Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for all of your many blessings, but today we especially thank you for blessing us with spiritual gifts. May your Holy Spirit use these words to increase our awareness of these gifts and awaken us to their use in your mission. Amen.
The birth of every child, including our own birth, is like the coming into the world of another of God’s gifts. As the package is delivered all we see is this wet, wrinkly little creature. What we don’t see and can only wonder about is what this child will become or as some of us like to say, “What will I be when I grow up?”.
There is so much in this package held together by flesh and bones. From the day we are born our DNA has already set up a default. Each of us has a set of life skills or talents that will be honed with time. Each of us has a personality that will naturally lead us to be more or less introverted or extroverted, thinking or feeling, organized or spontaneous. Very early in our development we will absorb values and become passionate about certain things in life.
We are an incredible package that God has created and gifted the world with and yet there is one additional gift that God gives that focuses every other part of this gift of who we are. This we call the “spiritual gifts.”
Spiritual gifts, and you can have one or more, are gifts from God that are given by the Holy Spirit when we are baptized. They are gifts that connect the rest of the package with God’s mission and God’s purpose and God’s family. Without them, the rest of the package has greater difficulty reaching its potential and more often than not is misused.
The scriptures provide us with various lists of these gifts. From the reading today from 1 Corinthians we heard about the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Each of these gifts can be defined, but the point of God’s Word from this passage is not the list, but what Paul says about these gifts.
First, Paul writes that they are the product of the Holy Spirit. These are not gifts of our own making, but like everything else, they are given by God. These gifts connect us to Jesus Christ and his body, the Church and they can only be nurtured or developed with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Since we believe that the Holy Spirit comes into our lives through baptism we also believe that these gifts are given to us in God’s action through baptism.
Second, since all of these gifts come from the Holy Spirit, there is not one gift that is more important than another. They are all intended to be used in service to Christ our Lord and his mission. They are also intended for the building up of the body of Christ or as Paul wrote, for the common good (12:7).
Finally, each baptized person has at least one of these gifts. You have a gift that the Holy Spirit has given you to help your Christian community of Trinity Lutheran grow into the fullness of life in Christ Jesus. You have also been given that gift so that you may serve God’s mission in the world: bringing people into relationship with God and being a part of the renewing and healing work of God’s kingdom.
Now a church that is healthy and growing is one where people not only know their gifts, but also use them in service to the church community and through the church to the world around it.
In the past, some of you may have done a spiritual gifts inventory. You may or may not remember what your particular gift or gifts are. Knowing your gift is one thing. Putting into action is another. This is where we often fall down. We fail to use our gifts and even more importantly support one another in their use.
A healthy and growing church is one whose ministry is developed around the gifts the Spirit has given to the baptized people in that community. In contrast, when we build a church around activities and warm bodies we end up with people serving out of obligation, without passion. This eventually leads ministry to stagnate and die.
I have left copies on the back table of a simple exercise that can help you discern your spiritual gifts. There are also links on our website to online spiritual gift inventories.
I did not raise this issue of spiritual gifts today to suggest that we must know our spiritual gifts and use them in order to be saved. We believe that our salvation comes solely by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
However, the gifts of the Spirit are part of the salvation package in that they enable us to become what God has created us to be. In our baptism we have been called to follow Jesus into the mission of salvation. Using and developing our spiritual gifts is a faithful response to to our Lord.
So I raise this issue of spiritual gifts to make us aware of a significant area in our personal and community life as God’s people that we need to grow and develop in. At some point in the future I hope that we can better recognize the spiritual gifts God has blessed is with in this community, understand what they are and begin to develop and support a ministry based on these gifts.
Until then, I encourage you to explore and ask God to reveal to you your spiritual gifts and how those gifts define where God is calling you to serve in Christ’s mission and for the common good of this congregation.