Gifted Rev Dr Durrell Watkins The Apostle Paul in his letter to the house churches in Rome wanted to encourage members of the new movement to be fully committed, to share so much of themselves that the mission would thrive, and as the mission grew, lives would be healed, empowered, and blessed. Paul believed that […]
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the house churches in Rome wanted to encourage members of the new movement to be fully committed, to share so much of themselves that the mission would thrive, and as the mission grew, lives would be healed, empowered, and blessed.
Paul believed that everyone who is drawn to the community or the message then should chip in the gifts they have to share. And while financial gifts will always be needed to fund ministry, Paul makes it clear that above and beyond showing up and putting some money in the plate, we each have something special to share and as members of the movement, as part of the “body”, we ought to share those gifts.
Some have the gift of prophecy, challenging the privilege and the status quo.
Some have the gift of persuasive speaking (exhortation), some the gift of serving (ministry), some are natural teachers or facilitators, some have a passion for giving and rather than giving money as a duty they do so as a joy, they are constantly thinking of how they can offer something more (giving/generosity).
Some are natural leaders and will want to help lead people only in positive, healing ways.
And some are very compassionate and rather than simply commiserating can actually offer a kind word, a gentle smile, or a should to cry on with cheerfulness, they can lighten one’s mood by their peaceful and optimistic presence.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, of course. Paul is just naming a few things that members in any group are bound to have and those who have any special talent should share it for the noble cause.
In other missives, Paul lists other gifts, such a strong desire to heal, wisdom, a facility for learning languages quickly, the ability to translate languages for those who aren’t multilingual, etc.
These gifts aren’t as mysterious or magical as we sometimes make them out to be. They simply suggest that if you are good at something, and of course you are, you can lend that special talent in service of the larger mission. The gifts of cooking, singing, cleaning, gardening, envelope stuffing, phone answering, and website building could as easily be on the list (and if Paul were writing today, they would be!).
My favorite list of spiritual gifts is not Pauline, but Isaiac. First Isaiah (Is. 11) lists four gifts that deal with thinking, two that deal with awe or inspiration, and one that amounts to resilience. These are very pragmatic gifts that aren’t lost in the language of mysticism. The spiritual gifts that come to Isaiah’s mind are: Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, Discernment (counsel, right judgment), Reverence, Wonder, and Fortitude.
If those gifts are being handed out, I want me a dollop of each one!
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that the gifts are good as they are applied to service. So, it isn’t about being gifted; it’s about giving whatever gifts one has, and everyone has something.
Contrary to how they are sometimes presented, the so-called spiritual gifts aren’t magical powers; they are talents or skills and they come with the responsibility of sharing them for the good of others. And, of course, when we share what we can, we are also enriched, but that benefit isn’t even mentioned in Paul’s homily because we aren’t giving to get; we are giving because we have something to give. But every faithful giver knows there a joy that comes from giving that nothing else can match!
When everyone knows they have something to share, and then they faithfully share what they can, needs are met and the movement grows. That’s the point of the so-called spiritual gifts.
Early in 1991 I walked into a Metropolitan Community Church in Dallas, TX. That day, that sunny winter’s day was the day my life changed forever. It was in MCC that I first heard, from the pulpit, that LBGT people were the children of God. It was in MCC that I first heard, from the pulpit, that God was bigger than AIDS and God’s people were called to respond to the AIDS crisis with compassion. It was in MCC, from the pulpit, that I first heard that God was not a boy’s name. MCC was a gift in my life, and it was made possible by the gifts its members shared in that local church.
That first MCC had a choir and a small orchestra, clergy and student ministers, ushers and greeters, Eucharistic ministers and hospital visitation teams, home study group leaders and care teams for people with AIDS. People were giving time, talent, and treasure to build up a community and to share a message of God’s all-inclusive, unconditional love. It was in that church that I began the path to professional ministry and I have been sharing the message that blessed me that day ever since.
That first Sunday, a greeter met in the parking lot and acted as if I were his best friend! A woman behind me noticed that I was crying when I saw for the first time in my life same-gender loving couples taking communion together, and that dear woman handed me a tissue. The simple gift of a tissue was like a treasure chest filled with love. You see, no gift is too small. No gesture can be considered insignificant. A handshake in the parking lot or a tissue shared in a moment of worship can be the beginning of a changed life.
God is the great I Am, and God is Spirit, so all gifts are spiritual gifts and all people are spiritual beings so we all have spiritual gifts. Sharing our spiritual gifts is how the spiritual community becomes healthier and the lives within and beyond it are blessed.
Thinking practically about these gifts, and then finding and putting our gifts to use in service, are what Paul is calling for in today’s reading and it’s all for the purpose of building up a community that will offer hope and healing to hurting people.
Now, stirring within you, do you feel a call to action? Nothing too dramatic; nothing involving too much sacrifice, just a inward knowing that you have something to share and a growing desire to share it to build up this spiritual community so that it can reach more people with a progressive, positive, and practical message that offers hope and healing.
Maybe you feel called to join the choir, or play an instrument, or become an usher, or join the A/V team, or offer someone a ride to church.
Maybe you can help our facilities manager keep the property clean.
Maybe you can increase your regular financial giving, or support our harvest campaign, or make a pledge above and beyond your regular giving to help support the effort to retire our mortgage.
Maybe you can bring an item of food to help feed families in Broward County.
Maybe your gift is consistently saying positive things at and about your church.
Maybe you can attend every special event that is ever offered at Sunshine Cathedral.
Maybe you are at a point in your life where you spend much of your day in a chair or in bed, but you can still love and you can still think and you can still wish, and so you feel the call to pray for the church every day, giving thanks for what we are doing, praying for wisdom and courage for the leaders as we move forward, and praying for every need to be perfectly met so that we can be a powerful force for good in the world. Maybe your gift is to spend hours each day holding the rest of us in prayer.
Maybe your gift is your story…the grace you found as you faced a diagnosis, the hope you discovered as you learned of your sacred value, the healing you experienced as you embraced sobriety, the joy that blessed your life as you started to affirm that you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake, the support you found as you worked through depression, the miracle it was for you realize that God is omnipresent, there’s not a spot where God is not, so you can never be separate from the Love that God is!
You have a talent, a skill, some time, optimism, a personal story, a generous spirit…you have something to share and that something is a spiritual gift that will help us reach more people with an alternative to yesterday’s religion!
Remember, a handshake, a smile, a tissue can be part of changing a life, and that changed life can help change others. You have something to give, and as you give it, someone is touched in ways you may never know. Your gift is a spiritual gift, because it is the way that Spirit works through you to offering a healing touch to someone’s life.
And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
I have gifts to share.
I offer my gifts gladly.
And as I do, others are blessed.
And so am I.