Gifts of the Spirit--from today's Homily

Here are the gifts of the Spirit from today's Homily so you can spend some time exploring them.  Please comment if you think of gifts not represented here.

Following is the complete transcript of the homily offered by Emily Chamberlain and Kim Cockroft today.

(Some) Gifts of the Spirit

The gift of Wisdom--A depth and breadth of insight that sees to the heart of things, lights the way for others, opening them to the presence and action of God in their lives

Integrity--The gift of living in alignment with that which is deepest and truest within us; embracing the fullness of who we are, living faithfully out of both our limitations and our gifts.

Teaching--The gift of drawing out the unique gifts and potential of others, bringing them to a deepening understanding of themselves and the world around them

Hospitality--The gift of opening one’s home and heart to others, creating spaces inwardly and outwardly, where all of you all are welcome, and where the Light of God shines forth in celebration and thanksgiving for all who enter in. 

Prophesy--the gift of naming what is true even when it is inconvenient, a capacity for deep insight to call out the potential or giftedness in others, an ability to see beyond what is, to what could be.

Friendship--The gift of weaving true, enduring connections, which sustain us in times of joy and sorrow and everything in between; the capacity to be “God beside” those we love and care for.

Compassion--the gift of expanding the contours of our hearts to offer blessing to others, to hold their suffering and to enter into that suffering with a steadiness of spirit and abiding love.

Mercy, or Healing--the gift of entering into places of brokenness with life-giving grace, deep love, and forgiveness

Joy--A lightness and buoyancy of heart and spirit that transcends external circumstances; an orientation of the spirit toward the deep stream of God’s enduring delight in God’s creation 

Boldness, or Fortitude--the gift of everyday courage, the capacity to stand firm and speak for justice with a steadfast heart

Discernment:  the gift of deep, prayerful listening for what is waiting in the shadows, wanting to be known, to see what is invisibly stirring beyond the surface of our perception 

Faith:  the gift of knowing God is near despite one’s feelings, the capacity to abide in God’s love and presence even in the darkest of times, to see God in others and in the world with holy imagination.

Knowledge:  the gift of exercising an appetite for discovery, and a curiosity about the world and its relationship to God

Reverence: the gift of a posture of humility, awe and gratitude

Forgiveness: an orientation toward willingly releasing our hurts; an acceptance of God’s love and healing, an unburdening of others and ourselves in love.

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Complete Transcript of Pentecost Homily

Kim: I’m so glad to be here with Emily Chamberlain, who many of you will know for her leadership in the Spiritual Discernment Ministry, Pastoral Care team, or a GEM here at Grace.

First I want to acknowledge that since Emily and I began this Homily, our nation has been rocked by grief and outrage.  Our family had a hard time going to sleep last night as we tried to sort through how to be in the world right now, what our roles are in all of it as people of love and faith . .what I want to say is that I think this is a unique opportunity for us to pray for the eyes to see where the Holy Spirit is moving, for the voice to say words of courage and love, and our hearts to be open to the Spirit’s leading in our own community and in all of us.  And today is the day we celebrate Pentecost, which I have to believe is significant.  What a time for the Holy Spirit, for looking for unity and abiding in great love.

And now I’d like to start this time with this blessing from Steve Garnaas-Holmes, and Emily will conclude our time with the last three lines of this blessing.
Holy Spirit, loosen our tongues and teach us 
new languages of love. 
Amen.

The story of Pentecost is wild-wind and flames!

What I want to ask you before we enter into the story together is this, and it’s a great question to ask of all stories in the Bible:  Where am I in this story?  Where are you in this story?  Because this story is your story too.

This story takes place at the very beginning, the very birth, of what we now call the “Church” with a big C.  I imagine there was excitement, apprehension (because it wasn’t safe and everyone knew it), hope, and fear in this new beginning, and perhaps that was all represented by the people in that room. New beginnings aren’t easy, either; maybe there were already signs of stress and disagreement around the peripheries of the excitement.

I invite you to think about who may have been present in that room during Pentecost: children, men, women, those who believed wholeheartedly in their value to their community and those who doubted their worth, those whose gifts were quiet and sometimes overlooked and those whose gifts were loud and maybe showier.  

If you want to, close your eyes for just a minute, and come into that room. 

