Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"To each is given"

Message preached January 14, 2007
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon  1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Order of Worship

Power Point Slide 1:

"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
(1 Corinthians 12:7)

            This week, I want to continue a course I all-too-inadequately began last Sunday. Though in the last few years I have moved away from the pulpit and a sermon manuscript, today I want to - at least in this moment of proclamation - preach in this way from this location. Doing so is due in part to a new means of communication now in the hands of our congregation. Weíve already used this "LCD" projector this morning as an aid for our singing and praying. It is merely a tool, and one of the things we will struggle with as we make use of it in the days to come is how to keep it a tool and not let it take over and define our worship life. Today is a test run, and Iím a bit nervous about it.

Power Point Slide 2:

*

an asterisk

not asterich or ostrich

            Anyway, on this second Sunday in the season of Epiphany, we continue to look at how God is filling in the "asterisk" beside our name when we join our lives with Christ and the church. Please note: that is not "asterich" as I mistakenly pronounced it last week, a fact pointed out to me by several, one even wondering if I was preaching about an "ostrich." It is "asterisk," an idea I added last minute to my message from my conversation with Nathan Wheatley, as we were getting dressed following his baptism.

            Epiphany is a season in which we pray for open eyes to see how God is being revealed in this world. It begins with the wise menís visit to the baby Jesus, and how God was revealed to these strangers who were not part of the story of Godís people.

Power Point Slide 3:

         "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those that bless, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:2-3)

            These Ďgentiles,í though, were drawn into the ongoing drama of the Bible anyway, fulfilling Godís promise to the descendants of Abraham that "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:3) Very early on, the followers of that infant who became the risen Christ were nudged by Godís Spirit to aim outward. The church, you see, was never intended to be a holy huddle, existing for its own sake. During Epiphany we are challenged to look and see how God is being revealed in the world around us and to aim our God-given energies outward, to follow Jesus where he leads.

            In order to do that, however, we need to look inward and behold how God is being revealed in us. How is God equipping us for the calling to which we are called? What are the gifts God gives each of us, uniquely, for the journey onward and outward? Yes, God is being revealed, made manifest (which is what the word "epiphany" means) in the world around us. But one of the ways God is revealed is through us. How, then, is God equipping us for His Ďepiphany purposeí?

Power Point Slide 4:

God does not call the equipped.
God equips the called.

            Or, to put in more personally, how is God equipping you? How are you being shaped by the hands of the potter for Godís wider purpose? Thatís what we want to work at discovering in the coming weeks. Of course, some of us are just beginning that process. Others of us are in the process of clarifying, refining and being further trained in our God-given gifts. Regardless of where you are in relation to your spiritual abilities, I invite you to enter into this time of discernment.

            A good place to start today is the twelfth chapter of Paulís first letter to the Corinthians. The church in Corinth, you might be aware, was a very gifted group of people. If anything, their problem was not so much discovering who was gifted at what, but more in the area of appreciating, being grateful for the abilities of everyone, and seeking to make use of everyoneís God-given gift. No oneís gift is better than anotherís, wrote Paul, something those folks really needed to hear. Iím not sure thatís the message our church needs to hear, but if there is any "looking down" upon one another happening among us, we likewise need Godís kick-in-the-pants to "look up," to appreciate, to be filled not just with the wonder of what we are able to do with God, but also be filled with gratitude for what God is doing in all of us, as well as in the world around us.

Power Point Slide 5:

Jesus is Lord!

            A friend of mine in a previous church, a Lutheran pastor by the name of Brian Triller, once shared that for him the focus of this passage of scripture is not so much on the gifts we have, but upon the God who gives them all. To say that "Jesus is Lord" is to make a shift from us to God as the center of the universe upon whom everything depends. Pastors arenít the only ones sometimes caught in this trap. You know, the trap of believing that "everything depends upon me." If I mess up, things are really a shambles. London bridge comes tumbling down. Humpty Dumpty has a great fall and all the kings soldiers and all the kings men canít put it back together again. You ever feel that way? Thank God that "Jesus is Lord" and not me! Amen?

            With the focus off of us and onto God, we can deal with our differences. Each person is unique. Each is gifted in their own special way by God. And that is not something for us to fear. Itís a reason, instead, to rejoice and be glad. God is the One who, as I tried to get across last week, fills in that "asterisk." Donít worry. Paul writes:

Power Point Slide 6:

There are different (or varieties of) gifts (charismaton),
            but the same Spirit (pneuma).
   

Power Point Slide 7:

There are different (or varieties of) gifts (charismaton),
            but the same Spirit (pneuma).
There are different (or varieties of) ministries (diakonion),
            but the same Lord (Kyrios).
  

Power Point Slide 8:

There are different (or varieties of) gifts (charismaton),
            but the same Spirit (pneuma).
There are different (or varieties of) ministries (diakonion),
            but the same Lord (Kyrios).
There are different (or varieties of) services (energematon),
            but the same God (theos),
                                                     working (energon) all in all.

