Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Epiphany 2C

Those who know me know that I don’t do math. At least not well. I used to be ashamed of my inability to do algebra. It didn’t help matters that I once had a math teacher who seemed to think that my disabling lack of talent in doing long division in my head was some sort of character flaw.

Nor am I good with my hands. I don’t even own tools. If I have a leaky facet I’d rather pay someone a couple dollars to do the job right than have me fuddle about, get water all over the floor, hurl the f-word at the pipes, making things worse, before calling the plumber anyway.

Sometimes I’m worried that I’m marooned on my brain’s right hemisphere. Left-brained thinking - the logical, rational side - leaves me stumped. Which makes me glad that to have Fern crunching the numbers and the Trustees hammering in nails. You don’t want me in the same city block as a spreadsheet or skill saw.

I used to feel guilty about my inability to handle fractions or change the oil in my car. I don’t anymore. I don’t care what people think. I’m just not good with numbers or tools. Those aren’t my gifts. I’m good at other things.

Through the process of learning what I am good at and not-so good at, I’ve discovered that it takes time to understand one’s gifts, what one is good at. To discern, develop, and deploy our gifts means that we have a greater sense of who God made us, and how God wants us to fit into God’s saving plan. And such a process takes work. Hard - yet sensitive - work.

But that doesn’t stop folks from passing judgment on others, projecting expectations in an attempt to control other peoples’ behaviour. For me, it’s hard to fathom that some people have an interest in keeping people in the dark as to what their gifts might be. Or worse, clipping someone’s wings when they just learned they could fly.

I see this all the time. And it breaks my heart.

When I was in university I knew lots of people who were business majors because that was the only program their parents would pay for. If they transferred to a frou-frou course like English Lit, the parents would turn off the tap. It didn’t matter that some of these folks weren’t interested in getting into the business world. And it seemed to matter even less that they weren’t very good at it. All their parents were concerned about were their kids making a lot of money. And while, I’m sure that these parents were simply worried about their children being financially stable, I think they were forgetting that peoples’ lives add up to more than their bank balance. They were forgetting that there are as many ways to contribute to the world than how we shuffle funds from one account to another. They were denying their child’s unique gifts.

Or sometimes peoples’ fear of failure - or even fear of success - are projected on their friends or family. Here are some fears that I’ve heard people say just in the past month:

“Don’t bother writing that book. It’s impossible to get published,,,” Even though hundreds of thousands of books appear on Amazon each year.

“Don’t you know how hard it is to start a business in this recession? It’s nearly impossible in good times!” Even though small businesses are the fastest growing segment of the economy.

“Too many people are applying for that job. You’ll never get it. There’s too much competition.” Someone has to land the position, why not you?

“Get a marketable skill and you can play the piano at night,” even though thousands of people make a decent living making music.

“Just settle down, get married, pay the bills. Life isn’t like the movies. It’s not supposed to be fun.” Why can’t it be fun? If it isn’t, then what’s the point?

Have you heard these? I hear these kinds of comments all the time. I think what lies underneath all these are fear of failure hoisted on one’s friends and family. Or anger at how one’s life has turned out, resentment over lost dreams. Conformity to the status quo. Poor self-esteem. They didn’t do well in life, they settled for a stable yet boring existence, so you should be stuck in the muck just like them.

But that’s not how God wants any of us to live. The life that God wants for you is anything but dull. When you use your gifts, you feel in your bone marrow that you’re contributing to God’s creative, saving work. When you flex your God-given muscles, you participate in the on-going life of the world, creation’s never ending advancement.

When you use your spiritual gifts, you become a gift to the world. When you DON’T use your spiritual gifts, you are denying the world your brilliance. And the world is poorer. Diminished in potential. Lesser than what God wants for it.

That’s what I think Paul was getting at in his letter to the Corinthians. He says that he doesn’t want the folks at First Church Corinth to be “uninformed” of their spiritual gifts. He was probably worried that someone was trying to mould them into something other than who God wanted them to be. Someone might have been putting inappropriate expectations on them out of some other agenda than that which God gave them.

Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to live God’s mandate in their own way. Paul seems to be asking:

What makes your heart sing? What do you dream of in your life? What makes you excited about living? When you close your eyes at night, how do you know you have fulfilled your life's purpose?

Those are hard questions to answer. At least for a lot of people. I know they’ve been tough for me.

Those questions are meant to be hard. They’re about why we’ve been put on this planet by a God who believes each one of us here is part of God’s saving plan; that God needs EVERY gift to do what God wants to do in this world. No one gift is greater than another, and no gift is devalued. God has created YOU as YOU. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that your gifts are lesser than other peoples’.

This is why I’m offering the “Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life: You and Your Spiritual Gifts” workshop starting next Saturday morning. Check the sign-up sheet in the Place of Welcome. It’s MY job to make sure that each one of YOU are growing into the fulness of who God wants YOU to be; to grow in the gifts that God has given you. For YOU to grow as God has made YOU.

And, for the record, I didn’t choose this text from 1 Corinthians the week before we’re starting the Spiritual Gifts class so I could have this 10 minute commercial. It is the assigned reading for the second Sunday in Epiphany - Year C.

Coincidence? Confirmation? You decide. But God is clearly saying something if Paul’s writings on spiritual gifts conveniently show up six days before the class begins.

I’ve shared this quote with you before, and it bears repeating. It never gets old. At least not for me. It’s a reminder of what God wants for us.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So let your light shine. Fill the world with your unique brilliance. Serve others with the gifts you have, not the ones others wished you had. Take a risk. Play your special role in God’s saving story.

And sign up for the spiritual gifts workshop.

May this be so among us. Amen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

怠惰使一切事情都困難,勤勞使一切事情都容易 ..................................................

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:03 PM  

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