Second Sunday After the Epiphany 2019, Year C — Preaching Notes
Greater Gifts Worship Series: GIFTED FOR OTHERS
January 20, 2019 — Second Sunday After the Epiphany
Week 2, Discovering and Activating Our Gifts
This is our second week of our “Greater Gifts” sermon series. Today, we will be exploring how we can discover and activate the gifts God has given us. Last week, we looked at baptism as a “first gift” from God that places us on a lifelong journey of discipleship, following Jesus. Last week, we spent time remembering our baptisms and thinking about how baptism is a gift filled with expectation and mystery, often leading us to share our experiences of God’s grace with others.
If you had people express an interest in being baptized last Sunday, you might consider placing the baptismal service here, right before the sermon, and then use the sermon to continue the conversation around “Greater Gifts.”
For this Sunday, we recommend finding a Spiritual Gifts Survey to be included in your bulletin, or consider developing your own that ties spiritual gifts to specific service opportunities in your church or ministry setting. Here are a few possibilities:
Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts booklet (free pdf or order a hard copy)
Children’s Moment Suggestion:
Find two battery-operated toys that have an easily accessible battery compartment and whose functions are relatively clear (examples: a rescue vehicle with flashing lights, a dog that barks and walks, a bubble maker that makes bubbles). Remove one battery from each toy. Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:
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.
- Talk about how God made each person with unique spiritual gifts. Explain that over the course of our lives, we discover what those gifts are. Give a few examples.
- Take each of the toys, and ask the children what they think the toys were created to do.
o Bubble maker —make bubbles; rescue vehicle — light up and make noises to let people know it is coming; dog — barks and walks
- Ask the children how we could see if we are correct. (Pretend to look for the on/off switch; let the kids help you.) When the toys don’t work, act confused, and ask the children why they think the toys don’t work. (Children indicate broken, missing batteries, etc.) Thank them.
- Say: “Just like these toys, sometimes people are created with gifts, but they don’t use them. Sometimes it is because they have not yet discovered what gifts they have, but other times people know they have certain gifts but they choose not to use them.”
- Our Scripture passage says that God is the one who activates spiritual gifts in everyone. Ask, “What do you suppose these toys need to do what they were created to do?” (batteries!)
- Talk about God activating the gifts in our lives as you load the batteries. Have the children turn the toys on. They work!
- Tell the children, “So remember: as you discover your spiritual gifts, make sure you let God activate them, so you can use them for good in our church, at school, at home, and in our community.”
As we move from baptisms and remembering our baptism, we recognize that the gift of baptism is only the beginning. We should begin to discover, or if it has been a while, perhaps rediscover our God-given gifts — equipping us for a lifelong journey as disciples. We were redeemed for a reason, and we are given gifts to fulfill a greater purpose.
(v1) “Now concerning spiritual gifts . . . I do not want you to be uninformed.”
Right away in the passage we hear that Paul wants us to learn and understand where spiritual gifts come from, the types of gifts, and perhaps most important, that they must be activated by the Holy Spirit. Paul does not want followers of Jesus to be “uninformed.” The implication here is that the church in Corinth was struggling with is understanding of spiritual gifts. Apparently, the church in Corinth had some people cursing Jesus and claiming that they had spiritual gifts to do so (verse 3). Paul declares that those two things cannot coexist. Now before you discount this example from Paul as something we would not understand today, let me ask you this: “”Have you ever experienced Christians saying or acting out in ways that do not seem to be in line with Jesus? Could this also be an example of individuals essentially cursing Jesus and the ways of Jesus by their speech and actions, while at the same time saying that they are followers of Jesus?”
What if we applied Paul’s warning to the ways we speak and act each day? Do we essentially “curse Jesus” when our speech and actions and the applications of our spiritual gifts do not reflect Jesus? (You may want to take a moment and encourage disciples to focus on self-reflection and steer clear of judging others.)
In this passage, Paul lists a variety of spiritual gifts for our journey:
(8) . . . utterance of wisdom
(8) . . . utterance of knowledge
(9) . . . faith . . .
(9) . . . gifts of healing . . .
(10) . . . working of miracles . . .
(10) . . . prophecy . . .
(10) . . . discernment of spirits . . .
(10) . . . various kinds of tongues . . . interpretation of tongues . . .
More spiritual gifts are listed in other passages. Romans 12:6-8: prophecy, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, and mercy. Ephesians 4:11-13: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Reference Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts booklet or another spiritual gifts assessment of your choosing to assist parishioners in discovering their gifts. Spend a brief moment on each of the gifts that corresponds to the assessment that you are using.
(11) All these are activated by one and the same Spirit . . .
(7) To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Activation of your spiritual gift is essential. Activation is putting your gifts into practice “for the common good.” What good is a gift if it is never shared for the good of others?
I have a few credit cards in my wallet, as I am sure many of you do. When you receive a new credit card, you usually find a sticker on it that provides an 800 number to call in order to do what? To activate the card. Have any of you ever received the card and placed it in your wallet, never calling to activate the card? Not if you need to use the card! So why do some disciples clearly recognize a spiritual gift but leave the sticker on and never use it? Next week, we will explore this further as we think about how not activating our spiritual gifts weakens the community to which we belong.
One of my favorite quotes related to discovering and activating our spiritual gifts comes from philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman, who said:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”1
The same is true for our spiritual gifts. The world, our church, our community, your family, your workplace, doesn’t need you to do tasks for which you are not gifted. The world, our church, our community, our families, our workplace needs you to discern what gifts you have been given, and activate them to the fullest for the common good! The world needs more people “who have come alive,” who have been activated by the God’s Holy Spirit!
Jeff Campbell serves as the Executive Director of Conference Relationships at Discipleship Ministries. In this role, he connects with conference leadership to strengthen intentional disciple-making across the connection. Jeff is an ordained elder of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference and served churches in NJ prior to coming to Discipleship Ministries. He received his undergraduate degree in English, Linguistics, and Speech from the University of Mary Washington and his Master of Divinity degree from Drew Theological School.
1 Quote attributed to Howard Thurman, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader.