Gifts of the Spirit

There is something heart-expanding about the Pentecost story.  The followers of Jesus, formed by three years of teachings and healings, by the experience of his crucifixion, and finally by his presence among them after his resurrection, have been incubating since he ascended.  Not for very long, mind you; we all know how short a ten-day retreat can seem.  But now the doors of their sanctuary have blown open, the Holy Spirit has quickened their tongues and hearts, and they are called into the street to do their own teaching and healing.

Out they go, willy-nilly, with no preparation and no idea what will come out of their mouths as they speak.  Yet people are convinced by them, drawn to their story, their movement.  They suddenly have a large bunch of people who are saying, “I’m in.”   They go from being a close-knit little group of friends, people who knew the Master, to being the hosts and teachers of a huge number of converts.

How do you organize something like that?  It’s a miracle that it happened. Undoubtedly people stepped up to do what they were good at:  buying supplies, preparing food, teaching, coordinating care for sick and wounded folks, creating some sort of organizational structure, singing, inspiring, cleaning up.

You can start from anywhere, and with nothing at all.  You can build completely from scratch, starting only with faith.  You can be transformed.  All you have to do is step out the door and into the street.

I’ve been on vacation for the past couple of weeks, visiting Rosean’s large family in Massachusetts, some beaches in southern Maine, and our daughter in Florida.  I’m back now, and looking at the year ahead from the refreshed perspective that time away brings.

Seeing how the world is right now – unhoused folk everywhere, extreme divisiveness and hostility, a pervasive, fear-based, scarcity mentality – I am even more convinced than ever that we Christians need to be out there in the hungry, suffering world, not only feeding people and caring for their physical needs but sharing what we know about Christ.  We have a huge gift in our understanding that God is astonishing Love.

Today’s reading from First Corinthians reminds us that the Spirit manifests in each of us in different ways for the common good.  We have different gifts, but it is the same Spirit who allots them.  Each of us has that place within ourselves where God’s love lives, and for each there is a way of letting it shine through us, like a beacon, in the darkness of the world.

What is your gift? Are you a good speaker?  A baker of cookies? An organizer? A musician? A coach? A cleaner-up of dirty floors?  Where does your passion call you to show forth God’s love through doing what you’re good at?  When you step out your front door, literally or metaphorically, how will you speak and what will you say?

I’m not sure yet how to answer those questions for the year ahead.  But I know the Spirit will inspire me, and I know that whatever little bit I do, it will be transformational – of the world and of myself.  Come, Holy Spirit, come.

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