All of who we are is meant to be used as an offering to God. This is what stewardship is. As we continue to consider the Book of Nehemiah and how to apply it to the state of affairs in our day, we recognize that in today’s world, we are considering not so much repairing physical walls, but the absolute crumbling of our cultural standards and truths. How can we rebuild the walls of faith and righteousness in a modern context?
Nehemiah 3:1 says that the high priest and his brothers “rose up” to rebuild the Sheep Gate. I like that terminology. Just like the priests of that time “rose up” and got their hands dirty to accomplish God’s work, we also need to rise up and commit ourselves to God’s work in our day. This month’s Election Day was a great example of the power of people rising up to commit themselves to accomplishing something they are passionate about. Each vote counts.
Verses 1 and 2 go on to show that each group of people was assigned a specific portion of the wall they were responsible for. They weren’t worried about the overwhelming task of rebuilding the entire wall. They were each concerned only with their own assignment, trusting that the group working next to them would take care of their own responsibility. This is a great lesson for the Church of God. We don’t need to be worried or overwhelmed about the enormity of the entire task, and we don’t need to be micromanaging everyone around us. We need to focus on our own assignment and trust everyone else to accomplish theirs.
Then verse 5 goes on to shame one group of nobles who “would not stoop to serve their Lord.” How shameful to be named in the Bible this way! We need to be humble and not consider ourselves above any task in the work of God. Instead, we need to be like our Lord Himself, who stooped to wash the feet of His disciples, and then even gave His own life for us.
There is no task too large or too small to matter in the work of God. You are called to faithfully steward your talents and abilities to serve in whatever way you can. Every job is critically important in the mission of the Church. You are not responsible for the entire work, just for your own assigned responsibility. Just like with the people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, we will see mighty works accomplished when we all rise up and faithfully fulfill our responsibilities, both large and small.
Being a part of any community can be difficult, and the Church is no exception. It is absolutely essential for us to be mindful of the significance of our calling as members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and that we remain united to each other in Him. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 4, and he urges us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” There can be no divisions in the Body of Christ, but that is a really difficult way to live. In fact, it is impossible without a miracle of the Spirit of God creating and maintaining the bonds of love between us. He has gifted us all uniquely in order to “build up the Body of Christ,” and we are all required to participate. In fact, this Scripture specifically says that the work of the clergy is to equip the saints for work of ministry! It’s not the clergy who are the big shots in ministry – it is every member of the Church! We need to view each other as gifts of God, purposely designed to encourage each other, build each other up, speak truth to each other in love, and together do the work of God. Each of us has a unique contribution we are called to make to the work of God, and it is critically important that we stay plugged in and engaged in the Body of Christ.
This sermon is about another “Mark sandwich” found in chapter 5, verses 21-43. Mark shares the story of Jesus’ resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, and the story is split in the middle with another healing of the woman with the issue in the blood. In both cases, Jesus touches someone who would be considered “unclean.” Rather than being defiled by those touches, however, Jesus brings healing and restoration to the unclean. Jesus’ compassion and power declares worthy and lovable those who society considers “untouchable.” We need to take Jesus’ example and love ALL in our society. We are all loved equally as children of God, and each of us as His followers need to love all equally in His name.
Here is my final sermon to the beloved St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Lake Mary, FL where I have served for the last 16 years.
The scriptures here are offered by the Lord as encouragement to stay strong and brave even in the face of the new realities and thresholds that the Lord challenges us to cross.
God’s promises transfer across the thresholds of life and leadership. He challenges us to stay true to His Word. We have nothing to fear, because the Lord is with us always. Be Strong and Courageous!
Brooke’s remarks at St., Peter’s
At the conclusion of the sermon you will hear the remarks and congregational prayers, by Brooke Holt (my wife), John Ricci, (Senior Warden) and The Rev. Canon Justin Holcomb (representing Bishop Gregory O. Brewer).
“Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.
Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” – 1 Timothy 6:20-21
Paul’s final charge to Timothy is to “guard the deposit entrusted to you” (6:20). As a minister of the Gospel, Timothy is being sent into a battle on the front lines for the very Gospel itself. He needs strong encouragement to see the importance of the task and ministry with which he has been entrusted.
The need for Paul’s letter was occasioned for two main reasons: geography and time. First, Paul was simply not able to be in more than one place at a time. The delegation of leadership to others was an essential task for Paul if there was to be a geographically broad gospel movement. As Paul traveled on his missionary journeys moving from region to region, city to city, town to town, many new congregations were planted. New leadership had to be developed in each region, city, and town. Coordination and support of those various congregations also became mission-critical for the gospel.
The second issue was related to time. Paul was always keenly aware that his days of “fruitful ministry” were numbered. The issue of succession was critically important to Paul as he empowered Timothy to lead and then to identify and empower more leaders for the churches.
In this way, we see the first examples of succession and delegation at work in the church in the personal and pastoral relationship between Timothy and Paul. For Paul, the issue is not merely the passing of a torch humanly speaking, but for him it was critically important that the content and character of the gospel be guarded in order that it may be passed on faithfully to the next generation of leaders.
As each generation considers its own faith, it must also keep in mind the needs of the next generation of believers. We are given a sacred trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ, guarding the faith carefully so that it can be passed on.
In what ways are you delegating, passing on, and guarding the faith which has been entrusted to you?
This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge here.