spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want
you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were
pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols
that could not speak. 3Therefore 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; 5and there
are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and
there are varieties of activities, but it is the
same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To
each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for
the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit
the utterance of wisdom, and to another the
utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another
gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to 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. 11All 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. 13For in the one Spirit we were
all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or
free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
unleashed the Holy Spirit upon the church, I sometimes wonder if
God knew what she was doing :). We see all kinds of things
happen in the church that Paul gives witness to here --
miracles, tongues, all kinds of experiences. People
engaged with their whole bodies. Through history, we have
seen evidences of the spirit -- holy-rollers, shakers, and
Quakers, and all kinds of ecstatic experiences. And it has
even been reported that in some places, when the spirit of God
has fallen upon a respectable, middle-class, predominantly white
group, they've even been known to clap and say 'Amen' in church
:). It is amazing what the spirit of God can do :).
We see this
all going on in the church in Corinth, and so much more.
Paul writes about this earlier in this letter than folks got
carried away at their church pot-lucks, some of them engorging
themselves with the food that others brought. We know that
never happens here :).
confusion on the difference between the divine spirit and
distilled spirits :). Some were confusing the latter for
some extra-curricular sexual activity, the kind of which you'd
never see in this country, unless of course you're in
politics, sports, or entertainment, or watch T.V., or the news,
or read the paper, or go to movies :).
engaged in these activities say things, Paul reports, like "We
are free in the Spirit. We have no law but Christ".
"What happens in Corinth, stays in Corinth" :). And we
know this, because he writes about it.
Craddock, renowned Disciples of Christ preacher, says that
putting Paul's letter to the Corinthians in the New Testament is
like airing your dirty laundry in public. It's all there
for us to see.
what makes this text so remarkable -- to this unruly,
undisciplined, mis-behaving community (not much different than
Anytown USA), Paul gives his most stunning, powerful vision of
what the spirit can do in spite of, or maybe because of, the
mess that they made and that we make of our lives and our world.
And the first
thing Paul does in this text is to clarify who, in this messy
world with all its competing claims of authority from spirits of
all kinds, exactly has received this spirit. He says there
is a simple test: Those who curse Jesus don't have it.
Those who confess Jesus do.
check it out. Can you say: "Jesus is Lord".
Well, there you go, there's the spirit, right here in this
place, I mean, who'da thunk it! You see, that's what Paul
says, that's all it takes, don't let anyone ever tell you that
there's no spirit in this church because you've just witnessed
there's skeptics, there always are, saying "Now wait a minute,
there's got to be more to it than that, it can't be that easy".
Or is it?
Jesus as Lord, the one who told crowds to love their enemies and
to pray for those who persecute you, is that easy?
this Jesus as Lord, who told the rich to sell everything they
have and go and give it to the poor, and follow him. Is
this Jesus as Lord, the one who told that woman caught in that
adulteress situation and spared her from the stoning, saying to
the crowd "whoever is without sin can cast the first stone", is
this Jesus, who is accused of hanging around with the wrong
crowd of people with poor reputations, who broke through the
social norms and the taboos, are you willing to risk your
reputation? Is that easy?
this Jesus as Lord, who said to take up the cross, come and
follow me -- is that easy?
this Jesus as Lord, who was crucified as a rebel, abandoned and
betrayed by his friends, and then raised as Lord and Savior of
this Jesus as Lord, the one we are to follow, to give our lives
to, truly is a testament to the Spirit.
is no greater manifestation of spirit than this -- not tongues,
not healing, not miracles, not prophecy, all such pales in
comparison to the faith it takes not just to say it, or even to
believe it, but to do it. With all your heart. To
commit yourself, to publicly confess it, to act upon it, to show
it with your life. And if you can make that confession, if
you can stand with us and affirm, as we do each Sunday, that we
recognize Christ as our Lord, if you can do that, then you've
got the spirit. Don't let anyone ever tell you that you
doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, black or white, male or
female, gay or straight, young or old, Republican or Democrat,
Duck or Beaver, any of that. I know, it's hard :).
Peter says in
his sermon on Pentecost from Acts 2 that God's spirit will be
poured out on all flesh. And it's shocking to us sometimes
to recognize that 'those people' have the spirit. That
'that group' is included. But you know what, no more
shocking than it could have been in the first century. I
mean, think about that, in that context, to be worshipping along
side of slaves, and women, and Gentiles. There had to be
many in that community that said never in my lifetime did I ever
imagine that I would be here in such a group, so diversified,
with all these other people praising God, side by side.
