Cantate, The Fourth Sunday after Easter May 21, 2000
1 Peter 4:7-11
44, 27, 244, 51
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Here ends our text.
In Jesus Christ, Whom we love because He first loved us, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Have you noticed that it’s getting harder to find gifts for people than it used to be? It seems that way to me. One reason for it is that our society is becoming more and more affluent, and the standard of living keeps rising, year by year. That makes it tougher to find birthday and anniversary and Christmas presents for people, I think. Because when you come up with an idea for something they really like or need, the chances are that they’ve already bought it for themselves! It stands to reason that a lot of money can be made if a company can come up with a new and different gift idea. Something that people aren’t likely to have already. And it seems like every new product like that to hit the market is advertised as, “A Gift for the One who has Everything.”
Strictly speaking, of course, that’s never true. No one, regardless of his wealth, has everything. Well, no one but God. God does have everything. He owns and controls everything in the world. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” says the Psalmist.—Now there’s a challenge—what gift could we possibly give to God that He didn’t have before? As Christians, what can we bring to God to show our love for Him and our devotion to Him? Our text for today has a suggestion for us. We can give glory to our God! Our theme for this morning is:
We’ll see I. WHY we give glory to God, and also II. HOW we give glory to God!
The idea of “giving glory to God” is a little difficult to understand. After all, how can a person add any glory to the eternal God? The Bible says that “the Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory!” Ps 24:10. Well it’s true that we can’t add any glory to God; to “glorify God” means to reflect His great glory. To show forth His glory, His grace, His lovingkindness with our lips and with our lives. It means to show others, and tell others, about God’s glory. That’s the gift we bring when we glorify God.
—And it’s always just the right gift for us to give, too! It’s a gift that we can give to God again and again, wherever we are or whatever we’re doing. It will never be out of place or inappropriate. In fact, God tells us that that’s one of the reasons He put us on this earth in the first place—to give praise and glory to Him! Peter says to us Christians, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priest hood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I Pet 2:9.
Why do we give this gift of glory to God? It shouldn’t be our effort to earn points with God. It shouldn’t be an attempt to look pious and upstanding in the eyes of our neighbors. What it should be is a reflex action. When’s the last time the doctor tested your reflexes? He took that little rubber hammer and tapped your knee, didn’t he? A nerve was struck, muscles contracted, and your leg moved. Reflex. A natural reaction. If your leg hadn’t jerked, it would have meant something was wrong with you. Our giving glory to God is a reflex. It’s a natural reaction to everything that He has given us. When you think about it, there’d be something wrong with us if we didn’t offer praise to God! He’s given us everything we have—our families, our homes, our jobs—And the big gift that dwarfs all the others—the gift of His Son. For sinful mankind, who hated God and turned away from Him and disobeyed all His commandments, He gave His son. God sent Him down to earth to live a life of homelessness and poverty. Sent Him among the treacherous Jewish leaders who schemed and plotted and persecuted Him. Finally, God sent His Son up that last lonely hill, to die for a race of people who wanted nothing to do with Him. That’s how much God loved you and me! Surely, there would be something terribly wrong with our “reflexes” if we didn’t react to that love by loving God in return. And we do! “We love Him because He first loved us.” I John 4:9. That’s why we give glory to God!
But how, exactly, does God want us to give Him glory? Well, one way is by doing what you’re doing right now, listening to His Word and offering your praises. But giving glory to God isn’t just the hymns you sing in church, and the prayers you pray in church. It doesn’t stop when you walk out those church doors on Sunday morning. Giving glory to God is the way you live your life! An old cowboy once explained his idea of Christian living this way: he said, “Now I’m working for Jim here. If I just spent one day a week sitting around, telling what a good fellow Jim is, and singing songs about him, I’d be doing just what a lot of Christians do; but it wouldn’t suit Jim very good, and I’d get fired mighty quick. No, my work is to buckle on my chaps every day, and ride among the hills, making sure that Jim’s herd is all right and not suffering from lack of water or feed or wandering off or getting stolen by cattle thieves. Then I’m showing my love for Jim and serving him the way he wants to be served.”
Very often, what you do glorifies your God more than what you say. And our text tells us some things that we can do to give glory to God, and show our love for Him. And above all things, it says, have fervent charity among yourselves. “Charity” means love. When you love God, it shows in the way you treat other people—especially your fellow Christians!
And of our love for each other, Peter says—it will cover a multitude of sins. That’s a very strange idea, especially in the society in which we live today. Covering people’s sins doesn’t come naturally to us. Our system of gossip and the “grapevine” tends to publish people’s sins. Even for us Christians, it’s hard not to reach for the phone as soon as we find out some nasty piece of news about someone. Often, we can best show our love for each other by guarding our tongues; helping that person privately with his problem, encouraging him with God’s Word, and resisting the impulse to let others in on the “secret.” Then you’re not only giving help to your neighbor, you’re giving glory to God.
Peter says, Use hospitality one to another without grudging. That’s harder to do than it sounds. Welcoming people to share your home and your bread, even when they arrive unexpectedly—making our visitors here in church to feel at home and comfortable—cheerfully sharing the gifts God has given us with our fellow-Christians here at home and around the world—this is a service not only to them, but to Jesus, who said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matt 25:40.
Another way that we give glory to God? By using our talents to serve Him. Each of you sitting here today has a talent (perhaps many talents) that God has given you and that the rest of us need. Be a good steward of that talent! Use it to uplift your fellow Christians! Our text says, As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth. Perhaps your talent is teaching or working with children—each year we need volunteers to teach Sunday School. Perhaps your talent is working with your hands—there are always ongoing projects around our church property that need that special talent. Our prayer is that our building project will soon be underway, and many of you with construction skills can put them to good use in the Lord’s work. Perhaps your gift is financial—maybe God has blessed you lately so that you have a little extra income—you can use it to support the work of the Gospel in our midst. Maybe you can you have the type of personality that can encourage those we haven’t seen for a while to join us in worship on Sunday. Maybe your only gift is the gift of a cheerful spirit—use it!—to offer comfort and friendship and the hope of God’s Word to those among us who are suffering or going through hard times. The point is that God’s grace is manifold—He gives us all different kinds of gifts, and we serve Him by using those gifts to help each other.
Each one of us has our separate talents, our separate gifts, our separate place in God’s plan. But each of us has the same goal. Every act of service is aiming at the same target—that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. This is the way that we glorify God. This is our gift—our “gift for the One who has everything!”
The Samaritan who rode down from Jerusalem to Jericho had nothing to do that morning but follow the highway, and make sure his donkey didn’t stumble or hurt itself. Another routine day. But when he came to the place where that unknown pilgrim lay senseless and bleeding beside the road—in that moment his duty changed. He became a rescuer, a nurse, a helper of the wounded. Tomorrow is a new day. Will you be ready for unexpected calls and new responsibilities? Will you be ready to serve, to help, to use the talents God has given you? The real question is, will you be ready to give glory to God? May the Lord give us each the faith to answer that question with a resounding “YES!” In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.