July 15, 2018 Chosen Not Frozen

CHOSEN NOT FROZEN

July 15,18 Ephesians 1:3-14

“For by grace you have been saved,” Paul writes to the Ephesian church, and to the world today. He continues to expand on that thought in Ephesians 2:8-10 as he reminds us, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God-not by works, so no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Another place in Scripture we read that as chosen people we are called to go forth to be in missions to the world. And that does not mean just overseas, but as Acts says, it is in your own community, your own family, your own working environment, your own playing places. We are God’s chosen people not his frozen people to be in the ministry God has planned for us to do. Like God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

In the first chapter in Ephesians Paul writes these words. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.”

God’s precious words for his church, amen.

Chosen! Marked! Filled with the Holy Spirit! Empowered from above! Set aside! Holy! Set on fire people! That’s who we are. Maybe you never thought of yourself that way, but that is why God has chosen you. God said through the prophet Isaiah, “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter, we are the work of your hands.”

Isn’t it amazing to think how God has formed each and everyone of us as he saw fit. No two people really are alike. We are molded by the Maker, created with his hands, set aside for salvation and a journey of a lifetime, with a retirement benefit that no one can beat…. eternal life in heaven.

We may not realize it, but we’ve entered this world with all that we need from God.  Paul writes to the Corinthian church that God gives to his people gifts that they are to be using to help others, gifts to lift up the church, to help those who are in need, to share the blessings that God has provided. Not everyone has all the gifts, but each one has a gift that enriches the body of Christ, which is the church. If you take a look at who is sitting beside you, they have been gifted by God. You too, have been gifted by God, in order that this church, and the church universal, can grow in faith through the ministry of God’s people to one another. We¿ are called to spread the good cheer and joy of our faith.

That’s why we aren’t the “frozen” people of God. Heavens no! We are the church together doing what our Father in heaven wants us to do. We are his chosen people, his royal priesthood, in order to minister to one another.

I know that sounds scary for some because first you may not know what gifts you have. Second, many don’t like to share their faith, they believe it is a personal inward thing. But you see, if you allow God to mold you into the vessel he wants, all those things fall away. When Pentecost came upon the disciples sitting in the Upper Room, boy were they ever transformed. Their lives changed drastically. They became outward about their faith in Christ. They weren’t afraid to take a stand for him.

You see, Christ didn’t save the people to sit in the pews to take up space. He saved the people to go into all the world sharing his message of hope and redemption. We come to learn, to be prepared, to be transformed, to be inspired, to be set free, to be empowered, not by the words of some preacher, but by the Holy Spirit of God through those words that are spoken, “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.”  

You have been saved by grace because God loves you. You have been saved by grace because that is how you have forgiveness of your sins. You are saved by grace so that you can experience the joy of eternal life one day. But what do we do in the meantime? We are here still on this earth. And we know not everyone is a born-again child of God. There are many who are lost. There are some, though I’m sure it is getting to be a smaller group, who never have heard about Jesus. But with all the technology we have in this world, more and more people are getting a glimpse of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Sure, there are many who may not darken the church doors, that’s why we need to do God’s mission work wherever he leads.  And it’s scary to know that some who even grew up in the church have never ever made that journey to the cross through faith in Christ.

Paul writes elsewhere how can anyone hear God’s message unless one is sent? And then he says, how can someone be sent if he doesn’t have a message to give? Watch TV and those commercials and they certainly know how to witness to their products. How do I know? I’ve listened and bought some of them and perhaps so have some of you. You know John Wesley preached about God, he preached about Jesus, he preached about faith until he found it himself in a chapel one day listening to someone read the introduction to the Book of Romans by Martin Luther. His heart, as is known, was strangely warmed, and his message of salvation took on a new meaning as he began to preach a deeper faith in Christ. And God used Wesley to transform a nation and many hearts. Now he wants to use Methodists to keep those words alive burning the hearts of those who will listen. 

We aren’t in this place of worship to always hear how good we might be or have a goody-goody sermon. We are here to hear the word of God that transforms our lives over and over again. Each week the message from God is the same, but different. First, trust in God. Second, trust in Jesus. But there is more to it than that. It is a message to inspire us, to look within to see how we measure up. We shouldn’t be thinking this message is for so and so on the other side of the aisle, or the one that didn’t come this morning. No! the message is for everyone. Someone here God is speaking to each and every morning. He speaks, but do we listen? Has the church, have we become the “frozen” people, rather than his set on fire people that the cross and flame of our denomination shows to the world?

You are his workmanship, but he will not force you to go some place or do something. He gives you the tools for what needs to be done. He gives you the words to say. He gives you the courage to say them. They may fall on deaf ears at times, but the outcome of what happens isn’t up to us. It is up to the Holy Spirit. Our job that God has called us to do is to be his vessel in order that someone might hear his word through a word we might offer, or a card that might be sent, or a hand or a smile you greet someone with.

