T HERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS of gifts. There are different kinds of service. There are different kinds of working. But it is the same God who gives these. Each gift is given for the common good.
What are these different kinds of gifts given by God? Let’s start with the obvious ones in church — music leader, pianist, singers in the choir. There are teachers — teachers for all ages. And, of course, preachers/pastors.
There are those who know how to run the sound and projection. But there are also folks gifted with organizing whatever needs organizing. Those who are good listeners. Those who “are there” whenever someone needs a friend. There are people good with numbers who help with our finances.
There are people particularly good at welcoming others. Can you name additional gifts and service?
Let’s not forget gifts seen in children and youth.
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MANY OF YOU remember Ronnie Hope. She was Nancy Hope’s daughter. Down syndrome adult. They sat toward the front in the 10:00 service. Ronnie died recently. There will be a memorial service for her in March. Some of you used your gift of visitation and friendship to check on her after Nancy needed to move to Illinois.
Anyway, Ronnie’s gift was obvious. She had the gift of hugs. She would hug everybody. She loved to hug. It brought her joy, it brought the hugee joy, and I have no doubt it brought God joy.
One of the taglines for Swift Church is that we “strive to cause God joy.” Ronnie did that. I don’t know that she had that understanding. She just liked to offer hugs.
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JUST ABOUT EIGHT YEARS AGO, we arrived at church in deep sadness. A great gifted man of Swift Church, Andy Lay, had suddenly died the day before. He was returning home from helping a family rebuild their home. It was going to be a difficult morning of worship. His obituary said this about him:
“Andy was an inspiration and blessing to whomever he crossed paths with. A man of dignity who was always willing to lend a helping hand to whomever was in need, all the while never drawing attention to himself. Although he enjoyed working to help others, he enjoyed working as a servant of God more.”
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TODAY, YOU WERE GIVEN A HUG when you came in. Some of you remember receiving something like this before. As I said, Ronnie had the gift of hugs.
That Sunday, the day after Andy died, Ronnie brought paper hugs for the entire church. I don’t know that she even made the connection. But I did. Many others did. It was a morning of great grace. For the moment, sadness gave way to joy. Depression turned to happiness. We were wrapped in paper arms but more importantly, we knew, through her, we were wrapped in the arms of our loving Savior.
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THE APOSTLE PAUL reminds us that God given gifts are given not just for us to enjoy for ourselves but to use for the good of people around us.
There are gifted athletes who use their abilities to win competitions and maybe make money for themselves and enjoy being in the spotlight. There are other gifted athletes who also use their gifts to rally many people to reach out to those who need help. Perhaps you know Justin Watt — better known as J.J. Watt, professional football player for the Texans. His foundation started the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund following the destruction left by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The effort raised $41.6 million, making it the largest crowd-sourced fundraiser in world history.
Paul tells us God wants us to be like that. Use our gifts for the good of others.
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TOO OFTEN WE, especially children and youth, think that God really is not interested in the things we most love and enjoy. We can’t raise $41 million. We can’t change the world. We can’t do big and great things. But we don’t have to. Just remember Andy and Ronnie.
Back in the 1920s, there was a runner named Eric Liddell. He represented Great Britain in the Olympics. Perhaps, he’s best known from the movie “Chariots of Fire.” He refused to run on Sunday because of his faith. Less known, but in that movie is a statement he made about his running. He said that God made him fast and that “when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.
How wonderful! When we use God’s gifts, we feel God’s pleasure.
Think about the possibility that God is delighted when you plant a garden or teach a child or play your musical instrument or excel at your sport. Imagine feeling God’s pleasure whenever we use our gifts for others.
“What you do and love connects you deeply to God.”
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RIGHT NOW, I INVITE YOU to pray about your gifts using your hands. All may, some will, none must.
Raise your hands — still cupped — up to God. Now, thank God for all the gifts given to you. Name the ways you enjoy and benefit from those gifts.
Hold your cupped hands out as if offering what is in them to the world. While hands are in this position, promise God to use your gifts to love and take care of others.
Fold your hands in prayer. We pray, God, for you to help us use all these gifts wisely and lovingly. Amen
— Keith Cardwell