Simple Gifts

Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

“Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit”. (1 Corinthians 12:4)

Paul’s discourse on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians emphasizes that while we are different, with varied gifts, activities, and services, the work we do is for and led by the same Lord, “for the common good”. Paul mentions some gifts: the utterance of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, the discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues. These are clearly gifts of the spirit.

Over the years, I have come to expand my understanding of spiritual gifts. After all, no one who has been part of a church community thinks you can get along with just the gifts that Paul lists. These are important, especially teaching and wisdom. But so too is hospitality, generosity of spirit, and willingness to serve. It may not seem spiritual, but the people who stay after a parish pot luck to put away the chairs and take out the trash are demonstrating spiritual gifts of generosity and kindness.

We hear in today’s gospel the story of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus did his first sign, turning water into wine. The working of miracles was one of Jesus’ gifts, along with all the others in Paul’s list. This is the first one he does, and he isn’t exactly eager. It is his mother who grasps the problem of hospitality (it would be a woman, wouldn’t it?), and tells him to act. Although he resists, when she tells the servants to obey him, he does. Like the miracle of loaves and fishes, the wedding at Cana solves a practical problem. What if we saw the fact that our communities functioned as a miracle just as much as turning water into wine? These things are, like the gifts Paul lists, done for the common good.

Churches speak often of gifts, of time, talent, and treasure. But time and talent are not always recognized as spiritual gifts, and, like treasure, seen as meeting the practical needs of the congregation. In the familiar Shaker hymn, “‘Tis the gift to be simple” (Hymnal 1982 #554), we learn that “when we find ourselves in the place just right,/ ’twill be in the valley of love and delight.” One way of recognizing our spiritual gifts is noticing the place that feels “just right”. When we find it, we are indeed in a “valley of love and delight”.

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