Third Sunday in Lent

Third Sunday in Lent: Receiving the Gifts of the Spirit
Sunday, February 28, 2016
St. Timothy’s UMC- Rev. Mark M. Vickers
“Receiving the Gifts of the Spirit” 
Romans 12:6-8

Romans 12:6-8New International Version (NIV)
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

In my family, I am always the one who returns the gifts! No matter what the gift-giving holiday is, I’m the returner. It was that way when Susan was alive, and it’s that way now with Thompson. Doesn’t even matter if it is the gift that I have given that doesn’t fit, work, or meet the desired need, I’m the one who returns the gift. When you think about gift-giving and receiving you don’t really jump to the “point of return” do you? Now, I know every family has someone who, no matter what gift they receive, it will not be what they wanted, hence, a return is in order. Every family has one. Don’t tell me you don’t, because it’s not nice to lie to the preacher. 

Over the next two weeks we are going to take a serious look at this process of receiving gifts, accepting these gifts, and putting these gifts to work for the Glory of God. You see, the gifts we are going to talk about are not gifts that are material in nature, they are not gifts that we ask for on some special list, and best of all, they are gifts that can’t be returned. Now, they can be ignored, but they can’t be returned, because they are from God! 

My friends, these are God-given gifts that require we respond to them once we understand them. This morning I want us to take a serious look at the notion that we receive these gifts (that we will explore later) by the grace of God, and then, we are trusted to put them to work. 

 In formulating this message I thought it best to ask the question,”How do we live as Christians?” How are our lives moved from our secular to holy manner? We are inundated with so many cultural modifications and desires we struggle mightily into living as Holy People. 

Paul in his exhortation to the Christians in Rome about the necessity of holy lives and spiritual worship, not only here in the Book of Romans but also in 1st and 2nd Corinthians/I Thessalonians, is based on the mercy and grace given to each of us by God. Now, Paul sees this as coming through our baptism which helps us discern the “will of God.” One must remember that Baptism for the Christians in Rome was a rather new concept and something they were still struggling to understand. (Not that we have it sewn up to understand completely.) But for the new Christians in the Roman cultural, it was a marking spot for them to begin. As it is for us, we must remember that we are a baptized people in need of mercy and forgiveness. For Paul it is through this mercy that the certain spiritual gifts are “given to nourish the community as ‘one body in Christ’.”

That, my friends, is the key issue before us this morning. Often times we just figure that we can go about the work of the faith community without acknowledging what God has given us. We assume we can do this by some type of osmosis–some scientific ploy that helps us get through the motions in some secret fashion. 

If we take a deep serious look at this movement we know it’s not true! There is something that drives us to that important work of Christ–that important movement we recognize as the work of the church or the work of God’s Kingdom here on earth. 

It’s interesting if we keep focused here on vs. 6-8 in Paul’s admonition; we see we are given gifts that differ according to the grace given us; then he makes a short list of those gifts. But wait a minute–is God’s grace not equal to all? Should we not all have the same gifts? Simple logic would tell us that we can all receive the same grace, but the gifts that we receive are different because grace is a gift itself! Grace is a gift by which one works or uses to further their gifts. It’s just not “automatic.” It’s like the new term some therapists use when working with clients who need to change and work for themselves, they say “they need to have some skin in the game.” They (we) must be invested in what God has given us! Whether we are an exhorter, teacher, counselor, and the list goes on and on. The crux of the matter is that we have some investment in what God has already given us. 

Next week, following worship, we will take what is called a “Spiritual Gifts Inventory” and begin to look at what God has given you and how we all can help one another develop and grow in those gifts in order to assist the mission God has given us here at St. Timothy’s. 

This is not a “one and done” exercise, rather it is a journey into what God has already given you and how we can nurture those gifts over time, living in the presence of God’s grace. We can’t return these gifts my friends, therefore, we must put them to work in the best way we know how!