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1st ANNUAL LITTLE MINNOW AWARD CEREMONY
by Pastor Mike Fortune
November 17, 2007

Introduction: Team Hoyt
PowerPoint File

STORY: Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn't make it. Terrified, the one shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We're in for it!" John answered, "I can't. I've never made a public prayer in my life." "But you must!" implored his companion. "The bull is catching up to us." "All right," panted John, "I'll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: 'O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'"

Can we be thankful for all things? Yes, we can! Rick was born in 1962 as a spastic quadriplegic without the ability to speak. Dick and Judy Hoyt were told there was no hope for their son’s development, but there were determined to give him every chance. The dedicated parents struggled to with school authorities to get him included and accepted. They taught Rick the alphabet, and an interactive computer became his means of communication. It was Rick’s quest for independence and inclusion that began their racing career. They have inspired each to compete in more than 65 twenty six mile marathons and over 216 triathalons. In those events, when it’s time to run, dad pushes rick in a wheelchair. When it’s time to bike, Rick is in a pod attached to the front of dad’s bike. While swimming, dad pulls Rick in a customized boat. In the process, their mutual love, dedication and efforts have inspired all. And together, with Rick’s dad 67 years old now, when they aren’t still competing, they travel the world reminding everyone that you can be thankful for all things. Small things done with great love still change the world.

Which is why today, we want to pause to thank God for the little things He does through others. To encourage each other. To build each other up. We don’t publicly do so in the middle of church for 51 weeks out of the year, but on one we will and that’s today.

Which even then sounds odd to some. Perhaps because they’ve read texts in Matthew chapter 6 that say things like “Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2When you give a gift to someone in need, don't shout about it as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3But when you give to someone, don't tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. 4Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.”

I see where they’re coming from don’t you? But I also see where Jesus was coming from. And I believe He believed in public thank you’s. In Luke 17:11-18, the story is told of 10 lepers who were healed of leprosy. But Jesus noticed only 1 thanked Him. Verse 11 says, “As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13crying out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14He looked at them and said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, their leprosy disappeared. 15One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, "Praise God, I'm healed!" 16He fell face down on the ground at Jesus' feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.17Jesus asked, "Didn't I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18Does only this foreigner return to give glory to God?" 19And Jesus said to the man, "Stand up and go. Your faith has made you well."

So Jesus believed in public thank yous. And there’s no doubt other Bible writers emphasized public encouragement. Here in rapid fire sequence are 5 other texts to fill up our Little Minnow six pack. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” Hebrews 10:24 says, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” In Roman 12:8-9 he says, “If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 he says, “We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we talk to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and your continual anticipation of the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And 1 Peter 5:12 concludes. “My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens.”

So while we don’t celebrate the Little Minnow Award ceremony every week, neither should it or the little things it emphasizes be ignored. The church is people not a building. But both need support to stand and keep standing right? Therefore, we should do all in our power to cultivate a church DNA of thankfulness and encouragement for each other. Which is why today we’re going to now recognize the 2007 Little Minnow Award recipients. Focusing this year primarily on the Sabbath school teachers. On behalf of Toledo First, I’d like to thank each of you who share your time, talent, and treasure. I wish we could thank every single one of you. So if for next year’s ceremony, you’d like to nominate a special volunteer not recognized today, please drop me a note and we’ll get them recognized too.

This is how it’s going to work. I’m going to call groups of people to come forward. Pastor Nathan will give you a certificate and then I’m going to have them stand on the steps and platform. I’m going to give you some stats and some likes about the individuals and then when I’m done, as our custom, I’m going to say “Teachers, we commend you.” And then all of us are going to enthusiastically respond, “Way to go!!!” After that, Jeff will take a nice group photo and if you wish to stand and clap as they return to their seats, today that would be entirely appropriate. And then I’ll call the next group up. Got it?

CEREMONY

Cradle Roll and Kindergarten

Primary

Youth and Young Adults

Adults

Women’s Class and Sparkplug Award “SPARK PLUG BASICS: The spark plug has two primary functions: 1) Ignite air/fuel mixture and 2) Transfer heat from the combustion chamber. Spark plugs carry electrical energy and turn fuel into working energy. A sufficient amount of voltage must be supplied by the ignition system. to spark across the spark plug's gap. This is called "Electrical Performance.” Well, because Jesus bridged the gap for us, dying on the cross for us, proving that He loves us all like crazy, including the women in this church, Kendra decided a little over a year ago to start a women’s Bible study class. So in addition to serving in over 15 years in other classes such as youth and cradle roll, she is now teaching the women’s Bible study class. She loves the “Aha moments” in which everyone has studied the Bible and come to a greater understanding about what is being revealed. And it’s because of her spark, a women’s bible study class emerged. And because of that spark, we are pleased to give her our prestigious 2007 Spark Plug Award. If you’d like to nominate someone for next year’s Spark Plug award, if you’ve seen some small spark, idea, or good deed done for someone else, they are worth too so please let me know.

Once upon a time, there was a far-away land that was ruled by a vicious king. His iron hand reached into every corner of his subjects' lives. Every corner - except one. Try as he might, he couldn't destroy their belief in God. In his frustration, he finally summoned his advisors and asked them: "Where can I hide God so the people will end up forgetting about him?" One suggested hiding God on the dark side of the moon. This idea was debated, but was voted down because the advisors feared that their scientists would one day discover a way to travel into space travel and God would be discovered again. Another suggested burying God in the deepest part of the ocean. But there was the same problem with this idea, so it was voted down. One idea after another was suggested and debated and rejected. Until finally the oldest and wisest advisor had a flash of insight. "I know," he said, "why don't we hide God where no one will ever even think to look?" And he explained, "If we hide God in the ordinary events of people's everyday lives, they'll never find him!" And so it was done. And they say people in that land are still looking for God - even today.

Of course this need not be. And it’s not in Toledo, Ohio. We don’t have to look far for God because He is already active all around us. In us and through us. He could do everything on His own, but instead invites us to join Him in His Father’s business. So we can experience the joy of Christian service. So we can be thankful for all the little things God does through others.

Small things done with great still change the world. And now, before I close with prayer, I’d like to ask all the Little Minnow Award Recipients, wherever they’re seated to stand as I ask a blessing on your continued service and ministry.

Gracious God, you are the giver of all things. Today we give special thanks for all the gifts you have given us—gifts we often take for granted. Today we celebrate the little things you do in us and through us. Thank you for all the volunteers who serve You. Those that were recognized here today and especially those who weren’t. Please continue to bless them. And pour out your Holy Spirit on them. Giving all of them all of the fruits of your Spirit. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self Control. And would you also help the rest of us grow grateful hearts? We want to be encouragers. And positive agents of change for You. This is our desire today. We pray in Jesus name—your greatest gift of all. Amen