God’s Extravagant Gifts

DSC00619We are still in the Season of Epiphany; the season of following the star.

If one of my gifts was solo singing, I would sing the first verse of Do You See What I See?

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”

A star.

My first Sunday you all received starwords; my word is daring. It’s a good word for Interim Ministry. 😉 I will dare to ask the question: Do you see what I see? The blessing and challenge of a new minister comes is that he or she sees many things that you have long taken for granted. You will have practices and traditions that I will wonder about. And I will ask about them, “Do you see what I see?”

I hope that in addition to the challenge that you may be feeling when I ask that question, that I hold up the gifts and blessings that are already present in this place. Because you may be so accustomed to them that you simply don’t see them anymore.

In the Epistle reading, we find Paul trying to help the people of the church at Corinth sort out the how the Spirit affects their lives. They have experienced ecstatic speech, and apparently have questions about it: Paul says they can know God’s Spirit is at work if the speaker acclaims Jesus. There are other gifts, as well, of which Paul proceeds to give examples. His remarks could apply to a church, to a family, a committee, a group, and so on.

The church in Corinth was highly divided. Its people were from very different backgrounds. In 29 BCE, Corinth was chosen as the administrative capital of the province, the seat of the Roman proconsul. The population of the city was Roman, Greek and other peoples, including Jews. It was a rich, port city with all the vices and virtues that we know are inherent in a port city.

So, to this city, Paul writes to them about gifts… gifts of the spirit… unique gifts…. The gifts are not set apart….but are of the same spirit, Christ’s spirit…. And the people are invited to use those gifts for the good of the community and to rejoice in those gifts. I have often used a Spiritual Gifts Inventory to help people discern what area of ministry that they are best suited for. Because I know, after only 2 weeks that there are many gifts to be celebrated here.

Hospitality and compassion around the funeral last week.

The gift of music.

The gospel reading is a wedding celebration! In those times, weddings went on for days, sometimes even weeks. It was a time not only of celebrating a wedding, but of cementing ties of kinship… And in this midst, the wine runs out… This account of Jesus first miracle operates on two levels… On the level of a story… we could have questions about whose wedding it was… we could sympathize with the host… there could be some amusement thinking about Jesus obeying his mother when she brings to his attention that the wine has run out… and none of these aspects is unimportant.

But on another level we might have some insight into the nature of Jesus and thereby into the nature of God. Wine poured out in abundance… just as Jesus life was poured out for us… in his living and in his dying… Water transformed from ordinary to something more than it was… Just as we are transformed into more than what we were by being touched by Jesus… We in turn can be instruments of transformation for others.
By what we do, who we are, how we interact with one another.

God’s love is extravagant… poured out like overflowing wine for us.

I was invited to contribute two reflections to a Lenten Devotional Book a few years ago; I entitled it: Do You See What I See? And this is what I wrote:

Appreciative Inquiry and Asset Mapping are two practices that are being used more and more often in church circles. Simply put, they are ways of viewing our lives and our communities through a lens of plenty, which focuses on what we have rather than what we lack. In other words, looking around and seeing the abundance rather than the scarcity. I have often found it easier to identify what is lacking in my life rather than what I have in abundance. When I fixate on what I don’t have I become anxious, fearful and despairing; these things crowd out gratitude, trust and a sense that whatever I need, God has already provided for me. My experience with faith communities has been the same, when we become focused on survival, we fail to see the abundance that is present. 

My gifts seem so meagre at times. But with prayer and blessing, Jesus enables me to share what I have, and trust that they will be multiplied with God’s help. What are the resources you and we have right now? How many times do we behave like the disciples and expect a solution to come from somewhere or someone else? (There’s No ATM in the Desert – UCPH, 2010)

What are some of the resources that you and we have at our disposal to heal part of God’s world. God does not call us to share what we don’t have… God calls us to share what we do have.

These stories from scripture can remain just stories written thousands of years ago… Or they can be as alive as you and me… The extravagant varieties of gifts… The wine of transformation…So let us go forth from this place… Sharing God’s extravagant gifts with each other, our church and our world.

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity, amen.

1 Corinthians 12: 1-11
John 2: 1-11
January 17, 2016
Elmsdale Pastoral Charge

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