April 27, 2014
So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. Romans 12:5-6
In 1952, baseball great, Ralph Kiner, hit 37 homeruns for his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Feeling pretty good about things, Kiner went to the Pirate's general manager, Branch Rickey, and said he thought he was deservin' of a raise. Rickey considered the request for a second, and then declined. Prepared for such an eventuality, Kiner shot back, "You might want to remember I led the League in homeruns."
But Rickey had also done his homework. "In what place did we finish?"
"Last place," came Kiner's reply.
Rickey concluded the conversation by musing, "Well, I can finish in last place without you."
It occurs to me a similar conversation could be held in almost every congregation I have ever seen. You see, most congregations have been blessed with some superstars, some first-rate, homerun hitters. When they see a job that needs to be done, they do it. They are faithful in worship, in work, in Communion, and in support.
In a candid moment, the pastor at such congregations will often muse what would happen if his entire church were composed of such spiritual sluggers. They think of voters' meetings where the great discussion of the night will be "What do we do with the surplus in our treasury?" or "How can we expand the choir loft to hold all the singers?" or "What color should the new folding chairs be that we need to set up for each Sunday's overflow crowd?"
Then reality sets in and he sighs. He sighs because he just doesn't think that day will ever come.
Understand both he and his leaders are absolutely confident the Holy Spirit can bring about such a transformation in the congregation, but they're not sure if the people will let that happen. They realize a successful, first-place team is not made that way by the efforts of a single superstar. Oh, having a superstar is a big deal and nothing to be sneezed at, but in team sports he can't do the job all by himself.
No, if our congregations are going to be what the Lord intends them to be, it calls for everybody to do their part and use the gifts the Lord has given them. That means, having looked at the Christ's cradle, cross and empty tomb, they will be given hearts that are filled to overflowing with thanksgiving for God's great grace and the salvation which has been given to them.
And if you're wondering if such a thing can happen, the answer is, "Absolutely!" Take a look at this passage from Exodus 36:
"And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, 'The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.' So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, 'Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary,' So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more" (Exodus 36:3-7).
And what was the occasion which prompted such generosity? The people realized they had been given physical liberty from slavery, which leads me to ask if that was true back then, how much more should it be true for us who realize we have been saved from eternal slavery and death by the blood of Christ?
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, let my heart be filled with gratitude for Your salvation. Then, when I appreciate what You have done, let my actions be in proportion to my appreciation. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries