Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—”I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. [NRSA]
A CLAY JAR
A piece of clay that has been fashioned into a bowl, a mug, or a vase is many things.
It is an expression of the potter.
It is more than the sum of it’s parts,
It is more than a lump of dirt and water,
It is both durable and delicate,
It is fragile, yet useful,
It is one of the precious images Paul uses to remind us, and the churches in Corinth, that we are precious treasure of God.
Clay can never form itself as wonderfully, purposefully, or longingly as can the potter.
This is one of the power messages of Good News you and I must share with a world that hungers for meaning and is willing to create alternate realities rather than simply trust God is that very potter of our lives.
Do you ever feel like a clay pot?
Winnie the Pooh is always appreciative of having a useful clay pot near by, in the hope that it contains honey, or that it will soon be filled with honey.
It is Paul’s pray, and one that we also share, that we remember that we are the clay pots that are
Filled with a treasure greater than golden honey
Our time and lives are to maximize the opportunity to share God’s treasure with those we interact each day.
As Clay Pots, there are times we feel like the roughness of a clay pot. One that has been fired by trial and suffering heat or pressure, but has not been glazed. We feel ordinary, worn, or even fractured.
When we focus on the vase, bowl, mug, the body, the bills, the money, the demands, we think our usefulness is measured by the world’s use or uselessness of our lives, INSTEAD of trusting that GOD has determined our PURPOSE and USEFULNESS and fills us with God’s Power, Spirit, Truth, and Grace to transform a broken, fragile, power-hungry world.
The First lesson to remind you neighbor is this. God makes us.
The second is that God fills us.
The third is God desires to work through us, making us the vessel of God’s presence.
The Body of Christ…
God is more plainly revealed in the life, body, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus, showing us that God is in charge, command, and in love with us all.
God can transform all things to God’s heart and will.
God can use each of us, no matter the age, style, durability, or fragile nature we perceive.
God is calling us to be the container.
Our Containers may be
We are afflicted in every way,
but not crushed;
not driven to despair;
but not forsaken;
but not destroyed;
But here is the Good News: We are carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies
When are we carrying the death and life of Jesus?
When we feed, cloth, be friends, remember the forgotten,
seek the lost, search for the weary,
knock on the table of those who are using God’s name for power, politics, and personal gain.
The old American Express slogan, “Don’t Leave Home without It” is just a good of a reminder that everywhere, in everyday, in every situation, we are the useful pots, the containers of Jesus for the world.
The Hitch in the Get Along
The catch is, we either don’t believe this to be true everyday,
We take it for granted and think it is something we can pick and choose to share , or
We don’t trust God’s power, word, and heart.
For weeks I have ask you to pray for someone that you can disciple, and share your faith. On one hand it is a poor attempt to suggest that there might just be one person, when there are thousands within our areas of influence that we would dare pick one. But this is just the thing:
Most of us don’t use the powers and gifts entrusted.
We are more focused on protecting our own pot, our own body, our own stuff, our own problems, and we miss the point of “God with Us”, Emmanuel, the Good News, the treasure that is entrusted us to share.
Which leaves us with the question to URGENTLY answer:
If you and I are those God is expecting the share the Good News, what do we have to report?
Why do you say URGENT, hasn’t it been thousands of years since Christ arose and might it be a thousand more? It might, but not for me and you.
We do not know the number of our days.
“ Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day”
How many conversations about the weather and politics can we waste talking with one another about what is certain instead of what is perplexing?
How many trips to work and town to do something necessary that we do not reach out to those who are afflicted with the blindness of what the world has to offer.
How much breath do we withhold in an effort to avoid persecution, social shaming, and ridicule?
How many times do we take a stand and risk being struck down for doing what is right for the kingdom of God?
Thank Goodness Paul is only talking to the church in Corinth and not the church in Rock Spring, Georgia! (Oh but his words touch us all, in all time, ALWAYS.
Speaking of Always, let’s compare Sunday afternoon to Eternity.
What is the most pressing thing we have today?
What is waiting for us in this week ahead that we are responsible to do, lead, or complete?
What can be placed on the back burner, or until we have more time, money, energy, or feel more like it?