            Let me pause and remind you of how things interconnect. The abilities that God provides to each of us, the gifts that God bestows, are not dis-connected from each other, they donít each exist as if in a vacuum apart from one another. Sometimes we operate as if that were the case, not thinking about how our abilities compliment each other. Weíre not in competition. Instead, weíre woven together by God, inter-connected, working together not against each other. Likewise, sometimes we feel as if everyone should be like we are. But if that were true, the church would be a very boring place. More on that next week as we revisit the latter part of this chapter of scripture.

            That all of this ties together, letís look at how certain words inter-connect. "There are different gifts," Paul wrote. As I said, the Greek word for "gift" here is "charismaton."

Power Point Slide 9:

Charisma             - gift
Charismata          - gifts

            Within this very word we find "Chara" which means "joy."

Power Point Slide 10:

Charisma             - gift
Charismata          - gifts
Chara                  - joy

            A derivative of "Chara" is "Chairo," which means "to rejoice."

Power Point Slide 11:

Charisma             - gift
Charismata          - gifts
Chara                  - joy
Chairo                 - to rejoice

            Joy is part of this "different gifts" stuff. Seeking out our abilities involves a lightness of spirit, not a heaviness of heart. Take yourself less serious and God more serious. Remember, "Jesus is Lord," not you! Rejoice and be glad.

            In a similar vein, from this word we also hear echoes of something we find amazing. The English word "grace" in Greek is "Charis."

Power Point Slide 12:

Charisma             - gift
Charismata          - gifts
Chara                  - joy
Chairo                 - to rejoice
Charis                  - grace

            God loves us just as we are, warts and all. Itís not anything we do that causes God to love us. Nor does God love us any less for our failures along the way. While we were still sinners, pagans, lost, God reached out and forgave us, welcomed us, found us. Thatís what scripture says. When it comes to the abilities God provides along the way of our walk with Jesus, thereís a gracefulness to it all. Weíre not messing around with fine china here which, if we drop it, will earn us a Ďforever frowní from the face of God.. No, these are "grace gifts."

            When I was a teenager driver, I pulled out in front of another car on the way to a Campus Life meeting. I know the trooper said it was not all my fault, for the other car was going too fast, and the setting sun was a factor. Thankfully no one was hurt. But I felt terrible, and was ready to stop driving forever (or so I thought at that moment). Instead, my Dad handed me the keys to the family sedan and encouraged me to get back behind the wheel and continue on to that youth meeting. In so doing, he revealed a bit of Godís grace to me. I didnít deserve to drive again. I later stood before the judge and said "guilty" when asked how I plead. Through that experience I grew, and it was this "grace" that shaped me.

            Thatís how God is in relation to the gifts we receive. We grow in putting them to use, and sometimes we crash. But God puts the keys back in our hands and nudges us back on the road. That "charis" ... "grace." And the word for spiritual "gift," "charisma" is connected to it. In a little while, we will together come to the Lordís table for a little meal that reminds us of Godís love and grace. Have you ever heard this bread and cup communion referred to as the "eucharist"?

Power Point Slide 13:

Charisma             - gift
Charismata          - gifts
Chara                  - joy
Chairo                 - to rejoice
Charis                  - grace
Eucharist/eo,ia,os - to give thanks, gratitude,
                                      being thankful

            Well "eucharistesas," in Greek, is the word used for what Jesus did in the upper room when he broke the bread to share with his disciples. He "gave thanks" to God. Thatís what "eucharist" means - giving thanks ... gratitude ... being thankful

            Paul wrote, "to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7) Itís appropriate to connect this "common good" of discerning and learning how to use our God-given abilities (the "manifestation," the "epiphany" of the Spirit) with the "communion" that we share together with Jesus. Woven through our common walk with Christ as his church - his body - is

Power Point Slide 14:

Joy

            a deep-seated joy that canít be taken away from us,

Power Point Slide 15:

Joy
Grace

            an unmerited grace that helps us to travel and to live light,

Power Point Slide 16:

Joy
Grace
Gift

            a sense that it all is a gift from God (not something we have to earn),

Power Point Slide 17:

Joy
Grace
Gift
Gratitude

            which fills us with gratitude,

Power Point Slide 18:

Joy
Grace
Gift
Gratitude
Rejoicing

            rejoicing as we go. Thatís how we approach this filling in of the Ďasteriskí that resides beside each of our names as we choose to purposefully join our lives together with Christ.

            Next week, weíll continue with this same chapter of scripture, getting a little more specific when it comes to these spiritual gifts. For now, brothers and sisters, remember that God is revealing himself in you. Speaking of remembrance, letís turn back a few sentences in this same letter of Paul and listen to his call to the Lordís table. Then, letís go there, together.

1 Corinthians 11:23-25


(para traducir a espaŮol, presione la bandera de EspaŮa)

 

©2006 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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