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Oct 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 17, 2021


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Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed 1 Corinthians 12:1

Intro: In the 1960’s, the Roman Catholic Church began a project of renovation

According to a friend of mine who is a priest,
“Vatican II, opened windows to allow fresh air to enter the church”
– in hindsight, we could say they missed a few dark corners
(but perhaps the changes made then set in motion the way that the Roman Catholic Church handles those things today)
• by the 1970’s, the Evangelical movement was placed under the microscope
◦ in 1970 Larry Richards published A New Face for the Church
◦ in 1975 Howard Snyder, published The Problem of Wine Skins
(religious systems that have become so rigid they are unable to accommodate the Holy Spirit)
• they argued that the biblical design was more relational and less institutional
– the church has always had its critics
• but also, it has always had its problems
◦ and it will always have problems, because the church is human
Fr. Romuald, “When people talk about Christian churches and how scandalous they’ve been throughout history (and in the present age too), that doesn’t bother me, because it’s the same thing again on a corporate level as the broken individual.”
• Church lives on, because there’s more to it than our failures

What keeps the church going is mystery

Paul begins this section with his concern that the Corinthians would be uninformed regarding spiritual gifts
– the Greek text does not mention “gifts”
• that is supplied because “gifts” appear in verses 4-11 as an example
◦ I don’t think Paul was thinking of gifts exclusively
• Greek says simply “spiritual”
David Prior, “Paul probably is referring to what today is, in a broad sense called ‘spirituality’”, i.e., all the many diverse ways in which we experience spiritual reality.”
– Paul is going to explain to the Corinthians what being a church means (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2)
• at the heart of it, there are spiritual realities
• these are the divine mysteries that make a group of people a church

The mystery of God
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

You’ve heard the saying, “Variety is the spice of life”
– if that is so, the church is well-seasoned
• Paul is saying, if we look at the Church, we see lots of diversity
◦ however, behind the diversity there is one source
◦ and that source ties every other thing together
– there is a rhythm to these verses, and the key words are varieties and the same
• but notice, what he says is “the same” in each time, is not the same
◦ instead, they are the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God
• this is where the mystery begins — with God’s nature
◦ the church reflects the nature of God
Fr. Romuald, “The fundamental revelation of the trinity is relationship.”
◦ and that is also a fundamental characteristic of the church

There’s a concept floating around that’s become popular among Christians
– that the nature of reality does not consist of bipolar opposites
• or at least when it comes to spirituality, all is one
◦ this concept is often referred to as “nondual”
• this has long been a tenet of Eastern philosophies
◦ it is a classic myth of overcoming contradictions
◦ it is itself a contradiction – “non” tells us what it is not
◦ i.e., dualism is not its opposite, and right there you have dualism (i.e., dualism and nondualism)
– dualism could be considered a part of the worldview of science and religious dogma
• everything can be divided into categories: up/down, in/out, back/front, etc.
• that you take things apart, name the pieces, and discover how all the parts make a thing work

The Christian view of God is neither dual or nondual
– it is diversity within unity
• we affirm the oneness of God
◦ but that oneness encompasses a universe of varieties
• the oneness is not sameness
◦ it is a union of many moving parts

The mystery of our lives in God
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:7 & 13

We can see why Paul would begin, I do not want you to be uninformed
– because what he describes is not obvious to us
• we are not always aware of God moving in and through us
◦ in exercising our “gifts,” our “service,” our “activities”
– explaining how the Spirit brought us to this condition, Paul uses a fluid metaphor
• we are immersed in the Spirit and drink-in the Spirit (he also refers to being filled with the Spirit in Ep. 5:18)
◦ life in the Spirit flows
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience described a person being “in the flow” when engaged in an activity that runs in a channel between anxiety and boredom. The challenge of the activity is neither too high to cause anxiety or too low to be boring. The same applies to the skills required to perform the challenging activity. He says, that when the flow occurs, “people become so involved in what they are doing that the activity becomes spontaneous, almost automatic; they stop being aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing.”
• I think when we are in the flow of the Spirit, it is something like that
◦ we can relax into it
◦ but most of the time, I don’t think we realize when the Spirit is at work in us

A few years, a dear friend of ours told Barbara, “You have a very important ministry.” Later Barb, who is a physical therapist, said to me, “I’ve never thought of what I do as a ‘ministry.’ I’ve just seen it as my job.” I replied, “Your job is assisting in the healing and rehabilitating of people in need, and you do it well because you are able to connect with them and demonstrate that you really care. That can definitely be considered ministry.”

Paul lists a few gifts here – he provides another list in Romans 12, and Peter also mentions a few gifts (1 Pet. 4:9-11)
– most of them operate in our interactions with each other
• in both formal meetings and informal conversations
• some operate in our everyday lives (hospitality or charity, for instance)
– I think these gifts include all our talents
• all our aptitudes, our natural abilities and attributes,
◦ and also all of our developed skills

One other thought: I believe we have underestimated the value of our brokenness as a spiritual gift to others
– those who have experienced brokenness are some of the most empathic people

Vv. 12-14 and 26-27, The mystery of our spiritual community
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. . . . For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, & 26-27

The analogy Paul uses here is the human body
– think of how that differs from the analogy of a flock of sheep
In Mental Hospital, researchers reported, “Built solidly into the procedures, techniques and even the language of the mental hospital is the assumption that patients are mere passive objects of treatment: they are to be ‘cared for,’ ‘protected,’ ‘treated,’ ‘respected,’ ‘handled,’ ‘controlled.’ Psychiatric administrative language consistently speaks of the patient as if he were not actively a participant, as if he were an unconscious or half-conscious body upon an operating table.”
• it struck me how much this sounds like pastors and churches
• sheep have to be led, tended, and fed
◦ members are not considered participants in the process
◦ they’re expected to believe what they’re told, and follow rules
– the analogy of the body tells us that all of our interactions have a spiritual potential
• that the Spirit of Jesus is using us with each other
◦ and that underlying all differences of our human personalities, there exists an essential union
• no one can break this bond
◦ it is an invisible connection to each other, and an invisible connection with Jesus that we share

There is a psychological disorder known as Messiah complex

A person believes he or she is destined to be a savior
– that their role is to save others now or in the near future
• in its most severe form it is a delusional state
• but I would say most pastors have at least a mild form of that
◦ they feel they must be everything to every person
◦ they must be everywhere, have all the answers, know all the solutions
◦ that the church could not survive without their constant busyness
– when Jewish priests were sent to interrogate John the Baptist,
• the first question they asked was, “Who are you?”
◦ and his first reply, “I am not the Christ”
◦ every pastor should have that motto posted on his refrigerator and office door
• you don’t have to be Jesus – you only have to be you
◦ you have Jesus – you have a community – you have us
◦ we are all part of the group and we belong here with each other
• and somehow Jesus embodies himself in all of us together

I am not concerned that some people have said,
– they have a more genuine experience of church in our Lexio Divina meetings than here on Sunday mornings
• I’m not offended, because I feel the same way
• every week I receive new perspective and new insights from the others in the group
– this is how Paul imagined the church functioning

Conclusion: “I do not want you to be uninformed”

Paul has given us useful tools for knowing who we are as a community
– he has given us several analogies
– but knowing is not the same thing as perceiving
• can we use this tool to awaken ourselves to a new consciousness
• a new way of perceiving our connection with each other
That even though we’re very different from each other,
we’re nevertheless “one,”
and no one can never say to anyone else, I have no need of you
Because the heart of Jesus beating in you, beats also in me

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