Thoughts Between Sundays

Some of what crosses my mind between Sundays


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Gratefully Received

My summer mission trip ended early when I took a bad mis-step on an unsecured porch edge and fell 4 1/2 feet to the ground, breaking both bones in my right ankle.  The last 2 weeks (tomorrow starts the third) have included an ER visit, surgery, a cast, crutches, and now the addition of a knee walker (which I think will be a lot of fun when I figure out how to use it!).  In an instant, my plans for the rest of the summer changed.

To say I was scared and worried in the Tuscaloosa ER would be an understatement.  What I did not know was how worried the rest of the mission team was when they saw me fall off a porch and then get loaded in a car and taken to the ER.  What felt like seconds to me was probably 15 minutes for the rest of them.  Several thought I had hit my head (which I did not!), and some did not get over to where I was before they had me in the car and on my way to the hospital.  When I got back to the church, Pat said to me “be positive”, and then we went in.  When I saw the mission team folks, their relief was palpable.  Their care was evident.  I was flooded with relief and gratitude. While I was being x-rayed and splinted and driven across town, they had made made get well cards (some of which still make me cry!) and packed up my things so I could head home.  The individuals who gathered to say goodbye to Maryellen and me were not just a church mission trip team – they were family.  I knew in that moment that the leadership team was going to be OK for the rest of the week – we had planned together, and they would finish out the week strong.  And they did.

Since the moment my foot hit the ground, I have been surrounded by so much love from our entire congregation (and from Maryellen, the pastor at Rockmart Pres.).  One of the things we talk about when we describe ourselves is our sense of community and how we are a church family.  This is not a trait that can describe every church, and I’m not sure our congregation always understands what a blessing and a gift that they are to each other.  It is a blessing to not have to worry about someone checking on you when there is an illness or surgery – around here, it simply happens.  We are blessed that we feel safe enough with each other to be vulnerable with one another.  I am re-learning the lesson that asking for help with meals means you have to let them in to see the not-perfect parts of your world.  But, there is a gift in being open to be loved, and then returning that love to one another in return.  This may not be the most articulate description, but I am surprised that I was surprised at our church just being who they are and caring for me in the same ways I have seen them care for one another.  That care is a gift I gratefully receive.

I think about how Christ modeled care for us.  I picture his hands breaking bread and feeding total strangers.  I think about him kneeling down to wash the feet of his disciples.  I picture his grief when he realized that Lazarus had really died.  I see the compassion he showed when he allowed an ill woman to simply touch his cloak.  In the meals brought, in the cards sent, in the words said by our congregation, I see the love and compassion and care of Christ.  The way my mother, a stranger to many, has been welcomed and fed and cared for as this church has cared for me reflects the way Christ taught us to live.    I realize that we as a church can take for granted the care we show one another and not realize that it is not natural in every church.  FPC Cartersville has the gifts of compassion, hospitality, love, and care, and I am grateful for them.  Not just tonight as I ice my ankle after a visit from one of our Deacons, but every night as I get to be part of our witness to Christ in the world.


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Sermon from World Communion Sunday

This is the sermon from October 2, 2011, as preached at FPC in Cartersville.

 

(Image from PC(USA) )

Isaiah 25:1-9

 

Praise for Deliverance from Oppression

 

25O Lord, you are my God;
   I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
2 For you have made the city a heap,
   the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
   it will never be rebuilt.
3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
   cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
4 For you have been a refuge to the poor,
   a refuge to the needy in their distress,
   a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
5   the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
   the song of the ruthless was stilled.

 
6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
   a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
   of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
7 And he will destroy on this mountain
   the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
   the sheet that is spread over all nations;
8 he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
   and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
   for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
   Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
   This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
   let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.


“A Feast of Rich Food”

 

            How did you celebrate the last major milestone event in your life, or the life of a family member or friend?  Chances are, as you remember the event, there was food of some kind.  Good food – food you don’t usually eat, food that is bad for your diet and waistline.  Food that drips and oozes or was crisply fried.  Food and drink that stays in your mind as a part of the day.  When we attend weddings, food is an integral part of the celebration – even the simplest of receptions usually have something to eat, and cake – really good cake!  Birthday parties have cake and meals – often the meal at the birthday party is the choice of the Birthday Girl or Boy.  Couples often celebrate anniversaries by going out to dinner.  When we graduate, there are parties and celebrations with yummy eats.  Milestone birthdays as we age often include a special meal; when we die, that event is also marked with food.  Friends and neighbors bring meals to the house, there is often food after the service – -even simple snacks show the hospitality and care of a church family for the deceased.  From the casseroles dropped off at the door when we are born, to the casseroles eaten by our families after we die, our lives and celebrations are marked by meals of rich food.

