Brothers and sisters, I don't want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. You know that when you were Gentiles you were often misled by false gods that can't even speak. So I want to make it clear to you that no one says, "Jesus is cursed!" when speaking by God's Spirit, and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person. -1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Bill mentioned in the introduction for the epistle reading this morning that Corinth was that Mediterranean city that was known for debauchery, it was The Sin City of the Mediterranean. And the fact that Paul was able to establish a church there was nothing short of miraculous. They had a lot of challenges, a lot of things that were pressing against them, and it was an affluent city, it was a wealthy city, and a lot of things were pulling and vying for people's attention. And probably not much different than the world we live in today, where there are so many things seeking to pull people this way and that way, and spend your money on this and do this and worship this.
We have all of those tensions still today, and this church, now it struggled in the midst of that whole dynamic. In the first chapter of Corinthians, the first book of Corinthians, Chapter 1 Verse 10. Paul kinda sets the stage for much of this letter, he says, Now I appeal to you brothers and sisters by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose, these divisions, he tackles them right from the beginning, saying, you know what, some of you are claiming me as your leader, some of you are claiming Apollos and you're fighting over who you think the real leader of this church is. And he continues going through and naming a lot of the things that were separating and dividing this group of Christians, sound familiar to the world we're in right now, and yet he's saying You need to be focused, there shouldn't be divisions among you, and in this 12th chapter he begins talking about spiritual gifts. He makes it seem as though that this congregation understood what they were and they did, because one of the things that they were using to make distinctions between people were the gifts of tongues, that they were using this gift and the people that had...
By the Holy Spirit have been empowered and equipped to speak in tongues, were putting themselves on pedestals, and Look at me, look what I can do, which wasn't God's intention and giving those gifts. And Paul's saying, Look, there are many gifts, God is the one that chooses who gets those gifts, but there shouldn't be any one of them that get held up in higher esteem than any of the others. In our world today, we talk about diversity, and we often talk about diversity being ethnic or socio-economic or ideologies or different things that make people different. Paul is saying that God has already built this diversity into this community of faith, this diversity of gifts that come from God, and for those that were thinking that they were better than others because of the gift they had, no, it wasn't because of their own doing. God was the one that disseminated and spread out the gifts to the community, because God knew what gifts were needed.
it's hard to take credit for something that you had nothing to do with other than standing there to receive it, and yet that's what that community was doing. These gifts were necessary. Now, I know many of you are familiar with the writings of CS Lewis, particularly the Chronicles of Narnia, the most well-known book in that series is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It's a Christian allusion, not illusion like magic, or you don't understand what you're seeing before you allusion like alluded to, and Lewis used that story to allude to some of the things about the Christian faith. We see that for instance, in Aslan willingly sacrificing himself for the good of all of Narnia, and then coming back to life.
Well, in that story. In chapter 10, I believe it is, as the Witch is hold and power is beginning to weaken and fade and the country is beginning to fall out, Santa Claus shows up, they're terrified 'cause they hear a sleigh coming in the tingling of bells thinking it's the Witch coming, but we wanna behold it's Santa, and he begins distributing gifts to the creatures and inhabitants of Narnia, and the three of the four children who were there, Peter and Susan and Lucy, Santa reaches into his bag and to Peter, he gives him a sword and a shield that he was gonna need for the battle against those forces of darkness, to Susan, a bow and arrow and a horn, and to Lucy dagger, and a vial of healing elixir.
But Santa tells the children, these aren't just gifts. They're tools. And I thought, You know what, did that have been helpful in our understanding of this, if Paul had also given us that disclaimer that these aren't just gifts, but they're tools. These spiritual gifts that Paul talks about here. Some seem more dramatic than others. If you've ever been in a Pentecostal or Charismatic worship service where someone is speaking in tongues, you know that it is something that gets your attention, if it's not something you've experienced before, or to hear someone utter prophetic word that you know is from God, or to see someone that has the gift of healing, pray and lay hands on someone and the healing to occur, but then we see in that list that Paul gives the gift of faith, I think, well, don't we all have that gift... I mean, that's why we're here. Because of faith, right?
But I think Paul is probably talking about a deeper and abiding faith, more like that faith that Jesus talks about, that if we have that faith of a mustard seed, we can move a mountain, but he also talks about gifts of knowledge and interpreting tongues... And all of these gifts are needed and necessary to work together for the good of all. It would be easy, I think for some of us, at least in our modern way of thinking, that if someone gives me a gift, will that gift is for me, it's mine, and I get to do with it as I choose and please. And there's an element of truth of that when it comes to spiritual gifts, he says God gives these gifts as God chooses. Now, when we get a gift, we can open it, put it on, use it, but we can also just shove it in the closet and ignore it, we could reject it, we could let it go unused and that would be the tragedy. Because I think that's where it would have been important if Paul had also said spiritual gifts and tools, because the tool implies that something is to be done with it, that it has a purpose and intentionality about why it has been given. It's great to get the gift, but what next...
