Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Second Sunday after Epiphany: What are your gifts?


We’re back in the chapel. It’s cozier there. Eric’s back again, it’s been good having him with us. We read the passage from First Corinthians , 12: 1-11 and then the Wedding in Cana story from John 2: 1-11 in a readers’ theatre style. Then it’s time for reflection.

A lot can happen in a week or so…

* A musician and his wife race to the hospital only to discover that the child they waited for with anticipation for 9 months is already dead. The sadness of that is almost too much or me to imagine.
* David Bowie dies. Even though he’s a musician I never fully “got”, I can see that the internet is filled with eulogies. My oldest son posts his own tribute and I learn something I didn’t know before. About a difficult teen year and what this artist meant to anyone who felt different or “alien.”
* A father shares with me the challenges of a young teenaged daughter trying to figure out where she fits on the gender line. He introduces her to David Bowie and she is amazed.
*My own first grandchild is born in Berlin. And I am reminded what I forgot …that every child is a gift of the grace of life.
* A good friend of mine, a colleague in study and witness, must go to the hospital and lose a kidney. Another friend of mine from Germany is now freed from dialysis  because a beloved  friend gave up one of his own kidneys.
* Our friends from Noche perfomed Antigona for 250 high school students from the Bronx. And the hip hop kids completely responded to flamenco.
* One of the Noche dancers is being trained by the son of a flamenco dancer I knew 40 years ago in the hills of Northern New Mexico,,,,

What we’re talking about this week is gifts. All these little vignettes involve gifts at some level or other…artists, healers, friends….

Let’s look at Paul’s list….first remembering that all these are gifts of the Spirit, given for the common good..

* The utterance of wisdom….. and to another the utterance of knowledge
* We need people who know how to do things, but we need people who know why to do things. Both are important. These gifts need each other. We need people who press for the bottom line and those who know when true value goes beyond dollars. Without the one we simply don’t survive, without the other, we are no longer who we are. Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing…we need both to be in dialogue with one another.

*Faith. It’s not always easy. Not everyone can have it. At least all the time. Paul’s words recognize that and remind us. But we always need a critical number who believe it can happen, that we can do it….it will happen, in God’s time, and that the victory is already won.

*Healing. Doctors and nurses are the healing hands of God. Others bring prayers and healing words. Others do the listening that allows healing to begin.

*Working of miracles. We need those with us who can do the impossible. Who can do what no one believes can be done. Who are willing to try.  The very fact that our doors are still open here is thanks to a small and dedicated group of miracle workers.

* Prophecy. Those who can see what’s coming down the road if we don’t change course. Those who are brave enough to speak truth to power and those who can organize prophetic action, effective action.  Those who pass out loaves and fishes and those who train bakers and fishers.

*Discernment of Spirits. Those who get it. Who can feel rightly the gift of others. I had a friend in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bishop Thomas Smith. Of the Church of the Living God. I knew he had a conservative theology to go with his rigorous social ethic. For one of his revivals, he invited one of our colleagues, Rabbi Charles Sherman, to speak. I knew how closely Thomas guarded his pulpit so I asked him why he invited Charles. I have the gift of discerning Spirits. And there is one spirit, he said. And the Holy Spirit has shown me that Charles is of the spirit. And that’s why he’s in my pulpit.

*Tongues. To speak other languages. To other cultures. I’m not just talking ethnicity and national origin, you know? Thee are all kind of cultures and communities in this city. This is where artists come in: Speaking the WORD without WORDS.

*Interpretation of tongues. Those who can hear the various languages being spoken and help others understand. Those who are translators, the readers of signs…. Helping us understand one another.

The gospel story yet another in the series that could be called Jesus learns and grows.. from the teen-aged boy in the temple to the man at baptism called out from the life he’d been living for 30 years  to the young man called by his mother to use his gifts…

So what are your gifts? Which one are you? What do you contribute to the common good? May the Spirit help us with discernment of that question…today..and every day…

Biggest thing to remember, often these gifts work best in dialectic….but still, even in dialogue, there is  ONE SPIRIT…


I ask for us to consider, talk about our gifts. I realize how hard it is for some of our people to own their gifts. Like Leila with her artistry and esthetics. Her creativity and sense of beauty. Or Dion with his cheerful spirit and willingness to do whatever is necessary. I remind him of how much it lifts me when I see him when I arrive on Sundays.  Or John, who truly is in service to others in caring ways.  I remind him that  he’s the essence of the traditional meaning  of Deacon. And Rachel. I remind her that she was  nurse. And how much she did for others. Reflecting  on being 94 she says, but it’s all gone now. And I said, but not  your heart. We still feel your care and concern for us. It lifts  me, strengthens me, just to see you here.  (I saw her this morning outside approaching from an unexpected direction. When I asked her about this,  she said that sometimes she like to walk around the block just to see what's going on.  She is a real New Yorker.) I think of John walking her home every Sunday. And so many others…gifts. All.

We say our prayers. Sing our songs. Our amens. And it’s time to go back into  the world.

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.
4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

John 2:1-11 The Voice (VOICE)
Three days later, they all went to celebrate a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was invited together with Him and His disciples. While they were celebrating, the wine ran out; and Jesus’ mother hurried over to her son.
Mary: The host stands on the brink of embarrassment; there are many guests, and there is no more wine.
Jesus: Dear woman, is it our problem they miscalculated when buying wine and inviting guests? My time has not arrived.
But she turned to the servants.
Mary: Do whatever my son tells you.
In that area were six massive stone water pots that could each hold 20 to 30 gallons.[a]They were typically used for Jewish purification rites. Jesus’ instructions were clear:
Jesus: Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top; then fill a cup, and deliver it to the headwaiter.
They did exactly as they were instructed. After tasting the water that had become wine, the headwaiter couldn’t figure out where such wine came from (even though the servants knew), and he called over the bridegroom in amazement.
Headwaiter: 10 This wine is delectable. Why would you save the most exquisite fruit of the vine? A host would generally serve the good wine first and, when his inebriated guests don’t notice or care, he would serve the inferior wine. You have held back the best for last.

11 Jesus performed this miracle, the first of His signs, in Cana of Galilee. They did not know how this happened; but when the disciples and the servants witnessed this miracle, their faith blossomed.

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