Many Gifts, One Spirit
The city of Corinth was a frontier colony of Rome where newly freed slaves from all over the empire were settled. It was a wild, cosmopolitan, port city where ships from all over the known world docked goods, ideas, and people. Paul writes to a brand new congregation he has founded there.
Heâ€™s heard of troubles in Corinth city! Everybodyâ€™s been writing him about all kinds of conflict trying to get him on their side. Fights over different styles of Worship , arguments over whose gifts were more important, lawsuits between members of community, questions of moral behaviour of members. On top of that factions had grown up as people in community chose sides claiming to follow different leaders. What are you going to say as a pastor to a community that is this messed up? Is he going to rip a strip off them? Give them a stern talking to to tell them to shape up? Letâ€™s listen
So do you think thatâ€™s good advice? Paulâ€™s words remind the Corinthian congregation that they need many gifts, to be whole. But that they need to recognize that all those gifts, diverse as they are, come from the ONE SPIRIT, and that it is the same God who activates each of the diversity of gifts. I think this is still deep wisdom for being Christian communityâ€¦Especially as we move into this time of transition in ministry.
Community is made up of many parts, which need to work together for the common good..for the health and wholeness and purpose of the body… This is a time when Cedar Park needs to call out the gifts of all of its people, We need to work together to keep our congregation strong and healthy as it goes through pastoral change.
When we hide our gifts, when we say, let someone else do it, when we pretend that we do not have gifts, when we do not play our part in community, the whole body is diminished. Our spiritual gifts are connected with our calling by God to be all that we are meant to be. When we come into touch with the unique gifts God gives us, and when we allow those gifts to grow in us and be used through us, we are most fully alive, and in tune with our creator.
Asking ourselves what God desires us to be, how God desires us to use our gifts is perhaps the most important life question any of us can ask…And it needs to keep on being asked…because it changes from one season of life to another….One person may have the gift of teaching, or the gift of organization, or the gift of serving when they are at one stage of their life, but with health problems and aging may find they are more limited in using those gifts, but can offer the gift of prayer, or the gift of encouragement, or the gift of wisdom or perhaps the gift of giving to community.
A congregation comes alive when the spiritual gifts of all parts of the community are called out, and when those gifts are valued, and cherished and encouraged, and when people are equipped to use those gifts for the ministry of Christ…. for the fullness of life that Jesus spoke of as his mission…
To live in Godâ€™s way takes the gifts of all of us.
Paul names SOME spiritual gifts…But at a community gathering a few years ago our members offered some others..
See if you find yourself named here…or perhaps there are some we missed….
Compassion/Love/ Patience/Concern for Others/ Passion/Proclaiming Speaking Out about what we believe/Prophecy-speaking Godâ€™s truth into the world-naming what is wrong and needs changing, calling for justice/Leadership/Administration/Caring for the Communities Finances, and Building/ Teaching/Music/Giving/Wisdom/Encouragement/Healing Presence/faith/
Forgivesness/ Community Building/ Hospitality/Discernment/ Knowledge/Serving/Pastor…
So where is God inviting you to come alive to your gifts, and to share them in our community, and beyond?
ONE BODY MANY MEMBERS:
Paul continues his advice to the struggling Corinthian church using a metaphor we can all relate to. The body…. We all have one….and we are concerned about the health and the wholeness of our bodies. And we know how interconnected the various parts are. Maybe youâ€™ve started exercising and discovered you had aches in places you didnâ€™t know were there? Or dropped something on your toe suddenly to discover just how often you use that part of the body. Or have you had a part of your body become sick? It affects the whole system, mind, body and spirit. A powerful organic image of diversity in connection, interdependence, wholeness.
Letâ€™s hear what Paul says:
In our time, we think we are so advanced because weâ€™ve discovered systems theory, but it seems Paul knew this stuff a long time ago. He understood community as a living, organic thing. The body metaphor sees community as a whole system of interrelationships; a unity in which there is diversity; a sytem where all the parts need to work together for vitality. When one part becomes diseased, or ill, or wounded, the vitality of the whole system is affected When one part spreads negativity, or criticism it draws energy away from the whole.
Community is not just a sum of individual parts; There is a synergy grounded in patterns of relationships and interractions that are all connected and affect each other. How people interact in one part of the system ripples out and affects the whole whether we know it or not–for both life or for destruction.
To be a healthy community, a healthy body, Paul says the gifts of all parts are needed. And each part needs to respect and value the gifts that are not their own. Just because an eye thinks that seeing is the most important thing because that is all it knows and has ever done, does not mean that the body does not need ears to listen, hands to heal, a heart to offer compassion, a mouth to speak truth, a mind to see the bigger picture. One part cannot pretend that it is more important, or less important. When that happens it divides. The word in Greek means literally â€œtears to pieces.â€
Paul reminds them that they are better together, Paul asks the Corinthians to orient their differing gifts in unity. They are not asked to eliminate differences but to coming together and interact, to recognize their interdependence and to cooperate so that they can be the body of Christ as a community.
So imagine us going as a congregation for an annual check up for our congregational health. What do you think we would find? Would we need more exercise? more play in our life? Would we need more offering of gifts in unity? Would we need to trust and risk coming into community more? Would we need to grow in graciousness, in hospitality? What kind of prescriptions do you think we might be given ?
Here are a few of my humble suggestions:
â€¢ I think we could strengthen our attitude of gratitude since it is such a key marker in health. What if we appreciated and thanked people for what they do in community instead of looking for what is missing or not done according to our expectations?
â€¢What if we each offered our gifts to build up the whole community and its mission of being the body of Christ ?
â€¢What if we were to pay close attention to the information loops in our congregation…the way information is carried from one part to another. What if we all worked to keep these loops healthy and information flowing freely amongst them, building one another up in trust?
â€¢What if we made sure that new people who come to worship on Sunday mornings get into the loop so that they do not feel excluded from the workings of community, and so that they can grow spiritually, and use their gifts fully.
We tend our health as a community when we attend to the impact of relationships on our functioning. May we tend the health of our community, and indeed all the communities in which we find ourselves.
You may have other ideas: Iâ€™d love to hear themâ€¦
May the Spirit move and breathe in this body of Christ bringing life and love to all that we do.
THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE
Paul then continues with wisdom for community in one of the most powerful passages of scripture. Hear it in the context of what has gone before: