“Who is gifted?”

​Paul takes a deep breath before starting on a new topic with the Corinthians: giftedness. What does being gifted mean?

The disciples examine the fresh wounds on Jesus's body after the resurrection

​​1 Corinthians 12:1-11

January 16, 2022

Dr. Todd R. Wright Paul takes a deep breath before starting on a new topic with the Corinthians: giftedness. What does being gifted mean? The common definition is that gifted people have above average intelligence and/or superior talent for something, such as music, art, or math.

That’s still a little vague, so let’s get more specific: The Clay Center for Healthy Young Minds at Mass General (not our Clay Center), says 3-5 out of every 100 children could be considered gifted.[1]

That would mean a couple people here in the sanctuary this morning. Let’s be generous and double that number. Does that sound right? Four gifted people?


Depending on the Sunday, our pews are filled with musicians and artists, physicians and pharmacists, lawyers and teachers, a general, professors, bankers and financial advisors, planners and carpenters … and the experts are saying only four are gifted. Really?

Paul scoffs. No, he says, the correct figure for Christians is 100%. Everyone is gifted! And this is not Lake Wobegon style boasting: “Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

No, Paul is convinced all are gifted because every one of us has the same gift. He says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” So, if you confess Jesus is your Lord, not just to please your parents or because the person next to you does, not just on Sundays or of bits and pieces of your life, then you have been given a wonderful gift by the Holy Spirit!


To make that kind of confession means having the courage to say Jesus is Lord, not Caesar, when Caesar is using all his considerable power to force you to repeat the lie that he is Lord as an article of faith or an act of survival.

Such a confession also means we have a special kind of spiritual insight most don’t. Like: “to see the Bethlehem baby not just as one more cute newborn, but as the only son of God; to believe that a troublemaker dying on a cross could bear all the evil of a rebellious world; to know someone as dead as ever a corpse was dead could take away the power of death and impart the kind of life that will never end; to believe that someone, who showed power by loving the loveless and helping the helpless, is supreme over all earthly powers; to trust that the One we have never seen can really bring new life into our old mess, courage and hope adequate for every ordinary day and every extraordinary crisis.”[2]

 

But Paul is no fool. While he knows that each Christian comes to the faith because we share the same gift, he also knows that each of us is gifted with a special, unique, one of a kind gift. Last Sunday we used his words to the new class of elders: “There are different kinds of gifts, but it it’s the same Spirit who gives them … to use for the common good.” The Holy Spirit is no penny-pinching giver with worthless gifts. Nor an unimaginative sort with one-size-fits-all sorts of gifts. No player of favorites with gifts for some, but not for others. The Holy Spirit gives out gifts like a grandmother passes out cookies – abundantly, joyfully, specifically, persistently! So what do these gifts look like? The Clay Center (the one in Boston) says, “children who are gifted tend to have similar characteristics which include traits such as: a fascination with ideas and a sophisticated vocabulary, or a need to make sure things are done “just right”; the ability to perceive many sides of an issue, or to think abstractly and metaphorically; an ability to visualize models and systems, or to learn things almost without a need for being taught, such as learning to read before formal reading instruction, or a concern for moral and existential issues[3]

In a similar way, the ones mentioned in the text are a sample of incredible variety – special insight into God’s Word or will; faith to endure hardship; the gift of healing; deeds of power; speaking a heavenly message no one else hears, yet; or clarifying what others are saying. This is the vision of the community of faith: no one is second class, no one is marginal, no gift is despised or looked down on. No one is an outsider. No one is merely a passive receiver. No two are alike and every single one is needed for Christ’s body in this place to be healthy and whole and able to do God’s work. Over the weekend the Session approved a budget that they will present at the congregational meeting in a couple weeks. It is a budget that represents the congregation pooling its gifts to do God’s work. It may use the language of numbers, but it is really about people like you sharing your gifts, your talents, your passion, and your power. That’s who we are – gifted people! Amen


[1] see https://www.mghclaycenter.org/parenting-concerns/what-does-it-mean-to-be-gifted/ [2] from a sermon on the text by Fred W. Meuser, 5/26/99 [3] from the same Clay Center article linked above
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