First United Methodist Church

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Devotion from Pastor David (July 10)

So, do you know what a group of jellyfish is called?  It’s a hive of bees and a cloud of grasshoppers, a consortium of crabs and an army of caterpillars – but what about jellyfish?  Turns out – a smack.  You are out in the ocean and you suddenly notice that you are surrounded by jellyfish.  You have encountered a smack of jellyfish.  That’s your fun fact for the day.

Anyway, I was watching this incredible program on TV the other day.  It was filled with ontological arguments and existential questions.  About the quest of a father to find his son despite overwhelming odds.  Finding Nemo is a must-see for those who are serious about their doctrine.

Do you remember the scene with the jellyfish?  Marlin and Dory are taking a short cut to the gulf-stream.  When suddenly, they find themselves in a smack of jellyfish!  Fluffy pink cloud tops and long stinging tentacles everywhere!  To escape Marlin and Dory play a game.  Who can bounce from jellyfish top to jellyfish top the fastest – without getting stung.  They have just about made through the smack when Dory gets tangled up.  And Marlin has to go back and rescue her and carry her out.  Getting stung over and over as he does.       

Turns out, Marlin is uniquely equipped to deal with jellyfish stings.  He has a special mucus coat that protects him.  Clownfish live in a mutually beneficial relationship with sea anemones.  The clownfish cleans the anemone and provides nutrients.  In return, the anemone’s stinging tentacles provide protection for the clownfish. For this to happen, God gave Clownfish the ability to develop a tolerance to the anemone stings. 

Where am I going with this?  Is this the Undersea World of Jacque Cousteau?  

Well, when we become a follower of Jesus, we are given special talents by the Holy Spirit.  The Bible talks about them as spiritual gifts.  They are abilities like teaching and giving and leadership and serving and encouragement and faith and healing and so on.  In Ephesians 4, Paul says that everyone gets them.  That they are given to help us grow into the likeness of Christ.  That they are meant to reveal the presence of Christ in the world.  And he says that they are given for the benefit of the whole body of Christ – the church.  He even goes so far in 1 Corinthians as to say we can never tell another person their spiritual gifts are not needed.  Everyone has an important part to play.  As Christians, we live in a mutually beneficial relationship with other followers of Jesus.  Where our spiritual gifts compliment and support each other.  Like Clownfish and sea anemones.   

This is why sharing the leadership of ministry between lay folks and staff folks is so important.  Because each has different gifts.  And those gifts are mutually beneficial.  They help us live out our faith.  And they help us bring the presence of Christ to our neighbors.  And do so more effectively.  As a pastor I don’t have all the spiritual gifts.  There are limits to what I can do well.  I need to add my spiritual gifts to the spiritual gifts of others.  And work collaboratively.

In other words, delegating the leadership of ministries to paid staff is not only unsustainable financially, it is undercutting the effectiveness of the ministry.  And it keeps others from using their God-given spiritual gifts.  Which are meant to help them grow into the likeness of Christ. 

One last thought that applies to this.  One of the questions I am hearing right now is about our church’s strategy for local missions.  We are absolutely going to continue to emphasize local missions.  It a fundamental part of being church.  There is no being church without them.  So, right now, we are evaluating our local ministries for how well they help us develop and remain in relationship with those we are in ministry alongside of.  Sometimes church’s get into thinking missions is about sending money.  Or thinking missions is about going and doing stuff we feel good about doing for another.  When it’s actually about life together.  Embracing and sharing our unique gifts.  Adding our strengths to theirs in addressing the needs they identify.  You may remember this from our series on When Helping Hurts this past fall.

For now – be blessed!  Whether you are a clownfish or sea anemone may you discover a deeper likeness of Christ as we minister together.  In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!  Amen.