Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gifts

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 -- Week of 4 Lent
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, 1556

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 955)
Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning)     //         119:121-144 (evening)
Genesis 50:15-26      
1 Corinthians 12:1-11      
Mark 8:11-26  

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit..."  1 Corinthians 12:4

I like to say that everyone has gifts, what are yours?  The Spirit gives every person gifts to be exercised "for the common good."  Think of things you do easily and well?  What comes to you naturally?  Sometimes we tend to dismiss our gifts simply because they can seem effortless to us.  At St Paul's we incorporate a process for discovering our spiritual gifts into our Journey to Authenticity class that we offer seasonally.

I think it is important also to realize that not everyone gets every spiritual gift.  The Church has the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit.  Because you are grafted into the Body of Christ, you participate in all of the gifts, but individually you have not been given every gift.

That's significant because sometimes people feel guilty because they find they do some things poorly that they think are expectations of all Christians.  Prayer and faith are both gifts of the Spirit.  But for some good Christians, prayer, or faith, seems almost impossible and distracting.  Yet they have other gifts, maybe of service or generosity. 

Exercise the gifts that are yours.  Relax about the gifts you haven't been given, and enjoy the competence of others who exercise those gifts "for the common good."  If prayer and faith aren't your gifts, let others pray and believe for you within the Body of Christ, for you belong to the Church, which has the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit.

I think it is important also to look for the manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit outside of the church.  "The Spirit blows where it chooses." (John 3:8a)  In Jesus' conversation in the boat with his disciples today (Mark 8:14f) he invites the disciples to see the presence of the Spirit inside and outside of religious and cultural boundaries.  He asks them to open their eyes and their ears.  They have already seen.  They are witnesses to the miracles of feeding, one among a Jewish crowd, the other among Gentiles. 

The numbers in this passage have significance.  Among the Jewish crowd there were five loaves for the five thousand.  Five is an important number in Jewish tradition.  The sacred Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures.  When the feeding is over, there are twelve baskets of leftover food.  Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel. 

Then Jesus asks the disciples about the numbers in the feeding in Gentile territory.  There were seven loaves that fed the four thousand, and seven baskets left over.  Four is a widely used symbolic number that traditionally represents the four corners of the earth, the four winds or four directions -- an image of the whole created order.  And seven is a number that is sacred to many faiths and cultures, a number that represents totality and perfection, the sum of three (the spiritual order) and four (the created order).  Later in the book of Acts we will read that the church would choose seven deacons to go out into the world to serve the Gentiles.  In the book of Revelation we will hear John address seven Gentile churches.  Twelve is a number associated with the Jewish world; seven, with the Gentile world.

As Jesus told the disciples to open their eyes and ears to recognize the grace and power manifest in both worlds, so we need to see and honor the gifts of the Spirit present within and outside the Church.  "It is the same God who activates all of them in everyone." (1 Cor. 12:6b)

Lowell

Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
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Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html --  Click for Divine Hours

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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