APC 17th June 2020
“The Gifts of the Holy Spirit”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Midweek reflections and prayers. Today we continue on with our series on the Holy Spirit. This morning we will be thinking about the varied gifts the Holy Spirit gives us and how we might best use these for the healthy growth of the church, Christ’s Body. But before we do that, let’s take a moment to talk to God, let’s pray…
Lord of life, we thank you for the gifts you have given us- the things we can do well and enjoy doing, the things that bring happiness to us, and contribute to the happiness of those around us. Lord of life, teach us to use the gifts you have given us. To play our part in the life of our church community and our society.
We thank you for the gifts of others – those things they can do which we can’t, the talents they have which we haven’t, the skills they can offer which complement our own, and the qualities they display which in so many ways enrich our lives. Lord teach us to appreciate the gifts of those around us, to appreciate the contribution they make to our lives.
Lord of life, teach us to recognise those things we can do well and those things others can do better. Teach us that we belong together, that all have something to give and something to receive. Teach us to see the worth of every human being. And to understand you have a special place for each f us in the body of Christ, for it is in His name we pray.
Let us pray the Lord’s prayer together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Bible Reading 2 Corinthians 12: 12-30
Unity and Diversity in the Body
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
Reflection “Using God’s Gifts to Work Together”
One of the worst experiences in life is the feeling that we aren’t wanted or we’re not needed. I can still remember the reason I gave up playing rugby. After travelling long distances on 3 occasions and sitting on the bench for the whole of those games, I decided it was time to hang up my boots. Perhaps I over reacted. Maybe I should have used that experience as a springboard to train harder. In hindsight, with my build and natural abilities I may have been wiser choosing hockey. In my more gracious moments, I even think it may have been my coach’s way of saving me from injury! But I’ll never forget the feelings of frustration, disappointment and uselessness that I experienced. I’m sure you’ve also had those experiences at some point in your life.
That’s how some of the Christians in the church in Corinth felt. Whether it was due to false teaching or because of a power struggle between personalities, they had begun to argue over which of them was the more spiritual and which of them possessed the most important spiritual gifts. Many of them had developed the completely wrong idea that if you could speak in tongues you had really arrived! As a result, some of the people in the church were made to feel inferior and were beginning to feel useless and unwanted. Others were flexing their muscles and parading their gifts in an attempt to prove that actually what they did was more important than someone else. The end result was an internal conflict that not only threatened to destroy their relationships but also the effectiveness of their witness to the community in which they lived.
Thankfully someone had the good sense to write to their spiritual Father, the apostle Paul, explaining to him what was going on and asking him for advice. In his response, Paul reminds them of 4 important lessons- lessons that it’s also good for us to ponder and with God’s help to put into practice.
The first lesson is simply this-
Just stop and let that sink in for a moment. Paul says, “We are the body of Christ!” What that means is that because the Lord Jesus is not in this world in the body anymore, if he wants something done he needs to find a man or a woman who will do it. Now of course Jesus is with us by His Holy Spirit. God can still do anything and in that sense He doesn’t need us! But He also chooses to use us. He chooses to allow us to be the vessels in which His Spirit lives to guide us, teach us and comfort us. He also gives us the privilege of being His hands and His feet to do His work on earth! If Jesus wants a child taught he needs to find a teacher who will to do it. If he wants a sick person cured he has to find a doctor to make a diagnosis and a surgeon to perform the operation. If He wants the hungry to be fed or a village to have clean water then He needs a group of people to get together to provide what is necessary. If God wants to help someone in miraculous ways, He can do it without us, but normally God chooses to work in this way in answer to our prayers.
In all these ways, God chooses to do His work and reveal His care for the world through us. Paul reminds the Corinthians and us that each of us is part of Christ’s Body. That means that God needs you, God needs me! It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are. It doesn’t matter what gifts and abilities God has given you. It doesn’t matter what your nationality is. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter what your family background is. It doesn’t matter what sort of education you have received. Whoever you are, God needs you. He has a job for you to do so that people in this world may experience His love and care!
Believe me, God will never leave us on the side line. That should be such an encouragement to us. But it’s also a challenge. Because the truth is sometimes God’s problem is that He’s calling us onto the pitch and we’re saying, “Could you not use somebody else?”
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all that you contribute to the life of our congregation. I know that everything you give is on a voluntary basis and in circumstances where money and time are often at a premium. But at the same time I want to encourage you to keep on stepping up to the plate and getting involved in the life of our church. The reality is, church and all the activities that go with it don’t just happen. They happen because many of you are willing to say to God, “Here I am use me!” Whether that’s arranging flowers, putting together a power point, writing and saying a prayer, playing music, making coffee, taking photos, teaching kids, sweeping floors, supervising kids, attending meetings, counting money, organising fund raisers, updating Facebook, baking cakes, printing leaflets, making phone calls, keeping accounts, liaising with hall users or visiting someone who is sick, the only reason this church can function effectively and be a blessing to so many people in our community and the wider world is because each of us is willing to play our part. I want to thank you for the part that you are playing and I want to encourage those of you have yet to get involved to come and speak to me or your elder, or put your name on a rota and to share the load. The good news is God needs you and we need you to keep our church alive and growing.
