Fourth Sunday in Lent

Fourth Sunday in Lent
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
St. Timothy’s UMC

“The Most Excellent Way” 

1 Corinthians 12:4-7New International Version (NIV):  4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Ephesians 4:11-13New International Version (NIV): 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Dating myself a bit, but I remember riding down Kem Road, turning right on Baldwin Avenue, passing Custer’s Last Stand on the right (one of those true 1950’s drive-in restaurant) then turning right into the next parking lot. I remember seeing the two large golden arches reaching from behind the shiny silver chrome building outlined with red and white glossy brick, looming over the roof and down to the ground. Yes, it was my first visit to McDonalds! Mind you, this was 1966 and the new McDonald’s was the “hit” of the small mid-western town. 

There was no drive-thru, only parking spaces out front. My dad and I walked to the window to order. Oh yes–you couldn’t walk in. There was no seating, just order at the window. I remember there may have been 6 choices of food to choose from; a basic hamburger was .50 cents, a cheeseburger was .75 cents, and a coke (only one size) was $1.25. There was not a lot of variety! 

In reflecting on our scriptures this morning, I have to think for a moment, what if there were only six (6) spiritual gifts offered by God? What if that was the only option we had to choose from? What if we were limited in the spiritual gifts that God offered? 

The good news is that we are NOT limited. We are NOT confined to a .50 cent, six-choice limit for our gifts. 

When we look at our scriptures this morning we see clearly that we are not limited in the number or types of gifts we can receive. Paul is upfront that the gifts we receive are based on the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:4-“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.” (I Corinthians 12:4-6) You see, the beauty of the Spirit is that it activates so many things in so many people, different things in different people. Through the remainder of these verses Paul spells out a number of the special gifts that are viewed as valuable to the Kingdom of God, especially within the church (both the church of the NT and the church of today.)

Just as I thought about my first trip to the McDonald’s where my choices were few, I had no idea that today I would have over 60 items to choose from at the same restaurant. I have those choices because the restaurant business has changed, grown, magnified and become spectacular. Just as the Kingdom of God has done the same! Paul knew it would! He led those in Corinth to believe the same and has led us to believe it as well. 

I am convinced that as the church has grown and matured over time, God has given us (the community of faith) new and continual gifts to use for God’s service! 

Today, following worship, we are inviting you (actually, inciting you with a little “manna”), to take time to join us for a while and explore the gifts that God has given you, each one of you, and how you might use those gifts. 

Paul’s final verse in Chapter 12 brings this point directly home to us. He reminds us in verse 27, “We are the body of Christ (the church) and individually members of it.” 

He then asks the rhetorical question after listing some of the gifts–apostles, prophets, teachers, healers in asking–are “all” people the bearers of these gifts? He knows, and the people know, the answer in no. But they have gifts to offer, just as we have gifts to offer. Then Paul radiates with a resounding statement that serves as our charge for today and in the days to come here at St. Timothy’s, and that is “Strive for the greater gifts, and I will show you a still more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31) 

That, my friends, is the invitation to explore the gifts that God has given to each of you and continue growing in the grace of the living God! 

Come, now, and let us be nourished with that manna that gives us strength to use our gifts. 

AMEN & AMEN