During the Season of Easter, the stories we hear from the Acts of the Apostles describe the beginning of the church and the people who played a part in such a divine undertaking after receiving spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. How the Holy Spirit empowers people to flourish through their use of spiritual gifts is described further in Paul’s letters to his Christian communities.
In 1 Corinthians12:1-31, Romans 12:1-8, and Ephesians 4:1-16, Paul identifies twenty-nine spiritual gifts that he believed would contribute to the growth of individuals and the communities for whom his letters were written. If the gifts that are repeated in the different passages are eliminated, there are a total of twenty-one spiritual gifts. In the letters, the variety of spiritual gifts Paul names are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, tongues, interpretation, discernment, teaching, administration, service, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, evangelism, apostles, healers, helpers, and pastors.
Paul uses the analogy of the body to explain how each member of the community is given special gifts to be used for the benefit of building up the body of Christ. Paul emphasizes, most likely to the discontented members of his Christian communities, that through a variety of spiritual gifts the members of a community are transformed and become interdependent so that no one is greater than another and all depend upon one another.
Paul’s letters are very important as a starting point for reflecting upon our own spiritual gifts and how we use them for the benefit of our church community. Yet we have to remember that Paul wrote for a particular people, at a particular time, for a particular reason. We should not be intimidated by spiritual gifts like “prophecy,” “exhortation,” and “evangelism” identified by Paul but rather reflect upon the collective qualities of the spiritual gifts found in Paul’s letters:
- A spiritual gift is expressed with a servant motive. We are called by a specific faith community.
- A spiritual gift is expressed with a steward motive. I am called because I have a gift that is to be used not for my own sake but as God’s gift to me for the sake of my faith community.
- A spiritual gift is expressed as sacred worship. I am called to give God the glory and the credit due to God through the use of my gifts.
- A spiritual gift is expressed through the strength that God supplies.
As we approach the celebration of Pentecost, descriptions of spiritual gifts needed by the Church of St. Matthew community with reflection questions to help discern whether or not God is calling you to use your spiritual gifts for the sake of our community will be in the bulletin. And perhaps additional spiritual gifts and the need for those gifts will be recognized as well. We all have gifts-what are yours?