The significance of these words struck me very forcibly one Christmas several years ago when I got an ear infection. To be honest with you, I’ve never really appreciated the fact that I can hear. I never really understood or sympathised properly with those of you who have hearing aids. But that has all changed because for 4 weeks I couldn’t hear anything at all out of my right ear and I was concerned that it might stay like that for good. I am fortunate that my hearing was not damaged by that experience, but I can now appreciate in a new way what a huge difference hearing loss can make to a person’s life. I realised again just how important every little part of my body is to the physical and emotional functioning of my whole being. It is that very simple truth that the Corinthians had forgotten. Some of them thought the people who could speak in tongues were the really spiritual ones. In a day and age when medical care was extremely primitive others thought the people in the church who could miraculously heal people were the most important. And so the list goes on….As a result of this internal conflict, the Body of Christ that was the church in Corinth had stopped functioning effectively because they weren’t working in harmony.
You know that’s a really important lesson for us to remember in our church too. We are a body. We are all very different and we have all been gifted by God in very different ways. The roles we play in church life are also very different. All these talents or gifts that we possess are gifts to us from God. We can’t take any personal credit for them. God didn’t just give them to us for our own personal satisfaction, although we do get much pleasure out of using our talents. God also gave us them so that we could use them to benefit other people. What’s more, none of these gifts are really more important than any other because if one of them was missing, then our whole church would be affected and would not function effectively. I mean, what would happen if all the musicians decided that they weren’t going to play for us? What would happen if everyone decided they weren’t going to contribute financially? What would happen if the Sunday School Teachers all decided to pack it in? What would happen if Club leaders decided not to turn up for a week? What would happen if we didn’t have Wendy to clean the toilets, hoover, mop the floors and put out chairs? What would happen if no-one was willing to organise and help run our fundraising events? What would happen if no one was willing to lodge money and be our treasurer? What would happen if no-one visited people in hospital or popped in regularly to visit people who are elderly or who live alone? What would happen if no-one ever cut the grass on the back field? What would happen if I decided to lie in some Sunday? (Don’t answer that!) The truth is, without everybody doing the different jobs that they do our church would simply be a shambles. In fact it would probably cease to exist altogether. Take a moment to think about the people you know in church. Never forget we are a team. We need each other. All of us are important. None of us is more important than the other. The part that you play in our congregational life is important. But that role is no more important than what someone else does!
3 We should respect each other:
The third lesson we can learn from what Paul says to the Corinthians is that we should respect each other. In his attempt to get the Corinthians to do this, Paul reminds them that it’s very often the less presentable parts of our bodies that we treat with special honour. We give them a respect and a modesty that we don’t give to other parts of our bodies that are more visible. It is those areas of our body which aren’t for public display that we treat as special and private and that is wholly appropriate. Paul says to the Corinthians and to us, “You need to respect each other the way you respect the less presentable parts of your body.” You need to appreciate the importance of those people that some of you seem to think are dispensable.
You know, whether it’s at home, where we work or in the clubs and societies we are involved in, there will always be people who do the more menial tasks or take more of a back seat role. Maybe you are one of those people. It’s important that we give those people as much respect as we give to the CEO or those who are the main decision makers. It’s the same in our church. We should have as much respect for the person who types the announcements, hoovers the carpet or takes the photographs as we do for the minister or the Clerk of Session. We should value the importance of an older person as much as we value our children or teens. It’s easy for all of us to have our own hobby horses in church life. It’s easy for all of us to think that one area of church life is more important than another. It’s easy for us to think that certain people are more important. It’s easy for us to think that certain things we do or support are more important than another. But we need to remember the words of Jesus who reminds us in his parable of the mustard seed of the importance of small things. We need to remember Paul’s words to the church in Corinth that all people are equally as important in the life of any congregation. If we’re honest this is a temptation we all have to struggle with. It’s human nature to have our favourites or our own particular priorities. But God calls us to a way that is different- a way of mutual respect, a way of giving everyone equal time and significance, a way of always trying to see the bigger picture, a way of trying to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, a way of taking time to hear both sides of every story. We need to respect each other.
4 We should care for each other:
The last lesson we can learn from Paul in this section of his letter to the Corinthians is that we should care for each other. When I had my ear infection, it was important that I went and got it treated. The longer I couldn’t hear, the more I realised how important that was. I began to realise how important my hearing was to functioning normally in everyday life. I couldn’t listen to the radio or music when driving. I didn’t feel connected to the congregation when I was preaching because all I could hear was my own voice and I was never sure how loudly I was talking. I was beginning to annoy my family because I kept saying, “What was that?” and I found it very hard chairing meetings because I couldn’t always hear what people were saying.
