I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Us

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian church family.  While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given.  Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered.  Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Like you, I suppose, my heart broke more than once this week:

There were the tragic killings in Chapel Hill – motivated by hate in some form… reminding us that we have a lot of work to do as a  Christian community to share Christ’s love with others…

Our hearts also broke when we heard the confirmation of the news that Kayla Meuller was dead… held captive by ISIS and then killed. 26 years old. She led a life of serving those who were suffering… and, if you read her letter from her captivity, — shew was a person of faith… deep faith… a faith rarely seen in a 26 year old or even 62 year old.  A faith that sustained her… So much love… worried about her family… and sharing how God sustained her… [So different from the person who killed the family of 3 in Chapel Hill)

She writes:
“I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator because literally there was no one else… by God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light…have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful.

I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness and surrender to God as well and have formed a bond of love and support among one another…The thought of your pain is the source of my own… Please be patient, give your pain to God….Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I and by God’s will we will be together soon…Kayla” 26 years old… rooted and grounded in God… she, to paraphrase St. Paul – writing from his own prison cell… has learned the secret to being content in any and all circumstances… thanks to God.

She wrote other letters to her family over the years… I was struck by what she told her Dad in a birthday letter in 2011…
“Some people find God in church.
Some people find God in nature.
Some people find God in love.
I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.”

Kayla found her connection to God through what we would call kingdom/action spirituality… one of those spiritual types or styles we have been exploring in the past few weeks.

But what I noticed is that she had an appreciation for others who found their connection with God in other ways… she didn’t judge… she didn’t try to make someone feel guilty… she appreciated the differences…

I think Paul would be proud. In his letter to the church in Corinth, he discovers different people endowed with different spiritual gifts… but there is a problem… the differences are not uniting them… but dividing them. They are arguing and fighting over whose gift comes from God… so we read from the part of his letter trying to unify them… He points out the different gifts… the different ways to serve… the different things we do… all come from one Spirit of God. To which we also add, there are different ways to connect – or “find” God…

The Christian community has wasted far too much time and energy – as I think the Corinthian church must have done… with members or denominations claiming that they are on God’s side and if you do not share my way of thinking or believing or practicing faith… then there is something wrong with you. We fight over worship styles as if “ours” is the one God has chosen…As if God can only enjoy one style of worship! We lift up some gifts over others as being more important… where does that come from?

Paul would encourage us toward unity… toward using our differences to build up the body… rather than divide the body… and in the high point of this discussion he tells them, “I will show you a more excellent way…” then quotes that wonderful chapter to love.

One of the things I have wanted us to see over the past few weeks is that God has made us in wonderfully unique ways in the church. And each person has been given a spiritual disposition… with spiritual gifts that are important… vital to our life together.

Over the past few weeks we have explored these dispositions which seem to me to mirror the way Jesus says we are to love God—with heart, mind, soul and strength. Sounds like the four spiritual types we’ve talked about!

We’ve discovered that some people at the Kirk “love the intellectual pursuit of studying theology and doctrine… others would rather sit in silence of hours or even days to clear all analytical thoughts from their mind. Some people love singing in a raucous gospel choir or with contemporary music- opening all the stops, clapping their hands, and swaying to the rhythm, while others would rather serve a meal to homeless folks, lead a protest against some injustice, go on mission trips to ASP or Guatemala or somewhere… or argue a case before a judge.”[i]

Over the past few weeks we have discovered that there are a variety of ways of being spiritual within the Body of Christ.  When we bring them together—rather than move into our “I want my way” attitudes… when we bring them together, we are blessed.

While all of us should seek some balance in our lives among the types… while all of us could move out of the comfort zone of our preferred type in order to grow… we all will have our preferences…

Which is good for the body as a whole… For together there are all kinds of rich and varied spiritual expressions. We can share with one another. We can learn from one another. The Kirk is better for it when we do.

“One of the reasons we asked you to discover your spiritual type (head, heart, mystic, or kingdom/action) is so we can know how God has blessed us here at the Kirk. Then we want to use what we learn to help us discern what kind of worship inspires us, what type of Christian education or spirituality ministry supports our faith development and growth as human beings, what kind of outreach or justice ministry expresses our passion to transform the world.”[ii]

We used Corrine Ware’s book, Discover Your Spiritual Type as a basis for our reflection… She is a spiritual director. (if you missed out, we’ve included a summary chart in the bulletin)Many of you discussed each type in Sunday School… and when you reported your spiritual type, What did we discover? All four types are here! No surprise. We lean toward head spirituality as Presbyterians are likely to do.

We are also heavy on mission/service… But we have more contemplatives and heart people than maybe some of you knew.

But here’s the point. Everyone is needed at the Kirk. If we are going to be the body of Christ in the world—a whole and healthy Body of Christ—… not just a collection of individuals who gather in worship on Sunday to get my needs met—or to gather only people people “like me”… but if we are going to be a community of faith who are committed to living so God can use not only “me” but “us”—we need each other. We have gifts to share with one another and the world.

The gifts God gave you? The spiritual disposition/style God gave you? Why do you think God gave those to you? Just to live for a few decades… and make a living or for self-fulfillment or to climb the career ladder? That has never been enough for disciples of Jesus Christ. The gifts, as Paul reminds us, were given so each one of us could go about the work of ministry… of being the body of Christ in the world.

I was reminded of this in reading a blog the other week. The writer (Kay McClurg) was reflecting on a passage where Jesus is healing the sick and curing them… healing was his gift, his nature… and he became known for that. Very quickly people begin to think of him as a healer… not the savior. The dilemma of gifts, she wrote, is that they can lure us onto a particular path, whether or not that is our big calling. There is for many of us the temptation to “follow our gifts” instead of following Jesus… We follow the trail of our gifts, making a life out of what seems like a good fit rather than responding to a deep sense of call, whether or not we feel prepared or gifted.

So I leave you with this challenge as we leave the series and prepare to go into a season of Lent where Christians do some spiritual soul searching and thinking with a desire to grow. Let me leave you with these challenging questions:
Now that you have learned more about who you are… your spiritual disposition… maybe even your gifts… What are you going to do with it? Will you use them as resources God has given you so that you can follow Jesus and make a difference? In other words, what is God calling you to be and do? And how may that call be joined with others in the Body of Christ to make us a force for Christ in the world?

During Lent, I invite you to explore the question… pray over the question, “How might the Spirit of God use me in order to fulfill my calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ? How might I live so that God might use me… and use us as a church? “

I have been comforted in the past few weeks by the thought that while none of us may possess all of the spiritual dispositions… and while none of us may have every gift needed… together we do.Together in this church I can name names of people who are giving so much of themselves and their gifts to make the Kirk not only a better church… but even more, they are equipping us to be the Body of Christ in the world. Which is why we are here in the first place: to be his body and carry on his mission… to proclaim God’s kingdom/reign… to the world. Right? Right! Amen.

[i] Adapted from sermon, “A Variety of Spiritual Types” by Tom Vandestadt

[ii] ibid