I have an idea for social media this week:
Instead of posting the usual, or just reading others post and liking or skipping them. Let’s use this powerful tool to share a more powerful message.
Let’s share how God is at work in our lives
Share what songs and verses are guiding your day.
Share what conversation are drawing others closer to God
If you are not only social media, get on the phone, in the car, our out in person and start telling story, sharing the treasure, resume feeding and clothing, visiting and making friends in Christ, start knocking on hearts and heads, ask people how you can pray for them, how God can bless them.
Use these clay bots that we are
And share the treasure that God has invested in us
And transform the world and tell the good news…
Because keeping quiet is not the method that is working very well.
If we stay silent, if we keep it too ourselves, it is as if we only an empty, useless pots and that is not at all what God has blessed, saved, calls, nor expects us to be.
Are you with me? Let’s stop focusing on the pot and sharing the treasure we’ve already got.
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another, the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. [NRSV]
Unused Gift Cards:
We’ve all experienced the unbridled joy of finding a $10 bill in the dryer after a washing load or $5 on the sidewalk. But nearly all Americans could have untapped cash just sitting in the back of our wallets or the bottom of our purses.
The most requested gift by far
Gift cards may get a bad rap for being impersonal. However, they are the most requested holiday gift for 10 years running. In 2016 more than 60% of people surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they wanted a gift card this holiday season.
So how many gift cards actually get bought — and how many go unused?
Over $970 million in gift card cash went unused in 2015 alone. Meanwhile, total gift card spending in 2015 clocked in at $130 billion, up 6% from the year before. Despite the billions of dollars that go unused, it’s estimated that gift card sales will make another 9% jump this year up to $143B.
Since 2005, some $45.7 billion has been floating around in unused gift card balances. For cards that are lost or accidentally thrown away, that money may never be used.
Why this isn’t free money for companies
Sounds like free money for businesses, right? It’s all in the accounting.
When gift cards are sold, they are counted as a liability until spent. Only when they are spent does that money count as revenue. This means that US businesses carried $970 million in liabilities on unused cards last year.
Further, closed-loop gift cards — or gift cards that can be used at a single store or chain only — are generally bought through card vendors. These vendors can charge for everything from setup to stocking the card inventory. When you’re not using, they’re losing.
The state of gift cards in 2016
Despite all the unused gift cards out there, 2016 is slated to bring on even more gift card purchases. It’s estimated that $140 billion will be spent on gift cards in the US alone.
To give you an idea of just how much money that is, with $140 billion you could buy the Chicago Cubs 140 times over. (Given their recent World Series win, that might not be a bad idea.) Of that $140 billion, it’s projected that over $1 billion will go unspent. Still enough to buy the Chicago Cubs once.
So Put your Gifts to Work
If you don’t want to use them, donate in addition to your regular gifts and we will find ways to make them meaningful in ministry.
We will buy bibles and small group study materials from Barns and Nobles,
we will feed hungry folks with food cards,
and clothes for homeless.
If you have generic cards we can use them in limitless ways,
If they are not doing you any good, re-gift them.
Our Spiritual Gift Cards
To each of us is given gifts of the Spirit. Different outlets and different amounts for different work and witness. God is ready to fill us with limitless possibilities if we will
identify and recognize these gifts
not attemp to save, ignore or store them for some other day
trust the verse in Phillipians that we can do all things in Christ who gives us Spiritual strength
What Spiritual Gift Cards are in your purse, billfold or dresser drawer?
What would you do if you had an unlimited gift card to sing, praise?
What would you do with an unlimited gift card to share stories of your faith?
If your unlimited gift card could teach, inform, inspire?
If your gift card could multiply in value for others to use in a variety of ways
If your gift card were kept safely, privately, quietly for a special occasion that may never come by, all the while folks are hungry, thirsting and passing by empty.
Holy Communion is our re-fill station
We come to this holy meal and God fills us with grace, purpose, love and makes us whole, read for:
Don’t come to the table and go home that same as you came. Don’t keep your Spiritual gift cards hidden in your wallet or purse,
Come to the Table and Get busying living growing, love, sharing the Spirit.