Numbers 11:24-30; 1 Corinthians 12:3-13

May 28, 2023

  • Reconnecting with God’s Spirit


We are here today to settle the age-old debate that has roiled our nation for more than 125 years.  Pepsi or Coca-Cola?  Which is better?  It is strange to me that restaurants only carry one or the other.  Maybe restaurants only want to carry one because of finances or maybe they are only allowed to carry one.  That’s above my paygrade.  What I do know is that people who drink soda or pop or soda pop tend to prefer one over the other.  You remember those on-the-street blind taste tests that kept showing up in commercials back in the day.  These two drink giants have been slugging it out in market share for many, many years.  I am a Coca-Cola guy, though some Pepsi products are OK every once in a while.

Obviously, this whole conversation is silly, even ridiculous.  I did not even get into Nehi or Sunkist.  Who cares about either soft drink enough to dwell on them for Sunday worship?  And yet, this is exactly Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians.

Any which way that we can distinguish ourselves from one another is so precious to us and also so utterly pointless for us as a people.  We make distinctions with sports teams, alma maters, children’s accomplishments, salary, home neighborhoods, types of jobs, church attendance, denomination, skin tones, and who knows what else.  Even in the church, we make distinctions based on appearances, service, singing voice, activity, and leadership.  Way back in the Greek city of Corinth, the early Christians there were throwing the same distinctions around.  They were on fire, but they were also very divided.

Instead of sports teams, they were at odds over their spiritual teachers.  Instead of how far back your family goes in a community, they were divided over whether to eat food sacrificed to idols.  Instead of what school you attended, they were conflicted over appropriate ways to deal with adult relationships.  Instead of your preferred soft drink, they were contentious about acts of the Spirit – especially speaking in tongues.

This thriving young church in this bustling Greek town was so divided amongst itself that Paul went to great lengths to set them straight in this letter.  This is what First Corinthians is about.  He so desperately wanted them to be united in faith, united in service, united in worship, and united in love.  But they weren’t.  They were picking sides, picking teams, and picking factions.  Some were gobbling up Communion and getting drunk; others were getting nothing.  No one is asking for cookie-cutter Christians, but we are better when we are together in life and ministry.  We are better together.

When Moses was stuck under the huge task of leading the people of God, it was clear to some that he could not handle taking care of God’s people all by himself.  He gathered others who were strong and solid leaders and shared the Spirit that was given to him, but two others who were supposed to help were not with him when this happened.  Regardless, they too received the Spirit and began speaking divine truths about God.  Joshua was so upset that he tried to get Moses to squash them.  Joshua sounds like any church person who gets upset when something is different, but Moses’ reaction is far more important than it seems.  “If only more and more and more people had God’s Spirit” – the more the merrier.

There are plenty of things that we have a finite amount in the world.  There are only so many green jellybeans, great white sharks, gold, and fire hydrants.  There are also plenty of things in the world that are limitless.  No matter how much people give love, there is always more.  No matter how much compassion, kindness, forgiveness, care, or attention we give, there is always more.  We cannot run out of the goodness of giving what God has given to us.

Apparently, something else that God has given us is diversity.  This may not be the easiest thing to hear, especially as diversity is something of a political buzzword.  Just the very mention of diversity makes some people shut down.  It must be some liberal plot to force people to be together in unnatural ways.  We fight about it in schools, at work, in communities, and believe it or not, even in churches.  There is no room to fight about this in church.

There are three kinds of gifts laid out here in Corinthians 12.  Paul uses particular, technical language for these three groups of gifts.  You heard these words in English as gifts, activities, and services.  There are lots of these scattered about among God’s people and everyone has something to share.  There is more diversity among God’s people than we can begin to imagine, but that does not mean we shouldn’t try.

The actual spiritual gifts are things that the Spirit gives that people cannot do without the Spirit.  It is easy to see the speaking in tongues business as one of these gifts.  These are true God-given abilities that people CANNOT do without this grace.  Working miracles, faith healing, and prophecy are all gifts.  The one that I see all around and know is prayer.  We all can and should pray, but some seem to be able to pray in especially Spirit-full ways.  No one should get too puffed up with any of these.  We have not earned or achieved any of this.  Even our very faith is a gift given to us.  If the Spirit decided to pull the plug, it would all be empty show, but when we do invite the Spirit, beautiful and wonderful and gracious and worshipful things happen.  Hopefully, community happens since that is the point of all of this.

To also help us get there, we have services and activities as things that we can do with or without the Spirit, but the Spirit enables us to use these things to help others and build up community.  A service is something like teaching.  Obviously, teaching happens all over the place, but Spirit-led teaching is what happens when people offer this gift to the use of God and people are blessed in learning.  If you have ever shared in a special Sunday school class, for instance, you have received this gift.  I know all of our teachers take that task most seriously and gratefully.  I am so glad to have Sarah, Carolyn, and Marvin as our teachers.  Even something as simple as working in the kitchen can be a Spirit-led service when we tend to the fellowship of God’s children.  Such a beautiful thing.

There are also activities that the Spirit gives us.  Again, these are things that people can do, but the Spirit gives greater ability, direction, and beauty.  Singing is a easy one that comes to mind.  It is an activity that we all can do, but when we give that activity to God, we see the gorgeous glory that only God can give.  Giving, embracing, spending time in conversation, sending a card, sharing a meal, even playing bridge can be Spirit led and a blessing of God’s children for God’s children.

I absolutely love this idea and am excited about how the Holy Spirit of God is moving and working in this very moment, consecrating our gifts, our activities, and our services to be a loving expression of God’s desire for better life together.  Maybe you are one who never saw much value in yourself as an agent for God’s holy love, but you clearly are more than called for this task.  You are called and equipped.  The only trick in this is being willing to use what God has given you.  That is the big hurdle.  That is the challenge.

All I can say is that there is nothing holding us back from embracing our diversity of blessings in God’s Spirit.  There is nothing preventing us from rejoicing in life together.  The other evening, the choir got through early and went down the street to 3 Roads Brewery for dinner and bingo.  I was invited to tag along, too.  There we saw a wonderful diversity of God’s children just being themselves.  We found old friends and new friends, and where we allowed ourselves, we shared in God’s Spirit.  Something as simple and silly as Bingo can be a blessing when it brings the children of God together in a good way.  I also learned Gabrielle is especially blessed with Bingo.

We all have more to give than we can imagine.  In all kinds of ways, we reflect the infinite diversity of God’s love.  We have gifts upon gifts, and we can know God’s blessing, if we will but use them.  Sounds like a great day to find the Spirit, again.  To God be the glory in the Spirit.  Amen.