a sermon, based on 1 Corinthians 12.1-11, being the first of a 3-part Epiphany season preaching series on Christian community, that I had planned to preach with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, January 17, 2016. However, in the moment, suddenly I was given, I pray and trust by the Holy Spirit, another word to share. As that sermon, based on the morning’s gospel passage, John 2.1-11, was spontaneous and, thus, not written, I post, again, what I had planned to preach.
“Concerning spiritual gifts…”
Today, barely two weeks beyond the end of that annual, global, commercial, 12-day gift-giving season called “Christmas” (often followed by gift-returning of things not wanted, gift-exchanging for things desired, and re-gifting so that others may benefit from things we didn’t want and at no monetary cost to us!), the Apostle Paul tells us about our not-only-at-Christmas, but constantly, always and in all ways gift-giving God!
When Paul speaks of spiritual gifts, he is not referring to our natural human talents, those native creative or athletic, mental or physical aptitudes that, when honed through practice, enable us to excel in the fields of the arts, the realm of academe, or the arenas of sport. No. Spiritual gifts are altogether something else. And so that we may not “be uninformed”, Paul introduces us to the subject in a trifold fashion mirroring the Trinitarian nature of God.
On occasion, I heed the counsel of the Pentecostal preacher, who, contemplating a scriptural passage, advised, “Sometimes you have to read it line by line and precept by precept.” I’ll do a bit of that today, for Paul’s commentary is rich with meaning and application.
“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…” As God is infinite, so are the “varieties” or kinds of “gifts”, the undeserved, unmerited, unearned abilities or capacities, indeed, powers bestowed by God through the Holy Spirit.
“There are varieties of services, but the same Lord…” Infinite are the ways in which spiritual gifts may be put to use and always in the service of Jesus; the furtherance of the proclamation, the demonstration of God’s kingdom of love and justice.
“There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone…” Infinite is the produce, are the fruits of the use of spiritual gifts and it is always God, the giver, thus not the receiver of the gift who is responsible for the result.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Everyone receives one or more spiritual gifts, the uses of which always are for the bounty and blessing of the community, never for individual boon or benefit.
Paul then illustrates the Spirit’s activity by presenting nine gifts. Again, God and spiritual gifts are infinite. Thus, this is not an exclusive list, but rather offered so that the Corinthian Christians (and us!) have an idea of what Paul means.
“To one is given through the Spirit…”
“…the utterance of wisdom…” that capacity to interpret the day and time in light of God’s will, particularly the meaning of the cross, which, in the sight of human reason appearing weak and foolish, is the sign of God’s saving strength.
“…knowledge…” that capacity to apply what one knows in the concreteness of daily, communal living.
“…faith…” that capacity, in addition to belief in Christ as Lord that all Christians share, that enables one to accomplish great works, for example…
“…healing…” of disease of body and mind, and the dis-ease of soul and spirit…
“…miracles…” that supernatural capacity, beyond natural human ability to attempt and attain the rationally impossible…
“…prophecy…” not foretelling the future, but rather forth-telling, proclaiming God’s word…
“…the discernment of spirits…” that capacity to distinguish the origin of a prophecy, whether it is a word from God or merely the invention of human imagination…
“…various kinds of tongues (and) the interpretation of tongues…” the ability to speak a heavenly, unearthly language, glossolalia (an idea that makes most Episcopalians squirm with discomfort!) that, as it is unknown by all, requires the facility to explain the message.
“All these” (and more!) “are activated by the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually as the Spirit chooses.” All God’s children are gifted by the Spirit. None is without one or more gifts. As spiritual gifts are infinite in number, no one receives or can receive all gifts. And no gift, thus no Christian, is better or lesser than another. We are equal in the sight of God and in the sight of one another.
“What did you get for Christmas?” A question asked countless times on Christmas Day. Now, in the Epiphany season, guided by the Apostle Paul, I ask what gift or gifts has God, through the Spirit, given you and me to employ to build up our Epiphany community?
Illustration: freehand drawing
 1 Corinthians 12.1a
 See 1 Corinthians 1.18-25