Sunday, May 26, 2013

Many Gifts, One Spirit

Many thanks to Nan Pashon for leading worship and preaching this morning! 
I am sure that she added much to this manuscript.

Many Gifts, One Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:4-13
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
May 26, 2013

“I didn't need to understand the hypostatic unity of the Trinity; I just needed to turn my life over to whoever came up with redwood trees.”       
                                                ― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

1 Corinthians 12:4-13
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Romans 5:1-5           
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Today is Trinity Sunday.

The Holy Trinity is definitely a difficult and challenging doctrine of our faith. But it is not an exam question, and we are not prepping for the SAT; we are Christians who worship God, follow Jesus, and live by the Spirit. So we don’t need to think of the Trinity as an exam question that must be answered before we will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.  The Trinity is not a “weed out” class like those challenging college courses that try to sort out the really good students from the so-so ones. Catherine LaCugna explains in her book, God For Us,  the Trinity is “a practical doctrine with radical consequences for Christian life . . . it is the specifically Christian way of speaking about God, and what it means to participate in the life of God through Jesus Christ in the Spirit.”[1]

The Holy Trinity is about relationship and indwelling. Trinity describes a relationship between three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- all distinct, but all one. Our belief in the eternal dance among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is belief that God creates, collaborates and communicates with us. And it is about how we are called to create, collaborate and communicate with each other, to the glory of God. That’s the center of the lift of the church. Through the Holy Spirit, that life is made possible.

Last week, for our Pentecost celebration, we asked everyone who was here in worship
to write on a little paper star what gifts the Spirit gave to them, and how they share those gifts. It was really beautiful to see that dark paper sky fill up with stars, and even more beautiful to read what was written on them, what gifts they had been given.

Even though last week we saw and heard how the Holy Spirit moved and acted in really dramatic ways, most of the time we see the Holy Spirit moving and acting in smaller, quieter ways. So, nobody wrote anything about rushing winds or tongues of flame. They wrote about compassion, and caring. They described teaching and learning. The Holy Spirit is moving us to pray, to care for one another, to visit and call and send cards, to reach out to the world around us with love and compassion. The Holy Spirit is gifting us to do the little things, to take care of what is needed, whether it is washing dishes and locking doors or singing and playing music, or preparing food for the hungry, or caring for and teaching little ones.

Saint Augustine said, “If you see charity, you see the Trinity” So in that way, each member of this church is a demonstration of the doctrine of the Trinity. When you see people using their gifts, you are seeing the Holy Spirit! “In most cases the Holy Spirit usually does not try to draw attention to itself but rather works on us to strengthen our relationship of faith in Christ.  This means the Spirit is very busy indeed. In our stumbling attempts at faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit is at work, overcoming our own desire to be in control. When we seek comfort, the Spirit reminds us of Christ’s seeking of the lost sheep and his forgiveness to a betrayer like Peter.  When we need correction, the Spirit calls to mind Christ’s injunction against the love of money or the need to forgive -- even those we classify as enemies. Those who wonder about the Spirit’s presence in their lives need only look to their struggling faith in Christ and they will find plenty of evidence. Left to our own devices, we wander far from the source of light and truth. But the Spirit has other plans. God’s Spirit continually reaches out to embrace and encourage us.[2]

In times of trouble and pain, such as we have seen last week in the terrible devastation
of tornadoes in Oklahoma, the Spirit prays for us with sighs to deep for words. And tomorrow on Memorial Day, as Americans have done every May since the Civil War we will remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. While Memorial Day is not a religious holiday, it is certainly a day to give thanks for those who paid what Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”

As we pray for those who suffer, as we reach out to the world in compassion, and as we hope and pray for God’s peace to come to the world, we remember that our God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a God of love.

God created us for love, and named us as adopted children. As Jesus did, we can call God “Abba, Father.” God wants to be in relationship with us, not to punish us or teach us a lesson, but to love us forever and unconditionally.

Jesus came to us in human form, to live and laugh and suffer alongside us, to be “God with us.” Jesus died and rose again so that we might have hope, hope that does not disappoint.

And the Holy Spirit is with us, like a dove or like a flame, as comforter and the one we call “wisdom” so that when don’t act in loving ways, or when we think we have lost hope, or some TV preacher tries to tell us that God is punishing us with tornadoes or terrorism or floods or any other kind of disaster, we have the Holy Spirit as our teacher, our guide, and our friend, God’s presence within us and among us, helping us to create, collaborate, and communicate love and joy and hope through the works of our hands.

Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit! Amen.

[1] Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: Harper, 1991), 1.

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