Varieties of Gifts

Epiphany IIC – Trinity Cathedral.

Today’s Gospel sets forth the third of our Epiphany themes – the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, and now the miracle of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. Each of these Gospel stories describes a way in which the light of Christ was “manifested,” “epiphanized” into all the world.

Gentile astronomers finding their way to his cradle; the crowds at the River Jordan experiencing his baptism by water and the Holy Spirit; now scores of wedding guests experiencing a miracle of abundance! And the point of each event is summarized in the last line of today’s Gospel: “Jesus…revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)

You and I are the successors to those disciples. Today we will have our annual meeting here at Trinity Cathedral taking stock of just how Jesus has revealed his glory to us…and how much we believe in him. And I’m so glad that our Epistle today is from the 12th chapter of First Corinthians! This has been a favorite passage of mine since I first read it in the original Greek and wrote my Senior Thesis in seminary on “Charismatic Christianity in the Corinthian Church.”

This passage is all about “varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.”  The little church in Corinth was torn by internal divisions and factions. Some were loyal to Paul, some were followers of an evangelist named Apollos, some gave their allegiance to Peter, others claimed to be the “true Christians” who sought to follow Christ alone! (Sounds sort of like the Christian Church of today, doesn’t it?)

There were people in that church who were wise beyond their years. There were those who seemed to have almost supernatural knowledge.  Some seemed to be able to have faith in God even when everything seemed to be crumbling around them. There were those who had healing ministries, those who were powerful preachers, those who were deeply discerning of God’s will, some who prayed in other tongues and languages and those who seemed to be able to understand those prayers!

Sounds like quite a church, doesn’t it? The problem was…they couldn’t get along with one another! Everyone seemed to think that their gift was the most important one, that they and they alone were the truly “spiritual ones” in the congregation, and they didn’t much want to make room for anyone whose gift, or whose ministry, or whose perception of God’s will differed from their own!

Have you ever been in a church like that?

But Paul would have none of it! And as he began to frame his letter to them, addressing these issues, he points out that “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 same God who activates all of them in everyone!”  No need for competition here. We need everyone…and everyone’s gifts!

It is the same right here at Trinity Cathedral! I was pleased to see our mission statement printed on the front page of the Report for our Annual Meeting today. It reads:

“The mission of the Parish of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is to be a ministering community which restores all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.  We carry out this mission as we pray and worship, seek spiritual renewal, preach and teach the Gospel to all ages, nurture individuals and families, reach out in service and evangelize in the name of Christ.”

I was particularly glad to see the phrase “ministering community” because this became our key concept in the Diocese of Iowa during my time as Bishop here from 1988 until the year 2000. The phrase comes from a legendary missionary bishop in the Western part of this country named Wesley Frendsdorff. And Wes used to say that the Church itself is a “ministering community” rather than a “community gathered around a minister.”

That is such an important concept, especially in a “hierarchical” church like The Episcopal Church! Because we honor the historic threefold ordained ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon, it is easy to think that the only minister in the congregation is the priest! And that “ministry” all depends upon him…or her. And nothing could be further from the truth. All of us are ministers by virtue of our Baptism!

And I think you are beginning to understand that here at Trinity Cathedral! The sacramental ministry of this parish is not only exercised by the clergy, but enlarged and expanded by the faithful ministry of Eucharistic ministers who go forth from this place every Sunday.  The liturgy is not just planned and executed by the ordained but by the fine director of our music program and her choirs, the Altar Guild, the acolytes and lay readers.

The teaching is not all done by clergy, but by dedicated lay people who teach young folks and adults about the Bible and the Christian faith.

Pastoral care is not only the care given to you by the pastors, but by a team of pastoral care givers and pastoral visitors as well as our Parish Nurse. Prayer is not the sole possession of your priests – there is a Men’s Prayer group and the Hildegards and a professed Brother who prays with and for us three times a day in this Cathedral church.

And you don’t pay your priest to do outreach for you! You’re involved in PUNCH – People Uniting Neighbors and Churches (seeking to transform the challenged neighborhood in which we find ourselves). And the Salvation Army dinners, and the Angel Food Ministry, Positive Parenting, and so many, many more. No doubt I have left lots of things out.

But these activities – these ministries – do indicate to me that you desire to be a “ministering community” rather than simply a “community gathered around A minister!”

And I’m so grateful for that.

But, of course, we could be doing so much more. With more of you involved, with more of you really being good stewards by tithing or giving sacrificially and not simply relying on whatever endowment we have left, there is no telling what kind of impact we could make for Jesus Christ in this community. No telling!

So, join us for the Annual Meeting later this morning and let’s make a new beginning together in this still-new-year. And don’t every forget that…

“…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…All are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses!” (I Corinthians 12)

One Response to “Varieties of Gifts”

  1. Lowell Clipp Says:

    This is an interesting point, i think there are a lot of things to discuss in the future…

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