“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
- 1 Corinthians 12: 7
To believe that each of us has been given a manifestation of the Spirit is a pretty audacious belief. When you look around you at work, at home, in the grocery store or Walmart, can you see the work of the Spirit in each person? It’s a pretty big and inclusive God who will offer to every person a bit of Godliness, a bit of the creative stuff that makes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control possible through each person. And yet here we are believing, as Lutheran Christians, that every person has a bit of the manifestation of God in them.
It is a wonderful belief, too, in that, we recognize that every person has something to offer to the world that can honor and glorify God. As a pastor in a more rural part of the world, I think about how we are passing along the faith of our fathers to the children in our lives. How do we speak the language of faith we’ve been gifted in the language of our children?
The truth is, not one of us is able to do this for every person we meet. God is manifest in different folks in different ways. If you go on in the first Corinthians text, you’ll see that Paul outlines so many ways the manifestation of God comes through people. Our challenge is to allow those gifts to be seen, to be named, and to be shared. There are people I don’t think want to work with, know, or use their gifts and yet, I don’t think God lets anyone’s gifts be idle.
Each of us has a congregation which includes so many varieties of gifts that we don’t take the time to figure out, to recognize. Those who are willing, then, get to overuse their gifts to the point that others feel as if they are intruding when they attempt to share the ways they can glorify God.
As we come to the realization that God is present in each of us, manifest through the gifts of the Spirit, we also come to realize that our Church needs all of those gifts, those voices, to not only be complete, but to also find new ways to share the message of the gospel of Jesus. It is important that in each congregation, we look for and listen to those who have gifts that are not yet a part of our community’s tool box, that we open our hearts to allow alternate voices and creative ways to share God’s love that doesn’t necessarily include “the way it has always been done.” New ways of doing things inspire us to argue, to grouse, to grumble because they take us out of our comfort zones. As we heard of the call to Jesus’ disciples a few short weeks ago, we must also be honest: none of those fishermen would be our first choice of folks to put into use as ministers, as people who would lead us, as people we would follow. They weren’t refined, they weren’t polished, and, in the case of Peter, he had strong opinions that he was willing to voice over and over in his pursuit of what he truly believed was right, only to find out he had to let go of his preconceived notions and hear anew the message of God through Jesus.
If our congregations are not willing to identify and lift up leaders from within, where will our leaders come from? It’s been a challenge for me to find a PMA or a seminarian from within each congregation I have served, even the Episcopal Church I served. Who in your place has gifts that, while perhaps a bit unique for your particular congregation, could nonetheless be gifts that are ready to be grown, challenged, and shaped by the Master Potter for ministry and leadership? Who is hungry for more and ready to be in community in a new and daring manner?
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 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. 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. 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?” (1 Corinthians 12: 14-17)
It is we who limit the Spirit with our expectations and judgments. It is my challenge to you to see people anew, to open yourselves to the movement of the Spirit and listen to the potential in each person in your assembly. Who will be lifted up to serve God with boldness and intention?
May you find it in your hearts to grapple with this, to name the possibility that someone will shed their timid-ness and share a hope. May the Church be grown in every one of our congregations as we seek the manifestation of the Spirit in each person. 😊