“That Giving Spirit”
1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
This is one of those weeks where I wonder where to start. Do I talk about what I had originally planned to talk about, or do I address some obvious topics that have arisen in the last week.
Originally, I intended to talk about spiritual gifts based on our reading from 1 Corinthians. It’s a topic I love to talk about as I’ve led a number of workshops on spiritual gifts.
But gifts and giving have have a whole new meaning today than they did a week ago. The pictures we see in the news, on the internet, newspapers… reality sinks in. Given what has happened in Haiti, giving and gifts are on the minds of many people.
Say what you will about the problems of Cape Breton, and yes we do have many problems in our communities, they pale in comparison to the extreme poverty and desolation of Haiti. The poorest country on our side of the world.
Did you know that before last week there were parts of Haiti which had not recovered from a devastating hurricane a few years ago? People in Haiti were already living in extreme conditions of inadequate housing, food and infrastructure.
And now they have experienced a devastating earthquake which has destroyed everything that was left.
Does anyone remember the earthquake of October 1989 which interrupted the world series between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants? That earthquake was the same magnitude as the earthquake last week of the coast of Haiti. They were both 7.0.
What I remember most about that earthquake was the elevated highway that collapsed and the fires that erupted. It was a significant earthquake for the area. Yet only 64 people died because much of the infrastructure remained intact and because of the excellent services provided in the area which is well trained in emergency response.
Haiti has none of that. Thousands of people will be dead before they are even found. Even those who are saved from the rubble have no guarantee they will live because the medical needs are far too great for what is left in medical care.
Infections will continue to scar and even kill people because of the lack of medical facilities, care givers and supplies.
It’s estimated that 40-50,000 people died in the earthquake. By the time the final counts are tallied, including those who will die from causes related to the earthquake, it could top 100,000 people. The equivalent of wiping the entire population of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality off the map.
Our best efforts at trying to help this tiny nation of 2 million people is a wonderful thing to see, but too late before we even send our first dime. It just can’t get there fast enough.
It’s so great to see how the world is responding: airlines offering free flights to doctors who are trying to get to Haiti, governments, companies and individuals sending millions of dollars, organizations sending their very best people and equipment to help in the rescue and recovery effort. Every bit of it an appropriate response. This is the right thing to do.
But it’s too late. We’ve known for years Haiti has been struggling in poverty and lacking in basic infrastructure. Maybe the world could have helped them avoid such devastation in an area well known for natural disasters. To help them build a suitable infrastructure which can help withstand the natural disasters and to aid in the emergency response when they happen.
How often do we treat the symptoms and not the cause?
I was at a town hall meeting the other night designed to foster conversation around helping the young people in Sydney Mines.
At the meeting we heard from a couple of local agencies about the struggles the children on the Northside face. As a result there are programs in place to help them when they get in trouble. In fact, they can even predict which five year old children will be in their programs by the time the hit their teen years. The signs are that obvious.
The programmes they offer do fantastic work with youth at risk. My question is, why are they at risk? Why are there so many kids who in conflict with the law? Why do so many kids live on the street from when the sun comes up until it goes down? Why are there 13 year olds needing a place to sleep?
We are treating the symptoms, not the cause.
Finding examples of broken societal systems is not hard. Whether it be Haiti, Africa, South and Middle America, or on our own streets, it’s all around us.
As a society we live in our own little bubbles, oblivious to, or just plain ignoring, the signs of people in need. We live in a world where we think if we join the right Facebook group, or if we put the right sticker on our car then we are doing our part. It’s so easy to miss the signs when we live in our own happy little world.
Jesus did not miss the signs. Jesus did not live in a happy little bubble where everything was great and easy.
Jesus walked with the broken. Jesus listened to the needs of the world around him and offered himself and the gifts he had. Gifts of love, comfort, teaching, and most definitely healing.
1 Corinthians speaks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts which come from God that allow us to do His work in the world around us.
None of us have the same gifts, we all are uniquely created by God with various gifts and natural abilities.
Paul names a few of them in his letter to the Corinthians. He names wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.
Paul tells us these gifts, and there are many more, are activated by the Holy Spirit and how these gifts are activated for the common good.
God has given us special gifts which are in tune with our natural abilities and our own personal passions for the common good. The common good; the betterment of our society and the world around us. The common good; the continuing fulfilment of the promises of God brought to earth in Jesus Christ who showed us how to live with respect to one another and creation.
Our bubbles get popped when we see things like what we’ve seen in the news over the last week. Our bubbles get popped when we hear of teens who overdose on drugs or commit suicide. Our bubbles pop when we hear of the arsons on our streets.
For a while we are upset, afraid, moved to compassion, and then we blow our bubbles back up and step inside. All is well again.
God has given us gifts. Gifts to be used for the common good. Gifts we have been specially chosen by God to have within us. These gifts are not to be hidden away. These gifts are “activated.”
“Activated” A word meaning “to make active”. In other words, the gifts are to be put into action. Not to be hidden away, but to be used in service to God, in service of the “common good”.
People now are sharing from their abundance in order to help people who are in great need.
However, if we are actively using our God given gifts, and attempting to be obedient to God’s call in our lives, and living within the community as Jesus showed us to live, then we are able to use our gifts to get to the root of the problem. So instead of just continuing to treat the symptoms, we begin to treat the cause of the symptoms. The cause which brings healing to the community, healing to the world because we are able to address the needs of those who live in broken homes, those who live in great poverty, those who know nothing but desperation and desolation.
God’s gift to us is that we have gifts to share. We have resources to share. We have love and passion to help someone, some group, some demographic in our world. Whether it be families and youth in our community, poverty in third world countries, seniors, or anything else, we have a passion to serve, something that fires us up. From there, we can explore how the gifts we have call us to serve.
If you are interested in learning more about spiritual gifts, I’d be more than happy to help you learn more about them, and discerning what gifts you may have to offer.
Next week, we’ll continue to talk about gifts, but next time it’ll be gifts in the context of the being part of the church, and the collection of gifts we share.
But until then, let us care for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, our youth and families in Cape Breton, and for all those who suffer around the world. Let us live with a generous heart, a discerning ear and faithfully pray to our Father for healing in a broken world.