Using Gifts

So I wrote a blog while at my parents house on Sunday afternoon after church...or so I thought. It's not there, so I guess I'll attempt it again. It's usually good for me to reflect more on a sermon or God's word to make it more applicable to my life anyway.

If you grew up in a fairly liturgical church, you may be familiar with the lectionary--a cycle of biblical readings used on certain days of the year. The common lectionary goes through most of the Bible in a three year period and then repeats.

The practice of following a lectionary, or cycle of readings, date back to ancient Judaism. The early church fathers drew upon that practice incorporating Christian texts. The lectionary notes the church calendar, observing holidays and holy feasts, and it allows church attenders to hear the majority of the Bible over a three-year period. Each Sunday an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a Gospel text, and a selection from the Epistles or Acts is read.

Usually the four texts are built around a theme. Often, understanding that theme takes time in prayer, study, and meditation to discover; sometimes it is quite obvious--especially during a church season like Advent or Easter.

When I worked in a church that followed the lectionary, and when I was doing pulpit supply and would use the lectionary to give me direction, I enjoyed the challenge of "connecting the dots" between the texts, of finding the common threads in what God is saying.

I was at the church I grew up in this past Sunday while we were visiting my parents. The texts were from Isaiah 62:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (you can click on those passages to link to the text). Isaiah prophecies that someday, God will make things right for Israel. God says, "I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch" (Is. 62:1, ESV). 

The 1 Corinthians passage is probably more familiar; Paul addresses how God gives each person different gifts and though our gifts are different, we are all part of one body. To me these passages together say that we need to use our gifts so that others see God's righteousness and the salvation He gives us. 

Some church leaders place a lot of emphasis on the importance of knowing our spiritual gifts. We are encouraged to go through a class, fill out an assessment, or take a spiritual gifts inventory. This is not a bad thing, but I think that knowing our gifts is less important than using them. And the text from 1 Corinthians shows us that we need to work together. Whatever our gifts our, whether we know them or not, they become most usable in community. There our gifts become part of a whole. And I think that is the full intention. Not that I'm using my particular gift (say teaching, for example) on my own, but I'm using it alongside people who have other gifts like evangelism, wisdom, and healing. One on its own does okay, but when it works together with other gifts then God's righteousness and salvation are manifest more fully. 

We are different, yes. We have different gifts. But gifts are never meant for individuation, but for unity. They are not gifts to us, but to the recipients of our actions. These thoughts aren't new. But what struck me this time is the idea that our gifts work best in community, with others. I feel like too often I hear about "my" gifts with the idea of me using them in specific ways. But I don't feel that I hear too much about working with others, even though we all know that each gift is a part of the body. I think the body metaphor is used mainly to show that we need each individual part, but seldom do we focus on them all working together. 

But maybe this has been said many times and I just haven't heard it. It just happens to be what I heard this past Sunday. God is glorified, and the world will notice, when I use my gifts in community. Together, with others who have different gifts than I do. It's not as fruitful if I try to do it on my own.

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