Gifts of the Spirit
Scripture: I Corinthians 12: 1-11
Sermon: “Our Common Good”
When we read about the church in Corinth and these historical stories for our here and now, we sometimes forget that these were actual cities with postal codes! Let me tell you what Corinth is like. It’s tiny! Corinth is a small place. Through an adventurous divinity school trip and also with my family, I’ve had the honour of being able to walk its streets—or what was the streets of Corinth all those years ago.
When Paul is addressing the people of Corinth, he’s addressing a crowd that’s diverse in multiple ways—some are rich, some are poor; some are Gentiles, some are Jew; some are slaves, some are free; some are women, some are men. All in this one small little city. I’m not surprised there was some comparisons. Some elbowing to see who’s gifts might shine a little more. It was a gathering of human beings, after all. Somehow, Paul keeps his head on straight, as he can be a healthy observer of the situation, assess the problem, and address it straight on, for what it is.
When you hear and read this particular Scripture in Corithians, it can sound a bit confusing. But Paul is actually teasing out very carefully each specific issue to help show the people that they are of the same God. We’re not just sharing a same source here in God, we’re also saved by the same Savior.
I was an elementary school teacher before I went to seminary. I taught Grade 3. It was my second year of teaching, and a new child was admitted to our school, and I had an extra space in my classroom. I’ll call him James. It didn’t take me but a few days to notice that James was at another level in his knowledge and learning. He easily passed our spelling tests and any other test I administered to him. But there was something more, I could sense it. There were moments where I felt like he could be teaching the class! I inquired from his parents, and sure enough, he came from a highly gifted program.
In any move, it takes awhile to go through the red tapes of new systems and placements, etc. We didn’t have all of his paperwork from the school. And, I was a young, very new teacher. Still, I kept pleading with the third grade team, this kid needs to be in the gifted class! I promise you, he does! The other teachers nodded to me with and “oh, it’s okay, you’re just getting used to teaching” nod. After one week, I pleaded again---there’s something I can’t explain---this child! He needs a different way of learning…a higher challenge. Finally, even before all the paperwork came through, they allowed the switch of classrooms. Within days, the ‘gifted teacher’ of an entire gifted classroom came to me and said---“you weren’t kidding----he’s so far above the entire class, I’m not even sure how to challenge him!”
I don’t know whatever happened to that child, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s one of those who helped create the vaccine that is helping to save lives during covid. Seriously. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Gifted. In education, it has been used in the past to represent students who demonstrated a higher learning, or higher IQ or intelligence in different ways. I don’t think the term is used now. But, what I want to say regarding that, is the word “gifted” has been used to set apart—to set above even.
James, even as a kid, never once acted like he was better than anyone else. He was friendly and loved to slide on the slides and swing on the swingset just like anyone else. He was like everyone else—he just learned in an entirely different way. That doesn’t mean he was better.
Whatever he’s doing in his life—I hope he’s soaring at it. It’ll help the world.
Whatever each of the rest of my 3rd graders are doing now in this world, I hope they’re soaring at it. It’ll help the world.
In our culture, the word “gifts” affirm what society values: intellectual prowess, athletic skill, leadership potential, and so on. Paul’s message to the Corinthians and to us, is counter-cultural. Everyone is gifted. EVERYONE.
Now this is different than ‘everyone gets a pony’ or ‘everyone gets a trophy’ just for being on the team. That’s a whole ‘nother sermon. But, Paul is sharing what we the common ground is for all of us. What is unchanging—and that is that we have the same God, the same Lord, the same Spirit. Paul emphasizes diversity, within unity!
Paul is saying to us in this passage that is the Spirit is leading us, then we are not going to be cursing Jesus. If the Spirit is leading us, we will acknowledge Jesus as Lord. And it is ONE Spirit that gives us a plethora of gifts. In the early church 1 Cor 12:3 is important for determining that the Holy Spirit is God—since it is only by the Spirit that anyone can confess that Jesus is Lord.
One thing we know about the body of Christ is that we are diverse. We come from different places, different cultures, different languages, different gifts. Yet, we are compared as one body. Just as a body is made up of different parts, those parts work together to help a human being live well. We are a diverse body in the church, but we are interdependent. We work better together, with all of our differences. That does not mean that any difference, or any gift, is higher regarded than another.
This past week, I hurt my back and was thankful for an immediate physio appointment that evening. I noticed that every physio I’ve ever been to is fit. Makes sense. They care for bodies on a daily basis, and they take care of their own, as well. I feel like there’s a good analogy in that for us in our spiritual lives. In our daily lives, the goal is to eat right, move right, and sleep right. What does it look like to care for our spiritual lives, and how will people notice?
What should we be noticing and nurturing today? I feel like we’re in a bit of an ‘in between’ time again with this omicron virus, though we all hope the wave passes quickly. Even so, what can you name in this past week that was affected due to omicron? We had a violin lesson move online due to exposure, two basketball games were cancelled due to covid related teammates, and I got an immediate appointment with a physio because the one who cancelled had symptoms. Weird, but true.
Rather than focusing on how omicron has affected us this week, let’s try and notice how we can share in God’s kingdom work with others, by noticing and nurturing.
You may remember we are a part of a Regent Grant project. Not surprisingly, the “Common Good Project” was postponed due to covid, and now entirely revamped with a new proposal. In these coming weeks, as we seek to get these proposals revised and confirmed, we’ll share in detail what’s ahead! We’ll notice what we can do in our current daily lives to help nurture relationships, reconciliation, and wholeness in our lives as we work together for a common good. Our greatest hope is to provide a place of welcome & invitation, where we can all find our common ground in the goodness of Christ.
So, as you aim to eat right, move right, and sleep right in maintaining your health, let’s also encourage one another to serve right, as we seek to engage in our neighbourhoods and community around us. One beautiful writer wrote that “Faith, while personal, is never private, and the gift each person has been given is meant to be shared.” You may have heard the joke where they person is asked, “Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?” The answer, “Well no…actually, I like to share him with other people.” J
One of my favourite places in the whole world is a place called Mepkin Abbey, in a town that’s actually called Monck’s Corner in South Carolina. The first time of worship takes place at 3:30 am. What happens prior to our entry, is a gift I quite admire. It’s the gift of preparation. There is a monk who comes in the still of the night to lay out each of the books that the guests will participate from. He marks them carefully with ribbons, and lays each book open with love and care. When we arrive, rustling to get our worship stalls in time, everything is ready. All we do is worship. Do I know this monk’s name? No. Do we ever see him at this quiet work? No. Does it matter for the community and the common good of Christ’s work together? No question. Every gift matters.
May we continue to gather in love and hope and prayer, however we may, throughout this January of an omicron wave, and whatever else we face.