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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, January 19, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  1 Corinthians 12:1–11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. (NRSV)

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” This beautiful litany is often spoken in our Presbyterian tradition’s services of ordination, installation, and commissioning. They serve as a reminder that each of us has, in some special way, been set apart for various ministries because of gifts for leadership that have been given and cultivated within us by God.

But littered throughout this oft-used passage is a reference to the Spirit of God. You see it everywhere. It is the Spirit which offers gifts such as wisdom, knowledge, healing, or faith. It is the Spirit which gives but also activates these capacities. It is the Spirit which allots or parses out these qualities of leadership. Why did Paul care so much that we recognized the same or common spirit behind the spiritual gifts?

There is a clue in those first verses. It seems that in the Corinthian community to which Paul writes, there was a kind of obsession with spiritually given powers. In this practice, the community risked making the discovery of personal gifts a proxy for closeness to Christ. Being so caught up in the gifts or fruits of the Spirit, the Corinthians were forgetting the Giver. And so Paul comes along to remind them at every turn, in every phrase, the source of all those beneficial gifts.

These days the language of leadership is pervasive, and we can quickly become overwhelmed by the incessant call to cultivate our skills and talents, to brand and market ourselves in ways that highlight our uniqueness, or to simply be a better version of ourselves than we were yesterday. And when we downplay our own strength and capacity, we speak of our own superpowers. Paul reminds us that while all these ways of talking about our own gifts are sometimes necessary, our gifts are not ends in themselves. Ultimately, our gifts, talents, or skills, are nothing if detached from the purpose and tenor of the Spirit which brought them into being; a Spirit of Justice, Compassion, and Peace.

Spirit of the Living God, you are the giver of every good gift. May all of our service point not to ourselves, but to your steadfast love. May any power we steward be directed by the power of your gracious Spirit. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Community Engagement

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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