Today we celebrate the birth of the Church, the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and disciples gathered in the upper room, with manifestations of sound, and fire, and various languages spoken.
It is a common practice, and in years past we have done this here at Reconciler, for the gospel or the acts passage to be read in different Languages. This highlights one aspect of the meaning of Pentecost, that what God was doing in Jesus Christ was something for all, that in God becoming a Jew, God was coming near to all humanity, and God wished to meet us in our linguistic and cultural diversity. Each heard the Good news of God’s wonderful works in their own language. The universal aspect of this day.
What I wish to focus on today is the meaning and nature of the Spirit being in us and empowering us, for the purpose of manifesting and witnessing to what God began and continues to do in Jesus Christ, that is to focus on how the Holy Spirit is needed for us to be the Body of Christ.
The Spirit descends and gives utterance. The Holy Spirit when it descended made possible what was otherwise possible that the disciples of Jesus spoke in languages they didn’t know so that people could hear from God in a way familiar to them.
The holy spirit came upon the firs disciples and birthed the Church through making possible something the disciples on their own couldn't have done.
There was a trend for a while in in some congregations and promoted by denominational leadership for members of congregations to undergo a Spiritual gift assessment. These assessments where supposed to tell one what was the gift of the Spirit, or “spiritual gift” one had. Those who promoted this appealed to this passage in Corinthians. I think the intentions of these assessments were in the right place. As Christians this aspect of the Christian life is often underdeveloped, the Holy Spirit and having an awareness of the power of the Spirit in one’s daily life or interaction with other Christians and in worship has been often lacking.
However, my recollection is that these assessments weren’t much different from a personality test. That is what they evaluated wasn’t something Spiritual meaning of the holy Spirit, but matching up one’s personality with the various list of Gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in various places in Paul’s writing.
The idea was that one’s gift from the Spirit would fit with who you were, it wasn't something one needed to drum up, and it wouldn't contradict your own inner inclinations and abilities.
Yet, this view doesn’t quite agree with what we find in the Acts account of the day of Pentecost, the point the being that filled with the Spirit and given the gift of speaking other languages was something Galilean Jews would have had no ability or inclination to begin speaking in all these (to them) foreign languages. Also, in our Corinthian’s passage Paul’s emphasis isn’t on some heightening of the native abilities of the Christian, but Paul’s emphasis is on the will and action of the Holy Spirit. The point is that what one is given one is base on the will and empowerment of the Holy Spirit and not on inclination or native ability.
The only indication of some consideration of the person is that the spirit gives to each individually. There is a specificity in the gifting but its relation or non-relation to native abilities isn’t in view, rather what we are lead to understand both in terms of Acts and Corinthians is that the gift we receive from the holy Spirit don’t come from us or our will or desire but from the will and desire of the Spirit. So, if one is wondering what gifting from the Holy Spirit is, you will be looking for that which comes beyond yourself.
But that isn’t all. Paul is also using the idea of spiritual gifts to speak of unity and diversity of the Church the Body of Christ. In this sense a Spiritual Gift is that which binds you to other members of the Body of Christ. Spiritual giftedness is the means of the unity in diversity of the Church. The gift you have from the Spirit is that which you serve and which binds you to other members of the body of Christ. Your giftedness is part of your being brought into the body of Christ through Baptism.
This was the good thing about those assessments they sought to get people to think of their connection and service to the Body of Christ, and its local manifestation in their local congregation.
Yet also, this giftedness is about giving witness to what God inaugurated in Jesus Christ. Or to put it another way The spirit and the gifts from the Spirit empower us and bind us together as the body of Christ. This spiritual reality of the Body of Christ is also the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The gift s of the spirit allow us to function as the Body of Christ, a unity like all biological bodies that is also a diversity. It is this Spiritual unity in diversity of the gifts that shows the world what the age to come will be like.
What gift have you received from the Spirit? What do you find in the presence of other members of the Body of Christ, which binds you to them and also serves other members of the Body in a way that is both unique to you and gives life to you, other members of the Body and the world?
If you are sitting with this and fearful that maybe you’ve missed out or that you are spiritual enough. Don’t worry. Rest in that you have the Holy Spirit. Ask God and the Spirit to reveal to you this gift that you have been given. Wait on God, be still. You don’t drum it up, and be prepared for the unexpected. This is from the Holy Spirit, the gift will be something that is both you and yet beyond yourself and which takes you beyond who you think you are. Be open to whatever the Spirit will bring you, be open to the movement of the Spirit that is like the wind that you know through its effects in you but don’t know where it is coming from or where it is going. Wait upon God and see where in your desires and in your hear flows life that doesn’t come from you but gives you life and enlivens those around you. The spirit has come, it rest upon each us, maybe not in visible flame, but the Spirit through Baptism has rested upon each of us, and the Spirit has given you a gift that isn’t for you alone for you but for the Body of Christ and so from each of us may flow a stream of living water for the life of the world. Amen