‘Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed’. (1 Cor. 12. V.1)
I wonder if it feels like 4 weeks since Easter when we celebrated the great news that Jesus is risen, and to think about what it means to live our lives as Easter people, re-assured once again of the promise of that same resurrection hope. In the church's calendar we are still in the Easter Season, and the season of Spring helps me to remember this as we see new life beginning to emerge in our gardens, parks and countryside – after the darkness of winter comes the beautiful display of colour from daffodils to bluebells, eggs being hatched, and swallows returning home. As I write this the sun is shining, and different species of birds are making use of my bird tables and bird baths – my heart is full of joy.
But the reality is that we are still in lockdown, even though today more restrictions have been lifted in Scotland and Wales. We still wait, some patiently and some like me, less patiently. Some cannot wait to get back to whatever normal is going to look like, and others, understandably, are more cautious. We have all gone through this past year navigating our way through the various lockdowns, but all our journeys will have been different. The one thing that we can be assured of is that Jesus has been with us on our journey – whether it be bringing peace and comfort as he did to the fearful disciples who were huddled together in an upper room, or whether we have been unaware of his presence with us, just as the two disciples on the Emmaus Road were unaware. Jesus is with us by his Spirit. The Spirit He breathed into his disciples in that same upper room to equip them for the call on their lives, and the Spirit that was poured out at Pentecost.
During May & June we are looking at some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our preaching series. We are doing this because we believe that some people over the past year may have grown in one or more of these gifts, or perhaps realise that a gift they used to exercise in quite a lot is now not so prominent in their Christian life. The Apostle Paul says to the church in Corinth before diving in and teaching them about the gifts, that he does not want them to be uninformed about them, and nor do we want people to be uninformed about them at St. Mark’s. All these gifts mentioned by Paul in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 are for the building up of the local church. And he is adamant that every single person, every member of the body has a gift, and they are to use it/them if the Body is to be healthy and united. But how can we use our gift/gifts if we are not sure what they are?
Life Groups are a good place to discern one’s gifts, and I pray that they are places of encouragement & discovery. We should all be looking out for the God given gifts in others, but we all live busy lives, and sometimes we are not very good at it! I know if it had not been for the church in London where I was pushed out of my comfort zone, like a bird pushing out her young from the nest, I would perhaps not have taken the road I did.
So, for this reason, we have sent a spiritual gift survey out to those who can access it on-line asking you to engage with it, and if you would like to let us know (me or my PA Helen) what your three main gifts are that would be very much appreciated. However, I do understand that some may find it ‘not their cup of tea’, so please do not feel obliged to do it! However, it would still be great to know what you think your spiritual gifts are – different from natural skills and gifts. The one thing Paul is clear about is that every person has a gift, and therefore a part to play in the building up of the Body of Christ, and the joining in of God’s mission.
As we begin to return to worship in person, and to engage with ministries, projects, dreams, and visions that we have been unable to do, we need to be exercising in the spiritual gifts that God has given us, so what we do is not a burden but a blessing to God, to others, and to ourselves as well. I pray too that it will be an opportunity for people to lay down ministries that they have overseen, or been involved with over the years, without any sense of guilt or of letting others down.
Perhaps a part of us enlarging our tent and letting the curtains of our habitations be stretched out, is to not hold back in using our God given gifts for the glory of God? I hold on to that Word given by Hilda, ‘that the community want to see the Glory of God’. How do they see the Glory of God? It is by taking His presence out into the community with us using the gifts of encouragement, healing, faith, wisdom, prayer, hospitality, and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ – He is risen and alive today! Alleluia!!