Romans 12:1-8 & 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
In the last sermon in this series back on May 14, we focused our attention on understanding that the gifts of the Spirit are given but must also be received. In essence, our discussion was that it is not enough simply to believe in the Holy Spirit but rather that we believe the Holy Spirit, who makes the promise of the gifts of the Spirit to his believers.
We see this in readings such as Joel 2:28-32 [not Joel 3, as was printed in the outline] and 1 Corinthians 12:28.
Today we look at how the gifts are not possessions to simply hold, but that gifts are special abilities we can use with and for others to thus extend God’s kingdom.
To express these Biblical truths, we will use the image of something that may be familiar to us all – a football game and a football team.
In using this image I acknowledge the writings of Rev. Rob Hillman, UCA Minister of the Word and author of the book, “27 Spiritual Gifts.”
When I was just a child, my father would take my brothers and me to Redfern Oval on a Sunday afternoon – to watch ‘our’ football team – ‘South Sydney’ – the Rabbitohs – play.
As spectators, our excitement was about indirect involvement in the match, not direct participation.
Yes, we could cheer or ‘boo’ or give advice from the sidelines or simply make noise, but we could not directly impact the game, or serve the team-mates.
If we fail to use our Spirit-given gifts for service to and with the body of Christ – we too are merely like shadow-boxing spectators.
Instead, of being cheering spectators we must be in the team and on the field.
Whether it be a game of football or the utilization of the Spiritual gifts, the following six points are true:
- Firstly, everyone is important, no matter what the gift. As we said in our children’s address today, which was based on 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 – everyone has a role and everyone is important to the whole. In football, if you have no fullback, no-one can receive the ball from the kick-off and the side goes into chaos.
Show Robyn Williams Video
- Secondly, just as in 1 Corinthians 12, we know that not everyone can be a nose, a hand or an eye in the team called ‘the Body of Christ’, not everyone in a football team can be the fullback. We need a variety of people who can discern their place on the team and what position they should play and then play it. All are called to play, even the leader [who might be called the captain-coach]. If you are playing in the wrong position, not only will the team suffer, but you will get tired more easily and in the long term, you will find your tasks more like drudgery. Discern your place. Don’t focus on what you can’t do and experiment more on what you might do and can do and then DO IT.
Maybe we can draw our lesson from this Betty White TV ad.
Show Betty White Video
- Thirdly, you cannot play every position, nor should you over-extend yourself. Both readings today emphasise that we have a part – but not every part. By over-extending yourself in the utilization of gifts, you will waste your energy, running around the field and thus hamper others on the team, who need to stand up.
- The fourth guideline in football, and in the use of Spiritual gifts, is that we give of ourselves fully to the task before us, in both body and in mind. In Romans 12:1, we are extolled to give our bodies as living sacrifices – a big call and, as it says in verse 8:
- If we are called to lead, we do it diligently;
- if we are called to contribute, we should do it generously;
- and if we are called to show mercy, we should do it cheerfully.
There are no half measures.
- in using our mind, we recharge and renew it and transform it [in verse 2], not simply use it.
- We do not conform our thinking to the way of the world – but we learn to think outside the square – to achieve great things for God.
Many of you may have seen a 1993 film called ‘Cool Runnings’ – about the Jamaican Bob Sledding Team training for the Winter Olympics. They, like any good team, thought outside the square, not letting a lack of snow in Jamaica to hamper their training, but using instead go-karts, shopping trolleys and steep roads and sand hills to transform their quest.
God will do the same through you if you give yourself whole-heartedly.
- Fifthly a football team and a body of Spirit-filled Christians is never effective if everyone is running around just doing their own thing. The saying goes that a champion team will always overcome a team of champions. This is a main theme of our two readings. All are worthy, none should be considered as superior over others. Without this ‘whole body’ ethos there will be, in any team, a lack of co-operation, disorder, separation, chaos, individualism and even schism. In a football game when this happens, we see trouble begin, fights break out, players end up sin-binned, blood-binned, suspended or even banned. In the body of Christ, the fruits of the Spirit wither and disappear. [Next week we will focus more on these fruits of the Spirit. ]
Therefore, to be an effective team player we have to be working for the common good, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:7 and Romans 12:5, and working together as we read in passages such as James 5:23-26.
If time permits:
So the danger – even in the use of gifts – is that we may up edifying or building up only ourselves rather than edifying, constructing or building up the church/the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 14:1-25 is useful in exploring this point as Paul instructs the chaotic and misled Corinthians.
- Finally, we need to remember that while spectators need to exercise their gifts more, or they will have them taken away, players need to rest more if they are to remain effective team players for the Church and for Jesus himself. An injured or exhausted player may end up sidelined and out of the game.
Before we finish up today, I would like to remind everyone that while we believe we have successful formulae for movement of the Spirit, God often has different ideas and will not be boxed in.
For instance, for a while, I though the gift of healing was about a return to health via the laying on of hands and prayers over a sick or injured person. I have since discovered that healing is about coming beside someone in their loneliness and need, and building relationship through sharing, even when physical healing is not forthcoming.
Are there any questions or would anyone like to briefly talk about a time when you found yourself working beyond your own natural abilities and skills to affect change in someone for Jesus’ sake.
Maybe you’d like to discuss this further over morning tea today. Or perhaps you’d like to share the Spirit’s prompting in your life during next week’s service. Please let me know.
Blessings to you all