“What is your Gift?”
1 Corinthians 12:1-12, January 20th, 2019
Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear these words from the Apostle Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth, taken from First Corinthians, chapter twelve, verses one thru twelve.”
1 Corinthians 12:1-12
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 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. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
“Having listened to this ancient letter written by the Apostle Paul, let us now consider how we can embrace this lesson and learn how to incorporate its meaning as we continue our faith journeys.”
“What is your Gift?”
A true gift is a present that is freely given to someone without payment. Giving a gift, can be uplifting to the person doing the giving. Receiving a gift, ought to be a joy that enhances an individual’s life. These are the most common understandings of what a gift is, and most of us understand this, as we have just passed through the most recognized season of gift giving. In order to give a gift, we often need to part with a bit of ourselves or our abundance. Giving is an act of kindness, compassion and or love. Receiving a gift can be humbling, especially when the person whom receives the gift is uncertain as to who gave it. At Christmas or on birthdays and anniversaries, gifts frequently are items or things that the person receiving the gift really needed. But often, gifts are items we may not have indulged in, had someone not chosen to gift us with it. Like a box of chocolates or a trip to the Bahamas. There are times, however, when a gift is given and the one giving the gift has an expectation that the one receiving the gift… will use it or put the gift to a particular use. This is the type of gift our scripture is speaking of; therefore, we shall spend some time reflecting on these types of gifts.
When my mother gave me a new pen and pencil set, she did not want me to just display them on my desk, unused. No, it was expected I would use them either in school, or as my life progressed, to write letters (to her of course) and to practice writing other things, that in my case has led to my writing newsletters, reports, prayers and sermons. When parents buy a new laptop computer for their son or daughter when as they graduate from high school, on their way to higher education opportunities; it is, it is expected they will use the computer as a tool to properly do their studies as they enter college. So, let us be clear here, there are gifts which we all receive that pass on a responsibility – to the one receiving the gift. My parents would not have been pleased if I had not practiced my writing skills, as I went to school. Nor would they have been pleased if I did not pursue activities – which gave me the opportunity to ‘use’ these skills. They had endeavored to ensure I had the chance to develop my writing abilities, as they encouraged me to study in grade school and do my homework assignments. Likewise, parents whom sent their daughters and sons off to college expect the financial commitment they have made, will give their offspring the skills and knowledge they need to live productive and useful lives. The gifts we receive through the Spirit of God are these types of gifts.
I think most of us know there are many ways to use the skills we receive, which are gifts from God. Yes, we have had to exercise them and develop them, yet, our basic aptitudes, the level of our abilities, skills and talents, are in fact gifts which give us the capacities for learning and the inclinations for developing them. Without our capacity and levels of intelligence and our degrees of thinking, we would not be whom we have developed into. The key to understanding this is simple: without the gifts we have been given by God, we could not have accomplished what we have. Conversely, if we have not put the effort into using and developing our skills and acquired the knowledge needed to go with it, through our educations and studies, as-well-as practical experiences, we will have fallen short of what God has envisioned and anticipated for our lives. This is where the task of accepting our responsibilities comes into play. Each one of us is personally responsible to our Creator, to use our gifts and strive to make a difference through our efforts.
As we look to other’s accomplishments around us, or we see how much they enjoy, or love even, their chosen profession, even if it is to be a behind the scenes type of position – we see how satisfied and contented they seem. We may find ourselves envious as this is not how it is for us. One theologian points out how “Some of us are deeply unsatisfied with our work, but we hang on – we need the paycheck. How should we think about work when we are unhappy with our jobs?” /Al Hsu/ For all too many people this is often the case. There are no simple, nor universal responses to this either. Perhaps, we might begin by considering how few, in today’s society, really start their days with gratitude for all they have. I know, this is often hard to do, especially if you are living on the streets or in your car. And we do not want to insult the great many of us whom are grateful to God for each breath of air we breathe and the opportunities each new day offers. Life can feel very complex and situations can and often do, for all of us, at times, bear heavy upon us. Yet, we each must take responsibility for our own attitudes and how we approach situations and challenges as they are presented to us. This is something we can each cherish and own. Therefore, let us not look to another’s life with envy rather let us see what we can learn and use, to enhance our lives by the examples of others.