 

            So often these meals are eaten in community.  We mark the passages in our lives with our friends and loved ones.  In these meals we make memories.  In these meals we find comfort.  We find familiarity.  Often the best part of some of these meals is the anticipation – -the excitement, the planning, the desire for a time to see folks and dine together.  The anticipation can be just as exciting as the event.  In our reading from Isaiah, we hear about anticipation of such a meal.   The 24th chapter of Isaiah, ending just before today’s passage picks up, does not end well.  The last verses contain predictions of terror and trembling for the whole earth.  The earth will be torn asunder and be violently shaken (24:20), and it will fall and not rise again.  Isaiah and his people were experiencing chaos and turmoil that may feel similar to what we may feel in our lives today – with an “uncertain economy,” wars in other countries, and all the other events that can cause us to feel like we are trembling right along with the people of Judah.  In fact, the 24th-27th chapters of Isaiah are called the “little apocalypse” because of their description of “a sense of crisis in the world giving rise to a belief that the present world is so evil that it must soon come to an end, to be replaced by a new and glorified cosmos where only the righteous will live.”[1]  The people were living in the fear of punishment for having broken God’s covenant.  And in the midst of this fear, is a word of hope.  In our lesson for today, Isaiah boldly proclaims that there is hope, and there will be comfort.  Not only for those who heard Isaiah then, but also for us as we look to see God at work today.

 

The passage begins with an affirmation:  “O Lord, you are my God.  I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”  In the midst of the distress comes the affirmation that the Lord is our God.  Isaiah makes the choice to claim God in the midst of despair, and to proclaim the faithfulness of God; to confess that God is real and worthy of praise – even in the sorrow and confusion the people experience.  There is something to be said for that – for the first reaction in hard times to be “God is here, God is present, and God is my God,” rather than rejecting God.  When we can affirm God in the midst of whatever life throws at us, we can begin to see our way out. 

 

After we proclaim God, we remember God.  How many of our meals and celebrations revolve around story-telling?  How many times have you heard the story told by your aunt about the time that she and your father got lost at the fair, or got in trouble for not weeding the garden?

 

 The story my mom and her siblings tell is about the milk delivery.  My grandparents lived in Portland, Oregon with their three children – -my mom and her 2 brothers.  When I asked her to fill in the details of the story for me for today, we had the best time laughing over it.  It is one I have heard many times before.  So this was back when milk was delivered to the house every day.  The milk order was large and complicated in a house with three growing children, my oldest Uncle was a teenager and drank a lot of milk, the youngest uncle had to drink goats’ milk, because he was allergic to cow’s milk for much of his childhood, and so the daily order was often large and complicated. Every night, they would leave the empty bottles and the order out on the porch.  In the early morning hours, the Alpenrose Dairy would deliver the various quarts of milk my Grandmother had ordered the night before – sometimes she would order chocolate as a special treat.  Well, one night, my oldest uncle changed the order and got up early to bring in the milk without her knowing.  It was not until hours later that my grandmother opened the refrigerator to make breakfast and discovered 5 quarts of chocolate milk – which was not what she had ordered at all!   

 

 

 

We tell stories that make us laugh, and also tell stories where we remember the hard times, and what brought us through them.  Seeing where God is today begins by remembering where God has been in the past.  We remember the times God has been faithful, even when we did not see it, and draw on those experiences to move forward.  In our communion prayer, at our common meal, we remember how God has always been faithful to God’s people, and we trust that God will be faithful still.  In our Great Prayer of Thanksgiving, as it is called, we remember the work of God throughout time and in our world.  We hear, and the Israelites heard then, that God has been acting- -God has provided shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.  They remember this, as we remember it.  They remember the promises God made through the book of Isaiah for lions to lie down with lambs, for God to do a new and different thing, for God to go with us through the waters, and we know that God will continue to keep God’s covenant with us.

