the other direction because he's got other people in his life who are saying, "Why are you even here in the first place? You're supposed to be a missionary. What are you doing wasting your time running and doing frivolous things like that?" He could have been pulled in one way or the other. He chose to do the hard thing to stay in tension with it and come out of his own profile. His comment with how he did that is that famous comment that's in the movie, and it's really his.
"I believe God made me for a purpose, China. But God also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure. There is something that when I pay attention to my God-given gifts and talents and experience and passion, when I do that, there is something that is cooperating with the Spirit of God."
This picture is typical of him, by the way. In the movie, if you saw, it's true, this is how he would run. He would start to run, and about halfway through, he would just throw his head back and he was just in the moment and in the joy of the thing, and he would just blaze across. He doesn't get to run the 100 meter, but then, somebody gave him their spot in the 400 meter, and said, "Here, you do it." Now, if you understand anything about track, you know that being good at the 100 meter does not make you good at the 400. In fact, it usually is a detriment. This is a picture of that day in 1924 when he crosses the finish line, he won.
He didn't just win, he broke the world record that day. His story stands, it's this wonderful story of what happens when you pay attention to your profile. Now, did he continue to run? No, because he also knew he was made for China. He does, he goes off and he's a missionary in China. He dies there when the Japanese come and take over China, as part of World War II. He dies in a Japanese internment camp. All the accounts of him and even his last days was that there was a joyous spirit, there was a resiliency, there was someone who understood, and felt the pleasure of God coursing through his life because he was working out of that place, that core of who he was. He understood something.
He understood that when you do that, at the end of the day, there isn't less of you, there's more of you. He poses a question for us. He said, "What happened? What would happen? Imagine what would happen for ourselves, if we wanted to know what our place in this world is, and rather than be overwhelmed by all the problems and say, 'Well, I better go over there. I better go over there,' and grit our teeth and go do it, what would it be if we, in fact, we first began by locating that place of joy?" Where's that place for you? Where have you felt the pleasure of God? When have you felt like you were in the groove and you're in the zone and, man, this is a lot of fun?
Wouldn't this be fun to be able to do this? Wouldn't that be an amazing place to begin? When we talk about service, and we talk about your life and why you're here.