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The Rector’s sermon for August 27, 2017                                                                                                                                            

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Week 12 of 16 –Speaking in Public, Voluntary Poverty, Administration, Craftsman  (slides #78—84)         

 

Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

 

(SLIDE #78)    Today we’re going to look at the last four Gifts of the Spirit.  Instead of dragging the series out in the preaching, I want to give you more time to really look at the list of gifts, pray about them, and discern what gifts God has given you.  During the week, I’d like you to examine all thirty-one gifts, check off your gifts on the summary sheet, and return the sheet anonymously in the offering plate next week.  This exercise is not to glorify us, but to give glory to God, and to share with this congregation just how the Holy Spirit is at work among us, even if we are not always aware of it.  If you don’t have a summary sheet, those are also available in the Narthex, along with any sermons you may have missed.

 

The last four gifts are gifts that we might not think of as gifts of the Spirit, but nevertheless, they are listed as such.  The first one is Speaking in Public (SLIDE #79). 

 

                        SPEAKING IN PUBLIC

“If anyone speaks, he should do it

as one speaking the very words of God.” 

1 Peter 4:11

 

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea

are being tamed and have been tamed by man,

but no man can tame the tongue. 

It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” 

James 3:7-8

 

I had originally listed it in all the former sermons as Public Speaking simply to shorten it, but I was wrong in doing that.  The difference is obvious when you look deeper into the definition.  In all the reference materials I have, I found this gift listed in only one.  In the back of my Concordance, is a list of gifts and in that list is:  Speaking in Public, found in 1 Peter 4.  Peter writes about living for God.  He says that we should not spend our lives chasing our own desires, but to be anxious to do the will of God.  He’s preaching to a people that seems to live lives of immorality, lust, wild parties and worship of idols.  He tells them that if they choose to live for God their former friends will slander them; however, living for God means showing love even for their former friends.  He says “love covers a multitude of sins.”  Then he says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.  Use them well to serve one another.”  And the first one he mentions is Speaking in Public.  He says, “Do you have the gift of speaking?  Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you.”

 

This gift is not such that everyone who finds him or herself in a public speaking position, like a politician, has a gift from God (although that would be nice!)  It’s about those times when you find yourself with other Christians—or anyone, for that matter—and an opportunity presents itself for you to speak, to add something inspiring to a conversation.  Did your mother ever tell you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”  Well, God and your mother are working together here!  And I find it interesting that the idea of godly speaking in public should come first from the one apostle who was quick with his mouth, the one apostle who had a sharp tongue, the one apostle who occasionally rebuked Jesus for one thing or another!  Peter got it wrong a lot, but in his first letter he seems to now understand.  Also, in James’ letter, he spends a great deal of time talking about the power of the tongue.  The Letter of James should be a must reading for everyone who has breath!

 

In today’s letter to the Romans, Paul also tells his readers to be a living sacrifice to God, to not think so highly of themselves that they cannot be transformed by God.  One could certainly see Paul as having the gift of Speaking in Public.  He had to!

 

Today’s second gift is Voluntary Poverty.  (SLIDE #80).

 

POVERTY (voluntary)

This gift is a voluntary, simplistic way of life.

This unique gift allows one to voluntarily divest oneself

of most material comforts so as to simplify one’s lifestyle

for more effective ministry.

This is that ability that God gives to allow a person to divest him or herself of many material comforts.  Why?  Not because material comforts are wrong, but to simplify one’s lifestyle for more effective ministry.   Now, the first person that should come to your mind who possessed this gift is Francis of Assisi.   You might remember that he came from a very wealthy family but he felt that his wealth stood between him and his relationship with God.  So he divested himself of everything he owned, even the clothes off his back, in order that he might serve his God to the fullest.

 

Remember the story of a young man coming to Jesus with the question:  what must I do to gain eternal life?  This story is in three of the Gospels and there is agreement in all three that he is rich.  And from the result of the discussion between the man and Jesus, we see that this man “compartmentalized” his life:  this belongs to God, my wealth belongs to me.

 

Jesus answers his question with “you must keep the commandments.”  The man says “I do!  I’ve kept the commandments since I was a boy.”   Then Jesus gives him a second answer:  “Then sell your possessions, give the money to the poor; and come, follow me.”   The man is shocked and his possessions mean too much to him to sell, and he walks away “grieving.”   We cannot compartmentalize our relationship with God.  We cannot choose what we surrender to God and what we keep for ourselves.  There is an old, standard joke among clergy that, while all parishioners have been baptized, some seem to have held their wallets above the water! 

 

Certainly all the apostles were gifted with poverty simply because they left everything they had and followed Jesus.  But Jesus isn’t saying that wealth or possessions are bad.  He’s saying that HE is more important than anything material you have or could ever have.  If your wealth or those things you possess keep you from a more effective ministry, perhaps a simpler way of life is in the cards for you.  Perhaps God wants to give you the gift of voluntary poverty.

 

Our third gift for today is the gift of Administration (SLIDE #81).   

 

ADMINISTRATION

Kubernesis

Greek for “visionary and managing leadership”

(The work of a pilot or helmsman of a ship)

The ability to organize people and resources in order to

achieve maximum efficiency in the work for the Kingdom

 

You might think that this gift deals with office workers.  It doesn’t.   The Greek translation of this word is “visionary, managing leadership,” the ability to organize people and resources in order to achieve maximum efficiency in the work for the Kingdom of God.   This gift is likened to a pilot or the helmsman of a ship.  That gives a whole new meaning to Administration, doesn’t it.   One with this gift knows the way, the winds, the shoals, and can be trusted to take others safely to their destination.  This person has a “take-charge” quality—not like a dictator, but with a sense of strength to mobilize others in the service of God.  In Luke’s Gospel (14:28-30), Jesus teaches about the cost of being a disciple and he says, “Who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?  Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you…”  Fifteen years ago, our little two-room Thrift Store was falling apart.  The gift of Administration was present in your leadership when the concept of a new store was presented.  It wasn’t about us; it was about those people that the store helps.  There was little discussion and the project began.  We didn’t think of the gift of Administration at the time, but today it’s obvious. The store was built, under budget, with pluses we didn’t expect, and in that first year, we were able to give away half of our income…$5,500 to those agencies we support.  Today that donation figure has increased to over $10,000.  And it all began with the use of the gift of Administration.   St. Francis himself would be proud of his namesake congregation.

