Earlier this month, I got a flat tire from a tear in the sidewall. Without a spare tire in my car (hybrids use that space for a battery), I relied on the next best option. As I was waiting for Triple A to come and tow my car, there was a parade of generous people who came by happy to share their gifts with me. There was a woman in a SUV ready to give me a ride. There was a man in a pick-up happy to change the tire. The regional police, assuming me to be from out of town, offered me to eat at Brothers or Twelves. Even a man who brought his iPhone to translate between us, was ready to teach me to change the tire. Each one of those people knew their different gift and was ready to give it – the ride, the tire change, restaurant, communication, compassion with a lesson in how to change a tire. They were eager and ready to offer their gifts, even when I was not able to use their help, they offered freely.
Today we continue in a series of message about God’s Promises Fulfilled through sharing gifts. Last Sunday we began our series our God’s Promises fulfilled. We learned that God has been fulfilling God’s promises through the Bible and will continue through time to do so. God’s Promises are Fulfilled in how we use our time. Today, we continue as we explore that God’s Promises are Fulfilled through us as we discern and use our spiritual gifts.
At Christmas and birthdays, surprises and as a child, we receive gifts. We think of gifts fondly, most of us. As something to be unwrapped and treasured, to unwrap, to ooh, and ahh, to receive the intention of the giver and treasure. God gives even more complete and needful gifts than those around us. In our reading from Corinthians, we begin to glimpse spiritual gifts. Gifts that God extends for the church that can be used for any purpose; however, the hope is that each person all use them for the building up of the body and the ushering in of the kingdom of God.
It was Paul who wrote to the church at Corinth that Holy Spirit gifts each person with gifts. It is easy to observe the gifts of others and feel discouraged that those gifts are not your gifts. And Paul wanted the gathered church to be assured that everyone had some gift. Each and every gift that we have between us comes from the Holy Spirit. Paul in this passage writes of seven gifts – wisdom, knowledge, faith, mercy, healing, prophecy, discernment. But there are many more. Look at Romans 12 or 1 Peter 4 and see additional lists of spiritual gifts. More importantly is that we have all of the gifts throughout the gathered body of Christ. The one of us would has great mercy and the one of us who is an administrator and the one of us who is an incredible musician and the one of us who is hospitable to all – all have gifts that come from the Holy Spirit AND all of those gifts are for sharing with and for building up of the body of Christ here at West Grove. What are gifts, though if we do not use them? Have you experienced the adrenaline of usefulness? Someone needs your help. They call you and need you.
Phillip Gulley, in his book, Hometown Tales tells the of the “Joy of Usefulness.” He talks about the surgeon who prepares for that first surgery with eagerness and delight. The mechanic who studies car repair and can hardly hold back the excitement to crawl under the car chassis. Phillip Gulley is an author and Quaker pastor. He writes further by saying, there is a joy in usefulness in the church as well. There is great joy to sit beside someone’s bed as they lie dying as much as to encourage them in new steps of faith. He says, specifically for pastors, but I would go further and say for each of us. There is joy in knowing that we are of use in each other’s life. (1) Do not let your gifts languish.
Do you know your spiritual gifts? This is a question we ask our new members as they prepare for membership. We ask them to find a place and time to take the spiritual gifts survey. There are copies available today. If you have not taken it recently, I invite you to take it home and take the survey. Sometimes your answers will shift as you change life stages. When you retire, as you have children, as you change jobs, you may answer questions differently. Take a look at what your spiritual gifts are. Pray over the answers. If you come up with intercession and you have not considered prayer ministry, you may want to consider God’s nudge. On the other hand, if you come out strongly in musical gifts and have always been in the choir, you may feel highly affirmed. Of course, not every category translates exactly from the spiritual gift into a ministry of the church. Many spiritual gifts also connect with gifts in your wider life as well. If you discern you have a gift of mercy, you might prayerfully consider how that impacts both your roles inside and outside the church.
How do you decide how and when to share your gifts? Hear this advice from Frederick Buechner: “The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work that a. you need most to do and b. that they world needs most to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement a., but if your work if writing cigarette ads, the chances are that you’ve missed requirement b. On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony you have probably met requirement b. but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chance are you have not only bypassed a, but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither hair shirt or soft berth will do. The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the worlds deep hunger meet.” (2)
In the mail, you will receive a letter from the church inviting you to reflect on how you are currently giving and how you want to give in the future. This relates to your financial gifts, but it is also related to your time and your talents as well. There is a significant portion of the commitment card that invites you to reflect where you are currently serving and where your passions are for serving in the future. Do you have a passion for serving in the kitchen? You spend your free time at home creating beautiful meals and creative foods but have never been a part of the mela ministry or the kitchen at the church. Check meal ministry or kitchen for the first time. Not because it commits you to a ministry for the rest of your life (we have to move away from that mode of thinking! Rather, consider how your deepest gladness and the world deepest need might meet.
Our gifts given to us by God are to be shared for the greater good. The musicians among us are more incredible musicians when they offer their music to the glory of God in worship as well as in other pursuits. The accountants among us are blessed when they share their gifts of finances, even when church forecasting is unique, in addition to broader world. The scientists among us are blessed when they share their gifts, even when the church is perplexed, in addition to the broader world. The teachers among us are blessed when they share their gifts, even when they are stretched thin, in addition to their own classrooms. And on.
Our own specialized gifts in addition to our spiritual gifts are for the building up of the body, not just for ourselves. In each of the feeding stories, like the one we heard in Mark 8 today, they hinge on someone sharing their lunch. And many people were fed. The miracle is very simple and profound. God’s promises were fulfilled.
God has been calling us to move beyond the thinking that someone else will do it. Someone else is gifted. Someone is being called. Someone is better equipped, and Someone has more time. God is calling us to hear that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. God has equipped you and called you! God has given West Grove enough – enough energy, enough people, enough money, enough leadership, enough spiritual gifts, enough inspiration, enough.
So, go forth to share your gifts. God-given gifts. Gifts you know you have and those you are still discovering. Share them with the church as you always have. Share them for the first time with the church. Share them with your family. Share them with your family or friends. And give thanks to God who had gifted you!
This is the good news, the Gospel of Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
(1) Gulley, Phillip. Hometown Tales. 2001.
(2) Buechner, Frederick. Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC., 1993. 118-119.
New Testament Lesson: I Corinthians 12:4-11
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 8:1-10
In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, October 14 ~ Saturday, October 20
Sunday: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. Where are you sharing with others that you have seen their spiritual gifts? We need the encouragement, the noticing, and affirmation of others to serve and set out in faith to continue to serve is.
Monday: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 Consider what your gifts are in this season. Consider where the Holy Spirit has already nudged you to serve.
Tuesday: “All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” 1 Corinthians 12:11. Pray for those who are taking the spiritual gifts inventory and the discovery of gifts!
Wednesday: “In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.” Mark 8:1-2. Your compassion is often a barometer of your gifts. Pause to take inventory of where your compassion to serve.
Thursday: “His disciples replied, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’” Mark 8:4. Pray for the times we feel scarcity instead of God’s abundance, both in our own lives and the church.
Friday: “Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd.” Mark 8:6. Look for where God is sitting you down to bless you with breaking you down and showing you God’s abundance .
Saturday: “They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.” Mark 8:8. When we share our gifts with the body of Christ, the synergy of gifts through the Spirit is abundant. How are you being called to serve in the larger body of Christ, the church?