2nd Sunday after Epiphany Yr. C: The Gifts of the Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (NIV)

1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

The Greek of the NT says ‘things of the Spirit’ or ‘spiritual things’, and doesn’t mention ‘gifts’ here. There is logic to the translation ‘gifts’. Paul follows with a discussion about certain gifts of the Spirit and so it makes a certain sense to translate ‘things’ as ‘gifts’. However, this limits the idea of ‘things’, which is a much broader concept. The limited list of gifts below, specifically concern the congregation at Corinth but are by no means the limit of the ‘things of the Spirit’ which is much broader and deeper, as are all the possibilities that exist in God. ‘Gifts’ is a narrow perspective for the particular circumstances of Corinth. ‘Things of the Spirit’ however, are the possibilities of the Spirits gifts for all of us who have come after Corinth and live with the different circumstances of life now, in our time and place.

Who knows what gifts the Spirit will give to this generation, if only we would wait on him?

Q     Have you ever sat and reflected on the ‘Things of the Spirit’? Counted his gifts and given thanks?

No? Now would seem like a good time to start. Yes?

 

2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.

‘Pagan’ is an interesting word. Originally it meant someone who lived out in the wild and dangerous countryside away from the safety, culture and influence of Rome. Bad spirits wandered the wilds outside the city. In the city, where the god’s of Rome were worshiped, their protection and provision were supposedly given to the residents of Rome.

So, Paul is making a comparison between the old understanding of a Roman pagan and those who are pagans to God because they live outside of his loving protection and provision. He is reminding them that once they prayed to their local gods and the spirits of the places in which they lived and received, in fact, no protection, no provision and most importantly none of the promises of God that go so naturally with life with Him. No visible, pro-active love for today and certainly no hope of it into the future for those Corinthians who still lived, in part, as pagans.

Paul calls these false gods and lying spirits ‘mute’ idols. They were made of stone and misguided human imagination. They had no substance and so they could never share in the conversation of prayer. The Father, the eternal Son and Holy Spirit however have voices and delight in the dialogue that is prayer. In fact, our God always has something valuable to say and do. If only people were listening.

Q       Stop! Have a listen …. wait …. are you still listening?

This can take a while don’t be in such a hurry. Prioritise time with your God and relax into his arms …. and listen … listen as a child listens to the gentle mellow tone of their loving father’s voice. Try and hear his gentle, patient, kind and mellow tone …. Just imagine until you do.

 Idea    Here’s the surprising thing.

  • All you need to do this, is be alone.
    • So, find a quiet place at home with no distractions.
    • Make a written list of the initial thoughts running around in your head so that you can put your worries about ‘forgetting important things’ to rest.
    • And start telling God about your day and all your stuff, especially the stuff with others and then rest in his arms and listen for the mellow voice.
  • OR, go for a walk and put on disconnected headphones just to block out the external sound and let passers-by know that you are in your own world at the moment and …. Listen … etc.

 

3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word for curse means to ‘ban’ or ‘excommunicate’ someone from community. It also has the connotations of ‘accusing’, or treating something or someone as ‘anathema’; that is not to be touched or involved with.

In the Australian vernacular we could say, quite crudely, Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus, bugger off”. The force and the vulgarity are repugnant to us perhaps, but that is the force of ‘cursed’.

Point of Interest: Don’t let the hangover of Victorian era propriety or false religious piety get in the way of thorough understanding and true knowledge.

The writers of the biblical texts could be crude, even excessively, in order to make a point. The Bible’s translators have done the ‘proper and pious’ thing on our behalf, unfortunately. Wouldn’t reading the Bible be so much more interesting if they just translated what was in front of them? Wouldn’t it be more ‘real’, relationally speaking? After all isn’t the bible God’s love letter to us?

‘Jesus is Lord’ then: ‘Lord’ is a term that has direct links to Hebrew culture and so to the Hebrew Bible. It is known as a ‘circumlocution’. A term that means to say something in an around about way; saying something while at the same time not actually saying it, like the holy name of God. YHWH (Yahweh) is a name so holy that sinful human lips should never utter it in Hebrew culture, so a number of work arounds were found. ‘Lord’ is one of them. So, ‘Jesus is Lord’ literally means Jesus is God or Jesus is YHWH.

Point of Interest: It took the church another 375 years, through the Council of Nicaea, to reach this conclusion, while St. Paul was ‘in their face’ with it the whole time.

We are such slow learners, we sons and daughter of God.

 Paul’s powerful counterpoint to ‘excluding’ Jesus from our lives, out of a wrong spirit, is the declaration that any and every genuine confession of faith in Jesus as God of gods and Lord of lord’s is evidence that the Spirit of God is at work in and through us.

Qs  

  1. Jesus is YHWH! Wow! There’s a thing to spend the rest of your life contemplating! How about spending a few minutes in God’s thoughts right now.

Let his thoughts become your thoughts. (that idea alone could keep me going for ages).

  1. Since we are both ‘saint and sinner’, and won’t be perfected until this life is done, in what ways do you live in both places? What part of your shadow life still sends Jesus packing when it suits you?

