I think the Apostle Paul’s writings (which make up a lot of the New Testament) have stood the test of time because his words speak directly to the heart And his convictions are grounded in personal experience. So as you hear this message from Paul today, remember he knows what it’s like to be really horrible toward followers of Jesus (he wasn’t always the Apostle Paul, he was once Saul- a man who denied Holy Spirit within himself and others). So he knows what it means to reclaim our spiritual love language, he knows the real change of heart it creates. Let’s listen for our own Saul-turned-into-Paul moment.
12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” This makes common sense, right? That my experience of the world is made better when you fully live out your gifts? We are better together when each of us does the work of discovering and using what I’m calling today: our spiritual love language.
You might have heard of this book written in 1992 by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages. A lot of people like it, some roll their eyes, most of us have likely not even read it. But we’ve heard of these love languages- and today I’d like to introduce Paul’s message by way of “The 5 spiritual love languages.”
Here are Chapman’s top five: Words of affirmation; quality time; physical touch; acts of service; receiving gifts. So let’s pair these with the gifts Paul talks about:
The spirit gives us messages of wisdom (words of affirmation); gifts of healing (physical touch); miraculous powers (acts of service); faith & knowledge (quality time); prophecy & discernment (receiving gifts).
So whether you’re gifted in wisdom, healing, miracles, faith, knowledge, prophecy or discernment- (or fill-in-the-blank with a hundred more strengths), here’s the real gem: “All gifts are of ONE and the SAME Spirit. And if that’s true, then no gift is better than another. In fact, me using my gifts enhances your ability to use your own. We get this strange privilege as people of faith- to make various aspects of God’s Spirit alive in this world, until the full image of God is present at last.
And in order for us to share our spiritual gifts for the common good, we have to discover what they are! What is your spiritual love language? Cherlyn shared Wednesday at Lenten Soup supper that she’s been making food for others since she was a small kid. Granted, it started as delicious sounding mud pies. But she’s claimed that gift, she’s honed it (quite a bit, I might add), and now we as a church benefit from her skill and thoughtfulness and generosity. I have hundreds of examples just like Cherlyn, because as I’ve gotten to know you, your gifts are made evident in this spiritual home. Most of you’ve already figured this out: When we offer our spiritual gifts in the company of trusted friends, the whole body of Christ benefits.
What’s my spiritual gift? As a freshman in college, I took a strengths inventory (I love these and wholeheartedly support you completing a Strengths Quest or StrengthsFinder inventory online. My top five strengths, as an 18 year-old, were: 1. Positivity, 2. Achiever, 3. Includer, 4. Relator, 5. Harmony. A dozen years later, I took it again through my UCC-sponsored Next Generation Leadership Initiative- and I was impressed to discover that most of my strengths were the same. I think I swapped harmony for woo or something equally vague. I’m grateful for the mentors in my life who’ve guided me to pursue my strengths as spiritual gifts. As a positive achiever who appreciates relating to and including others in the quest for harmony- I’ve decided my role as pastor is pretty darn awesome. I get to use my spiritual love language, for the sake of the common good, and I don’t have to be perfect at it…because your strengths (given by the same Spirit), your unique spiritual love language, compensates for the strengths I don’t have. That’s the divine design, friends, and it makes perfect sense.
Even if you don’t know your spiritual love language right this minute, it doesn’t mean you don’t have one- we all do, all of us made in the image and spirit of God. It simply means we get the honor, as your spiritual friends, of helping you discover it and use it. Isn’t that exciting? (says your positive pastor). I mentioned earlier how Cherlyn’s spiritual love language of meals/ hospitality is used for the common good, right? Well how do we know? 1. She uses her gift. She’s in the kitchen getting it done. You name the event, and if food is involved, Cherlyn will quietly ask if you’d like her assistance. So using our gifts is one way to discover them. But another, perhaps equally important way, is to share our stories with others. In recalling significant stories from our past, we create meaning from our lives. And sometimes all it takes is a bit of reflection and a good question from a friend for us to see more clearly what spiritual gift has been within us the whole time. This is what small groups of faithful friends offer. And if you’re in need of that type of group- we have table groups who are looking to add you. Heck, if your spiritual gift is hospitality- you might be brave enough to host a small group of your own. The authentic intimacy of a small group is often where our spirits come alive.
As a final word of encouragement and warning- if you’re still not sure what your spiritual gift is- my positively-achieving, relatable self might just include you in a few woo-ing conversations about the topic in weeks and months and years to come…because the body of Christ benefits when you are fully you. End of story, one that is more beautiful than any of us can imagine. The story of God at work in us and through us. Thanks be to God for gifts of the spirit, Amen.
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.