gifts of the Spirit

Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1542-45, Vatican City, Apostolic Palace, Cappella Paolina – detail.

Today’s Bible reading

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.  ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.”

Festus interrupted him, “ “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” — Acts 26:15-16, 24-29

More thoughts for meditation

Every Jesus follower bears their portion of the Spirit of the Risen Lord. We all have the same role to play: Jesus alive in us. We have gifts.

But all Jesus followers are not the same. The Bible-writers, especially Paul, celebrate this reality. Everyone is not the same in the body of Christ: the same maturity, personality, background and spirituality. We do not have equal rights, we have equal honor. This truth is central to Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts. We all have the same roles to play, but we play them in an amazing number of blessed variations.

Paul’s main point about spiritual gifts is “There is one Spirit but the body it inhabits is big, and getting bigger all the time.” We are all blessed with the freedom and beauty of our own individual relationships with Jesus and we are called to find joy in how God uses each of us in his redemption project, according to our stations in life: slave or master, male or female, low-status background or born into the domination system—it all becomes good in Jesus.

Each of us has a place in the whole big body and in the local community where God supplies what is needed for our Spirit-formed family to flourish and to do its work—the place where we grow people in faith, sustain them in disaster, and launch them to transform things. It is a beautiful thing. It is a beautiful thing Jesus is holding together by His Spirit.

But none of us have every spiritual gift at any given time. Most of us have more of some things and less of others. We are supposed to work together, not contain it all. When someone brings up a song like you were given yesterday, it could make someone feel bad because it makes them feel like they should have something they don’t. Chances are, you did not hear the song how someone else is hearing, so don’t worry. For instance, you may want to go in some way the song calls you to imagine, but it is time for you to stay—it takes spiritual, communal discernment just to sing a song! We have to work these things out individually and together. The Spirit of God is present to help us.

In yesterday’s Bible reading, Eli told Samuel to go back to his room and say, the next time he heard the voice, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Or “Here I am Lord. Is it me, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.”

In today’s reading, the Apostle Paul, who later teaches us about spiritual gifts, has an even more dramatic, but similar experience when God meets him on the way to Damascus. Read Acts 26 and see how he told his story about Jesus coming to him to Festus, the procurator of Judea at the time, and King Agrippa. He said, “I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’”

Suggestions for action

Paul assumed that his experience was available to King Agrippa, if he would just listen. He was kind of dragging him into his own wonderful experience of God. I don’t know if Festus and Agrippa eventually figured it out, or not. I hope so. What do you think?

Have you figured it out? Are you listening (really listening)? Are you willing to play the role of the risen Jesus alive in you? What gifts of the Spirit have you been given? Write down what Jesus is saying to you, what God is calling you to do. Tell someone about it and let them help you work it out.

Here is a link, again, that leads you to our Way of Jesus site and teaching about spiritual gifts.