Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Feb. 3, 2019 – Super Bowl Sunday!
I Corinthians 12:4-31
I Corinthians 12 reads like a pep talk at a staff meeting, combined with a Personnel Manual. It’s very organizational. As you listen to it, think how far the early Christians have come. They started as a Band of Brothers following Jesus for 3 years wherever he went. Many other followers joined the band – Folks like Mary & Martha, Mary Magdalene, Luke & Paul, Phoebe & Junia, came along, as well. I Corinthians was written about 20 years after the events of Holy Week and after Jesus ascended to heaven. It shows how far the faith had spread in just 2 decades – Corinth is in Greece, not that far from Athens. It also shows how well and how quickly they got organized.
Let’s take a look: I Cor. 12:1, 4-31
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.
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.
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 in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
This message is entitled, “Do Your Job!”
I could have entitled it, “We’re still here” or “No days off” or “Here we go, Patriots, here we go!”
“Do Your Job!” as most of you know is the mantra of the New England Patriots. That’s also what Paul was saying to the Corinthians – “Do your job!!!”
Just like a football team functions best when everyone knows their role and does their job, so too, the church thrives when everyone knows their role and does their job. Paul’s analogy was not a football team, of course. It was the human body.
The body is made up of various parts. All the parts are important. And all the body parts must be working properly and doing their job if the body is to be healthy and thrive.
Paul then goes on to state that not everyone has the same exact job. Not everyone plays the same role. Just as the body has many, various parts, so too the church has many different roles and jobs for us to do.
Let me say as a side-note, however, that there are certain jobs that all of us are called to do. There are jobs that we all share. It’s just like football players. No matter what position they play, they all need to stay in shape, eat well, show up for team meetings, watch film & study playbooks.
So, too, we all have common jobs to do:
- To stay in shape spiritually, maintaining our relationship with God, through prayer, praise & study.
- To show up for the team meetings.
- To love God, to love our neighbor
- To care for the poor and the earth
These are jobs assigned to every team member, to every Christian. Paul alludes to this at the end of chapter 12, “I will show you a still more excellent way.” And what’s his theme for the next chapter? Love! Chapter 13 is the great love chapter! “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but have not love, I’m just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Love is all of our jobs, isn’t it? In this life we have three important virtues – “faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” Everyone team member is called to do that job.
But Paul does make the point that we do have specific jobs, specific roles based on our gifts and abilities. There are varieties of gifts. “To each one a gift of the Spirit is given,” but not everyone gets the same gift – there are those with special gifts of wisdom, others with special gifts of knowledge, others with an extra ability to give assistance, there are apostles and leaders, healers, teachers, preachers and prophets,
He also points out that everyone is important, every gift is important. There are parts of the body that don’t seem important, but they really are. Have you ever sprained a pinky or your thumb or broken a toe? They’re small little body parts, but they cause a lot of discomfort and difficulty when they’re injured and can’t do their part.
In the church everybody matters. Everyone is important. It’s important not to be jealous of other people’s gifts or to value some gifts as more important than others.
It’s also important to learn what our gifts are and to serve God based on our gifts.
I’ll close with a little fable that illustrates what Paul is talking about here. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you have heard this before. It goes like this:
Once upon a time, the animals in the Great Forest decided to organize a school to help their children deal with the problems of the new world. And to make it easier to administer the curriculum of running, climbing, swimming and flying, they decided that all their children would take all the subjects. This produced some interesting issues.
The Duck was excellent in swimming but relatively poor in running, so he devoted himself to improving his running through extra practice. Eventually, his webbed feet got so badly worn that he dropped to only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in this school, so nobody worried about that, except the duck.
The Rabbit became very withdrawn and depressed because the other animals said she looked like a rat when she jumped in the water for swimming class and all her hair got matted down.
In the climbing class, the Eagle beat all the others to the top of the tree, but kept insisting on using his own method of getting there. This was unacceptable, so the eagle was severely disciplined.
And then the Fish came home from school and said, “Mom, Dad, I hate school. Swimming is great. Flying is fun if they let me start in the water. But running and climbing? I don’t have any legs; and I can’t breathe out of the water.” The fish’s parents made an appointment for her with the principal who took one look at her progress reports and decreed, “You are so far ahead of the rest of the class in swimming that we’re going to let you skip swimming classes and give you private tutoring in running and climbing.”
The fish was last seen heading for Canada to request political asylum.
The moral of this story is: Let the fish swim. Let the rabbits run. Let the eagles fly, unless you want a school of all average ducks.
Go with people’s strengths. Let each one serve according to the gifts given them.
Because but when each person Does Their unique Job, the whole Body of Christ is healthy, vibrant and strong.
So think about the abilities you have, the things you most enjoying doing and feel most alive doing. It might be music, or prayer, or visiting, or cooking someone a meal, or picking up a hammer or a paintbrush. It might be teaching, organizing, leading, encouraging, welcoming.
Do most what you do best.
Do YOUR job.
Let’s all do our jobs!
Think about it. Let’s pray about it.
Thank you for gifting your people for ministry, and thank you for doing so in many and various ways. Help us to discover our gifts, to help each other discover our gifts, and then to use them united together for your glory. In Christ’s Name. Amen.