What Color is Your Parachute?
a sermon based on 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
by Rev. Thomas Hall
I ran across a little cartoon this week-the
Wizard of Id. Two of the kings servants are standing in the royal stable. Says one:
"Ive been contemplating a career change." "Oh really?" says the
other, "to what?" The other retorts, "To anything up wind."
Thats the response we might get from Moses. The out of town in-laws have come to
visit Moses. We know what thats like-especially if they stay past the holidays. So
after a weekend of pleasantries and camel talk, time to get back to work. After all, Moses
is the pastor of the largest congregation in town. But since his in-law has stayed yet for
another day, Moses invites him to spend a day with him at the office. Maybe he wants his
father-in-law, Jethro, to see how busy the ministry really is and take a hint that
its time to go home.
So when Monday morning rolls around Moses and father-in-law Jethro are up bright and
early-Moses has no choice but to get up early because people are already lined up outside
his office by 5:30 am. On this particular morning, Moses works straight through his lunch
break-person after person comes for counseling from their pastor.
"Pastor Moses, my neighbors goats keep eating my tent. Please do something
about it." Then a youthful Israelite comes up. "Like ah, Mr. Moses, sir. Like we
have this cool desert band-it really rocks-and ah, we were wondering if we could have a
concert in the desert amphitheater this Friday?" Right, concert in desert
Why, at days end, he has filled two legal pads with requests, with demands, petty
complaints, and some really important issues.
Now youd expect this in-law-who has watched the ministry this entire day to be
empathetic about his son-in-laws busy schedule. After all, hes just worked
from sun up to sun down. The man has tried to help at least one hundred people. Moses is
exhausted. Hes thinking he has done a noble think, helping all these people with
their problems, spiritual questions and such. In his thinking, all of this hard work has
helped to make this world a better place. Hes listened to problems and suggested
solutions. We may want to place Moses among greats like Mother Teresa, Julian of Norwich,
or Pastor Hall as persons who are really working hard around here. But Jethro looks at
Moses day in the life of a minister very differently. He looks Moses in the face and
says, "Moses, youre like a son to me, so dont take this personally, but
thats the dumbest thing Ive ever seen. Standing up here all day from morning
till evening, wearing yourself to a frazzle, trying to do all of this work yourself!
Didnt they teach you anything in seminary? Why, Moses, work smarter, not
"Oh," says Moses in a humble sort of way. Scripture says, "Moses took
Jethros advice." So with his father-in-laws help, the two of them
organized a teamwork approach to ministry. Moses now had trained leaders who did exactly
what he used to do. No clergy burn-out. No church splits. No more goats eating other
What does this story say about our lives? About the way we are to think about church?
The story isnt about Moses, is it? I think the story is about how weak and puny
Moses is to accomplish what needs doing in the world. The story seems to be about how God
sends friends to help us do a great work together.
Two Sundays ago, I talked about the need to get a full-time minister. What we really
got around to discussing was not the kind of minister who gets a paycheck every two weeks.
Thats Moses all over again trying to do it all by himself. No, I was referring to
the other full-time ministers-whoevers left in this church after the paychecks run
out. God has called all of us into full-time ministry. Fact is, some of us full-time
ministers just dont look good in a clerical collar. Instead, were walking
around as dentists, attorneys, grandmas, stay-at-home-moms, quail farmers, dog trainers,
teachers, babysitters, and rugby players.
All that to say that God has a mission for every one of us. Do you know what your
Mission in life is? There is nothing that can equal the rush of getting out of bed in the
morning, going back into the world and knowing why.
So let me begin with a few questions for you to ponder:
1. If God were personally to tell you three things that He wanted your life to stand
for, what would they be? What reason can you think of that God might have left you on
earth for a few more spins?
2. What legacy does God want you to leave when you leave this world?
I spent some time this week reading a book that has been on the New York Times
bestseller list for the past 288 weeks; has sold over 9 million copies and has been placed
by one literary organization as in the list of twenty-five most influential books ever in
American literature. It is What Color is Your Parachute? By Richard Bolles.
