Thoughts Between Sundays

Some of what crosses my mind between Sundays

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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.