Summary: What are your gifts?
I’d like to share with you how this sermon came about. A few of us had been talking about the Gifts of The Spirit. What they were and how were they to be used and we thought that this might be the basis for a sermon. When it comes to writing sermons, some of us need all the ideas we can get! So I had an idea but where did I start? I had no readings, no symbols, no special time of the year.
So I started to look into “The Gifts of the Spirit” It seems that over the years people have tried to quantify the Gifts of the Spirit. To try to put them into neat little boxes or lists. In the reading from Corinthians Paul lists seven different gifts. Scholars have tried to separate gifts into spiritual and secular gifts. When we first discussed this series, John Simmons had a book that listed about fifteen different gifts. Then it got worse! Some things were called gifts of the Spirit, others the fruit of the spirit.
I was talking to a friend of mine about this and he asked me what I thought spiritual gifts were. I said that I thought that any skill or talent we use to make the world a better place, or to help another person could be considered a gift of the spirit. I also thought that gifts were not just those that descended on us in a flash, like Pentecostal Fire. I wasn’t sure where the dividing line of gifts and fruit came in. Why is patience a fruit and teaching a gift? To me they seem the same. So I found that I had some questions and tried to find some answers and this seemed like a good place to start.
So, first of all, why do we try to divide up talents into spiritual gifts and earthly gifts? We seem to be saying that some skills come from God, others don’t. We even separate two people with similar skills into God given gifts and ordinary work skills. We think of people who find that they have the gift of healing by the laying on of hands as having been given a gift by the Spirit. Yet we think of a person who has trained and studied for years. Who has committed their life to save others, who they have never met and have still to meet, just as common or garden doctors. No God given gift there, just a work skill.
I must admit that this way of thinking worries me. Are we saying that the skill of a doctor is not a gift from God? Is it that the gift has to be given fully formed to be a real gift? Must it be easily seen, easily defined, and have an obvious result to be a real gift? I don’t think that this is the way to view gifts at all.
All through the Bible we see how God uses people to do his work. Sometimes he gives a gift just when it is needed. Sometimes he leads people through life, so when the skill is needed it is already there. Practiced and developed. Tried and tested. People have needs that have to be fulfilled. People need to eat, we have farmers and fishermen. People need to learn, we have teachers. People fall ill or hurt themselves, we have healers, doctors.
People who have the gift of determination, the ability to learn, to use tools, so that when their gifts were needed, they were there. When Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho, he followed God’s orders and used musicians. God used the skills of Noah to build an ark. When Jesus travelled across the Sea of Galilee, he did not magically conjure up a boat, but trusted in the skills of the shipwright and used a boat just there.
People who developed and used their ordinary skills, not knowing that they would used for his purpose.
It reminds me of the story of the man and the flood. A man lived alone in a house a long way from town. He heard on the news from the weather girl that a flood was coming where he lived, but he said, “I’ll be OK. I love my God and he will look after me” As promised, the floods came. As the water rose to his upstairs window, a man in a rowing boat came and offered to take him to safety but the man said, “I’ll be OK. I love my God and he will look after me” The man in the boat left. The waters rose higher and the man had to sit on the roof. A helicopter came by and offered to take him away but he said, “I’ll be OK. I love my God and he will look after me” The helicopter went away, the waters rose higher and the man drowned.