We often jokingly talk about people re-gifting things that they've received, that it's a gift that someone receives and things... I already have one, I don't need this, I don't like it, whatever it might be, I'll just pass it along to somebody else. But here's the thing, God gives us gifts with the intention that we're gonna re-gift it, that we're gonna take that gift and we're gonna use it not to benefit ourselves, but to benefit others, and that's what is key when we begin thinking about these gifts, it being a gift reminds us that it comes from beyond us, it's not something built in with us, it's not something that we've learned or practiced or studied or acquired on our own, it comes from beyond or outside of ourselves, it comes from God, is powered by God's spirit, and its purpose is to bless the community or to bless others, and so for a spiritual gift to truly be a gift of God's Spirit moving and working in our lives, it must have power behind it, and it must have a purpose... We all have a gift. Paul with nine different gifts in this excerpt that we hear from Corinthians, but there are a lot of different gifts, there are gifts of hospitality and gifts of service, there are gifts of prayer and encouragement, there are gifts that each and every one of us have, some of you may have a good sense of what your gift is, and you may be putting into practice in the newsletter this week, I'd share a link, and if you didn't see that and are curious and wanna know what yours is, there's a number of different spiritual gifts assessments or tests that you can take, and it's a series of questions that you go through, because whether you know it or not, the things that bring you joy and satisfaction, the things that when you invest yourself in them through the work in the ministry of the church or even in the community, and you feel fulfilled in doing it and see results for that, there's a pretty good chance that that's connected to the spiritual gifts that God has given you and you just haven't put a name to it yet, and so these assessments help you to narrow down and see, Okay, where is it that God is equipping me? What gift has God given me to use? And sometimes you may have more than one, then in those reports, they may say, Here's your primary gift and the secondary one, but if you go to the United Methodist Church's website, UMC.org and putting in spiritual gifts, it'll take you to a link for an assessment it's a free assessment, and I looked at it the other day, and I believe there's almost 80 questions that you answer. And when it's completed, it will give you a summary and it also includes descriptions of what some of these different gifts are. Now, much like that light of Christ that we get, and that song that we sing as children, of hiding it under a bushel and the children shout... No, I'm gonna let it shine.
Your spiritual gift is one of the ways that you shine, your spiritual gift is one of the ways in which you contribute to the health and the well-being of this community of faith, and as your spiritual gift... That is one of the ways that you participate in sharing the love of God with this world. Unity, unity of purpose, unity of thought, unity of commitment to God, is what Paul was calling this community of faith too. And friends, we should long for the same, to be united in the purpose of proclaiming God's love through our worship, through our service, through the fellowship that we share as we're able... We are a diverse group of people. There are many things that as we look around, we may have in common age, ethnicity, and all of those things that are the outward things that people use to measure, but yet we're diverse group of people as well, we're diverse in our learning, we're diverse in our economic status were diverse in all sorts of ways, and it is through our diversity in the gifts that God has given, that we have the potential to find our greatest unity, because as Paul said, There is one spirit, one Lord, one God, that unites and activates these gifts. These activities, these services that he bestows upon us and invites us to use... As he said, No one can say Jesus is Lord apart from the Spirit. And in fact, saying that statement is the hallmark of the Christian faith, Jesus is Lord, they're not empty or hollow words that we say when we say it and truly mean it, we say it with our whole being.
We offer ourselves to God and say, Yes, Jesus is the Lord of my life. Not just a little bit, but all of it. And in doing so, we plug into the power of that Spirit, and that gift that God has given you is activated, and may God give you the courage, the boldness, the passion, the desire to use that gift, to see His church, His community flourish and be strengthened. That is why God gives those gifts to bring His people together, to remind us that we need one another. When we talk about gifts, abilities and all of those things, that often reminds me of the super hero movies of all of the assorted Marvel super heroes and the Super Friends that I grew up watching, to think that we are better than others is a false expectation. There's no such thing as a true Superman because even in those super friend shows, Superman for everything he could do, had a weakness, kryptonite, and it was in those moments that Superman was dependent upon the others to help and support, no matter how capable... No matter how skilled, no matter how smart or affluent or anything a person might be, none of us are all islands to ourselves, we all need each other, and God reminds us of that by taking all of these necessary gifts and spreading them widely among His people, so that we...
So we need to discover that these gifts and tools that God has given us complement and support and lift up everyone, so this variety of gifts... is one of the greatest strengths that we have as God's church, so may we be the people, the community, that God has equipped us to be.