God’s Plans, Our Hands
Each week over 110 million people go to church somewhere in America. Let me put that into perspective. If you take all the people who have ever gone to a basketball game, ever gone to a football game, ever gone to a baseball game, tennis match, or any public sporting event and you added them all up in a single year, that would not equal the number of people who go to church on a single weekend. More people will be in church this weekend than will go to all the sporting events combined in America in an entire year.
For many of those people they have no idea why they attend church. Let me ask you this question, and think about it for a few moments… “Why are you here in this worship service? Why did you get up this early on a Sunday morning, perhaps your only day off from work, and get dressed and come to church?”
While most of our community sleeps in late, or hits the golf course, reads the Sunday paper with a cup of coffee, or beats the rush to Wal-Mart, we choose to gather in this place to sing songs, offer prayers, to give away our money, and to gear some guy in a dress talk to us. Why?
Maybe you’re here out of habit. You’re family has come to this church on Sunday morning ever since you were a child and it’s just always been something you’ve done so since it’s Sunday, you’re here.
Perhaps you’re here because you feel pressured to be here. Maybe it’s your parents, or a spouse that has compelled you to come either by force, threat, or guilt. And instead of fighting it every Sunday you’ve decided to just come to church to avoid the hassle.
This morning on this first Sunday of our new program year I want to take this time and let’s just remind ourselves why we do what we do. Why would we all get out of bed this morning and come to church? Why do we pave all these spaces for parking? Why do we build these buildings? What purpose do we do this for?
Certainly there are many reasons.
We gather here to worship, to lift our hearts and hands and voices together in praise of the One true God, the one who created us, sustains us, and redeems us.
We gather here because we need a church family. You’re friends are here and so this is a chance for you to get together to catch up on the week’s events, a chance to greet one another with a hug or a hand shake, a chance to have some company for a change.
We gather to engage in the process of growing to spiritual maturity, becoming a disciple. To learn, study, and develop the character and mind of Christ.
Worship, fellowship, discipleship. All of these are vital and important. But there is one other reason that we gather here today and every day. We gather here to prepare ourselves to contribute something back through ministry.
As the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:12, “To equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
In other words we are called to do ministry. To fulfill Christ’s mission in the world. You see in the world we live in today God uses our hands to accomplish His plans.
Ministry is not just something pastors do. Ministry is something everybody’s called to do. It just means using your gifts and abilities to help other people in love. God didn’t put you on this earth just to take up space, just to use resources, party and die. No. He put you here to make a contribution with your life. You’re to leave this place a better place because of you. That’s called ministry. Anytime you use your talents, your gifts, your abilities, your money, your time, your intelligence, your energy, your physical skill, your opportunities, anytime you use anything God has given you to help somebody else in Jesus’ name that is called ministry. God’s plans require our hands; your hands and my hands.
Now this morning I want to spend some time looking at our hands. We’ve all got them, although most of the time we take them for granted.
So let’s just spend a moment looking at our hands. If you are holding anything – put it down. Hold out your hands – palm side up. Look at the shape of your fingers. Perhaps there is a mark made by a ring. Or a scar caused by an accident. Or a callous caused by years of hard work. If your eyesight is good you may see those tiny ridges of skin called fingerprints. Every hand is different. No two hands are alike.
The human hand is a marvelous creation; a wonderful instrument. No other creature has such a sensitive and flexible hand. (Throwing a ball) Catch! Being able to catch and hold a ball is a unique feature of the human hand. It is because we have what is called an ‘opposable thumb’. And that enables us to grip things. Without our opposable thumb we could not turn screwdrivers or door knobs or bowl cricket balls. We use our hands to pick up and hold objects, to eat, to touch, to feel heat and texture.
Another important way we use our hands is to communicate. For blind people hands substitute for eyes in the reading of Braille. For deaf people hands substitute for ears through the medium of Sign Language. And in this age of Information Technology our hands are the main way in which we interact with our electronic devices: whether it is a keyboard, a mouse or a touch screen phone.
Of course, we can use our hands in ways that are negative, as well as positive. Hands can be outstretched in a gesture of peace, or they can strike out and punch or slap. Hands can handle weapons of destruction as easily as tools of peace. How we use our hands is very important. Ok you can put your hands down now.
And let me ask you to consider this: What were Jesus’ hands like?
Jesus must have had rough hands – all those years of working in his father’s carpentry workshop. He was literally a handy-man. And even when Jesus left Nazareth and his father’s trade, he still understood the importance of using his hands. There are so many stories that testify to this.
Remember the blind man at Bethsaida? Jesus took him by the hand and brought him to a quiet place; there he spat on the man’s eyes and put his hands on them.
On another occasion a man with leprosy asked to be healed; again Jesus reached out, and touched him.
Reaching out, holding, touching, seems to have played an important part in Jesus’ healing ministry. But there were other occasions when Jesus used his hands. On the Sea of Galilee Peter got out of a boat to walk on the water. As he began to sink, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. And when parents brought their children to Jesus, he placed his hands on them and blessed them.
