1st Corinthians 12:3b-12
No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to 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. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 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. 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.
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Last week we had begun a series called Great Expectations as both you and I look toward the future with our hope founded in God’s actions through us. As we continue into this series I want to begin by saying yesterday I had a great privilege of going to Cameron Hall and watching 240 young ladies and men walk across the stage as they received their diplomas from High School. However, as I sat there, I was struck by the three speakers as to what they had to say. The first speaker, the principal of the school, Jennifer Weaver, spoke about a fine tapestry that is woven together by many individual strands. Making an assimilation of how throughout these young graduates lives there have been many friends, counselors, teachers, parents that have added a strand to who they as they are formed now into this beautiful tapestry called the class of 2011. The principal went on to name the many accomplishments that through the diversity of the students talents all the achievements that they have been a part of over the last 4 years: from building houses, to supporting local food pantries. The second speaker, a young graduate who was the Salutatorian, Naaman Mehta spoke around a metaphor of the well known candy called sour patch kids and how within that one candy there is both the sour and sweet. That is much how she viewed the class of 2011, a grand mixture of diverseness that comes together to form this single unit that is both sour and sweet called a sour patch kid.
And finally, the last speaker, the valedictorian Silvia Sheffield spoke about their graduation much like a cake walk. The grand prize is a part of the walk, but it is in the mundane everyday life do we get to where we are going. She also spoke much about the diversity of the class to form this one single unit that is going to be remembered as the class of 2011.
As the 240 graduates assembled and the congregation of over 1000 listened to these three addresses, each speaker in some significant way yesterday spoke about the diversity of gifts that these graduates had and yet how each of these gifts had been used to come together to do great things. For an example of how diversity worked together, one speaker gave the example of how students who were gifted in the culinary arts were able to use those gifts of making cakes to raise money to support those other students who were passionate for renewable resources and needed funding to host Earth day. I thought of these three talks to be quite significant on this Pentecost Sunday, because as I sat there in the arena, I began to think about how much similarity there is in what these three speakers spoke about and Paul’s letter to the early church in Corinth.
As we begin to understand Paul’s letter, we must look at the context of the church of Corinth in the time in which Paul is addressing them. Corinth is a coastal town and many different type of people have come through this coastal community. There are women who had been given the gift of prophesy, there are the rich who can relax all day and come and go as they please and drink throughout the entire afternoon. You have the working poor who works hard all day just to barely get by. You have people of different backgrounds, those who were Jewish and have come to believe while still others who were Romans gentiles who have come to see the Truth in the identity of Jesus Christ. Truly, it sounds very much like much of the church today. So very diverse in so many ways. However, this diverseness within the church of Corinth began to create quarreling among them. Paul addresses the diverseness of the church in this letter. Like these wise young women speakers at graduation yesterday, Paul advocates for the ability to use all of these gifts to support each others gifts rather than tear each other down. We as a church still continually need to renew ourselves in the understanding of church being a community of believers who have come together from many different walks of life, with many different backgrounds, and many different gift sets and begin to learn and use those gifts together to see great things happen.
Great things though do not just happen out of thin air, but rather they begin with our own expectations. Proverbs 29:18 says in the King James Version, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Our expectations, our vision for the future is a life giving tool that God has placed within us. If our vision is to hold on just to keep the doors open, then truly very little will come to fruitation. But when our vision is like God’s vision, the capability of the church is incomprehensible. The Salutatorian yesterday I believe said it very well, she has great expectations of the class of 2011 as she expects to see a major film produced by someone in her class, as she sees someone using their gift set to own their own construction company, as she expects to see someone from her class be recognized as one who develops a renewable resource. It is with the dreaming and hoping like these youth that we the church need to recover in ourselves as we look to making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, Paul talks about all of these separate gifts together as the one body, and how it is through the one spirit of Jesus Christ that these gifts in us individually comes together to form this one body. The Christian day of Pentecost often recalls the spirit of God being breathed into the bodies of the disciples as they receive the power from on high. You may remember from last week Jesus had told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they receive that power from on High. That power we know is the Spirit of God that empowers us to speak, to heal, to discern spirits, to speak tongues, to have faith. The Spirit of God often is understood as fire, from the flaming tongues that landed on the apostles that first day of Pentecost. Or the Spirit is often revealed as breath, in the Old testament that word for Spirit is Ruah which also meant wind. The breath of God, the breath of Jesus as Jesus in the Gospel of John breathes upon the disciples. Or in Ezekiel’s vision of the valleys of dry bones coming to life, God breathed into them with the ruah or the life giving winds. Or maybe we may go back to Adam as the Spirit that entered Adam was the ruah or spirit wind that entered into him giving him life.
