Full Sermon Transcript
Pastor Chris Paavola:
Well, hey everybody, I guess I actually haven’t said this yet, just run out of time to say this, Happy New Year.
Response: “Happy New Year.”
Good to be with you. My name is Chris Paavola, I’m the senior pastor here at St. Mark, and yeah, just really excited to be with you guys. It’s a new year and we’re kicking off a new sermon series today called Shape. And we’re going to be talking to you about getting in shape. And I don’t mean let’s all get a membership of Planet Fitness because, by the way, I was there this week and it is really full. That’s not the kind of in shape we’re talking about. We’re talking about you living out and discovering who it is that God has made you to be and living a life in his purpose. And that’s really what the series is about.
The reason we call it SHAPE is this is like an acronym. So it’s an acronym of who you are and who you were made to be. The idea that you have spiritual gifts, you have hearts, the things that you care about, the things that you’re passionate about, you have abilities that are unique to you. There’s things that you can do where everyone looks at you and is like, “oh my goodness, you’re so good at the thing. How do you do? … I can’t do? …” And then personality, there’s a distinct disposition you have and a makeup, and then experiences that nobody has lived your lived experience, it’s unique to you. And when all these things are taken together, it’s your shape and it’s who you are. And there is nobody like you on the planet, there’s nobody like you who was or will be that is exactly like you. And who you are is unique. Just like the snow this morning, there’s no two snowflakes alike. None of you are the same. And that’s an amazing thing.
I don’t know if maybe this goes without saying, but we believe you’re not an accident. We believe you’re not just the happenstance of a collision out of nothing and molecules and things slamming together that you’re not a mistake. You’re here and there’s a reason for you and for you being here even right now in this time. But that’s this idea of a shape, and this idea is all throughout scripture, but probably the cleanest and best example of a scripture that talks about the fact that you’re made with a distinct identity and that you’re not a mistake and you’re not an accident, comes from this book called Ephesians. It’s written by an apostle named Paul, and he’s writing to a group of people in a place called Ephesus.
In the second chapter of his letter that he writes to them, take a look at these words, he says, “we are God’s workmanship.” And that word workmanship is, when something is written in one language and you translate into another, it’s sometimes hard to circle the wagons around the idea. The meaning doesn’t change, but the nuance does. And that word workmanship, sometimes if you look in a Bible, it’ll be translated to workmanship. Sometimes it’ll be translated like craftsmanship or masterpieces. I like that one, it’s got double meaning like Bruno Mars, straight masterpieces. You are a straight masterpiece. Turn to your neighbor actually and tell them, “you’re a masterpiece.” Adam, this is a chance, fellas, this is a chance to tell your wife she’s a masterpiece.
Okay, so masterpiece. The word there actually in the original language is this Greek word, Poiema, is where we get our word poem actually. And so I like that one because it’s like your poetry in motion. So regardless of what you think when you look in the mirror and the person staring back at you and what they think of you, you are a masterpiece, you are poetry in motion and you are designed by a designer, created by a creator, made by a maker with a distinct plan. Then so he kind of continues. “You were created in Christ Jesus for good works.” And this is this idea that if you are a part of the household of faith, when you believe, when you are baptized in the waters, when you become a part of the Kingdom of God, suddenly all of you is redeemed, all of your gifts, all of your heart, all of your ability, all of your personality, all of your experiences is now used by God for his good, his glory, his kingdom.
That’s this idea here, that you’re not an accident. And look, there’s not just that you are beautifully made to sit on a shelf. No, you have a function to you, you have an intent behind it. And then he continues, “which God prepared ahead of time that we should walk in them.” And I love this idea that you walk in, it’s not just that he made you, but that he made plans because of you, that he looked at you and says, “okay, you’re going to be perfect for this and to go to this place and do this thing.” And so he doesn’t just make you, he makes plans for you to live out who you are, and you are budding and teaming and overflowing with purpose. Now, you are budding and teaming and overflowing with purpose. When you look at this, you are not an accident, you are not a mistake. You are filled with purpose that God has given you. When he made you to distinctly fearfully and wonderfully you.
And this word purpose is really interesting to think about, because you don’t really see this in scripture, but this word purpose, this is more than like a feeling of meaning and fulfillment or contentment, or something like that. It has a deeper foundation when you look in scripture to another word, and this changes the way we think about purpose. And my favorite example of this is probably in Psalm 148. So if you open your Bible right to the middle, it’s going to be really close to Psalm 148. And in Psalm 148, take a look at how he describes purpose. “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. Praise him all his angels. Praise him all his heavenly hosts. Praise him sun and moon, praise him all you shining stars. Praise him you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.” And he continues, “praise the Lord from the earth you great creatures in all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do as bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees in all cedars, wild animals in all cattle, small creatures and flying birds. Praise the Lord.”
And you read that and you’re like, “okay, that’s neat.” I know, it is poetic. But let me ask you, “how does a cow praise God?” Is it just being like hyperbole here? How does an inanimate object like a mountain praise God? He just said it. I get how angels can praise God, but how does snow that wasn’t even supposed to happen? And you wake up this morning, you’re like, “oh.” How does that praise God? It’s just there. It goes back to our words, purpose. Actually in verse five, he talks about it, take a look. Verse five, “let them praise the name of the Lord for at his command they were fashions made, designs created by a creator, a maker, an intelligent designer.” They’re made with a purpose.
And check this out. Listen. “When they do what he made them to do, he’s praised.” So when the lightning flashes, when the mountain towers over us and we look at it, it’s God designing it to do what it does, and when we look at it, it should draw our focus into attention to a wonderful maker. Wow. We should wow. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a lightning bolt or a lightning bug or if it’s you, when you do what you are made to do, you worship God. Not only is God praised, he’s worshiped. You worship God when you do what you were made to do. You worship God when you do what you were made to do. Wow!
Okay, before we sat together here and we had this conversation, if I just asked you to define the word worship and just come up with the meaning of the word worship that could go in a dictionary and work outside of just the Christian context, what is worship? We would say something like it’s sacred people doing a sacred thing in a sacred place. So like a Buddhist monk kisses a statue in a Buddhist temple. Sacred person is a sacred thing in a sacred place. And that would work also for us. If I said, “what is worship and how do we worship?” You would say, “oh, like we sing songs.” And why is singing worship? Because you are doing what you were made to do. You were designed by God with the capacity and the ability to sing, some of us better than others, but you were designed by God to make a joyful noise. And when you gathered together with people and we do what we were designed to do, what we were made to do, God is worshiped. And refusing to sing is like the sun refusing to shine. You worship God when you do what you were made to do.
So much is at stake with us figuring out our shape. This means everything that you do. It’s like moms, when you cut the crust off the bread, you’re doing what you were made to do. That’s worship. Accountants, when you balance a ledger and you make books clean and precise, you’re worshiping God by crunching numbers, because you’re worshiping God by doing what you were made to do. Landscapers, when you pull weeds, mechanics, when you fix cars, God is worshiped because you are like the cattle and the lightning and the mountains doing what you were designed to do.
Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner, 1920 something, Olympics or whatever, Chariots of Fire fame guy, that guy. Here’s a famous quote, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” It’s so good. “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” He’s right. God sprinkled him full of the ability to run. And when he runs, he feels God’s pleasure. God is pleased and he feels fulfillment and praise and worship because he’s doing what God made him to do. And it’s true for you as well, my friends. And all of this places a really big question on us, a huge question, what are you made to do? This question should bother us. It should keep us up at night. We should be in a frenzy, a furious, wild goose chase trying to figure this out, because worship is at stake. God’s pleasure. So how do you figure this out? How do you figure it out?
This morning when I left the house, I grabbed my toaster. If my kids were trying to make pop tarts this morning, they were eating them cold. This toaster was designed by somebody. The plastic and the metal and the screws didn’t just kind of like, there was a windstorm and out came a toaster. Someday we’ll talk about creation, but think about how complex we are and just the idea that this could happen accidentally? Come on. Okay, so this toaster though has a designer. What does a toaster do? Toasts, okay. Thank you. But there’s a designer who analyzed the marketplace and saw a niche for a certain kind of toaster, this toaster. And so he’s made sketches, then he made schematic designs and got a patent and then made prototypes and moldings and stuff. And he put it together. And the designer decided it should be white, not black. Have a little curve to it. Have two slots, not four. Have a little button that says bagel. Have a cord that’s two and a half feet long, not five. It’s teaming with purpose and intent.
It’s designed. And then the designer put his logo on here, or their logo. This is Kitchen Living. So this Maker’s Mark, they stamped it with their logo. This is mine, I made this. And then there’s a serial number. It’s hard to see. Zero, four, one, four, nine, eight, two, zero, six, six, five, nine. That’s this toaster right here. That’s this one. Okay, so imagine you just were an archeologist and you discovered this, and you dug it up or it magically appeared in your kitchen, you’ve never seen one before. The word toaster is not anywhere on here. It doesn’t even say it on the bottom. It doesn’t. And you could by trial and error, try to figure out what does this do? And you could put dirt in here and little seeds and have flowers and put it on your window sill. You could, and just pop up flowers.
You could put this on your desk and put stationary and envelopes in here if you wanted to. You could. You absolutely could, it would sort it. Maybe you deduce while there’s an outlet here and you plug it in, and it’s a space heater. And so when you’re cold, it’s a space heater. You could. You absolutely could. Or you could read the manual. Some of the guys are like, “we don’t read manuals, Chris.” No, but I mean it, you could read the manual. You could consult with a designer and say, “what is this for?” And honestly, my friends, in this series, that’s what we’re doing. I don’t want you to trial and error try to figure out what it is you’re supposed to do in life. It’s messy, it’s awkward, it’s cumbersome, it’s slow, it’s inefficient. And there’s nothing worse than a life that’s just off what it’s supposed to be. You’re designed and made by God to be a mechanic, but you’re a car salesman. You’re close, but not quite. You smell the tires, you smell the oil, you hear the engine, but you’re not quite who God made you to be
And so in this series, we’re going to look at the manual. We’re going to press in and talk to the designer about his intent, his purpose, his design for you. And so, so important, so much is at stake. I should probably talk about why we’re doing this as a series too. There’s a couple of reasons. One’s kind of personal. There’s a verse in the Bible that really bothers me and keeps me up at night. And I mean this. It’s also in this letter, Ephesians. And Paul’s writing to the church and he’s writing to this whole church. And then here’s what he says in chapter four, take a look. “God made some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” So he made some people to be the leaders of the church. This is what God did. He made some to be these things, but they’re in place so something else happens. See, sometimes I think people are like, “oh, we come to church and you’re passive recipients. I do all the fun. We do all the professional stuff up here and you guys receive whatever it is we do. And you guys are largely passive, you just sit and observe and watch and receive and go home, but we did all the work. We performed up here and we did our thing.”