You see, God
is an equal opportunity employer of the spirit. Seventeen
hundred years before Thomas Jefferson penned those famous words
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal", Paul wrote, in this text, "all are baptized into
one body, Jew or Greek, slave or free", and then later in the
letter to the Galatians he would add to that "male or female",
going farther, much farther, than Thomas Jefferson ever did in
that bold declaration of independence. And of course in
his time, it was just white property owners that were included.
tragedy of human history is that it would take nearly 2,000
years of toil, suffering, and sacrifice before Martin Luther
King Jr. could begin to actualize that dream which we now
celebrate this weekend as such a great accomplishment. And
yet, here is Paul, advocating, promoting, giving his life for
such equality as the hallmark of Christian community and the
evidence of the spirit of God, nearly 2,000 years before!
line, each and every one of us in the body of Christ has been
given a portion of that spirit. I've long advocated in
this community my conviction that when we discover and use our
gifts given to us for the purpose God willed, great things will
happen. Why? Because when we do that, when we use
those gifts, as we witnessed this morning (Rhett's
speech), we see the power of God at work.
what made Dr. King and the entire civil rights movement such a
powerful force in our world, because they tapped into those
gifts, they used that power. And when we use those gifts,
when we tap into that power, the impact is felt far beyond our
This is why
we keep lifting up that spiritual gifts program that about 30 of
our folks participated in a week ago Saturday. As each of
us identifies and utilizes those gifts, we will see that work of
the spirit grow in our midst.
I want to quickly go through 10 basic principles of that spirit,
to de-mystify and expand our understanding of what we mean when
we talk about spiritual gifts:
of all, to each is given a manifestation of the spirit, Paul
says. Everyone, whether you know it or not. And so
the key is to help us discover and to claim that gift we have
these gifts are not primarily for our own benefit. They
are for the common good, Paul writes. The church is not a
self-help organization. We are called not only to improve
our own lives, we are called to bring light and good news to the
when we use our gifts toward that common good, the common good
will grow. Others will benefit from our gifts.
the key to using our gifts is servant-hood. As Christians,
we're called not to rule but to serve. Not to draw
attention to ourselves, but attention to God. Not to seek
praise, but to give it.
much of God's activity in this world is accomplished through the
gifts that God gives to us. So when we put those gifts to
use, to benefit the body of Christ, we are expanding the reign
of God in our world.
our spiritual growth as Christians is in direct proportion to
the use of our spiritual gifts. To accomplish God's
purpose for the common good. So to grow in that spirit is
to grow in the gifts that God gives to us.
people who know their gifts and have them confirmed by feedback
(and that's an important step in the process), and are given
opportunities to use them, will find greater fulfillment and
satisfaction in their lives. Jesus said that there's no
greater love than one who gives their life for their friends.
I would say to you no greater pleasure will you have than
to use your gifts to benefit friends and others. If your
gift does not bring you a sense of satisfaction and joy in your
life, it's probably not your gift. God loves a cheerful
giver, right? I think the probably means that God isn't
too happy with a grumpy volunteer :).
we will be held accountable for how we use our gifts.
Remember the parable of the Talents (a talent being a
measurement of money). One is given 10, one 5, one 1, and
the two with 10 and 5 use those talents to multiply it, but the
one with 1 buries it, doesn't even get interest on it. And
so the master of the house throws him out. And the point
of the story is that to whom much is given, much will be
required. We could call that the parable of the gifts:
to whom much has been gifted, much will be required.
the greatest gift, of course, that Paul writes about in the next
chapter, in that famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13, is love.
All of the other gifts are meaningless without love. Love
is the gift that holds all else together.
finally, most important, using our gifts is not about
preserving the institution or building a bigger church.
It's no less than building the reign of God, the kingdom of God,
here on earth as in heaven.
talking small potatoes, we're talking about the whole enchilada.
Everything for which Christ gave his life. That's why we
say as our motto:
Transforming our World.
This is the
dream that Martin Luther King had. But it's more than just
a dream. It's the vision of God for us and our world.
And to live
by such a vision of all God's people united by the one Spirit,
where everyone's gift is utilized and valued as the contribution
from a child of God, is to be the body of Christ, the real
presence of Jesus, in our world today.
Can we do it?
May we do it.