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. ~ The Apostle Paul
There seems to be a growing, unquenchable thirst for spirituality these days. Perhaps it’s because our world feels out of control, and many of us are desperately longing for something greater than ourselves to swoop in and make everything alright. But here at New Church, we believe that power has already come. And as Paul attests, it has come into each one of us. We believe that through Jesus, we all receive something great from God. It doesn’t matter if you’re spiritually devout or simply spiritual but not religious. What matters is how you respond to the Spirit that is in you and all around you.
How will you use the gifts God has given you to bring God’s peace and love in a world crying out for help?
Like Paul said, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is.” These gifts are from God, blessed by God and given freely to all of God’s beloved children through the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that Jesus received. These gifts are not earned or deserved, but given to us out of God’s steadfast love for us. We call this grace. As Eugene Peterson wrote in the Message translation of Paul’s passage, “Everyone gets in on it. Everyone benefits.”
Through Jesus, God's Spirit comes to us. And it's in our receiving of God's Spirit that we receive all we need to confront the problems we face today. We can stay up all night worrying about political unrest, gun violence, systemic racism, and the senseless destruction of our environment.
Or we can use the gifts that God has given us, …the voices, the wisdom, the confidence or charisma… to make a real difference in the world. Better yet we can combine our gifts by working together for a common good, we become more spiritually centered, enjoying the fullness of God’s peace.
Paul tells us there are “All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful.” There are the gifts of wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, performing miraculous acts, having a strong voice, and being able to interpret languages. Everyone gets in on this for the sole purpose of building up the church – the body of Christ, made up of all kinds of people, with all kinds of gifts, to continue Jesus’ ministry.
Each one of us plays a vital role in this purpose. You see, just as much as we need God…God needs us. And sometimes, as my friend Dawn reminded me, “God needs us more than we need God.”
Just because your life might be good at the moment, it doesn’t mean there isn’t pain and suffering happening around you. When something bad happens in the world, like a mass shooting or terrorist attack, someone will always say to me, “If there is a God, then why does bad stuff happen to good people?” My only answer is “God could ask you the same question.”
This reading today is not really about us. It’s about God. And more specifically, the Spirit of God that activates the gifts we have so that we can serve God’s purpose and not just our own. When our focus is on doing the will of God, our world begins to shift away from us and our problems, towards God and God’s salvation, where we can experience the true peace we desire.
William Sloane Coffin writes, “Spirituality means to me living the ordinary life extraordinarily well.” Or as one of the early church fathers put it, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive." To understand what this kind of living means, all we have to do is look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He is a perfect example of how to live fully and faithfully in God’s Spirit ...even if it would cost him is own life to do so.
While preaching in his hometown Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Like we discovered last week, we too have been ordained and anointed for this work. When we see and live out the ways of Jesus, we learn and teach the will of God so others can see God, even in the darkest of places.
So why is this important? Because it is God’s Spirit that gives us the gifts we need to find the joy we desire. It is God’s Spirit who empowers us to use our gifts in loving ways, to reveal Jesus’ good news that the Kingdom of God is already among us. And within us. The Spirit of God is here, in our hearts.
Jesus taught us that when we are kind to strangers, or show mercy to one another, the Spirit of God is there. When wrongs have been righted, and justice prevails, the Spirit of God is there. When the hungry are fed, the captives are released, the sick and dying are cared for, the Spirit of God is there. When someone apologizes or accepts an apology that leads to healing a broken relationship, the Spirit of God is there. When bridges are built instead of walls, the Spirit of God is there. When love is present in our heart and homes, when people are welcomed, food is served and drinks are poured, the Spirit of God is there. In other words, when we are fully present in life, giving our heart and time, so that others may come to see God’s fullness in their life… God’s Spirit is fully present and fully alive. And the peace of God prevails.
I invite you today to take this spiritual journey, and dwell in this Spirit of God by living in and living out the ministry of Jesus Christ, so that the world might experience God’s greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation for all.
Let us pray
O God, thank you for the gifts you give us daily. Grant that we may remember to use them in love and peace, for your glory and not our own. Amen.
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has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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