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I have told you before of my admiration for St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of all chaplains. But re-imagine a bit of his life with me: a young Roman, born in the province of Hungary to a senior and well connected Roman Officer just about the time Emperor Constantine was making Christianity legal (325). Martin’s mother and father still worshiped the old Roman Gods, and expected Martin to do the same, so a 10 YO Martin had to sneak away to a priest for instruction as a disciple. He was not yet baptized, but very much a believer who wanted to be a monk, when by imperial law this 15 YO son of a veteran was required to join the Army, and eventually became a junior officer in the Emperor’s ceremonial guard. It was in that capacity in about the year 330, that he famously cut his uniform cloak in half to share with a beggar outside the city of Amien in France. That’s the deed for which St. Martin is forever remembered, along with the words that came to him in a dream that night. “Martin, child of God, thank you for clothing me with your cloak.”
Martin’s gifts of humility, servant-hood, and intercessory prayer were coupled with a lifetime of tangible deeds of charity. All of these are all gifts of the Spirit, and Martin of Tours is a wondrous saint to emulate, and remember, on this – All Saints Sunday.
To help us link the life of St. Martin to a day like this, where we both celebrate All Saints Sunday and begin our stewardship program, listen to some words, first from St. Paul and then from our Synod, both of them about Spiritual gifts: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (I Cor 12.4-7).” “God’s stewards recognize that their lives are not solo performances, so though their deeds are personal responses to God, they are lived within the community of faith to benefit the whole world (Synod Prin 4).”
Those two quotations summarize our stewardship emphasis for this year and simultaneously capture what the saints tell us: “Spirit-given gifts, For the common good.” Notice how our Synod translates what St. Paul said so long ago – our individual acts of faith are not solo performances. We may think of them that way. Many of us erroneously think that what we do with them is no one’s business – which is a truly American idea but it is alien to God’s idea. Not alone but together: each of us must bring our personal act of faith to the community, where the community will be strengthened by it so that, together, we may serve the world – which is the mission God has given us. My gifts are not just for me, but they belong with yours, so that together we may do the work God has called us to do, most of which we do together.
In Bible class today Pr Mark begins the process of helping us identify gifts so that we can add time to them, so we can offer them as part of the Body of Christ. As my own way of helping you get there – to find with St. Martin that you too might have the gifts of humility or service, I want you to imagine that you are filling out a typical job application. Somewhere this form asks you what you have done, what you have trained to do and what you do well or like to do. I have read the applications of many who wanted to work for the Army, and I know that outlining gifts, talents and abilities is routine. I know that many of you have dug deep inside to add everything you possibly can to your resume, to make it as competitive as possible. Well start there. Because all those things you’ve ever thought or ever wrote down on any form anywhere, are gifts of a very good God. He gave you those gifts so that you can do the work of discipleship. Start where you admitted that you have a gift.
Give it a name and imagine what that gift can do in God’s service. “I am a born leader,” who besides applying to be a division executive might volunteer to be the leader of all of those who are prayer partners at St. Paul’s. “I have done research at the highest levels of my agency,” might mean that you are ready to lead a review of all of the governing documents of the congregation. Give it a name, so that you can begin to imagine it. And then add time to your imagined gift so you can offer it for the good of all. A gift, without time added and offered, to exercise it, would be like a car without gas. And the holy Apostle promises, “All our gifts are inspired – that is breathed into us creatively – by God for the common good.” They are not yours – they came from Him and they are in you for a reason, and part of the reason is for you to be able to do the work of a disciple within the community!! As you offer them you will finally discover more of that reason.
I’ve never heard Zacchaeus referred to as a Saint. Probably because he was such a notorious sinner. But today as we observe All Saints, and begin our stewardship journey, we will call him a Saint – a sinful saint – to be sure – who repented; a crafty saint who showed ingenuity even in the way he got to see Jesus, a changed saint who began to share with the community on the same day he met Jesus, AND a wise saint who figured out who he defrauded and how to repair each wound. Those gifts, like his house, were freely offered to Jesus on the very day he was born to eternal life. On the very first day!! What a saint to emulate, St. Zacchaeus on All Saints Day.
You are such a saint; you are uniquely gifted and trained for service. Name it, and imagine it and offer it. As you begin to do that, Jesus offers yet one more promise out of His lavish grace. That your gift will become all it was meant to be when it is meshed with those other gifts in the Body of Christ that it was meant to work with. A disciple is a learner. Among his learnings is discovering his gifts. May you be richly blessed as you search for and discover yours and even more blessed as you find new ways to share them.
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