Along my journey in ministry, I have heard many stories of other’s lives and how they live them. They are passed to me by folks like yourselves and from others like myself, who work within the field of ministry as I endeavor to do. One such story came to me when I was a junior pastor. It was during this time when I was told the story about a garbage truck driver.
The story went like this: There was a church with an expansive campus, beautiful grounds, large prosperous congregation of three hundred members. Average Sunday attendance was over two hundred. Yet, they had only a handful of children coming to their church and could not seem to get a youth group going. Ironically, there was a basketball hoop in the back-parking lot, virtually unused. (Apparently, a former member had donated it a number of years earlier, but it had never been put to good use.) During this time period a new driver was assigned the church, as he took on the garbage pick-up schedule in that neighborhood. It was a well to do area, so he was scheduled to pick up trash there twice a week, Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons. He noticed the basketball hoop the first Monday. On Wednesday, he decided to stop and have his lunch in the church parking lot, after he picked up the trash, as this was his last stop. He again noticed the basketball hoop, as he looked at it, memories of his youth emerged. The following week he had stashed a basketball in the cab of his truck and on Wednesday afternoon when he stopped for lunch – he got out and tossed a few through the hoop. He started doing this each week. After a time, a local teen saw what he was doing and came over to watch. The truck driver asked the youth if he wanted to give it a try.
And thus, it began.
As the weeks went by one teen turned to two, then three and before he knew it… there was six or eight, a number which continued to grow. The pastor who told me this story, mussed as to how this garbage truck driver knew more about developing an effective youth group, then he himself did. Key, to the story, is appreciating the truck driver’s attitude. He didn’t go around sulking because he was collecting trash. Rather he was living into the real-life opportunities and using his simple skill, the gift of sharing his life with those he met, in this case some teenagers who were looking for something to do.
The Senior Pastor and I, in follow-up, talked about things we might do. I suggested we have an outing inviting the small group of youth we had… to bring their friends, and we would pay their way. We went to a miniature golf course type place with bumper cars as well. It was a success. Then they wanted to go roller skating. I had never been. But I was willing to try. It was a process, but I caught on and so did our youth gatherings. When I left there was a youth group that met regularly. Yes, it is all in the attitude we take and the energy we put into it. There are always opportunities, if we can grasp the right approach, the right attitude and seek to live into it. Everything I tried with the youth did not work… like the time I tried a guided meditation… a precarious faith-walk… well, those are stories for another day. One thing I did learn, sometimes we need to push ourselves to see what hidden skills we may have.
Our scripture tells us: “Now there are varieties of gifts;” /1 Corinthians 12:4/ “And there are varieties of services;” /1 Corinthians 12:5/ “And there are varieties of activities.” /1 Corinthians 12:6/ What we need to remember is that in using our gifts which God gave us, we shall be led to services which we can perform and activities we can engage in – as we continue our journeys of faith, following the pathway set before us by God! “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” /1 Corinthians 12:7/ The common good, does not indulge in greed, jealousy or envy. Rather, we are meant to use our gifts to expand the love of God to others, through acts of kindness, compassion and good will! The common good comes before our need to isolate or pull away because of our fear we don’t have the gifts, the skills or the wherewithal to contribute! We must be willing to take a risk… realizing that “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” /1 Corinthians 12:12/ Which means we need to pull together, for we are as one! It takes all of us to be the body of the Riviera United Church of Christ!
If, we are to move into the future, serving the people of God, then we shall need to use all of our gifts! It shall take all of us to keep this church viable, for the common good of the United Church of Christ, serving the people of Palm Bay and beyond! As we seek a “New Beginning” in this new time, we all need to continue using the gifts God has given us! What is your gift? What will you give? What talent or aptitude do you possess that you can use, and use in a new way, to assist this church, your church. I say this especially to our members and our long-standing church friends. And I say to all whom are visiting us this day or listening to this message on Facebook or on our Website: If you are looking for a loving, friendly, and a Christ centered community to worship with and journey in faith with, you have found it! We openly welcome you! Won’t you come and join with us, you are welcome here!