6/4/2017 Pentecost The text is 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
There’s an old cartoon about a man who was trying to sell a bus to a church. “It’s perfectly made for a church,” the dealer says as he points out its special features…three steering wheels, one gas pedal and most importantly, eight sets of brakes. Obviously, this dealer has a great deal of insight into how a church operates! Being able to STOP things from going forward is often more important to people than deciding upon a direction.
Our vision is often limited to what we see today, in front of us. And if we sense danger or a chance for failure, we apply brakes. Yet, God’s vision is quite different. God has a plan for the future, a plan which involves his church and each of us. Where we would apply brakes, God would often have us forge ahead for God has given us what we need to do so. God has done that through the Holy Spirit that resides in each of us. God has given us the gifts of the Spirit…that is, gifts of an active God which stretch our reality beyond our wildest dreams or abilities. In a sense, they are miracles of God’s grace – miracles that bind us together and build the church.
Obviously, when we think of the church, the first image that comes to mind is a building, or a specific denomination or a worship service. And yet, the church is more like a marriage than a building. It is like a marriage in which one party, Christ, is always faithful and giving and the other, well….may not always live up to its full potential. And yet, the potential is always there for each of us is blessed with gifts. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. No one is left out – not even you! You have been given a gift or maybe a multitude of gifts by God. Because each person is gifted differently, each one is needed in order for the church to be whole and well and live up to its potential.
These blessings are not earned or asked for – in fact, some of us wouldn’t even want to have them, if we had a choice about them. They are gifts given and bestowed upon the people of God at the time of baptism. They are little miracles which strengthen us in faith and allow the church to operate as a whole. For, where would be without the musicians, the preachers, the teachers and those offering hospitality? Where would we be without the handymen, the visitors and those sending out cards and sermons to those who cannot attend worship? We may be able to exist without a building, but we cannot exist without the gifts of the Spirit. Without those gifts, there would be no church…there would be no body of church to carry on the mission and ministry of Christ.
Whether we like it or not, we are gifts. Whether we use the gifts or do not, they are there. And if, through the miracle of faith, the gifts are discovered and used, they become beacons showing forth the glory of God. They are not blessings to bolster self-pride. They are Christ’s departing gifts to his disciples of every generation.
One Sunday, a young seminarian was given a lesson in what it means to be gifted. As he stood up to lead the small, rural congregation he served in worship, he noticed a man coming in the back door who he knew well from the seminary. It was the seminary’s highly acclaimed professor of preaching. The student was worried. He immediately wished that he had spent more time preparing his sermon. Feeling very inadequate and more than a little guilty, he had little choice but to press on and preach what he had prepared. When the service closed, the seminarian went to the back of the church and greeted the people as they exited. When the professor reached the back door, he shook the young man’s hand and said to him, “Young man, you are truly a gifted preacher.” Immediately, the seminarian’s head swelled. “You really think I was that good?” he asked. The professor looked at him with compassion and said, “Young man, I said you were gifted, not good.”
God bestows his gifts upon each one of us in order that we might use them – whether we are good at it or not. The gifts vary, just as God’s people are many and varied. By no means does “one size fit all.” One may receive and utilize the gift of healing for the benefit of others, while, if given to another, this gift would be wasted. Still another is able to receive the wisdom of God and to impart it to others in such a way that many are blessed. Some people receive flashy, public gifts, like preaching, singing, playing instruments and the like. Others receive quiet internal, but not private gifts, like intercessions – that is praying for others in their need.
No church is too small to receive these. No church is too large to not need these. No gift is unneeded. No gift is greater than another. For all are gifted by the same God. All are blessed by the same Lord. And these gifts are a manifestation of God’s love and faithfulness. For God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, has chosen to be in an everlasting relationship with his people…all people, including those who don’t see themselves as gifted and those who tend to waste what has been given them.
It is when all people work together, utilizing the gifts bestowed upon them, that the church is at its best…worshiping and healing, teaching and reaching out to others in need with God’s blessings. When the work of the church falls upon the shoulders of a few, a few who become burdened and burned out as they not only fill the niche they were given, but also try to fill the holes that are left by others who do not share use the gifts given to them in the community, then the church fails to live up to its potential.
For God, through Christ Jesus, sent the Holy Spirit to give to the church, the body of Christ – all that is needed. Through the lens of the cross, the church has been given a vision of what is to come. And, through the gifts of the Spirit, a marvelous variety of gifts bestowed to the people of God, the church has what it needs for the mutual building of the community in faith and service to the glory of God.
That, my friends, is the bottom line. This is the miracle of God’s choice. For, God withholds nothing that is needful of his people – not his Son, not his Spirit, not each other. In the miracle of God’s choice, God makes us little witnesses of his glory by bestowing upon us gifts.
May we see ourselves as gifted people of God. May we use the gifts bestowed upon us by the Spirit to the glory of God. And, may peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.