My point is this: ALL of us have spiritual gifts. The homework assignment is to take time this week to think about your gifts and how you can be using them.
Now for the context. Today begins phase two of our stewardship campaign.
When we talk about stewardship in Church, people typically think first about money, and money is important. Like most Churches I know, we work on the financial part of stewardship in November so that we can put together a budget for the next year. Thankfully most of that work is now done, and the 2016 budget will be formally presented to the parish at our annual meeting next week.
But stewardship is about much more than money. We are also stewards of our talents and our time, and how we use our talents and our time is at least as important to our spiritual well-being as how we use our money.
Most years our Stewardship Team has invited us to consider the stewardship of money, talents, and time together. But this year, in an effort to put more focus on the stewardship of talent and time, we separated them from the stewardship of money.
So today we will focus on the stewardship of our talents. Next week is the annual meeting, when we will talk together about how things are going in the parish and what we want our future to look like. Then in two weeks, I will invite you to reflect on your calling, as Christians and as members of Saint David’s. I will ask you to think prayerfully about how you will use your talents and your time in 2016.
That is where we are heading over the next couple of weeks. And it begins today with the stewardship of our talents.
Now the word “talent” does not appear in our readings for this morning. But the motto for these three Sundays comes from our passage from First Corinthians. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
That sentence deserves to be heard again and more slowly. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
We are back at my main point for today. Each of us has received spiritual gifts from God.
Many of us are not comfortable claiming our gifts. Some of you have heard me talk about a really wonderful woman who was a faithful Christian and a faithful Church-goer her entire life. When she was in her eighties, this good and faithful woman told me that she had never thought of herself as having any spiritual gifts.
I think she is like many of us. I know she was wrong. Paul is clear: each of us has received the manifestation of the Spirit. The question is not, ‘do I have any spiritual gifts?’ The question is, ‘what are my spiritual gifts?’ I am asking you to spend time this week answering that question for yourself.
There are a couple of different ways to come at it. The first is straight on: asking yourself about your spiritual gifts.
Another way to come at the same basic question is to ask yourself, how is God working in my life? What is God doing in me right now? How is God helping me to grow, to become the person that God wants me to be? That is another way of thinking about God’s Holy Spirit becoming manifest in you.
Yet a third way to ask yourself the same basic question is to think about your calling. We will talk about this more in two weeks, but Paul points us in that direction right from the start. Paul says that we have each received the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
The point is, we do not have gifts simply so that we can enjoy them. We have been given spiritual gifts to put to use, to advance the common good, to participate in God’s mission to redeem and to restore the world. So what is your role in God’s mission? And how is God empowering you to play it?
That is a few different ways to ask the question about your spiritual gifts, which is to reflect on the stewardship of your talents. We are also offering two tools to help you answer these questions for yourself.
The first is an online assessment of spiritual gifts. The link is at the bottom of this sermon and also on our Church homepage. Neither Ted nor I could find a survey that was fully satisfactory, but we both thought this one was helpful. It only takes a few minutes and, when you finish, it gives you a score for each of the fifteen gifts identified by Paul, along with an explanation of what each gift is.
We also have a bulletin insert, developed by our wonderful Pledge Secretary, that gives a short description of what the fifteen spiritual gifts might look like in practice. Whether or not you take the survey, take a look at the gifts this week. Pay particular attention to any gifts you think you might have.
I will leave you with just a couple more thoughts. As you reflect on your gifts, do not rush it. It may take you time to discern them.
Remember also that our gifts change over the course of our lifetimes. I certainly could not have claimed any wisdom as a young man. But virtually all of us grow in wisdom as we age, even fools like me, so virtually all of us can claim at least a little bit of that one.
Circumstances change as well. It may be that you have never been able to develop one of your gifts for lack of time or opportunity. My father always worked long hours, so he did not have much time to devote to any kind of public service. Now that he has retired, he spends more time on causes that are important to him. I doubt he would say that he has the spiritual gift of service. But I might.
It goes the other way too. It may be that you can no longer exercise a gift that once was important to you. As we age, some kinds of active service fall by the wayside. This is a trivial example, but when we moved into a new home last year, I decided it was my last move without a professional mover. I have aged out. My back cannot take it any longer. Recognizing that is an example of a small growth in wisdom!
The point is simple. We need to prayerfully reflect on our gifts again and again over time because what used to be true for each of us may not be true any longer. So think about your gifts this week. Take the survey. Read about the gifts. Pray. Ask God to reveal your gifts to you. Ask family or friends as well. You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself.
I want to end where I began. In our reading for this morning, Paul tells us, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” What is your manifestation of the Spirit?
I ask this in the name of the One who sends the Holy Spirit to remake us in His image and to give us the gifts we need to do His work in the world. Amen.
Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11