 

 No matter how scattered they might become, the people of God will know salvation.  The consolation offered in our reading for today is for all the nations, past present and future, north, south, east and west.  The banquet Isaiah describes is full of rich food that satisfies, and wine that quenches the thirst.  This meal is made from the rich marrow of the bones that gives food a deep flavor and wine that has been strained of it’s impurities. Those at this feast eat the best food provided by God as a tangible reminder of God’s promises to us, as a way to taste and see that the Lord is good.  This is a banquet for everyone, celebrating the eventual end of death, despair and pain when the Lord hosts the eternal feast for the people. 

 

From memories of God’s action in the past, come thanksgiving for what God continues to do for us.  We give thanks to God for the refuge and shelter given to the poor.  We gave thanks to God for the ways God has ensured the poor will be cared for.  We give thanks for the ways in which God cares for our community, as we recognize the call of God to us to continue to care for those in our community.  We see God in the midst of chaos and tragedy and give thanks for that presence. 

 

When 5 of us went to Tuscaloosa this summer, we had no idea what to expect.  The town had been torn apart by the tornadoes of April 27th.  Not the whole city, but swaths and paths of it.  On one corner was a building that had been unscathed, and on the other was an empty lot that used to be a business.  You may remember when the roof of our Hobby Lobby crashed in after severe flooding last year.  The Hobby Lobby we drove by in Tuscaloosa was a shell.  The sign lights were blown out, the front walls are gone.  It looked ghostly almost, certainly abandoned.  And this was a place where clean-up had begun – there were full dumpsters in the parking lot and debris in piles ready to be taken away. I had never seen such devastation first-hand, and it was overwhelming. 

 

In the midst of this tragedy, God was present. A community agency that operated similarly to our Community Resource Office became the hub of distributing food and supplies. Volunteers run this center 6 days a week.  Six weeks after the disaster, volunteers were still coming from near and far to help.  Everyone had a story, and so many of the stories we heard praised God that they had been spared, or that it was not worse for them.  We saw a church that had been completely demolished all that remained was the parking lot.  On their now-empty lot, they had set up an RV/Food truck and were continuing to feed the people in their neighborhood.  God was active in this community, providing refuge, providing help, offering solace, providing a banquet for those who needed to eat.  We knew God was at work in lives of the people of this community, and in those who came from other places to serve stranger they had never even met before.

 

Seeing God at work in other places and offering thanks for what God has done helps each of us see God at work in other places in the world.  On this World Communion Sunday, we remember our brothers and sisters in Christ the world over, who dine with us today.  God is not American, God is the God of all people, all over the world.  Do you remember all the excitement surrounding the new millennium when we changed the calendars from 1999 to 2000?  News channels began showing places around the world as it was midnight in each place.  I believe they started on a small island away from Australia, and then moved to the continent of Australia and followed cities and countries all the way to the International Dateline.  Midnight in Sydney, midnight in Japan, China, Russia, Africa, Europe, South America – all the way around the world people celebrated the milestone with parties and celebrations.  It allowed us to see how the world was doing the same thing together – watching time move forward, and waiting to see if this was the end of the world or a new beginning.  There will not be news cameras in Christian churches today, our worship service will not be on the news tonight, but for me, this is a chance to imagine the body of Christ at one table, seeing God at work together.  While we were finishing supper and putting little ones to bed last night, a congregation in Australia gathered around the table and took the bread and the cup. As we were sleeping, congregations in Vietnam heard the ancient words, “this is my body broken for you”.  Around the time I woke up this morning, the drums and chants of those in central Africa were beginning.  And as we are sitting down to Sunday Lunch, churches on the West Coast will begin to sing their hymns.  As the sun makes its way around the globe, the body of Christ sits at table today – to share in a meal that is but a foretaste of the meal God has planned for us.

 

In reading the words of Isaiah, we find hope.  In this meal, a heavenly banquet spread out in a sacred place, believers come to meet their God.  And Christ comes to meet us at our table.  At the table, we share a feast rich with memory, with history, with the knowledge that one day we will all be at the heavenly table.  We yearn for the future feast when all will sit at the table of the Lord and eat rich, delectable food and drink together.  God promises this to us.