The fact that one part of my body was suffering and not working properly really affected my life in a lot of ways. It also affected the lives of those around me. Paul says to the Corinthians that it’s exactly the same for their church. He reminds them that because they are a Body, when one of them suffers it affects them all. That’s why he says that they should have equal concern for each other and try and look out for each other.
That’s an important lesson for us to learn. We need to try and look out for each other. The truth is that behind the smiles that we put on a Sunday morning, many of us are struggling. We struggle with illness. We struggle with financial problems. We struggle with loneliness. We struggle with work and family demands. We struggle with loss. We struggle with temptation. We struggle with guilt. We struggle with relationships. We struggle with growing older. We struggle with becoming a teenager. We struggle with life events that are beyond our control and so the list goes on. And the truth is that if all of our struggles are to be listened to and helped we need to look out for each other. With the best will in the world, even in a small church like ours, the minister and the elders can’t provide the level of support that is necessary for everyone on our own. We are also people who struggle and need support too! That’s why all of us need to make an effort to get to know a few people in the congregation and to make it our aim to be there for them when it really matters. That’s why all of us need to allow ourselves to be a little more vulnerable and to admit to those closest to us when we really aren’t coping. That’s why each of us has the responsibility of saying to each other, “Thanks for that, or you did that really well or I appreciated what you said.” Support and encouragement must be a collective responsibility if they are to be successful in any growing church. I know that many of you are doing these things and I want to encourage you to continue to do that. If we make these efforts not only will individual people be encouraged and supported but the life of our congregation as a whole will be strengthened and maintained.
Paul reminds the quarrelling Corinthians that they are the Body of Christ. Using this analogy he teaches them and us 4 really important lessons for our corporate life.
Prayer for our church family
Father we pray today for our church family. We remember those who have been bereaved in recent times. Father bring your deep comfort in those moments when we feel deeply sad because our loved ones are no longer with us.
We pray for the most senior members of our congregation especially those who are in residential care. Lord, may they know that they are deeply loved by us and by their families. Give them the grace and patience that they need in the current circumstances and help us never to forget them and to always make time to keep in touch.
Help us all to really appreciate our grandparents and parents. May the love and care that we show them, encourage them to still find great enjoyment every day despite the limitations and difficulties that growing older can bring.
We pray for those recovering from operations and ask that you will give them patience and enable them to heal well.
We remember those who are in hospital. Lord, thank you for all the medical staff who are treating them. Give them great wisdom and grant that through all of their efforts and your healing presence, that our loved ones will soon be well enough to return home.
We pray for our children and teenagers. God, give us wisdom and creativity as parents and grandparents to know how to help them to find stimulation and happiness each day despite the continued difficulties imposed by the restrictions of social distancing. Lord, guard their minds and their faith and may they know how much we love them.
We think especially of those who are transitioning from one school to another or from school to university. Lord, even if they cannot experience a graduation in the normal way, help them to find ways of saying their goodbyes, appreciating all that they have experienced and to know that there will still be many great and exciting experiences to look forward to.
We remember all those who are still working on frontlines that are difficult. Give them courage, perseverance and keep them safe. May they not be fearful in the future despite all that they have experienced during this pandemic.
We pray that you would give all of us the continued grace and patience that we need. Help us to stay hopeful knowing that it won’t be long now before we are able to meet together again. Lord, take away our fears and keep us safe as we continue to go about our daily lives.
Lord, we thank for our church leaders and for all they are doing in the background to prepare our church for us to return to worship. Give them wisdom and creativity so that despite the restrictions, it will be a rewarding and blessed experience when we meet together for worship.
In a moment of quiet let me encourage you to bring our personal prayers and concerns to God and also to think of one or two people in the church and to pray for them….
Lord we know you hear and are ready to answer our prayers. Whatever answer you give may our hearts be open and ready to receive your blessing.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. Let me encourage you to reflect this week on the gifts God has given you and ask Him how you might best use them to bless others in our church and in society. Let me also encourage you to read the lists of the gifts of the Spirit in the bible and pray that God would give you the gifts he wants and which he feels would most befit our church and community at this time.
We are working hard as a leadership behind the scenes to get all our policy and procedures in place so that we may reopen our church for socially distanced services. As we’ve been setting out chairs, and discussing all the other things we can and can’t do, we realise that initially church is going to be very different. But we will do all we can to make it a positive and safe experience. We are aiming for Sunday 6th July but will confirm closer to the time if everything is in place. We will also be emailing out our policy and guidelines for reopening once those are completed. That will probably take us another couple of weeks. Please do pray for our church leadership as we continue to meet, pray and plan for holding our services in a socially distanced way.
I hope you can tune in again on Sunday morning as we gather to celebrate father’s day and to reflect more broadly on the gift of our parents and how we might honour those to whom honour is due. To close let me share the benediction, after which I invite you to say the grace together…
Go into your week with your ears pitched
to the sound of God’s voice calling your name.
Go into your week with your eyes peeled
for the face of Jesus in unexpected places.
Go into your week with your soul poised
to receive the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Peace.
And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.