“That Giving Spirit (continued)”
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
I was talking with someone one time about what I like to do for recreation. I told her I liked to play basketball, softball, and volleyball. She asked if I liked to run. I replied, “Not really, I prefer teams sports.” To which she replied, “I get it, you need help!”
She got me there. I had no response.
I like the challenge of head-to-head competition, I like pushing myself to do my best against others. I like to see my team mates do well. I like to see a team come together and perform as though it was one body. One cohesive unit, working together with its specialists doing their parts, whether they are scorers, defenders, captains, motivators, energizers, coaches, it’s great to see a team come together.
Last week, I talked a bit about spiritual gifts. Gifts we are given by God; gifts which are activated by the Holy Spirit. Gifts which we are called to put into use in service for the “common good”, as God leads us where to use them.
There are many gifts of the Spirit. Last week we read from 1 Corinthians about some of the gifts described by Paul. Gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, discernment, speaking in and the interpretation of tongues.
But there are more. From our reading from 1 Corinthians this morning, we can add apostleship, helping, teaching and administration. From Paul’s letter to the Romans we find in chapter 12 exhortation (or encouragement), giving, leadership and mercy. To the Ephesians Paul adds evangelism and pastoring. From 1 Peter we learn of hospitality. From Exodus we can add craftmanship. 1 Timothy gives us intercessory prayer. Psalm 150 tells us of music or creative communication.
This is not an exhaustive list either. I’m sure if we dug around some more, we would find others within the Bible.
As I look over the list, I can easily picture some of you who have some of these gifts. And I still don’t know all of you that well.
So what happens with these gifts once we think we know which ones we have?
Well, there’s the tricky part. We have these gifts, but we don’t know how to use them, or we don’t know where we can use them.
This is where Paul continues to educate us about the activation of spiritual gifts for the common good. And he lays it out in really simple terms.
Can an eye act independently? Of course not. How about a foot? No. A hand? Ears? None of these can act independently. In fact, an eye and a leg cannot even act alone. It takes the whole body to work together. We can’t ignore the fact that each part of the body has unique roles to play in our daily activities.
Try it. Try going without using your left leg one day. Or your mouth. Makes it difficult doesn’t it? It takes more work this way, careful planning, and yes, even not doing some things you might like to.
It’s takes all our senses and bodily functions to work together to get us through the day. The same goes for a body, or group, of spiritual gifts.
Lets say for instance someone really has a passion for helping seniors and you want to start a widow support group. This is something you think about night and day, it keeps you awake but you don’t know how to even start.
You have gifts in hospitality, so bring on the food and the people and everything will be great right?
But who is going to bring the food? How will we get the seniors here? When should we do it? How are we going to pay for it? What about getting tables and chairs and dishes and turning on the heat and advertising and and and…
Woah! This is a lot more work than you expected. What are you going to do now?
Well, guess what! Someone else has a passion for seniors! This person, she works all day, so can’t come and help out. But she is super organized and is great at planning events. Hmm… the gift of administration.
So there you go. You now have someone to plan the event. So, she will do the planning, you will do the serving. But your back isn’t so good anymore. So you can’t put out tables and chairs, setting up is too hard. And your amazing planner? Well she’s at work, so she can’t help either.
Oh look. There’s a couple people who say they can do the setup for you. In fact, they do the setup for almost every event in the church. The gift of helping. These people are a true God-send in my opinion. These are the people who do the work of putting up tables and chairs, decorating, cleaning up afterwards. The love to work in the background and never utter a complaint because this is what they love to do. Help. Another spiritual gift. Sound like anyone we know?
So there you go. We identified a passion. But the passion and gift of hospitality were not enough to pull off the event alone. We needed to bring in other people who shared in the vision and passion, but had other gifts to offer. Sure the planner never made it to our little dinner party for widows, but she played a key role in making it happen. She used her gift of administration to organize and assign duties to everyone else who was taking part. She called the helpers and they had it all set up, some of them even went to pick up seniors and bring them to the church. She even called the givers in the community to find funding to help pay for a big luncheon. Another spiritual gift that allows the event to happen.
Once in the church, the hospitality people took over. They made sure everyone had a place at a table, brought them their food, poured the tea, and carried on in conversation.
The helpers come in and take people home, they help clean up and return the hall back to its original state.
The event is a huge success. The planner is already working on the details for the next widow’s lunch.
The gifts of individuals come together, each doing work in their own special area to create a ministry.
Think of Sunday mornings when we gather for worship. Think of all the parts that come together. Could I do it all myself. I suppose I could. I can play music, I can sing, preach and all that. But isn’t it better when we incorporate more people into worship. Isn’t it nice that Paula-Jane plays the organ so beautifully? Isn’t it nice the choir sings a great anthem? Isn’t it nice that someone reads the scripture readings? Isn’t it nice the Cliff turns the heat on for us, and makes sure the place is clean? Trust me, I’m not the best at that last part.
The body of Christ is a cohesive, interdependent collection of parts which God uses to do His work in the world.
Paul reminds us we are all equal in the body of Christ. Are the helpers who work behind the scenes any less important than the one who plans or serves. No, they provide a very valuable part to the work of the church. Sure they don’t get the congratulations that maybe the planner or leader gets, but without their help the event would not have happened.
If one part of the body struggles, the entire body struggles.
Think for a moment about your appendix. Do you know it’s there? Can you feel it? Do you know what it even does? Does anyone? But, if you get appendicitis, you are very aware of your appendix, aren’t you? How productive are you then? Not so much. Even this seemingly worthless part of our body doctors can simply cut out and throw away has a great impact on us when it doesn’t function as it should.
We, as a church body care for and ensure we are all able to do what we can. When one of us is not able to participate, then others step up and help. Others care for the one who cannot participate. The body takes care of itself. If Paula-Jane comes down with the sniffles, we don’t turn around and start looking for a new organist. We encourage her to get some rest. We find ways in which we can support her. We’d even alter our worship if we had to.
The body of Christ. Paul’s example of comparing it to the human body is perfect. It’s a collection of people who come together to work together as agents of God in the world.
It has outward actions in the community which are visible and involves various members of the body. Our bodies walk and talk, so does the church.
The body has inward actions. If we sprain an ankle, other parts of the body compensate so we can still walk. Also, there are parts of our body which are tasked with healing ourselves.
So does the body of Christ. If one member is struggling, then others step up and help carry the load, while still others come to the aid of the one who is struggling, offering care and support.
You know what I’m excited about? I’m excited that our body, the body called Carman United Church, is part of another body. In fact, several other bodies. We are part of the collection of churches in Sydney Mines. Churches that come together with varieties of gifts into one body which seek to do God’s work together in this town.
We are also part of the collection of United Churches that form Sydney Presbytery. Again, a collection of church bodies that form another body doing God’s work in the region.
Oh, and we’re part of the body of the United Church of Canada. A church that does work all over the world through the gifts offered by the various parts of the body; conferences, presbyteries, churches, individuals who seek to be faithful to Christ’s call.
Gifts are to be activated. Gifts of the Holy Spirit are put into action to bring about God’s glorious gift of life and love for all people.
We all have gifts. Some of us don’t know what they are, or where to use them. It is through discussion and the sharing of gifts where God’s work is done best. Let us be sure to share what God has given to us, with one another and the world.