How often, when eating with his friends must Jesus have raised his hands in a gesture of thanksgiving, broken bread and shared it out. Not just at the Last Supper; we’re told that he did exactly the same at the feeding of the 5,000. And when he appeared as a stranger to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It was only when they sat down for a meal, and the stranger blessed and broke the bread, that they recognized him to be Jesus.
Then there was the time when Jesus knelt down and washed the disciples feet. Once again, a very intimate and personal gesture.
And it was these hands, rough carpenter’s hands, hands that had healed and comforted, blessed and helped and served.
But as we know on Good Friday those hands were so cruelly nailed to the cross. On the third day He arose from the dead and He ascended in to heaven.
So that raises an important question. How can people see Jesus today? How does His mission continue? How does His mission and ministry of grace and love get carried out here on planet earth when Jesus is not physically present among us?
The answer is very simple. Because Christ is present – here in his people. We are the body of Christ. This idea was beautifully expressed in a prayer by Theresa of Avila, written over 400 years ago:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
So how can people touch – and be touched – by the hands of Jesus today? Simply by recognizing that our hands are Jesus’ hands. Jesus uses us to reach out to others. And Jesus uses others to reach out to us. God’s plans are accomplished with our hands.
So here’s what I want you to do. Each of you as you came in this morning recived in your bulletin 2 hands. I want to challenge you in two ways.
First I first want you to take one of those hands and if you are willing to commit your hands to help us accomplish God’s plans then I want you to write your name on that hand. In a minute I’m going to invite you to come up here and as a symbol of your commitment to lay your hand on the altar. This means if you are already using your hands in some way to make a difference in and through this church or if maybe for the first time you are willing to say, “Yes, I want to lend my hand to help our church accomplish God’s plans,” then put your name on one of those hands.
Then here is my second challenge. I want you then to take that second hand and when you walk out of this service this morning and into the narthex, I want you to browse through the ministry fair and find a new way to use your hands to accomplish God’s plans.
Now I know that there are a number of you who already lend your hand in multiple ways. So this is mainly for those who have yet to find a way to lend a hand.
Real simple. Get involved. Lend a hand. Find a ministry. I counted them up the other day and we have over 100 ways you can use your hands in this church. Just in this brochure alone you will find numerous ways to use your hands. There are plenty of options for you to get involved, where you can find a place to give back. And here’s the thing we need you to lend a hand.
Now I know what some of you are saying. “Well you know, a church this size, it doesn’t need my help. We have plenty of volunteers. Or we have a staff person to do this or that.” Are you kidding? Spend a day with me. I’ll show you a couple hundred unmet needs. Because there are always more needs to be met than people willing to get up off their seat and say, “I was made to serve Christ.”
Have you ever wondered why you’re here at Sterling UMC? I’ll tell you why. You’re here because God knew you had something to give back. As our scripture lesson from Romans 12 said, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” God did not bring you here just to sit and soak and enjoy. He brought you here to serve. And He knew that you have something – background, talent, skill, ability, contact, or whatever, interest, hobby, whatever. God brought you here for a reason.
So the question is, How will God use you? Will you lend a hand?
Maybe it means that you will …
- Serve as an usher or greeter or liturgist
- Get involved in an area of service or ministry like Backpack Buddies or Grace Ministries
- Join a Sunday school class
- Participate in a Bible study
- Join the choir
- Volunteer to teach Sunday school or help in our children’s or youth ministry
- Go on a mission trip
- Help in one of our local missions projects
- Volunteer to help with childcare or in other ways in support of our weekly Spanish service
- Share your faith with someone you know that does not know Jesus
- Invite someone to come to church with you
What is God calling you to do? How is He calling you to use your hands? That is the question. Not is He calling you, because He calls us all, but what is he calling you to do?
Let me close with a very personal question. How many of you have the gift of procrastination? That’s pretty universal. The stuff we talked about this morning, it’s not new. It’s not rocket science. It’s not like you haven’t heard this before. If you’ve been around SUMC you’ve heard this many, many times. So it’s not new stuff. Somebody said, “Randy, when are you going to stop teaching on this?” When you’ve done it all! Then I’ll stop!
Jesus founded the church to carry on his mission; to serve as his hands and voice in the world. He loved broken and lost people. He offered healing and hope and forgiveness. He proclaimed good news of a God who loved prodigal children. That mission is the same today.
You see I make no apology in saying to you that the most important thing you’ll ever do with your life is serving God in ministry; being the hands of Christ in this world. It’s far more important than your career, it’s far more important than your hobbies, it’s even more important than everything else you can think of because they aren’t going to last. But this is. God needs your hands, my hands, our hands, working together to accomplish His plans.
Let us pray.
Lord, here are your hands.
Use these hands, Lord, to work for you;
Use these hands, Lord, to reach out to others for you;
to touch others for you;
Teach me, that I may learn your touch.
And if it be your will
that these hands become dirtied or calloused
or even wounded for you,
so be it, Lord. Amen.