What Can I Offer: Old First E-pistle 01.12.12

What Can I Offer: Old First E-pistle 01.12.12

Faithful, religious imaginations have added to the story of the magi and their gifts over the generations. Because the gifts made available to us in God’s grace are myriad.

One of my favorites embellishments has a young shepherdess named Madelon meet the wise ones on their way to Bethlehem. Not having a gift suitable to give a king, she wept that she could not accompany the magi on their journey.

Catching the whiff of a magical scented aroma, Madelon looked up from her tears. An angel stood before her with a wand made of lilies. She explained her sorrow; the angel waved the wand; the road before her was transformed: lined on both sides with white Christmas roses all the way to Bethlehem. Madelon gathered a bouquet and hurried to catch the magi who had gone ahead. In Bethlehem, she presented her roses to the baby, whose touch caused them to become tinged with a pink glow.

Wise ones bring their gifts to the Christ. Each gift is significance-laden. And their bearers represent the whole world.

Those first gifts, also according to legend, ennabled Mary and Joseph to flee with Jesus to safety, to Egypt to escape Herod’s jealous and murderous rage. Your gifts and my gifts might matter that much too. But if we don’t offer them…

This Epiphany, may I ask you: what gifts can you bring Christ, and what difference can they make?

Old First’s Mission and Vision Statement exhorts us (among other commitments) to “seek to know and to share the transforming power of God: Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit… through the full discernment and expression of our God-given, individual abilities.”

How well do we do this as a church? As a faith community, do we regularly identify, call forth, support and put into service our God-given talents?

The mission structure sketched in our Constitution and By-laws includes a Discernment Task Force whose sole ministry — year round! — is to encourage members to discern and realize their gifts and call to service. Having thought about how to make this hope operational, the Elders have not yet figured out how every member could be helped along with their gifts and vocation.

You all make me smile, however, when I hear, as I did last week, one person say to another, “I hope you know how very good you are at…” Or the affirmation and support I heard today: “You are so gifted, have you ever considered…”

At the Elder’s meeting last Monday — in the opening sharing and devotion, when we reconnect with God and with one another — I asked everyone to name one gift she or he brings to the service of God, of the church or of other people. I said, “If we don’t practice this ourselves, can we ever hope to encourage anyone else?”

There was a pause… longer it seemed to me, than the close-knit Elders usually take for gathering their thoughts before sharing. Then people began to name what they have to offer; almost everyone named a gift they can or already do give.

Alternatively, we could have named one another’s gifts. I’m not exactly asking you to describe for someone how you see their gifts. But if you feel so moved…

I will ask you, as a spiritual exercise for Epiphany, to pray over three questions:

1) Do you have a sense of how God’s called you?
2) If you have a vocational understanding, are there reasons you hesitate to live it out?
3) Could you get started on what God’s calling you to do?

As you consider all these things in your heart and in your conversations with God, you might need to talk to somebody else about what you are thinking. You may wish to uncover your spiritual gifts more fully. Or you could also ask others for encouragement.

Beloved, you have miraculous gifts to offer of which you have not yet even imagined. Even less can you now see the difference those gifts, rightly used, will make. You might even save a life.

And I’m going to work with the Worship SLG on how in services we can do a better job of lifting up people’s gifts…

See you in church,

Michael

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