There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 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.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
– 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Every person who comes here brings gifts with them. Our congregation is richer, tremendously richer, because of the gifts that you bring.
And I’m not just talking about the gifts people put in the collection plate every week. Those are important, too, of course.
But the most important gift people bring isn’t money. The most important gift we bring is the gift of ourselves. I think that this meeting would have died out a long time ago, if it wasn’t for the rich gifts of all the people who are here.
I look at the people in our meeting, and I see so many people, who give so much of themselves, and take such joy in it, and who get such a reward for their giving. You all are wonderful!
You know, I’ve read any number of books and articles and surveys which all agree that a meeting our size shouldn’t be able to exist. They say that we’re too small, or that we’ve gone through too many hard times. They come up with all sorts of reasons why we shouldn’t be here anymore.
I guess those are the same sort of people who decided that from a scientific point of view, bumblebees can’t fly. You know, they say that bumblebees are too fat, and too heavy, and too clumsy to make it off the ground. And the bumblebee just goes on, from flower to flower, flying around, making honey, not paying any attention to the experts.
I think we’re the same way. And the reason is, I think, that the experts can’t measure the kind of gifts that it takes to keep a meeting like ours going. I mean, just to open the doors on Sunday morning – have you ever thought about how many people it takes, all the different skills, and all the time people put in?
Every week, there are people who greet you at the door. There are people on the facing bench. There’s the choir, sitting here behind me. Julia isn’t just here for an hour on Sunday morning – she puts in practice time. Belinda prepares a story for the children. Millie types and prints and folds the bulletins.
There are nursery workers. Gene works here for many hours every week, to make sure that the building is clean and attractive.
Sandra counts the collection, and all through the week, she pays the bills and keeps track of what’s coming in and going out.
There are teachers, who put in preparation time, and who do a lot to stay in touch with their students as well as the class time.
And that’s not even counting the time I put in. My goal is to spend the equivalent of one full day a week, every week, preparing for meeting for worship. Sometimes it all happens on Friday, sometimes my preparation is spread out over different times, but that’s my goal.
Add that all up, and you find 50 or 60 hours are being spent by different people, each week – prayer and preparation and physical presence, just to make this worship hour happen. We invest a lot of time – people make sacrifices – before you even walk in and sit down.
Every day, I try to take some time to pray. I usually come in here, into the worship room. And every time, I sit in a different place. One day I might sit here, another day I’ll sit over there, and pray.
I have probably sat and prayed in your seat, sometime in the six weeks since I’ve come here. I’ve sat on the piano bench. I’ve sat on every chair in the front row up here on the platform, and on several seats in the choir.
I’ve sat and prayed all the way in the back row, where the ushers sit. I’ve moved around and prayed in different places, every day, in almost all the pews. One afternoon this week, I even went and prayed for a while in the nursery. I’m not saying this to show off. I want you to feel that I’ve sat in your place, and I’ve tried to see things, literally, from your point of view.
When we pray here together on Sunday morning, I don’t want you to feel that I’m up front and you’re down there. I want you to feel that I’m beside you. And even more – much more! – I want you to feel that Christ is beside you, sharing the place where you’re sitting, beside you and within you.
When we become Christians, we believe that Christ is with us, that we all become part of his body. That’s a very serious thing to say, and it’s not just a figure of speech. We are the body that Jesus has now. If any of us are missing, if any of us are disconnected, if any of our abilities are unused, then Christ’s body isn’t complete. That’s what this morning’s Scripture says.
Paul says that each one of us has different gifts. We’re used to hearing that, of course – everyone is gifted. Everybody is special and unique. Everyone is an individual.
We’re always telling children that they’re special. We’re always telling kids to grow up to be all that they can be. And that’s good. But I think we forget that young adults, and middle aged adults, and older adults, are also special. We don’t stop having potential, just because a few years have gone by. We’re gifted, all of our lives. We are gifted, with each breath. We are gifted, till the day we die – and maybe even beyond!
This morning’s reading talks about just a few of the many kinds of gifts people have in the church. Paul talks about wisdom and understanding, faith, healing, showing God’s power, telling it like it is, discernment and communication. Those are all gifts which God gives – gifts which God needs different people to have. Gifts, without which the body of Christ will be incomplete.
In other places, Paul talks about the church needing preachers and teachers. We certainly need more of those here at Springfield Friends. I don’t think that I should be the only preacher. I think there are more people who are called to share a message.
We certainly need more teachers – people who have a gift for understanding and a passion for sharing and caring. Teaching isn’t just about information, you know. It’s about caring for all the people who learn.
That’s why we always remember the best teachers we’ve had. The reason some people are great teachers isn’t just because they’re educated, but because they care about their students. At least 50% of teaching is caring.
But Paul also talks about people with the gift of reaching out. He mentions people with the gift of organization and administration. He talks about people with the gift of helping others. He talks about people with the gift of mercy, of mentoring and encouraging.
And we know that there are many other gifts. There are people who are gifted in music, in seeing and creating beauty. There are people who are peacemakers, people who are builders, people who are counselors, people who know how to put food out on the table. We’d be lost without them!
My point is, that everyone who comes here is gifted. We may not know what each others’ gifts are. We may not even know our own gifts ourselves.
