“…we have done only what we ought to have done!”


adult sunday school— 9:00 children/youth sunday school—9:30 fellowship—10:15 Worship Service—10:30

Jan. 14

Texts: Matthew 5:14-16; Luke 17:7-10

I once heard a sermon in which the preacher said there are four main bones in every congregation – the wish-bones, the jaw-bones, the knuckle-bones, and the back-bones. Now in any congregation, the Wish-Bones are those who wish somebody would do something about the problem. The Jaw-Bones are those doing all the talking about the problem – but very little else. The Knuckle-Bones are those who knock everything and see everything as a problem. And the Back-Bones are those who carry the brunt of the load and do most of the work in tackling the problem.

If you did not know it, after worship today we are celebrating a Time and Talents Fair. You can see in the east and west wings tables set up at which all our committees will be represented. As you enjoy some hot beverage, snacks, and fellowship after worship, you are invited to visit the tables and speak with committee chairs and see what good and great work San Gabriel engages on behalf of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Now let me be honest with you. I am looking for some Back-Bones today; I am hoping that you will be inspired to give of your time and talents to some aspect of the congregation’s life and work, and help carry the load of that particular ministry. Let me be frank with you. I am not asking you to volunteer. I am not asking you to volunteer your time and volunteer your particular talents. Quite frankly, the word volunteer should never appear in the church’s vocabulary!

The Rotary Club needs volunteers; the Kiwanis Club needs volunteers. I read in The Williamson County Sun this week that the United Way is looking for volunteers; the Garden Club or the Glee Club or the Sun City Singers or the Sun City this or that need volunteers. Americans in general are very generous volunteers in their communities. Volunteerism in Georgetown, in particular, is a phenomenal movement. The Sun ran an article a few weeks ago in which it estimated that $30 million had been raised by volunteer efforts in Georgetown in 2017 for local benevolent causes.

But the word “volunteer” should never appear in the church’s vocabulary. Jesus did not say to people, “Come, volunteer for me.” Jesus did not say to people, “Come, volunteer of your time for this cause dear to me.” Jesus did not say to the people and crowds of his day, “Come, volunteer your talents to fill this need important to me.” No, Jesus was not asking for volunteers. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” And to those who heard Jesus’s command to come and follow, but hesitated, or said, “First let me check my calendar,” or said, “Lord I will follow you, but not on Tuesday afternoons that is bridge club,” or “Lord I will follow you but only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,” to those who heard Jesus’s command but hesitated, Jesus had some tough words: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back if fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

We are not volunteers when it comes to serving in the name of Jesus. Volunteers can pick and choose; volunteers can come and go; volunteers can set times and days. Baptized, practicing Christians are not volunteers when it comes to the giving of our time and talents in service to Jesus Christ. And the Bible is quite clear about this. Our modern Bible translations have cleaned up the Greek a bit to make the gospel more palatable to modern audiences. But we miss something rather profound in the modern translations.

When young Mary says to the angel Gabriel, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), Mary actually says in the Greek, “Here I am, the slave of the Lord…” When the Apostle Paul opens his letter to the Romans with these words, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…” the Greek word there is slave of Jesus Christ. When Jesus is telling his disciples in Mark’s gospel how this kingdom of God thing is going to look among them, Jesus says, “…whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave to all” (Mark 10:43-44).

So it should come as no surprise to us that when it comes to serving Jesus there are no volunteer recognition celebrations! In fact, Jesus tells the church that those who are baptized in his name are obligated, yes, under obligation to serve God as a slave would serve his master. The parable Jesus tells the church in Luke’s gospel today is biting. A slave works in the hot field all day long, and when the slave comes in from work, that slave must make the master’s dinner before the slave can even eat. Jesus’s words are biting: “Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ ” (Luke 17:10).

Now I am not trying to make you feel guilty, so you will go to the Time and Talents Fair and sign up to do a bunch of things in fear for your salvation! My goal, as always, is that you are biblically informed and theologically aware. We are baptized in Jesus Christ. That baptism obligates us to serve in the name of our servant Lord. We are not volunteers; we are slaves of Jesus Christ, servants of God, and we are doing only what we ought to have done.

In “Letters to Rulers of People,” the great Saint Francis of Assisi wrote these words: “Keep a clear eye toward life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature. What you are in [God’s] sight you are and nothing more. Remember, that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…but only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”

So, today I am not going to beg you to volunteer your time and talents to the life and work of SGPC. You are doing only what you ought to have done baptized in Christ’s name. I will say this: “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).