Acts 2.1-13; 1 Cor 12.1-11
We talk about the gift’s given by God in rather a strange way. We say someone is a gifted musician or artist. We say to a friend – you have the gift of listening. We even say sarcastically – someone thinks they are God’s gift too – well you can pick your arena of life to complete that sentence.
Yet in each case we seem praise the recipient for the gift’s receipt. And so to be gifted is to be lauded. To gifted is to be honoured. To be gifted is to have a born-with ability turned into an accolade.
Why is that? I ask that since the very word ‘gift’ dictates that this inherent capability comes from without. The personal merit therefore lies in the hard work, dedication and determination in using the talent given rather than the giving itself. For whether developed or not, the gift is still there.
Here then is a good starting point to re-examine the gift of the Holy Spirit we celebrate today. For there is no indication that the disciples in any way deserved the receipt of the fiery tongues of God. They had no specific worth to be given the wind of change in Jesus Christ. They may not even have particularly wanted the Spirit that sees, challenges and demands at every moment. Indeed, their lives would probably have been much more settled if they hadn’t had the Spirit bestowed.
But, receive it they did. And as a result they were changed from fumbling disciples to wise apostles. They changed from followers to leaders. They changed from dimly seeing to being fully clued up; from the tongue tied to outstanding orators and from being becalmed in mediocrity to riding fearlessly the winds of transformation.
Let us then acknowledge our own gift of the Spirit as externally given. Let us give thanks for our own gift of the tongues of fire as the source of personal inspiration. Let us just be grateful for our own gift of the gale of compulsion to make the gospel live, speak and make changes – changes both within ourselves and in those around us.
However, is that the sermon done then?
More positively, where do we go from this simple acknowledge?
For that we need to look at Paul’s advice to the Christians at the Greek port of Corinth. For here maybe like today was a church very much in need of the new fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Since we see within the gift of the Spirit there are many qualities, many abilities and many facets. Paul indeed points out some of them in his epistle. For he talks of wisdom, knowledge, faith and more enigmatically, speaking in tongues. And by that, he is reminding we are all gifted in different and maybe not obvious ways.
However, the more important point he then makes is how we use our gifts. And so he takes us back to our merit being in the hard work and determination needed to exploit any gift rather than in the bestowal of the gift itself. Back to how we should make use of all that we have been given towards being apostles, leaders and game changers. Back indeed to how we use all that we are to build the church as a harmonious, living and Christ fulfilling community. Back ultimately as to how we fit snuggly into the jigsaw of God’s plan. For all gifts are provided for the one purpose and that is to work together. Because, as Paul proclaims, they are all given by one unifying Spirit.
Yet despite hearing this, we can still feel our skills and talents and abilities are our own. We regard them as hard won gold to be spent as we would wish. We still see ourselves as masters of our own destinies and captains of our own souls without need of the help or challenge of the Spirit.
Why then bother to seek to be part the Pentecost’s team?
A little girl was visiting her grandmother one beautiful spring morning. They walked out into the old woman’s garden. As the grandmother was inspecting the progress of her flowers the little girl decided to try to open a rosebud with her own two hands. But no luck! As she would pull the petals open, they would tear or bruise or wilt or break off completely. Finally, in frustration, she said, “Gramma, I just don’t understand it at all. When God opens a flower, it looks so beautiful but when I try, it just comes apart.” “Well, honey,” Grandmother answered, “There’s a good reason for that. God is able to do it because He works from the inside out!”
This simple story has a simple message for this Pentecost. Since God today has given each and every one of us a gift. It is freely given for our use and purposes.
Yet if we really want to see it blossom then we must apply it with determination, effort and enthusiasm. We must deploy it with the benefit of our faith, community and world in mind. But above all we need to offer all its capabilities, fruits and possibilities up to the giver. Since then we will not just build afresh but also fulfil ourselves afresh. Because the Spirit opens our treasure’s flower not from the outside but from the inside and as a result we are infinitely more beautiful.