Emily:  Then hear the wind whispering far away, building to a roar; the shutters fly open. The temperature in the stuffy room changes.  Papers rustle; everything that isn’t tied down springs to life.  Maybe a chair or two turns over.  Maybe someone jumps to their feet.  The air is charged: something invisible has arrived, and everyone can’t help but feel it. 

Kim:  Maybe the people there shut their eyes for just a few moments as the wind rushed around them, and when they opened them--what did they see but the impossible:  they were all crowned with tongues of fire, made kings and queens, enobled and enabled, by the Holy Spirit, who Jesus had said would come to be their friend and their advocate.  I bet they did not expect fire.  I wonder what they felt inside, what their visceral response was, whether they trembled or were frozen in wonder or fear… 

Emily: And what happened next is truly mysterious:  the people assembled began to speak in languages they had not before known.  They didn’t choose the languages they were speaking; God chose them.  The people spilled out of the room.   Their speech united them with the people out in the street, and everyone was bound together as each heard their own language spoken.  Everyone was linked by this unexpected intimacy and friendship.

As Frederick Beuchner so beautifully puts it, The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.  In Pentecost, we see the gifts of the Spirit, embodied and shared by the people of God, meeting the world’s deep hunger.  At Pentecost, out in the street, the Spirit’s gifts met a hunger to be known, to be understood, to be united by shared language, culture, and deep inner knowing. 

Kim:  So where are you in this story?  I’ve never spoken in tongues, nor have I received the Spirit like a burning flame above my head.  But the Spirit is here, today, even as we are separated by so much space and computer screens.  I’ve felt the presence of the Spirit palpably in community, in song, and in the love and service you all share with one another in this time.  I’ve felt the presence of the Spirit as a comforter as a child when I was afraid, as a young adult when I was lonely, and at different times as a great force of truth, justice, joy, unity, beauty, and understanding that defies and transcends boundaries.  

So that’s the first certainty in my mind: the Spirit is here, and abides with us: inside us, in our community and the world, and, history and Scripture tell us, in an exciting and particular way during specific moments in time, as in Pentecost.

It’s easy to forget the presence of the Spirit, whom Jesus promised his people before he left.  He was leaving us, he said, but he would send us a Friend and an Advocate, the Spirit of God.

At the beginning of Sunday School when we meet in person, one of our children lights the candles on the altar, and we all say or listen to someone say: We light this candle to remember that God is here.  Even though we can’t see God, God was with us last week and is here now and will be with us forever.  That’s the Holy Spirit we’re talking about, and we can see the representation in the candle flame, as well as the doves we made last Pentecost that we hung from the lights in the Sunday School room, with streamers of red attached.  They reminded us of what we knew was true but is so easy to forget:  the presence of the Friend, the Holy Spirit, is with us always.

Emily:  We know that the Holy Spirit doesn’t always manifest as a thundering wind; sometimes it is as quiet and intimate as a breath, as when Jesus breathed on his disciples before leaving them, or as in the old story when God breathed on the clay to embody the clay with God’s presence: and then we joined the Big Story.  

If you listen to the stories of those who have experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit, they are as diverse as the tellers:  There are historical records of the Holy Spirit, which are so wild and untamed that many of us aren’t even sure what to think of them.  The Spirit humbles us, astounds us, makes believers of the skeptical. Then there are quieter ways that the Spirit makes herself known, which many of us can relate to: in the rustling of tree branches, in a voice nobody else can hear; in a palpable presence that transcends boundaries; in the voice of another; in the colors of a sunrise; in the song of a bird; in a healing that seems impossible; in an unlikely reconciliation; in the voice of a child or the touch of another’s hand.  

Kim:  So that’s the first wonderful mystery:  The Spirit is with us.

The second wonderful mystery that we want to celebrate this morning, that draws me into the story of Pentecost as a full player, is that the Spirit knows me.  The Spirit knows you, and has given you--and me--a special invitation to the Kingdom of God.

This light or Spirit inside doesn’t make us less ourselves, but more ourselves.  Like the flickering flame of a match lit in a dark room makes a hidden jewel glitter, the Holy Spirit illumines the gifts hidden away in us.  That’s what friends do for us, too: pull out what’s best in us.  That’s what advocates do for those who don’t have a voice--they help the silent among us speak powerfully with their authentic voices.