 

Idea  

First step: If you are aware of those times and circumstances, why not confess it in private and out loud to God. Ask for his forgiveness and for the healing that comes with it?

Second step: Pay attention to His voice as you move through the days and week that follow, so that you can here and sense what he is saying and doing for you; maybe even through you as you confess freely and naturally, in word and action, that Jesus is Lord. Keep a written record.

Many of our secrets are buried so deep in our shadow that we may be personally unaware of our resistance to Jesus presence in certain ways. We may be doing damage in our relationships as a result. Warning: Don’t go digging around in the darkness without first asking God to go there with you. If you go alone, it is quite possible to get stuck there and become completely self-involved. But dig we must. Also, God has given us family and friends for a reason. Ask someone close to you if they have noticed any unhealthy traits that get in the way of sound relationships and could do with God’s healing touch.

Effective Help is at Hand: Living Faith’s Prayer Ministry is a perfect way of finding emotional and spiritual healing for these things; occasionally physical healing especially after the spiritual and emotional stuff is healed.

This ministry is safe, totally confidential and very effective in facilitating new life in the dry and damaged places of our soul.

 

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.

Now, Paul is specifically using the term ‘gifts’ or in Greek, ‘charisims’. ‘Charisims’ and charisma are derived from ‘charis’ or ‘grace’. These gifts and indeed all the ‘things’ of the Spirit are the grace of God at work for us, in us and through us.

In the past I have witnessed insecurity in some people as they talk about ‘their’ gifts in a way that comes off as rather superior and elitist. It is wonderful and can even be an ecstatic experience to receive Spirit gifts from God. That wonder and ecstasy are gifts in themselves but we must realise, like the first blush of romantic love that too soon evaporates, real love – the deliberate, pro-active kind must replace it and put the gifts to work before they are lost.

Q  Have you buried your gifts away for fear of what others may say; for fear of criticism and the tall poppy syndrome?

Sometimes we have buried them so deep that they are only a faint memory or known only now to our subconscious. Good things decay and rot when buried and that’s not good for our souls. Your Spirit gifts and natural talents are gifts from God and he wants you to practice, rehearse and use them so that you flourish in life and others benefit in the process.

Idea 

Some obvious ways to discover or rediscover your gifts and begin to feel at home in your own skin with them:

  1. Asking God is the best place to start. Record what you hear or sense, so that you can review your notes at leisure. What is it that’s coming to mind in the stillness?
  2. Ask someone you trust about the things they have observed you doing that benefit others. Consider their response as a gift to you, contemplate their observations, accept the gift and get started practicing those gifts consciously. This way you will develop the associated skills.
  3. Ask your pastor for a ‘Gifts Survey’. This will help you rediscover God’s amazing generosity and powerful life purpose for you. NOTE: the best way to do a survey is with others so you can compare notes for validation.

Good to Know!

  1. Always remember that God reveals his gifts to you, most often, in a moment of another’s need; in a moment when he is calling you into the service of another.

 

Imagine that, when you want to help but don’t know how, when you have come to the end of yourself in the aid of another, God turns up and says, ‘why not do this, or say that?’ And before you know it, God’s the Saviour of you both – in that moment.

What a rush! What an adventure! There is nothing else like it!

 

5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

This is simple and straight forward as it addresses the superiority and elitism I mentioned earlier and puts the gifts into their proper context where their value can be realised and their power experienced.

God gives us all gifts. Some of us have realised that and some haven’t yet but we are all gifted with the Spirit’s Things and just as importantly we are all, ourselves, God’s gifts to his assembly; to his body of believers. So no one is superior to another, no one has superior gifts and everyone is elevated by the Grace of God in Jesus Christ. We are all sons and daughters of Papa God.

‘Papa’ is a term I’ve picked up that seems to serve the general usage of our Father’s little children. The word used by Jesus is ‘Abba’ which is a diminutive and familiar term for father like ‘dad’ or ‘daddy’ or, how about, ‘Pop’? Pop wants us to be so familiar with him that we really do think of him and feel about him as our loving Father for ever.

How comfortable are you with God; my Pop? Is he yours too? He wants to be.

 Now for something Exciting! (Wish I could convey the excitement and the shivers down my spine)

The list of gifts and what they look like in action is a conversation for another time but in the meantime, so that you are prepared to make an offering to the conversation and a gift to others:

  • Start observing people in action. Identify what you think may be their gifts and make a note of them for when we are ‘talent scouting’ for our faith works together as the Body AND
  • Let them know that you’ve noticed. Give them some praise and encouragement AND
  • Start a movement. Change the culture for the better and recruit others into you cunning plan!

Ian ‘Watto’ Watson, a friend of ours, has said for years, ‘No one has gone backward with encouragement’. Let’s make that Shed Happens moto a way of life.

https://www.facebook.com/Shed-Happens-332200481106/

 

And, may the peace of God which passes all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

And be assured that his heart and mind are also in you, always and to the end.

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