Even as Jesus reminds us, in today’s Gospel lesson, that the Holy Spirit has been breathed upon us so that we might go out into the world to make known the light and love of the Christ for all people, so Paul reminds us that we are one body in Christ reflected in the many different gifts of individuals, gifts that can be employed in service to God as individual people and as a community.
So what are your gifts? What are your talents to be employed in service to God in Christ?
And how might these gifts not only serve to proclaim Christ's loving, redemptive work through you, how might your gifts be utilized by God to encourage the gifts of others?
I was reading this week about a young man in England who took a job in a nursing home to make some extra money. There he met a man named John Hardy who was struggling with Alzheimer's and who had fallen into somewhat of a depression over it. No one knew what to do to help the ninety-one year old John until one day the young man who was working at the nursing home to make extra money mentioned to John that he played in a band. John's eyes lit up and he began talking about the band he used to play in. After a number of talks the young man reached out to John's nephew to see if they could get a keyboard into the nursing home for him. John blew the nursing home staff away with what his ninety-one year old hands could play.
And since, when he started playing, John played a lot of jazz, the young man who worked there to make some extra money decided to use social media to see if he could bring in some jazz musicians to play with John. Almost one hundred people volunteered to come in just one week, including one of John's old band mates.
They eventually hosted a concert at the nursing home with John and his reunited band. They hosted a wonderful concert, but they also helped John rediscover his gifts and his calling, and this helped him feel more grounded and less agitated in his daily life.
And not only was John helped, but his wife, too. And not only was his wife helped, but so, too were the other residents who now have music as a more regular part of their days. And so, too, have residents in other nursing homes been helped because word of the good this music was doing is spreading and changing the practices of other nursing homes.
And not only were all of those other folks helped, but so, too, was the young man who had started working at the nursing home just to make some extra money in support of his music career. He discovered he had a gift to help others he had not known about before.
So what the apostle Paul is inviting us to do is consider how our gifts, both the ones we know about and the ones that we, like this young man, are only now discovering, might be shared to the glory of God. And Jesus reminds us, like the disciples before us, that these gifts are from the Holy Spirit, sent through us as a gift for the world, and as a gift to inspire others to grow in sharing their gifts.
So what are your gifts, your talents?
And how is God inviting you and seeking to equip and encourager you to use them for the betterment of the world? And how is God encouraging us to use these gifts so that others might be built up and encouraged in discovering and using the gifts God has given them?
I was talking to pastor Arlene Wilhelm this week, the pastor who sometimes comes here to Redeemer, New Paltz, to supply when I am away. Pastor Wilhelm was telling me about a conversation she had with two women not long ago, in which the one women said to the other on the way out of church, "you are so talented. You have so many gifts. I wish I had gifts like yours."
As they talked more, the second woman and Pastor Wilhelm found themselves pointing out to the first woman that she had incredible gifts for organizing people, demonstrated by a charity walk she heads up each year. And this woman who heads up the charity walk each year, organizing dozens of volunteers who in turn organize more volunteers who together collectively raise thousands of dollars to do important work for the betterment of the world; this woman had never thought of herself as gifted. She had honestly never seen her work in organizing people as a gift, given and bestowed upon her by God in Christ.
Too often we easily remember our faults and the faults of others and all that we collectively fail to accomplish. We spend too much of our time listing our failures rather than investing our time - God's time - in praising and thanking God for the time, talents, and finances we have been given by putting these gifts into action! Into service for Christ's sake and the betterment of the world!
Jesus has breathed the breath of new life into us so that we might live, knowing that God in Christ seeks to live through us. Jesus has breathed the breath of life into us so that we might live, knowing that God in Christ has delivered the gift of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, our minds, our bodies and souls. And what should we do when we receive a gift, but gratefully accept it! Give abundant thanks to the giver.
And in this case the Giver not only gives the gift, but the means to express the gratitude. This is also the work of the Holy Spirit, Love and vital Light made incarnate in us by Christ's work on the cross. And it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can name our gifts and the gifts of others.
It is by the Holy Spirit that we can arrive at a job to make extra money and discover that we are also there to help a man struggling to remember who he is make music again and find his purpose again. It is by the Holy Spirit that we see someone else's giftedness and do whatever we can to help them use those gifts to make the world a better and brighter place.
So what are your gifts? And how will you use them to praise God?
And what are the gifts of this congregation? We have discerned that God is calling us to the mission of Sharing Christ's Welcome. How will God help us develop an ever-deeper focus and capacity to Share Christ’s Welcome through our focus areas of hunger and homelessness, diversity and equality, and campus ministry?
Every long journey begins with a single step. So whether you have been thinking and praying about how to use your gifts in Christ's service for the world for years or are thinking about it for the very first time today, the Holy Spirit is seeking to help us discover Christ's gifts in us, one step, one day at a time. Together, rooted in Christ and our emerging sense of calling and giftedness, we can go out boldly in the world to share Christ’s Welcome.