We love receiving gifts.
No matter who we are, no matter how old we are, and no matter where we are in our life, receiving a gift is always a special moment. It means that someone thought enough about you, and cared enough about you, to bless you with something that they knew that you would enjoy and take pleasure in.
At the parsonage, my office is filled with gifts that mean a lot to me and come from people who are important have meant a lot to me. There is a baseball bat that Abbi “made” me buy at Louisville Slugger on one of our first dates. It has my name on it and the logo for my favorite baseball team – the St. Louis Cardinals. There is a sailboat that was given to me as a graduation gift from my childhood church in West Virginia, and another plaque that was given to me as a graduation gift from two dear friends from our last church. There are books on presidents that Abbi and others have bought for me, as well as books that mentors have given me to assist with ministry.
These are all special gifts and each one has a sentimental value. They represent treasured personal relationships. They represent deeper memories than just the moments of enjoyment that I have received from these items.
We love receiving gifts.
I’m sure you can think of gifts that have been special to you. Maybe it is a wedding gift, an anniversary present, a gift from a parent, or a close friend. Even if we don’t have the gift any longer, we still have the memories attached to when we received the gift and the cherished thoughts of that loved one who gave us the gift.
Much like how our friends and families give us gifts out of their relationships with us, God has given us certain gifts because of our relationship with Him. God gives these gifts to us simply because He loves us, and not because of anything we have done to earn them. Unlike the gifts are family and friends give us, God’s gifts are different. The gifts God gives are for us to give back to others. These are not gifts that are for our own enjoyment. These are gifts that God has given us for a greater purpose. They are to be used to glorify God by bringing about the realities of the kingdom of God today, while we seek to make a difference in our communities and world around us.
But, what does it mean for us to be given a gift from God? Why did God give us these gifts? And, how are we to use them? To understand these questions, we have to understand what a gift from God looks like.
In our passage for today, Paul gives us an idea of what these spiritual gifts are. He says, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” What Paul is saying is that there are certain things in our lives that God has freely given to us. By our faith and by God’s love for us, God freely gives us gifts and talents. Through the Holy Spirit, God gives these gifts for us. This is not because we have done something to earn these gifts, as if they were a salary for spiritual growth and discipleship. Instead, simply because God loves us and desires the best for us, God has provided us with gifts.
One of the biggest gifts that God gives is the gift of faith, in which God opens our heart to experience the love and forgiveness offered in a relationship with God. The gift of living in the freedom from the burden of sin, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the most important gift God gives any of us.
But, Paul is pointing to something greater here. Paul is thinking about the things that make us unique. These are those talents and characteristics that make us who we are. It is those things that we are passionate about and the things that get to us in the depths of our soul. These are gifts and talents that God has given us because of His love for us.
We each have been gifted in unique and special ways, and we can have multiple gifts and passions. For myself, I am passionate about proclamation and teaching, and being a prophetic voice in our world, by which I mean to proclaim God’s love and concern for the “least of these” in a “me-oriented” culture. I am passionate about being a voice for the voiceless. I have a love for discipleship, writing, and leadership. These are what makes me who I am.
No matter who we are, God has gifted us with special talents and passions. Maybe you have a generous heart; maybe you have been a concern for seeking justice; maybe you are passionate about teaching our children; or maybe you have a desire to lend a helping hand to others. We could go on and on and on. As we grow in our faith, God opens our heart to what He desires for s. In giving us these gifts, God prepares us to use them for a greater purpose.
Whatever God has given you, these are special gifts. We must not let them sit, for these are our callings and where God has called us to serve in the church.
We each have a role to play.
Listen to what Paul says earlier in the passage when he says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Think about our own bodies. Each part has a different function, but they are ultimately connected to each other as one body. One part does not stand on its own, but work in unison with each other. The same is true for us as the church. We are one body. We each have unique gifts, but together we are one body. We are a body of multiple parts, of multiple gifts, and each can be used to serve God in different areas. These gifts God has given us all have a special role to play in the life of the church, and in the kingdom. God has not given these gifts to us for them to sit on a mantle and to stare at, but he has given us gifts so that we will go out and glorify God in service and ministry with our brothers and sisters.
In other words, we each have a role to play. 1 Peter reminds us that we are all a priesthood of believers, and that each of us plays a role in the life of the church. We do not have to be ordained to be in service to the Lord. Even more, we can be in service to the Lord through our vocations and occupations.
All of using our gifts is part of the church’s mission and part of its call to live in the reality of the here and now of the kingdom of God, while we await the fullness of the kingdom to come. Revelation 21 reminds us that New Jerusalem – the kingdom of God – will exist here. God will reign here on earth. This is the world we will inherit when we live with Christ for all eternity. We await for that day, but we are called to live into the kingdom now, by preparing the way for the kingdom. The things that we do on this planet, and in this life, matter and they have eternal and heavenly consequences.
My friends, we are each called to be a living witness of Jesus Christ and to be his hands and feet in the world. As Jesus told the disciples when he was sending them out on their first mission, we are to “give freely as we have been given.” All of this we do by taking the posture that Christ took in the Upper Room for that final Passover meal, when he took off his outer robe, got on his knees, and washed the feet of his disciples. In that intimate and emotional moment, Jesus reminded all of us that as we use our gifts and talents we are called to be servants of God and to serve others. We humbly go out in the world, and we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.
And if we do this, I promise we will make a difference for the kingdom.
There is work to be done all throughout our communities, and places where our gifts can be utilized for the building up of God’s people, for building relationships, and sharing the love of Christ. Are we willing to go out and say to God, “I will God where you want me to go, use me for your purposes?”
God has given each of us a purpose and a calling in this world. I pray that we all – both here and in the church global – live this out. If there is anything that will bring forth a revival in the church it is all of us living into the reality and love of Christ, and the calling God has blessed each of us with. When we join together as one body with many gifts in this church, in this charge, as the United Methodist Church, and in the global church, I promise you that the message of Christ will reach new people, that people will come to grow in their relationship with God, that lives will be restored, that hope will be fostered, and that lives will be changed. Even more, I promise you that God will be glorified.
Let us be a people who live out our purposes and callings in this world – no matter the task, no matter the size, no matter our gift. Let us be the living witness of Jesus Christ as we use the gifts and talents God has given us to be a presence in our communities and world. Let us prepare the way for the kingdom together.
My friends, we are many in our gifts, but in Christ we are one. Amen.