“GIFTS”

“GIFTS”
Sunday 31 March 2020
There is probably no one amongst us who does not enjoy receiving a gift. Gifts represent for us positive sentiment towards us from the person or persons who gave us the gift. That is especially the case when a child or grandchild gives us something that they have made themselves. On a side table in my home office, I still have a coaster that my daughter made for me when she was in primary school consisting of nine small glass tiles stuck onto a cardboard backing.

Sometimes we are really appreciative of a gift, not just because someone gave it to us as a sign of their love and affection for us, but because it was something we really had our hearts set on. Conversely, sometimes the gift was especially treasured because it was something we had never dreamed of possessing!

In all of these circumstances, there is something that the gift has in common – it is for me. The recipient of the gift was the person for whom the gift was meant, the person whom it was meant to delight, the person whom it was meant to please.

And that is the very opposite set of circumstances to the purpose of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in today’s reading from First Corinthians. And the gift of the Spirit in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles for that matter. The gifts of the Spirit are not for the receiver as such, but for service, for action.

The key verses which unlock this connection between gifts and consequent service are
12.4-7.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

The manifestation of the Spirit is for the common good. The gifts of the Spirit are not for us to possess for ourselves. They are for us to use in the service of the common good of the Church and its building up. That’s exactly what the disciples who enjoyed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first Christian Pentecost did. Their dexterity with language was not about saying: “Look at me. I am a polyglot.” It was all about making the gospel known to men and women of every race and tribe.

The history of the Christian Church is full of examples of individuals who used the extraordinary gifts from God for the service of others. I suppose that some of the great theologians of the Church are good examples of this. People like St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas were men of enormous intellect who could no doubt have forged very successful careers for themselves in other spheres of life. Instead, they dedicated themselves to the work of the Christian community in finding better and clearer ways to talk about our God and the great love that God has for us in Jesus Christ.

Sometimes, our problem can be identifying the giftedness of some of the talents that we have. By that, I mean that we can convince ourselves that our areas of giftedness are all our own doing and therefore, we are entitled to be the sole beneficiaries of the fruit of that giftedness.
A true sense of the source of our gifts from God through the Holy Spirit relies on us engaging in a disposition of humility. Humility is about an honest appraisal of our standing before God.

Michael Casey reminds us: “Those who have truly encountered God are filled with a sense of wonder at the mystery and, simultaneously, confounded by a sense of their own insignificance” (Balaam’s Donkey, p.216). True humility has nothing to do with false modesty and everything to do with honesty in the presence of God.

Once we can understand this true relativity between God and ourselves, we become capable of experiencing everything as gift from God through the Holy Spirit. The word we regularly use to describe this reality is ‘grace’. For us, in the light of God, all is grace.

Therefore, if we encourage within ourselves a true sense of humility in our relationship with God, we become more able to understand our talents and our skills as gift of the Holy Spirit. And if they are gifts, then they are ours for the service of others, not for our own self-aggrandisement.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Archdeacon Allan Paulsen
Parish Priest

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