God’s plans for us extend throughout time, around time, and in time.  The feast when God comes will be grander than any feast we can imagine.  It will have the best food, the best wine, and the best company – -all of God’s people through time and space and around the world.  We will all dine together.  Our meal on this World Communion Sunday is just a hint at what is to come – -the taste of the bread and the juice are reminders that God is at work in the world now and always.  Christ is with us as we dine, even in the midst of chaos.  The table is set with our china and linen, let us go to the banquet.


[1] New Interpreters Study Bible.  987-988.  Isaiah 24 study notes.

 


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Guest Blogger: Courtney Farnon

What follows is the thank you note that Courtney Farnon, one of our Deacons, wrote to those who attended the Mini-Mission trip on Saturday.  A group got up early on Saturday and drove 2 hours to Mansfield to the Impound Barn, the place where horses are taken if they are removed from their “homes” due to neglect or abuse.  She has given me permission to post it here.

Hello All!

I just wanted to personally thank EVERYONE who went yesterday – we had an amazing day and got so much accomplished.  I have gotten feedback from the two ladies at the barn as well as others who worked last night and today.  No one can believe how willing everyone was to work and how much work was completed.  This meant the world to me to have you guys get to see what I do for a living and for the church to give a little bit back.  The horses didn’t have a choice in what has happened to them, but once they come into state custody, it is nice for them to have facilities that are well-maintained and make their rehabilitation that much easier.

Now I can think of our fun every time I chase a horse around the pasture that has been newly dragged by Tzelda, Austin, Savannah and her friend (with the newly painted fence thanks to Sean, Mr Steed, Nanette and Marge).  I can appreciate our church every time I nearly get bucked off test-riding horses wearing the bridles that are so newly polished by Katie, Allison and Mary.  I can let out an evil laugh every time I watch the horses NOT be able to bend the fence down to reach the grass that is “always greener on the other side” of the new fence that Tommy and Jake constructed.  The roof of the run-in shed that Clay, Kathryn and Mike so carefully (and crazily if you ask me!) repaired will bring a smile to my face every time I watch a mother and her young foal be able to get out of the rain.  I will think of Denise next time that I drop feed into the freshly cleaned feed buckets.  I will think of the “little engine that could” attitude that Wes and Pat maintained as they continued to try to get the pressure washer started.  Every time I see an overweight (formerly half-starved) horse, I will think of the hay that Ross and Charlotte so lovingly donated (and handled more than they imagined!).  These acts, some of which seem so small, really do mean the world to the horses, and to me!  You guys are one reason why I love FPC so much!

Thank you!

Courtney


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The One Day Band

The This American Life Episode I reference is called “Classifieds.”

You can also hear the only recording of the One Day Band by clicking on the link.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore 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.

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to 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. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

In 2002, the Producers of the radio program This American Life put together an entire episode of their show based solely on content derived from the classified ads that ran on one day in the Chicago area newspapers.  There was a story from the episode that immediately came to mind when I read the text for today – it was the story about the One Day Band.

The One Day Band was comprised solely of musicians who had advertised in the classified ads of the independent weekly paper looking for other people to play music with, or bands looking for musicians.  Their ads may have said “guitarist in need of band performing paying gigs” or “heavy metal band needs drummer who can stay in rhythm.”  The reporter found six musicians and one vocalist willing to come together for one day to record a song.  Here is who she found: First, an indi-rock drummer, followed by a smooth sultry soulful female vocalist looking for a jazz band, an acid-funk percussionist, an electric violinist working on a rock opera about a conspiracy theory, an experienced contemporary Christian musician and worship leader playing the guitar, another guitarist, and last, a man who plays an instrument called the Theremin – -the only instrument in the world you can play without touching.  I looked for some pictures of it, and it looks a little bit like either a wireless router, or some kind of TV antenna.  The player waves his or her hands above it and somehow that motion changes the electromagnetic energy and creates sounds like aliens and spaceships. Think about the 1950’s science fiction flying saucer sound effect to get an idea of the sound.  And, as the reporter asks, ““What song could unite an acid funk congo player, a soultry jazz player, 2 indie rockers, a Christian guitarist, an electric violinist, and an amazing therimin player?  What one composer could shoulder the burden?”  What song did they select for the only recording that will ever be made by the One Day Band?  Elton John’s Rocket Man, of course.

