1 Corinthians 12:4-31
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 powerful deeds, 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.
One Body with Many Members
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. 13 For 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.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect, 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work powerful deeds? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Our fourth value that our Elemental Leadership team came up with in our process was “spiritual gifts”. We are called to bring God’s Spirit, God’s gifts, into all that we do and are.
First of all, everything in life is gift, really…we don’t really earn much, life is given to us…it’s all in how we use those gifts and allow them to grow…we know thought that there are folks who use their gifts for malice…look at Russia’s war on Ukraine, look at systems that keep most of the world in poverty, look at gun violence and those who yield weapons of war for destruction on innocent victims, and look at some of our own politicians who grift off of our taxes that are supposed to be used for the common good.
Yet, we are Kingdom people, called to see our gifts as something to be used for the common good. As we’ve discussed, the gospels say a lot about the Kingdom of God, or God’s Presence. It is in our midst, its embodiment is deep and abiding relationship with ourselves, one another and with and through God. God’s Spirit, God’s very presence, resides within us, is a gift. In so many ways, we cannot see or hear the Kingdom if we are not striving for authentic relationship with each other, ourselves, and God. It’s all one thread that weaves throughout life.
As a kid, I would have gifts that were of value to me, things like baseball cards, toy soldiers, a favorite souvenir, or something. I’d put them in a special place where they’d be safe just in case someone broke into our home.
Later, as an adult, I’d have a safety deposit box, which I still do as many of us do. In that box, we store things that we value or that we simply want to keep safe as they may be hard to replace.
Yet, God’s Kingdom, God’s Presence can’t be locked away, it’s in our midst, all around us, pulling us towards each other and God…finding the gift of the joy, as well as the beautiful struggle, of being connected with each other and God’s purposes in our lives together and with God.
And, on the contrary, God’s Kingdom, God’s Presence, is about putting material possessions in their proper place, which is a place of not holding on too tightly.
We can’t take our material possessions with us, and that’s not God’s economy or measurement of wealth. God values relationship, that’s what gives the energy for creating, saving, sustaining…that’s the ultimate gift and that’s eternal
So many times, we hold on to our gifts, but Jesus is saying that we are called to share it, to be give it away. To bless the poor and one another. Why? Well, certainly to meet needs, but also to empty ourselves of possessions that keep us separated from one another. It’s also meant to say that if we bless others, take care of them as best we can, we can then have the joy of entering into relationship with them.
God’s kingdom gift is about taking away barriers that may keep us from embracing others, ourselves, and God. God’s Kingdom gift has much more to do with our becoming fully human as we were created to be in the first place.
When we are able to love and share freely with others, to move from transactional relationships to truly transformational relationships, we experience joy and purpose. When we invest in others, that is a deposit of treasure that cannot be destroyed.
And, we’ve been given specific gifts to use as a particular part of the body of Christ as our scripture says today. Gifts that have their place in a larger collective, and when we put them together, learn how to collaborate, watch out! We find things moving, we find ourselves unified.
Friends, we are all gifted!!!! And, we discover those gifts though the power of relationship.
However, as John 10:10 reminds us, we can let thieves in that steal away that joy…we listen to voices that are divisive, mean spirited, anxious, and lead us towards a sense of deep selfishness and even a loss of self.
Paul is reminding us that we are all gifted, and that we’ve been given the ultimate gift of connection and communion with ourselves and others through God’s Presence and in our being the body of Christ…if we forget who we are and listen to the voices of the systems of the world, the cult like voices of personalities only concerned with themselves that, those voices that pull us apart, then we will be fragmented and produce nothing good and cause us to be in states of deep separation from one another, but if we remember who we are, gifted persons make in the image of God and living as members of the Kingdom of God, then it will bring unity, peace, and bear good fruit that blesses others.
We must be on watch for the Kingdom of God in our midst. Let us use our gifts for the common good and not on cultural biases that divide us! Amen?