That’s not what this says. He gave some to be leaders and pastors. Why? Verse 12. “To equip the saints.” You, to equip you to do the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ. My job is not to do everything as a pastor, to pray all the prayers at all of the funerals, marry you, bury you, baptize you. That’s important to do, but my job is to equip you to do the work of the ministry, to leverage you, harness all the potential of you for the good and glory and growth of God’s kingdom. To get you out. Okay, so here’s the other reason we’re doing this series, because if you’re on the sidelines, that’s our fault. There are needs, and as the ministry grows, we have growing needs. We do. We have growing needs as a ministry, and there’s a temptation for us to reach out to the people we know. And that’s like a diminishing return. And that’s how the same five people end up serving on the alter team, and the finance team, and the hospitality team, and the lawn care team. It’s the same person doing everything. It’s because that’s the person we know and we reached out to.
And we have this database that we use for giving records and your address and mailings and all that kind of stuff. And in this database we have the ability to search a term, to do a search query. We need a photographer for an event and we type in the word photographer, and it could pull up a list of people who have the gift and the ability or the passion for photography. But we don’t know what you’re good at. We don’t know what you’re passionate about. We’ve never asked you. And so when we type photography, no results. And so we asked somebody who’s really bad at photography to take a photo at an event, and then we were like, “we can’t even use this photo. Sorry man, this is terrible. Your thumb’s in the way and we can’t use it on Facebook”, or whatever.
Right now this morning there are volunteers down the hall at kids’ ministry and we need more volunteers for kids’ ministry. Tonight we need volunteers for our youth ministry, middle school and high school, and kids ice skating. There’s volunteers there, but we need more. Our counting team needs more counters. Our landscaping lawn care team, they need more people. We’re about to put in better cameras and new lights. I’m really excited about that, to prove the quality of our livestream. We need videographers. Anyone here have ability to do cameras? We need help with it. But how do we find out the potential and the talent that’s sitting out there unless we give you an opportunity to tell us.
And so what we’re going to do for the next five weeks is we’re going to have a profile, like an assessment for you guys. And every week we all have an opportunity based on what we talk about, to tell us how are you gifted in these areas. So we’ll find out what are your spiritual gifts? What is a spiritual gift? And how has God equipped you? And what is your heart, like who do you love? Why do you love it? What makes you angry? What social injustice keeps you up at night? What makes you just come alive where time just passes away and you realize hours pass because you were doing that thing? What abilities do you have where everyone looks at you and you’re so good at it and they’re, “how do you do that thing? And you do it perfectly and quickly, what takes us hours to do imperfectly.” What’s your personality and how does that play into all this? Introvert, extrovert, enneagrams, all that stuff.
What are your experiences? Where do you work? I don’t know what half of you do for a living. I don’t have a clue. And so when we need somebody to help with the finance team, I’m like, “oh wait, you’re an accountant? Hey, have I got something for you?” But we don’t know. And so in this series, we’re going to ask you guys to help us discover you, and in the process for you to discover who God made you to be, so we can liberate you to live a life of purpose, to worship God by doing what you were made to do, and to feel his pleasure. So that’s what we’re going to be doing in this series as we get in shape.
Let me pray for you. We’ll get going with our day here. Heavenly Father, I thank you for the people in this room, the unique collection of gifts that are assembled here. I guess the first thing is we confess to you that we are sorry for squandering away our talents, for not seizing the moment, for not being good stewards of what you’ve given to us, you’ve gifted us. We have passions and abilities, personality and experience. And I think also it’s important that we thank you, just imagining what it would be like to be a clone, to be standing in a long line of replicates, and to not have to be an accident, to be a mistake, to just lacking any type of purpose. It’s a terrifying thought. And so God, we praise you and we thank you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
And I pray that right now, every person in this room who struggles with a feeling of meaning, every person in this room who struggles with a sense of what am I supposed to do, that God you would use today in this series to remind them that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, teeming and bursting and overflowing with purpose. That you love them, you have a plan for them, and their life is not over, it’s not an accident. So God redeem us. Redeem us Lord. And when we don’t know what to say, sometimes the easiest thing to say is to just pray the words that you tell us to pray. And so we join our voices together saying, our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen.
Would you guys please stand as we sing?