"Devouring One Another"
An enthusiastic young man, a church-goer, made a home visit on
an older woman in the congregation. He asked her if she had been
at church the day before and she said she had. He said he hadn't
been able to go and asked her what the minister preached about.
She said she couldn't remember. So he asked her what the Scripture
text had been. She said she recalled it was a good sermon, but
just couldn't recall what it was about. The young man told he her
thought it was odd she'd go to church if she couldn't bring home a
single word about it. It was a waste of time. The woman looked
sternly at the young man and asked if he'd do her a favor. He
agreed and she asked him to take an old wicker clothes basket out
to the well and bring it back full of water. To which he replied,
"Come on now. I'm not such a simpleton that I wouldn't know that
there wouldn't be a drop of water in the basket when I got back."
The old woman smiled. "Perhaps you're right," she said. "I dare
say there wouldn't be a drop, but the basket might be a bit
Even if you don't remember what I've said in a sermon after you
leave here, and some of you do and some don't, nevertheless, the
Holy Spirit plants something within you that relates only to you.
Sometimes folks don't even know they retained something till
something occurs and it applies.
But other times it's just that being at worship, hearing God's
Word, singing praises, confession, praying-those things are what
you need that day, and you leave, as the woman in the story says
about the wicker clothes basket, cleaner. You've left things
behind giving your cares over to Jesus. You let the Holy Spirit
enter your heart to encourage you, uplift you, strengthen you for
your week ahead. Most of all, you became aware of the presence of
God in your life. So, even if you don't remember what the sermon
was about, it's good that you are here.
Which-strange as it might seem-brings me to the title of my
sermon today, "Devouring One Another." That was a phrase in the
Scripture lesson from Galatians this morning.
The reason we gather together in our encounter with God, rather
than trying to go it alone, is that, as we gather, we strengthen
and encourage, each other, and support and lift up one another in
prayer. We gather for those reasons, but often don't live that
out-often we let each other be devoured.
You are part of this congregation, this gathering this
morning-member, friend, visitor-for a reason. The Holy Spirit
brought you here-God has a purpose for you and your life here. You
are not just strengthened and encouraged for your own life-it's
not a selfish, singular matter when we gather. We are here for
each other. We are strengthened in the use of our God-given gifts
so we can serve others in Christ's name. We start here.
Are you familiar with the expression "Friends don't let friends
drive drunk"? It means we ARE our "brother's keeper." We are meant
to look out for one another and how we make use of our God-given
talents and gifts.
As the church led by the Holy Spirit, gathered in Christ's
name, we are all part of the body of Christ. That is, we are
brought together, formed as a body, by the Holy Spirit. It's no
accident that you are here this morning; not even as a visitor-it
's no accident that you're here this morning.
Each part of the body is essential. Each gift we bring as
individuals to the body gathered is essential. If you misuse or
abuse a part of your body it affects the rest of your body. Well,
we gathered here as the body of Christ, we are all in this
together; what we do as individuals in that body, affects that
body. We must care for and about each other so our mission,
ministry, outreach to each other and to the community and world as
a gathered body of Christ can all be done in Christ's name,
fulfilling God's will for us and for the world.
That means we can't abuse one another. By that I mean we can't
let members or friends do more than their share-overwork
themselves, over volunteer, over involve themselves doing what
others should be doing-because that abuses their gifts. It makes
their gifts weaker and makes the gift of who we are as a
congregation weaker, less effective. It means each of you has to
live up to doing YOUR share. If you see someone over involved,
over worked, you need to step up and help-relieve some of their
burden so it ISN'T a burden to them.
If we-no, I'm going to say "you" in this so that you don't
think I'm talking about ME being overworked-if you devour one
another by letting each other over expend your energy by letting
some get burned out-how is that helping them? How is that helping
you? You weaken the very church/congregation you want to support,
through which you want to put your God-given gifts to work. But
even beyond that, you weaken each other in your ability to support
and encourage one another as you face the challenges of your week.
Outside these walls there are things in this world that will
easily capture our attention and even our energy and lead us away
from fulfilling who it is that God created us as-what it is that
God created YOU to be-giving you specific talents and gifts.
And no matter what your age, God keeps giving you gifts-our
gifts and talents change over the years. But we are NEVER without
God-given gifts that are meant to be used in service to the glory
of God's creation and God's created-you and me and a world of
The world is not an easy place to live. It's full of
dissentions, factions, jealousy, anger, envy, drunkenness,
carousing, idolatry, strife, enmities and the like. It is so easy
for humans, for you and me, to get caught up in the likes of such
things. And these things are waiting to devour our energy and our
attention-anything that will make us take our eyes off Jesus;
anything to make us not listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
but rather, listen to the devil let our attention be drawn to all
You know what envy, anger, greed, quarrels, jealousy, factions
etc. are. You know how easy they can grab your attention
sometimes. We all KNOW when we are angry or jealous or
quarrelsome. We know. And when we know-that's when we should
recognize the devil has a grip on us and immediately recognize we
have lost our focus-we've taken our eyes off Jesus-we've blocked
out the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
When we get caught in any of those situations or negative
emotions we should immediately focus on any of the gifts the Holy
Spirit has given us-love, joy, peace, faithfulness, generosity,
gentleness, patience, kindness-and we'll get back in touch with
the guidance of the Holy Spirit and get Jesus back into the center
of our focus.