 

The last gift in our series is the gift of being a  Craftsman (SLIDE #82)

 

CRAFTSMAN

This unique ability is given to some to work skillfully and creatively

to design, build, or create things that are useful and inspirational

in the work of the kingdom.

 

Certainly a simple gift, but a very important gift, nonetheless.   I think we take creativity for granted.   When we see something that is pleasing to the eye, we smile and perhaps make a comment, but do we ever think about the process that went on to create that which was pleasing to us?   In the book of Exodus, God Himself directs the building of the Holy Tent and the altar using certain craftsmen.  In Chapter 30, the process begins with God presenting the blueprint:  “Make an altar out of acacia wood for burning incense.  Make it square—eighteen inches long and eighteen inches wide—and make it thirty-six inches high.  The corners that stick out like horns must be one piece with the altar.  Cover its top, its sides, and its corners with pure gold, and put a gold strip all around the altar.  Make two gold rings beneath the gold strip on opposite sides of the altar, and slide poles through them to carry the altar.  Make the poles from acacia wood and cover them with gold.”   Now after the altar and the tent are built, God tells Moses that he has chosen two specific men and that he has given them the gift of craftsmen.  God says:  “I have filled [them] with the Spirit of God and given [them] the skill, ability, and knowledge to… design pieces … made of gold, silver and bronze, to cut jewels and put them in metal, to carve wood, … to make a pure gold lampstand… to make woven clothes for Aaron and his sons to wear when they serve as priests.”  God Himself designed every last detail, but his design could only be implemented through those with the gift of craftsman.  Closer to home, a great deal of work goes into presenting the best possible Sunday morning visual statement, a visual that is not only pleasing to God, but pleasing to God’s people, helping them to find a peaceful and comforting setting in which to worship God.   And the range of creativity is endless.   Many years ago someone responded to the gift of craftsman and created the design for this beautiful sanctuary.   Our “behind the scenes” altar ladies create what you see here every Sunday, our beautiful altar hangings, the majority of which were made by Rose Sapp.  I used to tease her about her sewing machine that did everything but buy the material.   When Rose left us two years ago to pursue the diaconate and live in Orlando, I selfishly thought, ‘Oh, dear, what will we do if we ever need more creations for the church?’  Well, God took care of that when David and Barbara McCarthy joined our congregation.  Besides Barbara’s enthusiasm for Cursillo, she has one of those sewing machines, and obviously the gift of Craftsman!  Never underestimate a gift that seems so simple yet is so important. 

 

And one last thing about the gift of Craftsman.   About ten years ago the Keiflings and I went to a choir conference featuring Joseph Martin, one of our favorite composers.  He talked a great deal about the art of Sunday worship and what goes into making it happen.  And he made a point about the gift of craftsman while telling a story about the painting of the Mona Lisa.   When everyone sees the painting of the Mona Lisa, what do they look at?   The painting, of course, but what about the frame?   Had the frame been overpowering, the painting might have gotten lost.  Had the frame been substandard, surely it would have cheapened the painting.  But the person who crafted the frame for the painting of the Mona Lisa, created something that would “cradle a masterpiece,” and his skill was so good that “the craftsman’s gift disappears amidst the glory of the painting.”   That is a wonderful testimony to the gift of craftsman.

 

So, here are the final four.  (SLIDE #83)

 

Speaking in public – clear ‘talk’ to build up the Body

Voluntary Poverty – living a simple way of life for more effective ministry

Administration       – the organization of persons for the work of the kingdom

Craftsman              – one who creates, builds, or designs skillfully for the kingdom

 

Speaking in public:  using your words to build up the Body of Christ; Voluntary Poverty:  living simply with ministry at the forefront; Administration: the organization of persons for the work of the kingdom; and, Craftsman:  one who creates, builds or designs material things for the building up of the kingdom.

 

That brings us to the end of the preaching series on the Gifts of the Spirit (SLIDE #84).   And here they are:

 

GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT

 

           Administration                       Healing                     Missionary

             Apostleship                              Helps                                    Pastor

               Celibacy                           Hospitality              Poverty (voluntary)

              Craftsman                           Intercessor                       Prophecy

             Deliverance                   Interpreting tongues          Speaking in Public

            Discernment                              Interpreting dreams                 Service

             Encourager                           Knowledge           Speaking in tongues

            Evangelist                             Leadership                  Teaching

                 Faith                              Martyrdom                   Wisdom

            Generosity                            Mercy                          Worship

                                                         Miracles        

 

As I said earlier, now the results are up to you.   By now you have discovered at least one gift, and I want us to share with each other how the Holy Spirit is working in this place.  There is no question that the Holy Spirit is indeed present in this place, and the way to honor that is to learn what gifts we have been given.  A gift can only reach its potential when it is shared.  Fill out the summary sheet, bring it to the office or drop it in the offering plate next Sunday.  On Sunday, September 10th—two weeks from now—I will share the results with you.  So let’s share what we’ve been given, and in turn we will build up the Body of Christ.



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