Continuing on the Pray, Worship, Serve, Share theme from a few weeks ago, our vestry will gather this Saturday for a half-day retreat. We will try to use these four gifts to God to model our time together while also looking to see how the elected leadership might help lift up these four practices in the congregation. One of the ways we can get about this, in a healthy and effective way, is to find out which of these four areas has the strongest pull on our lives. It is true that every Christian should be engaging in each of these four practices: praying daily, worshiping weekly, serving regularly, and sharing for the up-building of the Kingdom, each of us is also better suited for one over the rest. Some find it easy to sit for an hour in contemplative prayer, while others find it easy to share the Good News with
In Sunday’s New Testament lesson, Paul calls these various skills and abilities, spiritual gifts. Many are familiar with the idea of spiritual gifts, especially the miraculous ones that seem to cause fear, trepidation, and the occasional fit of envy like healing and speaking in tongues. Paul’s list, at least the version found in 1 Corinthians, is fairly innocuous: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, and tongues and their interpretation; however it seems clear that there has been some struggle in the community regarding these gifts. Paul seems to need to tell the Christians in Corinth that no gift is better than another and that nobody has all the gifts. He is very clear in saying, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Let’s break that down a bit.
To each – that means everyone. Every. Single. Person. Has received gifts from the spirit. No one should be excluded for what seems like a lack of spiritual gifts.
The manifestation of the Spirit – this one is interesting. Thanks to the Sermon Brainwave crew at WorkingPreacher.org, I know that the word translated as “manifestation” is from the same root as Epiphany. It literally means that the Spirit discloses herself by way of the gifts. Our using the gifts given to us in baptism is the means by which the epiphany of the Spirit happens in the world. The flip side of that is that when we refuse our gifts, when we sit on our hands and don’t exercise our God given talents, then we are holding back the work of the Spirit in the world, which sounds awfully close to the unforgivable sin to me.
For the common good – These gifts aren’t given to make us famous (contra Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, etc.). These gifts aren’t given to make us seem like better Christians (contra some Pentecostal teachings on tongues). These gifts aren’t given to make us jealous, what seems to be a part of the struggle in Corinth. No, these gifts are given for the common good to build the Kingdom of God. When each of us is exercising our gifts, the Spirit is made manifest in the world, and the Kingdom of God comes one step closer to being on earth as it is in heaven.