The youth seem to think it is part of growing into adulthood to
have sexual encounters. They think that drinking alcohol, being
able to hold their liquor, makes them more mature. Where in the
teachings of Jesus does it say that? Could it be they don't KNOW
the teachings of Jesus? Could it be that their parents or
guardians or the congregation who promised at their baptism to
support their parents in teaching them the basics of their faith
has failed them? Could it be those adults don't know the teaching
very well themselves? And there ARE parents who think that
teaching their children to know how to drink and hold their liquor
is important in their development into adulthood. Where in the
teachings of Jesus does it indicate that?
There are parents who are relieved to find their son or
daughter is not into drugs but only into alcohol. There are
parents who don't care that their children are having sex as long
as they take the proper precautions, use protection, have safe
There are parents with double standards-it's okay that the son
has to sow his wild oats-yet they don't want any boy to do it with
THEIR daughter. There are parents who think it's okay for boys to
read magazines like Playboy or Hustler (knowing they didn't buy
them to read the articles) but draw the line at pornography-or do
There are folks who think it is okay to watch "skin flicks"
(pornographic movies) and watch men and women use and abuse each
other sexually on film just for the gratification of the viewer.
Where is THAT in the teachings of Jesus?
There is so much out there that will devour our attention, our
minds, and our souls-especially the impressionable minds of
children and youth. Don't you know the statistics? Don't you know
about teen pregnancy, teen suicide, teen murder, teen drug use?
Statistics about children abused by their parents physically or
sexually? Don't you know the statistics? I'm not talking
world-wide or nation-wide; not even state-wide. Don't you know the
statistics for Carroll County and Taneytown? Maybe you don't WANT
to know. But you SHOULD! Maybe you darn well ought to take the
time to find out!
And how are we helping one another? What steps are we taking to
prevent the world from devouring us, devouring adults and youth?
Half measures avail us nothing-they are luke-warm-the sort of
measures Jesus speaks about spewing out of his mouth. We have to
get serious about using our God-given talents for the benefit of
each other and for our community.
Why aren't grandmothers and grandfathers out on some sort of
protest line taking a stand for the youth? Too many retired folks
are resting on their so-called laurels, are opting out of action,
but it never stops them from running off at the mouth with griping
Too many parents are letting the world teach their children
morality and ethics. Too many adults have let the world devour
their own spirit and will and are willing to let that happen to
the children and youth.
Well, we need to get those folks in here-in where they can hear
the Truth-hear about how powerfully God has equipped them-hear how
they are loved and supported. Evil can only flourish when good men
and women sit by and do nothing.
It's not a matter of whether one is going to heaven or hell.
It's a matter of living hell now. Life without having God as the
center of your focus is so much less than it could be-and for some
folks it's empty and hopeless, a living hell.
Come on, folks. Get your kids, your grandkids, your neighbors
and their kids-get them, along with yourself, in here every week
where they and you can learn about the power God has given you;
learn about your God-given gifts; learn about forgiveness and love
and compassion; learn how to develop your gifts and the gifts of
the Holy Spirit that I mentioned earlier; learn how to develop and
use them; learn how you are equipped by the power of the Holy
Spirit to strengthen each other and your family and friends and
others in your community.
Let's not let the devil devour our gifts by us wasting them or
letting them go unused. Don't let the devil devour folks in our
midst who are burning out because you let them do more than their
share-you let them do your share as well. You let your gifts be
devoured by excuses and the hot air of your words as you try to
justify letting your brothers and sisters in Christ in this
congregation be devoured by doing YOUR work that Christ called YOU
to do by leading you here to this place.
Even if your parents make you come; even if your spouse dragged
you here; it is still the Holy Spirit who is bringing you here,
giving you the opportunity to be the fullness of who God created
you to be.
WAKE UP! SMELL THE COFFEE!
You are so incredibly blessed and yet some of you act like God
owes you something instead of you owing everything to God.
For God's sake help each other. Save each other from being
devoured Love not only your neighbor in this gathering, but in
your community. That was also in today's lesson from Galatians.
Care about each other. Care about who is here and who is NOT here.
Step up and be counted. Don't let each other be devoured! Not in
here; not out there.