The Ripple Effect of Service

Scripture: Romans 12 Selected Verses

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Can you skip a rock on the water? Growing up, I was never able to skip a rock. Instead, I would take a rock on the shore, throw it, and it would make a grand ripple. You know, where it hits the water and makes rings that just grow and grow until takes up much of the pond or lake. This morning, I thought about passing out rocks this morning, then realized I was the one preaching, so that wouldn’t probably be a good idea. Instead, I have one or a few to play with. I have heard it said that our lives on earth are as a drop of water in the Atlantic. In a way, I suppose that’s true, and yet, what we do with our lives, how we engage with the people around us, how we use our God given gifts and abilities, can make a ripple effect that can go far beyond what we expect or even hope for. A ripple can become a wave. You and I can make a difference.

Sermon: “The Ripple Effect of Service”

This morning we consider gifts based service as a part of our disciple’s path series for Lent. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we pray and read Scripture, we attend worship and small group (live in a community of faith), we are generous people who give, and we are people who serve. I have to admit that this is a challenge to preach this at Meridian Street. We are a serving people. I know that many of you serve, and serve a lot. It’s hard to keep track of everything our congregation members are a part of and we have so many opportunities to serve as a church as well both locally here in Indianapolis and around the world. We take mission and service seriously here at Meridian Street.

As I prayed about this message today and considered the words from Romans, I began to see that the challenge for us, as a congregation, is this; how do we take all of things we do and live missional lives of service. Let me explain. The author of Romans challenges us to offer our everyday ordinary lives to God. Everything we do can become an act of worship and when we do, we begin to live missional lives of service.

I have been fortunate to travel to many places to serve as a missionary. I often think of my experiences in Zimbabwe, Guatemala and Manila, The Philippines, where I experienced some of the most dire, impoverished conditions. I served for a time, then I came home. And I have never stopped reflecting on how God is calling me to live as a result of those experiences. In fact, I’m still trying to learn what it means to live my entire life as an offering to God. All we do in service is wonderful as a church. They make a difference. When we house families with Interfaith Hospitality Network next Sunday and Serve Indy on April 23rd. Those are wonderful opportunities to service. And it is my hope that the ripples that come from them will grow and grow into people who consider every part of their lives as missional.

It all comes back to the words of Romans. Whatever your gifts put them to use. “If you preach, just preach God’s message. If you help, just help. If you teach, stick to your teaching.” I know it sounds like a Nike commercial, just do it. Put your gifts to use. And the very next line in Romans reminds us why we do what we do in gifts based service “Love from the center of who you are.” Offer your life, your gifts, your service to God. I love the quote that is at the top of your bulletin this morning by theologian and Presbyterian pastor Frederick Buechner, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

This week, as I prepared for today’s message and the Refugee Stories event that will take place later today, I began thinking about how many of you asked me, “How can we make a difference? What can we do to help,” regarding the situation in Syria and all the refugees coming out of that nation. Today’s event is an opportunity for us to do something, to offer the gift and ministry of presence, to listen and respect the stories that will be shared, and to share a welcome with the refugee families. And all this preparation reminded me of two people I met a few years ago. My wife Candace and I have planned the Prayer Breakfast for our Indiana Annual Conference the last five years with keynote speakers like Governor Daniels, Senator Lugar, Archbishop now Cardinal Tobin and last year Mayor Hogsett. There are two people who spoke who have stayed in mind and heart that’s not on this list. Paula and Ed Kassig, members of Epworth UMC here in Indianapolis, spoke at the Prayer Breakfast with such grace and compassion, even after their son, Abdul Rahman (Peter) Kassig, sensed a call to serve the people of Syria as an aid worker and gave his life in service. Paula and Ed are with us this morning and have graciously agreed to share a few words.

            Paula and Ed Kassig17505204_1378471158881290_1402901755439051185_o.jpg

To read the remarks made by Paula and Ed Kassig at Meridian Street, please click the link below: 

https://www.facebook.com/MercyforAbdulRahman/?hc_ref=SEARCH

We have an opportunity to make a ripple effect today by gathering with Christian, Muslim, and Jewish brothers and sisters in listening to the stories of Syrian refugees, of being present with them and others, and offering welcome and hospitality today. It’s my hope and prayer that this conversation today will move you into action.

What sort of ripple are you making? How are you living a missional life of service? We all have different gifts, not everyone is called to travel to Zimbabwe or Bolivia, but you can make a ripple effect today. You might be wondering though, “What am I called to do? Many people ask me that, “What am I called to do?” I have to ask in response with love and kindness of course, “Well, what are you doing? What are you trying out?” To know how we are called to use our gifts, we have to put them to use, we have to try things to make sure they fit. It’s fine to begin something, but sense a call elsewhere. But to know, you have to start somewhere. Then you invest your time and energy and gifts on a regular basis, making your service a part of who you are. Living a missional life means that we offer every part of our lives to God. We take the time to speak to a person, to really see them. We give generously. We offer our time to service. We pray. As Ed shared, “We try to leave a campsite in better shape than when we found it.” We offer ourselves in service to leave our place on this earth better than we found, a little closer to God’s Kingdom.

I have heard that the ripple effect is defined as the expanding series of effects or consequences that are the result of an event or action. One small drop can make a difference. One small drop of the baptismal waters calls us forth into faithful service to God and God’s people. One small drop in the ocean can make a difference. It is my prayer that today’s gathering will make a drop in the ocean that will rise into a wave of welcome, hospitality and service to all of our brothers and sisters no matter where they come from or how they got here. May we offer ourselves in service offering to God our everyday, ordinary life.

Let us pray:

A drop of water. Insignificant in isolation. When dropped in a body of water. The ripples move out into infinity. The water is changed by one drop of water. A drop is falling. Now. Into this Body of Christ. The water begins to rippleHoly God, as we consider the magnitude of a drop of water to touch and change an ocean, may we offer our lives in service and love and care to others and in doing so make a ripple that changes the world for your sake and for the better. We offer this prayer and our lives in the name of Jesus the Christ our Lord. Amen.

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