Ezekiel 36:22-29, I Corinthians 12:4-13
October 17, 2010
I hope you were able to get over to the coffee hour last week. It was the beginning of our Stewardship Campaign, and the committee was trying to reach out to as many of us as possible. Last year they sponsored a kick-off luncheon, but that didn’t reach as many of the first service people as they would have liked. So this year, they thought that having two coffee hours would be the best way to reach the most people.
If you were there, you’ll remember that the Stewardship committee prepared some displays about the various aspects of Stewardship. They wanted to get our thinking going and to challenge us to expand that thinking. Those displays are still there, and they’ll be left there throughout the month. So if you haven’t seen them, please take time to do so. In the meantime, we’ve included in your bulletins today, the papers that were available at the end of that “Path of Stewardship.”
Take a look at that paper. These are the things that we believe Stewardship is about. It’s not just about our financial support, though that is important, of course – perhaps more so this year than ever. But even more than that, Stewardship is about all aspects of the faith. We are stewards of our own life of faith, and we are stewards of the faith of God’s people. We are stewards in terms of prayer, fellowship, learning, and worship – all those things on that paper and more. And on those papers, you’ll see that there are some suggestions – and some challenges – as to how we can grow in our stewardship of those various things. That’s what we want you to be thinking about as we go through this important month!
With that in mind, I want you to think about this passage from I Corinthians 12. Because this is about stewardship, too. It’s about the stewardship of our “Gifts.” And again, Paul isn’t talking about money here – though Paul was very practical, and he knew that was important. And he was often involved in taking up “collections for the saints.” But this is about “Spiritual Gifts.” And that was just as important! “Each one,” he said, “is given a gift by the spirit.” And each one is to “use that gift for the common good.” And he takes some time to name some of them.
Now first off, I want to emphasize that he named “some of them.” Because the purpose of this passage is to tell the people that they are to use the gifts they have for the good of the body. That’s what this whole chapter is all about. He didn’t intend this to be a lesson or a resource about the gifts themselves. So this isn’t some kind of “comprehensive list” of these gifts! These are merely examples. But I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard people try to use this passage that way. They would do a “study” on the Gifts of the Spirit, and they would use this passage, and have people try to “discover” what their gift was. And people would look here and think, “I’m really not drawn to any of these!” Either that, or they would “discern” that they had one of these gifts, only to discover later that they really didn’t. Again, the point Paul was making in this chapter was about the unity of the body of Christ. In fact, this whole book of I Corinthians is about that! These were examples of Spiritual Gifts that were to be used in that way.
So, with all that in mind, I want you to think about your “Spiritual Gifts.” What are they? Maybe you know. Maybe you don’t think you have any. People have always been interested in figuring that out. And I think a good place to start, a good way to begin to determine your spiritual gifts is by asking, “What is your passion?” Because I believe God gives us a passion about that which he calls us to do. Doesn’t that make sense? So think about it. What things are you passionate about in God’s kingdom? There’s a pretty good chance that is your “spiritual gift.”
The next thing is, maybe you don’t know all of your passions. Think about it. Have you ever “discovered” a new interest later in your life? Maybe all of a sudden you’ve become passionate about something you never imagined you’d even be interested in before! That happens to me all the time!! I’m always discovering new interests! So, our “spiritual gifts” could be lying in wait for us in just that same way. You may be a good leader in the church, but never thought you could be. You may be a good teacher, but you’ve never tried it, or you’ve never given it a fair chance. Sometimes you’ll never know until you give something a try – or give it another try!
It could be something simpler than those things. For example, I believe encouragement is a spiritual gift. Of course we’re all called to be encouraging. We’re all called to look for and encourage the highest and the best in each other. (If you weren’t here last week, by the way, please pick up a copy of that sermon in the back and read it. Or read it on the website! There are some important words about that very thing!) We’re all called to be encouraging. But some of us have a gift – a passion – for it! Some of us consider it “their calling” to be uplifting and edifying in special ways, and that’s great. You might be one of those – and you might not even know it! If you are, you are a jewel in God’s crown! That’s such an important gift! But like any gift, one person having it doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook for doing it, too!
So we need to be thinking about all of this. And while you are, ask yourself this. Are you not only thinking about your gifts, but are you also focusing on using your gifts for the good of the body of Christ. That’s what Paul’s talking about here. Are you thinking about the big picture of the ongoing ministry here in this place? I want you to see that it isn’t as easy to focus on that as it once was. It used to be that the Church was the center of people’s lives. Just by virtue of the simple nature of society years ago, there weren’t as many other options! The church was the center of people’s religious lives, of course. But it was also the center of their social lives! Everything they did was church related! There weren’t that many other things to do!
Now, our world has changed! Things are different! Now people have so many options. Life is so much crazier, and so much more hectic. Nowadays, there are even many new options on Sundays. Having Sundays reserved for Church years ago wasn’t only a matter of avoiding activities on that day, as it was the fact that they simply didn’t have that many activities! Now there are so many activities in people’s lives, there’s often no other time! I don’t like that it’s that way, but that’s our world!
It’s hard to know what to say about all that. But we need to keep in mind that the Church is not the center of people’s lives like it once was, and that makes church leadership and church unity much harder. That makes encouraging people to practice their faith on a daily basis much harder. That makes Stewardship much harder. There are so many, many things that vie for our time, our talent, and our treasure. And it’s even more so for the younger people. We need to try to understand that. Their world is the sports schedules, the school schedules, the family trips, the big financial demands, and the dizzying array of modern things beholden to their lifestyle – good or bad. Their lives are unbelievable compared to what your life was, only a generation or so ago!
So the question has now become, “How do we encourage people to focus on ‘the common good of the body of Christ’ in such a world?” That’s the huge question in the 21st century! And I have to be honest with you. I’m not sure how to answer it!! I’m kind of in the middle. I’m old enough to remember simpler days, and young enough to have seen the rise of many new and amazing and compelling things in our world. And it’s sometimes hard to make heads or tails of it. It’s hard to know what to say. Add to that the difficult economic times we’re in and we often don’t know how to respond.
But we must respond! Now more than ever, we are called to use our gifts to benefit the body of Christ. And even though the church may not be the unifying thing in our lives like it once was, we know deep in our hearts it should be. This is community, and it is a very important community! And we need to find ways to call people to see again its importance and to be connected to it. And that means us, too!
So take this question this morning seriously! What are your gifts? And how are you using them for the kingdom? Do you see yourself as part of the body of Christ? Do you have that connection in your mind. And that means the whole of the body of Christ – around the world. And it means this body of Christ here at Eddington Church? Do you see that? And do you know, as Paul would go on to say, that every one of us, and every one of our gifts are important in the kingdom? We are all part of the body which works together, as a whole, for the glory of God, and for the good of all his people! Read the last part of this chapter sometime and try to imagine the body without an ear, or without a foot, or without an eye.
So, now that it’s stewardship time once again, (By the way, it’s always stewardship time!) where do you fit in? What are your gifts? And are you using them for the good of the body of Christ? You are needed! You are indispensible! You are part of work and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Eternal God, you have called us into community and into the fellowship of your people. Help us to uphold one another, to share the responsibilities, and the support, and the work of this your church. Help us to see the spiritual gifts you have given us, and to use them for the good of your kingdom in our midst. We praise you, and we offer this our prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.