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.
Sermon for Pentecost Year A
The Rev. Conor M Alexander
May 28, 2023
1 Corinthians 12:3-13
Yesterday I brought my son to a rather large field in our neighborhood. It’s right in between two one way streets before they come together. It’s too big to pave over, and too small for a park. But it is just the right size for throwing wiffle balls and whacking them with a bat. We had to start going there because he gets some serious distance on those balls. As someone who lives in this neighborhood, I have access to this field. The city maintains it, and a portion of my property taxes pays the expenses. I am able to enjoy this field because I am a part of something that is larger than just myself. In this case I’m a citizen of Norfolk. It may not seem huge, but every bit of our lives are influenced by these things that are commonly owned. If you don’t believe me, head over to Mount Trashmore sometime and watch the children climb up and then roll down that hill.
Today being Pentecost God reminds us that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. We are part of the Church, which is described metaphorically as the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, so on and so forth. Being part of this body brings with it certain privileges and responsibilities - all driven by the Holy Spirit. In our Epistle this morning, St. Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth, and giving instruction on their Spiritual Gifts. He first lays down several ground rules. The first is that there are a variety of gifts, services, and activities. Some have the gift of knowledge while some have the gift of wisdom. Some have the gift of faith while some have the gift of healing. Some have the gift of prophecy, while some can discern between different types of spirits. St. Paul is saying that while no two gifts are alike, just like no two people are alike, all the different types of gifts are good and valuable.
The second thing that St. Paul points out is that all of these gifts are designed and given for the common good. Now that phrase, common good, is something we don’t use all that often so it requires some unpacking. In the civic sense, it is those things that the community provides to all of its members so that they can participate in society, and enjoy its benefits. Over the past several weeks my neighbor has been working the polls for early voting. That is part of the common good. All citizens are entitled to vote, so the municipalities and states make arrangements for them to do so.
In the Church similar things happen both within the Church community and for the community at large. I know for a fact that certain members of St Francis have the gift of hospitality, and put out a wonderful spread for coffee hour. This gift is there for everyone to take part of, and if you leave here on Sunday with an empty stomach, well, you’re doing something wrong.
Within our food pantry, I see many gifts at work. They are working in such a way that connections grow across the Body of Christ, beyond our parish here. I know someone has the gift of connections, and through which has obtained some of the best produce and baked goods you can find - all for the benefit of others. I know our friends at Emmanuel Lutheran have the gift of generosity. They take up collections of food and money and then bring them to us to distribute. Among our friends who benefit from the food pantry, many of them have the gift of sharing the good news, because people are so impressed with the service we provide that they are lining up well before the doors open. Then there’s one other person with the gift of helpfulness. He benefits from our food ministry and then gives back with both small and not so small acts of service around the parish. All these people have offered service according to their gifts, and everyone has benefitted.
One my favorite parts about watching spiritual gifts unfold, is that they don’t rely on someone telling others what to do. The Holy Spirit never sits down and makes a GANT chart, specifically assigning certain people to do certain things by a certain date. Instead, the Holy Spirit offers gifts and relies on human beings God given and natural desire to make a difference, and to do something good. If we are attracted to goodness it makes sense to perpetuate goodness to the best of our ability. And when these gifts and inclinations come together in a place like the Church, miracles really do happen. People rise above their narrow self interests, and do things that benefit everyone around them, knowing that when goodness is raised up, it raises up everyone.
In the Church we are all about the common good. The Holy Spirit gifts each person gifts that when used properly, contribute something that so many people benefit from. Goodness in general spreads, and lifts up so many around us. What a wonderful thing we have to be thankful for. After all of Christ’s great work He wasn’t finished. He sent us the Holy Spirit to give us gifts and to raise us up. Utilizing these gifts binds us together in ways that before we wouldn’t have imagined. As part of the Body of Christ and using our gifts for the common good, we truly are a part of something much, much larger than ourselves. Amen.