How do I know all this? Because that is what happened in my life. Long before God called me into the ordained ministry he used me in the factory where I worked for 13 years, to the guys who knew me well, that is, before I became a Christian, a fellow who talked the way they talked, but was transformed after one Bible study. And through that journey until I left one day to pursue God’s calling in my life, they witnessed to others my change. They would tell new people “this is Dick Piscatelli, who was once like us, but is now changed.” So, when they saw that change in me after my first Bible study, they were stunned. I was not the old sinner they knew. I was that person saved by faith being wooed by God to come follow him. They came to me for prayers, for help, for guidance at times. They noticed the change well before I did. And that opened many chances for me to share my journey of faith with them over that period of time until I left to head of to college and seminary.

How did this all happen? God took this vessel, began to reshape it, transformed my life in such a way, that led me down the path to the ordained ministry. But first, my calling, my work station for God was my family and my place of employment and it was remarkable how God used me to plant seeds of faith over and over again almost on a daily basis.

So, there you have it. We are God’s workmanship. We have been chosen to worship God, to serve God, to praise God, to share God’s message. As United Methodist we are called, encouraged, ordained to “Do all the good we can. In all the places we can. With all the energy we can. As long as we can.” That is why John Wesley would say, “The world is our parish” for wherever we go, we are God’s witnesses. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. People not only hear our words, but also see our actions, or dare I say our, non-actions. It’s like someone who has a bumper sticker on his or her car that says, “honk if you love Jesus” and when you do, and you get along side of them they either give you a weird nasty look like saying “why are you honking at me,” or maybe some other sign that might not be a good Christian witness. “Woe” you might think, that bumper sticker must have been on the car when they bought it.

Let me remind us all, from Paul’s words this: “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit….and you are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.”

For me what I do is not work but a ministry of joy helping others find Christ, deal with their sinful nature, helping in their hard times, as well as preparing each person for what is one day to come, eternal life. Those words I read. Those words God speaks through me, are for me as well to remember that I have work still to do to help God’s people find hope, forgiveness, healing and grace. They are words to encourage, to offer hope, to help us on our journey of faith. They are life-line words that help us with our daily walk with God. After all, Jesus said he would always be with us.

But preaching is just a small part of ministry. It is the daily things, the daily encounters that we run into with others we don’t know, like clerks in a store, or someone doing shopping or holding a door for someone. We are to be humble and kind, assisting others. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Could we not say it takes the Christian community to raise a believer?

Sometimes some of you have shaken my hand after our service and tell me how cold my hand was. That hand might be cold, but I can honestly say that my heart is warm because not only does Jesus live in me, he continues to transform me into the vessel he wants me to be. As you know, even though I’ve been in ministry for awhile, I’m not perfect but I’m truly a Christian still under construction. Learning to be more like Jesus. Learning to listen to the Master’s voice. Like many of you, I’m a work in progress, thankful for the grace and mercy of our wonderful God.

What’s your status? Are you a frozen vessel or are you a surrendered vessel that allows God to mold, or even remake in your thoughts and your dreams and your faith?

Let me remind you that God can melt the most frozen heart. That Jesus can clean up the most cluttered heart. That the Holy Spirit can transform any sinner into a vessel to be used by God.

You know, with the heat wave we’ve had recently that hot sun has had some effect on people. Now that I think of it, the Son, that is S-o-n has effect on people as well. He melts the frozen heart.

So, may it be with all of us today!

About Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor

Reverend Richard Piscatelli, (Pastor Dick) has been serving this church since 2006 and has begun his 13th year at Williamsville. Dick is a graduate of Asbury College, 1980, now Asbury University, and Asbury Theological Seminary, 1983, in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, he and his wife, Carole, have enjoyed living in the Midwest and have made many friends here. Dick’s first appointment was to Buffalo/Dawson UMCs, a two-point charge, which he served for almost 8 years when he was appointed to Paris Trinity UMC. He served at Paris for 6 years and was then appointed to First UMC at St. Elmo in southern Illinois. Dick’s final full-time appointment was to Roanoke/Secor UMCs, a two-point charge. These churches brought much satisfaction and lasting relationships in each. Williamsville UMC has been a joy to serve as he actually began his first church in “retirement,” and is very much involved in all areas of ministry, as the Lord leads. Pastor Dick has a special gift for doing Celebrations of Life and comforting the family. He prepares uplifting, inspiring sermons in a more casual and relaxed style, using humor when appropriate, yet ever-mindful of the importance of bringing the Gospel message for the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to all.