The band meets for the first time and makes friends.  They form some smaller groups based on common interests, and even figure out how to deal with the electric violinist who has anger management issues and has been known to smash an instrument or 2 in frustration and anger.  They jam together and find their way, and eventually rehearse the song for the first time.  It’s rough, but a good start.  As they learn about each other, as they accommodate for each other’s strengths and weaknesses, something happens – -“suddenly they are a band.”  The song falls together, and they are excited and energized.  These musicians had never met, never would have been friends, and yet they made music.  Each with a different part and different note and style came together to play music.  And it was pretty good.

Now, what does the One Day band have to do with the church in Corinth, with Paul, or with Spiritual Gifts?  The experiences of the One Day Band are a way to think about church and how we use the Spiritual gifts we are given by the Holy Spirit, and how we share them. Our text for today comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.  Given that Paul begins the conversation with the words, “now concerning Spiritual Gifts…” it can be inferred that they have asked for Paul’s opinion about them, and so he answers at length.  In fact, spiritual gifts are the most fully addressed topic in the letters to the Corinthian church than any other in New Testament writing.[1] The Corinthian Church, it seems was worried about the gifts they had been given by the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps they wondered if they were deficient – some people it seemed had different, or better gifts than others.  Some, were given the gift of wisdom, some the gift of knowledge, some were given the gift of healing, some had been given the gift of faith, some could speak in tongues, and some could interpret that speech.   For the church in Corinth, it may have seemed that some people got gifts that were of better use, or that served God in better ways than others, and they were wondering about that.

Paul answers their questions honestly – -yes 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 the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good.  Each of us is a member of the whole Body of Christ – -the Body of Christ that through time and across the world is the Church.  And each member receives a unique gift. Because if we all received the same gift, what good would that be?  If the One Day Band were only jazz singers who sang alto, or only violinists, or only theremin players, there would be no depth, no richness or complexity to the music.  The range and scope would be limited.  If each of us had the same gifts – if we all were given the gift of teaching, but none of us were given the gift of organizing, we might be in trouble, and might not be very useful to the body of Christ as a whole.  If the Holy Spirit gave everyone the gift of knitting prayer shawls, but no one was given the gift of leading Bible study, we would be a very prayed for, very warm and extremely Biblically illiterate church.

This passage brings to mind another image – -ripples.  Can you picture ripples on a pond, or a ring of concentric circles?  Picture us in the middle — think about us as people using our spiritual gifts in the middle.  When we use them for the church here, that’s the first ripple – -we use our gifts for good beyond ourselves.  Together, we as a church are given a variety of gifts to serve the Lord, and how we use them then expands to the to the community and the area.  The motto, for lack of a better word, for our Presbytery, is “One church, 41 locations”.  Each congregation in our Presbytery has been given gifts that we use for the common good beyond ourselves.  Together, we are able to do work as the body of Christ that separately we could not.  Each church in Cartersville and Bartow County has been given gifts that we use to benefit the community as a whole.  We here have the gifts needed to feed people on Tuesday nights, and the Episcopal Church across the street has the gifts needed to run and sustain a food pantry.  The community needs both.  We as a church have the gifts to support a preschool and an afterschool program as part of our ministries to the community, while others have gifts that enable them to build houses.  The world needs both.  The next ripples are how our gifts support those in other parts of the country and then throughout the world.  Not only through mission work, though that is sometimes the easiest place to look for examples.  But also through prayer, and through simply being the part of the body of Christ we have been gifted to be. Paul affirms that diversity is not only a given, but is to be affirmed. “It is not an obstacle to be overcome, but a resource to be used.”[2] We are given a variety of gifts for the enrichment of the faith of not ourselves, but of others.  Not to make our own worlds better, but so we can improve the community in which we live, and use the various gifts we have been given for all of God’s people.

I have been thinking about that this week in 2 ways.  First, today marks the beginning of the week of Prayer for Christian Unity. One of the questions that comes up so often is “how are we as Presbyterians different from the…” Baptists… Catholics… Methodists…  Episcopalians…  We can often focus on how we are different from those we are not, and forget the words of Paul “There are varieties of gifts… but the same spirit.  There are varieties of services, but the same Lord.  There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates them…” One God. One Lord. One Spirit. This is a time to shift our thoughts towards what unites us as Christians, rather than focus our attentions on what divides us.  Paul affirms the diversity of gifts.  For all the variety, there is a singular source –the same Holy Spirit.  Listen again to verse 11:  “All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.”

