How Do I Fit into God’s Plan?

Exodus 31:1-11

The Lord spoke to Moses: See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. Moreover, I have appointed with him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its stand, 10 and the finely worked vestments, the holy vestments for the priest Aaron and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the holy place. They shall do just as I have commanded you.

 

When we think of people who play a big part in God’s work, the names Bezalel and Oholiab probably don’t roll off the tongue. Instead, names like Moses, Abraham, Deborah, David, Peter, Mary, and Paul are the ones we think of right away: kings and prophets, faith leaders and rulers. We think we may need to be a great speaker, or lead a movement, or be a famous miracle worker in order to serve God.

But God sees the Bezalel’s and Ohiolab’s as just as important, as just as world changing, as the Moses’ and Paul’s of the world. Bezalel and Oholiab were not great speakers. They didn’t lead a nation or a movement. And their role is something that we as humans skip over pretty quickly. But God sees their gifts. And God calls them to show God’s love to the world.

They are craftsman. They have all the gifts I don’t have, working with precious metals and carving wood, and cutting stone. They create objects that are beautiful and are unlike anything that has come before. And so God calls them to create items that will remind God’s people that God is with them, that God has promised to watch over them, that God’s covenant is everlasting.

They crafted the tabernacle, the meeting tent, where God’s presence was felt and known, and people could come together to worship and pray and know God is in the midst of us all. And they built the Ark of the Covenant, the physical reminder of God’s promises of love and grace and commitment to God’s people. Bezalel and Oholiab were not great speakers, but what they crafted spoke a message to the world. It told who came into the tabernacle, all who saw the Ark of the Covenant, all who wore those vestments and smelled that incense and used their utensils, and saw by their lamp stands, that there is a God who loves us, who created us, who walks with us in this life, and who calls us to use our particular gifts in our own unique ways.

A few years ago, when I worked for a church in Indianapolis, I was visiting a church member in the hospital. And right before I left the church someone handed me a prayer shawl, telling me, “This was made by our guild for him. Please give it to him.” It was hand knitted, and then prayed for by a group of members in the church. I threw it in my car and headed out.

This was a visit I was really looking forward to. The last time I saw him this church member in the hospital he was telling jokes and laughing and speaking of going back home soon.  But when I got to the hospital, I was told he was in a different room, in a different wing of the hospital. He had been moved to ICU. When I got to his bedside, his eyes were closed and he could respond only with little movements and soft mumblings. I sat next to him for a few minutes and said a prayer and read some scripture passages. And right as I was leaving to go a nurse came up to me. She said, “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but are you his pastor?” I answered yes. And she said back, “He doesn’t have a lot longer to be here. I wanted you to know that.” It was a shock that this man who just a few days ago was standing and laughing and feeling so well, was now about to die. I went back to him and said another prayer. And then I didn’t know what to do. I had to go, but I did not want to leave him alone. And then I remembered the prayer shawl, which I left in a bag right by his bed. I took it out and laid it gently upon him, knowing that it was made just for him, that it was prayed over by people who wanted to show him God’s love. Two hours later he passed, with that prayer shawl covering him, with those prayers and that love, and that witness that we are never alone. In life and in death God is there. Those members who knit that shawl and prayed over it had a calling from God. It may not be as prophet or king, but they were showing God’s love to the world.

Here at Stone House Presbyterian Church, there are so many ways that you all join in God’s work and show the love of Christ to the world. It’s in greeting people and making sure someone new knows that they are welcome and that they matter here. It’s in offering coffee fellowship, so that we can wake up to God’s message and gather together and check back in. It’s in caring for this building and these grounds so that others may come and worship, meet in small groups, shop at the food pantry, and learn in preschool and Discovery Time. It’s in you who use your talents to lead us in song, reminding us that we serve a God of beauty and grace and creativity. It’s you who decorate this space and teach crafts to children. It’s in you who go out to serve our neighbors, in Burnt Ordinary and Motel 6 and school supplies and food delivery.  It’s in you who teach our young people or meet together in homes to study and encourage and pray for one another I think of the unique gifts you all bring into this world: Elara tutoring at Literacy for Life, Anthony telling stories that encourage and bring laughter, Marilyn serving with community organizing in the Northern Neck, Tina sharing her artistic talents with youth over the summer.

Partnering with God does not have to mean coming up here and speaking. You all are a part of God’s work every time you show hospitality, you create something beautiful and new, every time you guide the gifts that are brought in or take care of this house of worship and love. You partner with God when you brew coffee for morning fellowship , when you color with kids downstairs, when you sing and join in worship, when you build a bonfire for people to gather around, when spread mulch for a new garden, when you help neighbors shop for food, when you use your gifts God has given you in joy and welcome and love.

We have some challenges here at Stone House Presbyterian. We have a mortgage, we have bills, we are still seeking ways to connect with more neighbors and families. But we also are a community full of people partnering with God, full of gifts and love that are changing days, changing weeks, changing lives, and proclaiming Christ’s love and grace.

The question we have today is not, “Can I make a difference in this world?” That is an emphatic yes. The question is “Where can I make a difference?” And I like this as an answer. It comes from Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian author and writer:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Be like Bezalel and Oholiab. Use your particular gifts, use your deep gladness, and trust that through those gifts, through that gladness, through you as a child of God, God is able to do more than we can even dream or imagine. Amen.