When somebody new comes to our meeting, we should assume that God has brought them here for a purpose. What we should be asking people is, what gifts has God given you? What makes you special? What is your unique contribution to the body of Christ?
I believe that God gives us, not just our daily bread, not just what we need in our body and our spirit. Those things are important, and I believe that God cares for our needs.
But I also believe, that God gives us the people we need, to be the body of Christ here in this place.
I know that there are lots of things we want to do here at Springfield Friends. It feels sometimes as though we don’t have all the resources that we need. I’ve heard a lot of people say they feel stretched too thin and overworked.
Well, part of that may be, because the best way to get a job done, is to ask somebody who’s good at it. I’ve heard many times that when you really need to get something done, you should ask a busy person, because they know how to manage their time and accomplish things.
But I also believe, that many of us have gifts which are completely unused. The great Quaker writer, Rufus Jones, once said, “There is in most of us a vast acreage of our inner estate which has never been touched by the plow. It remains uncultivated. We are this, we have been this, but how much more we might be. . .”
What an image that is! He’s talking about gifts. He’s talking about unused potential. He’s talking about trying new things, that we’ve never tried before.
He says that inside each one of us, there’s a huge plot of land that’s never been touched. It’s waiting to grow. It’s unused and fertile. There’s a part in each of us that could grow great oaks, or breathtaking flowers, or rich grain, or anything else. But we mostly just let it grow to weeds instead. What a waste!
There are gifts right here in this room, that have never been tried. Or gifts, which have never been recognized.
I want us to to tell the world about our meeting. I think we have a great physical space, a great spiritual tradition, a great framework to build on. But to get that story out there, we need gifted people.
We could use some good photographers. I’d love to find 4 or 5 people who love taking pictures, who would bring their cameras with them to meeting all the time. There are so many beautiful moments just happening around here, every day. But we need someone with a camera, to capture and share those moments. That’s a gift!
We could use some people who are good writers, to share half a dozen stories for the newsletter every month about what’s going on and what’s coming up.
We need 8 or 10 crazy, mad Facebookers, people who are passionate about our meeting and who are willing to spend some time making connections and posting cool ideas and inviting people to join us. That’s another gift.
We need people who love to make things beautiful. We need people who know how to throw a great party. It’s supposed to be fun around here!
We need people who want to sing – our choir is desperate for new voices. You don’t have to be trained. You don’t have to be an opera star. You just have to be wiling to sing. A meeting our size should have 15 or 20 people in the choir, at least.
When people feel free to use their gifts – when they feel invited and excited – the meeting will grow. I guarantee it. I absolutely guarantee it! And it’s across the board – all ages, all experience levels, all levels of ability. Last week, we saw something beautiful here at worship. Bobby Gilmore sang Amazing Grace for us.
I think that everyone in the room felt that Bobby was putting himself on the line that morning. He was using what he has. He was showing us his love and faith.
I wish that more people in our meeting would do exactly that. Show us your love of God. Show us a little of what you care about. Show us what sets you on fire. Show us where you think the still, small voice is leading you.
The early Quakers had a famous saying. They said, “Live up to the Light that you have, and more will be given to you. . .” Sometimes they called it paying attention to the Seed. They realized that seeds almost always start out small.
Sometimes they called it, “living up to your measure.” They meant that God may give you a small amount to start with. You need to be faithful with that small amount. Use it. Enjoy it. Share it. Put it to work. Be like Bobby, and put it out there on the line.
Do that – live up to your measure, live up to the Light that you have – and you’ll grow. Your gifts will grow. Your spirit will grow.
I have lists of different gifts that I hope that people have, gifts which could make such a difference here. I’m looking for people who can plant things and make them grow. I’m looking for a bunch of people who speak different languages for a sermon I want to do some day.
If you don’t think you have any special gift, I’m looking for somebody who can go out and gather a couple of buckets of rocks for a sermon. If you think you can do that, please see me at the end of meeting today. Seriously.
I’ve also heard people here in the meeting complaining because we don’t have the all of the leaders we need. Well, let me say something.
I think that God is willing to give us the leaders we need for every area of our meeting’s life. Those people are already here in the world. We’re just asking God to help us to make the right connections.
But I will not listen to any complaints about leadership – not about the leaders we already have, and not about the different gaps and places where we fall short in our meeting – I will not listen to any complaints unless you tell me that you are seriously praying for God to help us.
Don’t waste time complaining. I want to hear that you’re praying. Sincerely, consistently, passionately praying for God to send us the people we need to help us. I want to hear that you trust in God to wake up people to their gifts.
I want to hear you praying for courage. I want to hear you praying for openness and freedom. I want to hear you praying to God for willingness to listen and willingness to try new things.
I want to hear you praying for people here among us, for the gifts we already have. And I want to hear you praying for God to send us new people, with all kinds of new spiritual gifts.
I want to hear you praying, often, for this to be a place where everyone’s gifts find a welcome, where everyone feels free to be who they really are.
If we do that, we’ll be overflowing with gifts. Because that’s the way God is. We won’t be hurting. We’ll be overflowing. God gives us the resources, the gifts, and the people we need, to be the body of Christ.
Copyright © 2015 by Joshua Brown