There are churches in other parts of the world, there are churches in other parts of town that we may walk into and not recognize what is happening.  The music is different.  The order of worship is strange.  The language is foreign.  The pastors in this other church don’t preach the way Ted and I do.  The theology is not what we claim as ours.  Yet, they, whoever “they” are in this church that is not where you sit now, profess that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.  They are Christian.  We are all of the same Spirit, same Lord, and the same God. We are all the Body of Christ.  That is what this week is about – that we are to remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray for Unity among the Body and what unites us, not what divides us.  If the Body of Christ were the One Day Band from the classifieds – -a band made up of churches that would never have had an opportunity to come together under any other circumstances, and did just this once, what might we have?  FPC Cartersville, well, maybe in the One Day Band we are the guitar player.  And the Orthodox church in Russia, that’s the singer.  And the Christian church in Vietnam is the theremin player.  The violinist is the church founded by missionaries in Ghana, and the drummer is from Equador.  Without any of them, we don’t really have a full band.  But together, once we agree on a song – how about “Jesus Loves Me?”– we can use the varieties of gifts given to us by the Spirit to proclaim that Jesus is Lord.  The body of Christ is fractured – -even our own denomination can feel that way sometimes.  May our prayers this week be that we recognize the various gifts the Spirit has given us and that we unite over them, rather than divide because of them.

This week the earth shook and the ground opened and the nation of Haiti will never be the same.  To try to describe the destruction in words is an impossible task.  Through the confusion and chaos, the grief and uncertainty, there has been the second way I have noticed the Body of Christ using the gifts of the Spirit for the common good.  In the midst of tragedy and grief, the Body of Christ responded.  Back in the fall, I spent a morning at a Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Workshop to learn a little bit about the response to the flooding in GA.  What I heard was something that gave me pause for thought.  As we listened to a description of the response to the disaster, the description of a response time line of sorts was given, “well, the Baptists, they usually come in with their chainsaws and just start clearing the way.  They’ll clear debris and clear out streets so that police and firefighters and others can get in.  Then the Salvation Army can come in and set up their mobile kitchens and feed volunteers and the hungry.  Then the Methodists and Episcopalians help with immediate needs… And then when they have gone home PDA stays for the long term recovery.  None of that would be possible without the work of the other.  Not that we don’t send in funds and relief supplies, but our job can’t be done until the other work has happened.  We can’t figure out where to build a work camp until the people who use the chainsaws come and clear the way for us.  That’s not where our skills are.  And they don’t have the denominational structure to sustain the kind of work that we do.  We need each other for a full recovery.”  “Now there are a variety 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 them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  In the past few days the responses from the faith community to the Haiti earthquake around the world has been strong – not only financially but also spiritually.  Not only have we reached into our pockets, but we have bowed our heads and folded our hands and offered our prayers.  The times when we were not sure what, if anything we could do, we knew we could do that.  We knew that we had been given the gifts of our hearts and minds and voices, and so we turned them to God. We are called to pray for our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ – -for those who mourn, for those who serve.  For those trying to reunite with family and friends, and for those trying simply to survive this day and the next.  We give thanks that the Spirit has given some the gifts of fundraising and some the gifts of logistics.  Some have the gifts of cooking and some have the gifts of healing.  Some have been given the gifts of telling the story while others have the gifts of clearing roads.  We know that the Body is responding  -that the Gifts of the spirit are at work and that the body is at work together.  We are all using these gifts in the midst of disaster for the common good – for the body of Christ.

Each of us has been given a unique gift to be used in concert with everyone else’s gift for the glory of God for the body of Christ.  Are you the producer who organizes the One Day Band? Are you the singer or drummer or guitar player?  Each and every one of you has a gift that is yours and yours alone.  Without it the Church, the Body of Christ is not complete.  How different does the song sound without the singer?  How different is the music of the Choir without the organ or the Upper Room band without the Drums.  You can tell something is missing, it is incomplete. “Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and the same Lord; and the same God.”  May we, the Body, seek to use our varied gifts to serve the Body of Christ.  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.


[1] Craddock, Hayes, Holladay, Tucker, eds: Preaching the Common Lectionary, Year C: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany.   Abingdon Press.  126.

[2] ibid.  128.