Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
One Body with Many Members
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
We are enthralled by the notion of being gifted and talented. Just for grins I did a Google search on the phrase “gifted and talented.” There were seventy million hits. It is clearly something we’re interested in! We are very interested in the giftedness of certain children. We praise the giftedness of certain athletes. We celebrate the gifts of those with outstanding talents every day. It could lead us to think that there are certain gifted people and they are quite apart from the vast multitudes who are not gifted.
But that is not the perspective of scripture and it’s not our experience, if we understand giftedness. The reality is that every person is gifted! You are gifted. I am gifted. And each of us is gifted in a unique way. In 1 Corinthians 12, after Paul lists many examples of the kinds of talents and gifts people possess, he states the source: “All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.” These are not just gifts; they are gifts of the Spirit.
He goes on to say that we are like a body with many parts, each part having its own unique purpose and function. We are, in fact, the Body of Christ. The ministry of Christ begun before his death now continues to be done by his body, the Church, following his resurrection.
Here what Paul writes: “There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.”
Then, Paul says at the end of the passage: “Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink.”
Paul then says, “You are the Body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)
Paul wrote eloquently about the giftedness of the Church. The gifts are given to individuals. In the early part of the 12th chapter of I Corinthians, Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth—and his words remind us today—that every person is unique, with a unique set of gifts God has given to that person.
The Greek word Paul uses for “Gifts” is charismata. It is related to the word, charis, which means “Grace”. These are gifts given by God to everyone through grace. They are gifts of grace and it becomes apparent as Paul gives examples of these gifts in his letters that they are not just talents and abilities: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, ministry, teaching, exhortation, generosity, compassion…. Obviously “faith” or “generosity” or “compassion” are not gifts that require some particular talent. The gift of faith or generosity or compassion may not come to the forefront until it is tested. We usually know what our talents and abilities are because they are obvious. We may not know we possess a gift until we respond to a need that calls for that gift. That’s why people speak of “discovering” that they have a gift.
I’m thinking of a woman I know who discovered she has the gift of teaching only when she responded to the need for a Disciple Bible Study leader.
I know a man I know who had not been aware of his gift of compassion until he responded to the need for more Congregational Care Ministers and received the training.
I remember a couple who didn’t know they possessed the gift of generosity until they experienced the joy of tithing and since have gone beyond giving 10 percent of their income to and through the church.
I know a man who never thought about the gift of hospitality until he discovered that gift in himself when he stepped forward to be one of our greeters.
Even our hurts can—by God’s grace—be turned into gifts. How many times have persons who have been through the valley of suffering been the ones who have been best able to minister to others who are walking through that same valley? I think about the people who have experienced loss and grief in their own lives who lead support groups for those who are experiencing loss and grief. I think about those who experienced the awful disease of Alzheimers in a loved one and now minister to the families of Alzheimer’s patients.
Paul emphasizes that the gifts–all the gifts of grace–are the Spirit’s to give as the Spirit chooses and that the gifts are for the common good. The gifts are given for the sake of the world which God so loves. God, in every time and place, gives the gifts that are needed in that time and in that place.
With all my heart, I believe what Paul says about giftedness. Every person is gifted! God calls every one of us to discover and use the gifts God has given to be in ministry. What are your gifts?
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster