It is an ancient tradition to lift up the Seven-fold Gifts of the Holy Spirit. In fact, we claim those seven gifts at every ordination through the rubric that requires either Veni Creator Spiritus or Veni Sancte Spiritus be sung prior to the Consecration. Both ancient hymns make reference to the Seven-fold Gifts which come not from the usual gifts lists cited from Romans, 1 Corinthians, or Ephesians, but instead from the Prophet Isaiah. In a prophecy about the savior who will grow the Peacable Kingdom from the root of the Tree of Jesse, Isaiah lists the gifts the Anointed One will possess: “The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of
- wisdom and
- understanding, the spirit of
- and might, the spirit of
- and the fear of the LORD.
- He will delight in obeying the LORD.”
It took some digging to figure out how repeating the “Fear of the LORD” made for two separate gifts, but thanks to the theological resource to end all theological resources, Wikipedia, I figured out that the list comes form the Latin Vulgate, which is a notoriously bad translation. In the Latin, number six reads not “fear of the Lord” as it does in Hebrew for both 6 and 7, but “pietatis,” a helpful word for a Church trying to overcome an empire built on a sacrificial system of moral corruption. This gives us a list of seven unique gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, piety, and fear of the LORD.
Which is a really long way of introducing the list that shows up in Sunday’s lesson from Romans. Paul, continuing to call upon the Church in Rome to discipleship and unity, reminds them that the only person who possessed all of the Gifts of the Spirit is the head to which the Body is united, Jesus the Christ. Without mentioning the Isaiah list, he certainly brings to mind, at least for the Jewish Christians in the Roman Church, the promise of giftedness that comes with Isaiah’s vision of the Peaceable Kingdom. Paul goes on to list some, not all, of the gifts that are needed in the Church, gifts that will ensure the health of the whole body: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion.
None of us possesses all of the gifts of the Spirit, those listed here or the expanded lists elsewhere in Paul’s letters. None of us has none of them. But the Spirit, according that good and perfect will of God, divvies them out by grace, through baptism, so that each member of the Church might have a job to do that builds up the Kingdom and strengthens the body. It is through the exercise of those gifts that we are able to join with God in the re-creation of earth, in fulfilling his dream, in creating the Kingdom of God.
Do you know your gifts? Do you have a means to exercise them? If not, ask your local clergy person for advice, surely they can help you stretch your spiritual muscle.