Bolles started out like Moses. A minister and doing a lot of things that he wasnt
particularly good at, but things that somebody had to do. When he lost his job in the
early 70s, he began to listen closely to God and to his life. It was through this
soul-searching that he wrote this book. Its actually about finding our vocation, or
calling instead of finding just a job and a buck.
Three directives come from the book: 1) Find your mission here on earth, which is to
become aware that you are standing in the presence of the One who has given you a mission
to accomplish. That is, we must know the Missioner before we can discover the Mission. 2)
Do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better
place. And the only way we can do that, Bolles says, is simply by following the
leading of the Holy Spirit. 3) Discover and then begin to use your Talent-or passion-which
you came to earth to use.
One recent radio advertisement begins like this: "What do you like to do? Not what
youve been trained to do or what you went to school to learn to do or what looks
good on your resume. But what do you have a passion for?"
To read What Color is Your Parachute is to read our second lesson all over
again. Listen to what Paul says about passion:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are
different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to
perform, but the same God gives ability to all of us for their particular service. All of
you are Christs body, and each one is a part of it.
God gives us a passion to accomplish our Mission and to leave a legacy. The Bible
describes the tools God has equipped us with the word, charisma. Charisma is more than
graduating from Miss Manners School or owning a winning smile. Charisma is translated
"gifts." Whats interesting is that it comes from the root word, charis,
which means "grace." And charis comes from the root word char, which is the word
God has equipped us to fulfill the purpose for why we are still here. From the time we
were being formed in the womb, Gods purpose for us has been tattooed into our DNA;
its been scripted into our genes. Gods grace is made specific and unique in
our lives through the gifts that he equips us with. Those gifts are nourished and
sharpened through our experiences and professional training, maybe, but they ultimately
come from God.
Gods grace is like refreshing rain that falls on all of us. And as each droplet
is unique, so Gods grace in our lives is unique. And when we allow Gods
grace-the rainfall-to refresh us, they become gifts that enable us to be Gods unique
people, serving humanity in unique ways! And when were offering our unique gifts to
God and neighbor, only then can we experience joy at the deepest core of our soul. So
Im beginning to realize that Gods wonderful gifts help us to locate our niche
and purpose in this life.
With Gods gifts comes passion to do specific things. In this church, what is your
passion? What kinds of activities or actions, that when youve done them, is like
having "Christmas everyday" because it fills you with such joy? When you are
operating in your gift and passion, you will experience maximum effectiveness and minimum
Have you met people who have passion? I have. A recent one hundred year anniversary
homecoming drew folks from all over to a large mainline Presbyterian Church. One person, a
minister for twenty-five years, stood up and said, "I owe my earliest sense of
Gods calling to Kay." Thanks, Kay." Before the service was done, five
people had stood-all of them serving churches as professional clergy-to express their
gratitude to Kay.
Whos Kay? Everyone was wondering. They had had no Kay as a minister, not even as
an associate or part-time youth worker. Whos Kay. When Kay stood up, everyone knew
what this was all about. Kay had been stuck back nursery for 55 years. Every Sunday, as
everyone went to their classes, as ministers came and went, Kay had prayed for these
babies and offered them to God.
I want you to hear this: no one had to beg her to volunteer. It was her passion. It was
her breath. It was her Mission in life. Kay, I want to say to you, "Mission
What is your passion? What will you leave as a legacy? What gift can you bring to make
this church and this world a better place-because you have journeyed through life with
I conclude with a statement from G.K. Chesterton. It has lodged in my mind the entire
week as I have thought about this sermon. May it inspire you to pursue your passion:
"We now have a strong desire for living combined with a strange carelessness about
dying. We desire life like water and yet are ready to drink death like wine." We know
that we are here to do what we came to do, and we need not worry about anything else.