First Congregational Church
June 4, 2017
Pentecost & Communion Sunday
1 Corinthians 12:3-13
“Koinonia of Gifts” wear red light shoes
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Someone from over there at DesperatePreacher.com told this story on him or her self. I say her, because I can SO see this happening to me!
While preaching a revival a couple of years back I was sitting on the platform with the pastor during what was a rather stirring Pentecostal worship service. As the people were singing and praising the Lord, the words to an old hymn came to my mind that would go very well with my sermon that night. I quickly grabbed a song book from nearby, looked up the song and hurriedly attempted to memorize the page number.(#238) Right about that time a 'fresh wave of worship' began to swell among the entire church as people began to leap to their feet and shout praises unto the Lord. Wanting to join them I laid aside the book and rose to shout "Hallelujah!" Instead of the intended shout of praise, however, what I heard myself cry out was "Page 238”! That anecdote got me to thinking that I think there is a whole lot of Holy Spirit influenced worship that goes on right here in this little place.
Sorry to say, there are not a lot of sermons that I recall other people giving over the course of my life. Truth be told, I’d have to work at recalling my own sermon from last week. But there is one that was given by one of my mentors, Rev. Jeff Utecht, of the Methodist persuasion. He was one of the reasons I ended up deciding to go into ministry and to Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN.
I can’t tell you the title, but it had something to do with koinonia. And somewhere in those dusty, spider-webbed corners of my mind, I sort of remember him likening the idea of koinonia to a cornucopia. Maybe it’s just that the two words sound a little similar and it is only a connection in my mind of memory. But there is a resemblance in that a cornucopia is a quantity or mass of harvested fruits spilling out of a conical shaped container.
Although the Bible doesn’t use it in that way, those that were gathered together on that 50th day after Jesus’ resurrection could have been called a koinonia of followers. Long before that day recounted in the second chapter of Acts, during that same time of year, the Hebrew people celebrated the festival of the early harvest - in May and June, with a second harvest in the fall. The Hebrew people called it the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. On the day of each festival, the High Priest was to take two loaves of freshly baked wheat bread and offer them before the Lord. In all probability, on that specific day in the book of Acts, somewhere around that time of lifting bread and offering, the Holy Spirit, that third person of the Trinity, came waltzing in with tongues of flame dancing on the heads of worshipers, and caused each person to hear what was being said - to be heard in the listeners own native language. And now we celebrate that day as the birth of the church.
Over time, that phenomenal event in the life of the church, coupled with Jesus’ promise of return caused the people to become rather myopic in focus, so the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the people of Corinth, to suggest and encourage the people in the living and witness to Christ. They were struggling, living in their culture that was anything but helpful as followers of Christ, and they started fighting amongst themselves, as human beings do from time to time. He could have beaten them over the head, telling them to straighten up, could have scolded them for being bad “children of God,” but he said this instead.
1 Corinthians 12:3-13
3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
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. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Thank you, Carlisle. In thinking about this passage, one of the things that occurred to me was that if one of our homes burned down, I have no doubt that 100% of the people here today would offer their help for that person in getting their life back on track. It wouldn’t matter if the fire victim were Republican, Democratic, Independent or Alien from Mars, the desire to help that person would be rather significant.
If someone here were to be the victim of a financial scam, I don’t know that there would be many who would not be willing to give a few bucks to help out that victim until things could be sorted out. If there were a lawyer or legal/law person in the church family, I have no doubt that that person would offer their help in rectifying the situation. They would offer out of care and because of their gifts and training, and whatever our own gifts and training, even if it is simple “life” training, we bring all those things to the table of koinonia - of living in the gathering of individuals in the collective following of Christ.
I think it was this last February that I did a sermon on water, and part of that rather spectacular piece writing that has stuck with me, was in a suggestion from my hair dresser to check out an article on the effects of prayer on water. The gist of the article was that a sample of water in a specific place was taken and tested for contaminants, healthy stuff, unhealthy stuff, all the stuff that makes up water - besides H2O.
Then some person came beside that same place and spent 45 minutes praying for the water and the water was tested again, and the water had changed. I don’t know all the technicalities of the change, but for simplicity’s sake, prayer had changed the water.
We sometimes forget the incredible effect of prayer, and probably more true is that we forget the power of our collective prayers. Extrapolate that, and include all the quantum physics of our life - and our togetherness in the Spirit of God becomes a much bigger deal. Our koinonia is a big deal. The koinonia, the gathering of our spirituals gifts is even greater.
Who do you know that is a good discerner - one who can make a good suggestion from available information? It might even be you, but is most likely someone you know fairly well. We don’t have to be all things to all people. Who do you know as one who has great faith - one who inspires you to greater faith? Have you told them that lately - that you see that gift in them? People so need to hear that - to encourage them in the use of their God-given gifts.
There are some people with the spiritual gift of tongues, which can be a somewhat debated topic in the religious world. But in the regular world, who do you know that can speak the language of finance, or the language of medicine, or computers? All too often we forget the big deal of how much God gifts people to do amazing things in this world. Probably more often, we forget to tell those folks that we appreciate their work and gifts.
So how’s your spiritual gift or gifts these days? Some of us were raised to make sure our own gifts weren’t too shiny or too pretentious. Others of us are still wondering if God might not have given us a different set of gifts, or if there is a rebate shop for spiritual gifts, and that’s fine, too. God gives us all the days we have to use our gifts to the best of our abilities, and that is cause for celebration. As we prepare our hearts for the celebration we share with all of God’s people, let us be mindful of not just those around the world, and not just all the individuals from our history, but of the gifts within this church family that have served to make the koinonia of God the better.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.