Sunday, May 27, 2012

As the Church in the USA continues to bite, scratch and generally maul one another, it is a blessing when Pentecost comes to remind us not only of our oneness, but the variety of gifts we all bring. Let me repeat that: we all bring gifts. Our task is not to cut each other down, but to build each other up, to locate and name the gifts each person in the Church has, to use these gifts for the good of the Church, Christ's body, and all in the world.

Two passages from Paul, who in the earliest Church dealt with issues of division and bickering and infighting, speak to us always. From 1 Corinthians 12:4-13:

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

This is the constant and necessary reminder that all of us belong baptized to one body, the Church, the body of Christ. And what are the fruits of those living in the Spirit? Galatians 5:16-25 tells us who we are intended to be and how we know we are behaving as we ought to each other.

16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
How about a Pentecost cheer - no, I mean an out loud, cheer - for  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Whenever we think we are correct beyond measure, worthy of our righteous anger, hurtful words and deeds, intellectually in the right, spiritually superior and clearly better than those half-assed Christians who pick and choose the beliefs and behaviors they want, let us go back to Galatians and ask: to what extent am I  acting with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to all of those around me, not only those with whom I agree, but especially with those with whom I disagree or to whom I am an enemy? I find it an easy practice, but, for some reason, hard to do. I need to keep working on this.

John W. Martens

Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens


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