We, living bodies, must take in air in order to live. But it is not simply just the act of taking in air do we live. There are many parts that come together to form the life giving respiratory system.
“Breathing is so vital to life that it happens automatically. Each day, you breathe about 20,000 times, and by the time you’re 70 years old, you’ll have taken at least 600 million breaths. All of this breathing couldn’t happen without the respiratory system, which includes the nose, throat, voice box, windpipe, and lungs. At the top of the respiratory system, the nostrils (also called nares) act as the air intake, bringing air into the nose, where it’s warmed and humidified. Tiny hairs called cilia protect the nasal passageways and other parts of the respiratory tract, filtering out dust and other particles that enter the nose through the breathed air. Air can also be taken in through the mouth. These two openings of the airway (the nasal cavity and the mouth) meet at the pharynx, or throat, at the back of the nose and mouth. The pharynx is part of the digestive system as well as the respiratory system because it carries both food and air. At the bottom of the pharynx, this pathway divides in two, one for food (the esophagus, which leads to the stomach) and the other for air. The epiglottis, a small flap of tissue, covers the air-only passage when we swallow, keeping food and liquid from going into the lungs. The larynx, or voice box, is the uppermost part of the air-only pipe. This short tube contains a pair of vocal cords, which vibrate to make sounds. The trachea, or windpipe, extends downward from the base of the larynx. It lies partly in the neck and partly in the chest cavity. The walls of the trachea are strengthened by stiff rings of cartilage to keep it open. The trachea is also lined with cilia, which sweep fluids and foreign particles out of the airway so that they stay out of the lungs. At its bottom end, the trachea divides into left and right air tubes called bronchi, which connect to the lungs. Within the lungs, the bronchi branch into smaller bronchi and even smaller tubes called bronchioles. Bronchioles end in tiny air sacs called alveoli, where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide actually takes place. Each lung houses about 300-400 million alveoli. The lungs also contain elastic tissues that allow them to inflate and deflate without losing shape and are encased by a thin lining called the pleura. This network of alveoli, bronchioles, and bronchi is known as the bronchial tree. The chest cavity, or thorax, is the airtight box that houses the bronchial tree, lungs, heart, and other structures. The top and sides of the thorax are formed by the ribs and attached muscles, and the bottom is formed by a large muscle called the diaphragm. The chest walls form a protective cage around the lungs and other contents of the chest cavity. Separating the chest from the abdomen, the diaphragm plays a lead role in breathing. It moves downward when we breathe in, enlarging the chest cavity and pulling air in through the nose or mouth. When we breathe out, the diaphragm moves upward, forcing the chest cavity to get smaller and pushing the gases in the lungs up and out of the nose and mouth.” This system is just merely one part of the body that takes in the life giving air and then yet another system, the circulatory system takes over to carry this air throughout the body. I believe you may be catching my drift here. When we begin to understand ourselves as a part of a system, we begin to realize that we play a role in the life of the church, but we, individually do not make up the whole church. However each part is needed to step up and do their part. My hope and expectation is that each of you will begin to see yourself as a part of the body of Christ. That you will see that you are needed to play your part in the system of Christ’s Body present here on earth. Those parts may look very different depending upon your gift set in how you serve the church. You may have the gift set of being the vocal chords and go proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. You may have the gift set of the lungs of receiving the spirit of faith and passing on that faith to others. You may even be gifted as a single hair of cilia and have the gifts of Christian counseling and carry out the trash that is in our lives. Whatever part of the system that you are, your diversity is not a hindrance to this body, but simply a different role and one that is needed in the whole body of Christ. I will finish this sermon today with my great expectation, That is: We allow the Spirit of God to unify us as we work together to be the one Body of Christ. Not merely just one congregation, nor even a unitary charge, but that we place ourselves together with the Christians around the world as the one Body of Christ unified in that one Spirit of Jesus Christ. And that we do not understand the identity or work of the church to be the sole responsibility of any one individual, but a collective congregation working together.