Emily:  Parker Palmer’s belief, rooted in Quaker thought and practice,  is that our greatest, “birthright” gifts are so much a part of who we are that we can’t see them in ourselves.  We need others, like teachers, mentors, and friends,  to mirror them back to us.

Years ago, as a young, relatively unformed teacher in a small Quaker school in NC, I was told by an elder in the community that my “charge” (that old-fashioned word) as a teacher was to “recognize and respond to the Light in each of my students and colleagues” -- to trust, even when it wasn’t apparent, that there was That of God, That of Infinite Worth in everyone I encountered, and to “answer” that Light in them and encourage them to let it shine, for their own sake and for the sake of our community. It was a simple spiritual practice, and one that shifted everything for me in terms of my relationship with my work, with those I served, with those dearest to me, and ultimately with all of life. Even the most ordinary moments took on a kind of shimmering quality, and I began to feel my own Light shining a bit more brightly too… 

Kim:  So the gifts the Spirit gives are at once very individual, yet also given for the good of our community.  

1 Corinthians talks about our gifts in terms of body parts, which can be hilarious if you’re a middle schooler, because who gets to be an armpit, for instance, or a toenail?  I love the hypothetical questions that passage poses--can a foot survive without a brain?  “The eye cannot say to the hand, I don’t need you!  And the head cannot say to the feet, I don’t need you!”  But that question points to an absurdity present in our own culture--the temptation toward complete autonomy or the illusion of isolationism.  We’re taught by our culture that we can go it alone, without sharing, dependency, or collaboration.  But that’s deluded, just like an arm who wants to swing a hammer and eat dinner without the body and the head. 

There’s the idea in 1 Corinthians of both universality and particularity.  We’re all given the Spirit for the common good.  That’s a given; that’s universal.  But the gift of the Spirit is also very specific--we find our identity in the body fully as we delight in our particularity.  

Emily:  So what does it mean for us to be a foot or an arm or a knee?  We’re all needed.  Each of us has particular gifts, which is exciting, because that means discovery, becoming, learning.  And all gifts are equally recognized as important; the preachers with the gift of prophecy aren’t more important than those with the gift of friendship; those with the gift of hospitality aren’t less important than those with the gift of healing.

It’s like receiving an invitation to join in something greater than yourself, like being invited to the best potluck meal you’ve ever had; maybe you bring a rhubarb pie or your guitar or your secret recipe for tuna noodle casserole, or you bring along your ability to make good conversation or a willingness to scrub pots in the kitchen with others.  That meal would not be the same without you, and you would not be the same without that meal.  

Or you can think of your gift or gifts as a word in a poem, a voice in a choir, an instrument in a symphony.  

Kim:  It’s a serious business.  The world needs your gifts.  There are incredible wounds in our world--we only need to scroll through the news this morning to find that our country is torn by injustice, anger, and grief.  Those in our community and nation are bearing incredible hurts.  There are deep hungers for righteousness, justice, healing, and hard-won unity, and it can feel so far away.  If you’re anything like me, you fight to keep seeing hope.

Once again, Jesus was clear with his friends that they had a part in all of this, and when he left them, he was sure to tell them that they would be empowered and enabled to be bright lights in every dark corner of the world.  That’s why I think the Holy Spirit arrived like a wind that moves away stale air and a fire that burns despite the darkness.

We’re bearing that light today.  The gifts that the Spirit has given all of us are precious not only to our community, but to the universal Church with a big “C,” to the whole world.  The Holy Spirit is uniting, affirming, a bridge-builder.  The Spirit knits our gifts together in a way that stitches and strengthens the  fabric of universal goodness, beauty and friendship, and this somehow and mysteriously lasts for eternity.  Or, if you like, your gifts are the soil, the gardens, homes and the streets in the Kingdom of God.  We build that Kingdom together, shoulder-to-shoulder.

Emily:  I believe, if we listen deeply enough, we will be led (sometimes despite ourselves), to the VERY people and places that allow us to discover our truest spiritual gifts and deepen into them in community, as a lifelong, moment-to-moment practice. 
Kim:  So the third way we want to invite you to enter into the story of Pentecost is to participate in a recognition and celebration of your gifts.

Emily:  Kim and I will name and briefly describe some gifts of the Holy Spirit.  When you hear one that sparks a flame in you, we invite you to light a candle.  Or if you don’t have a candle, you can open your hands or respond in a way that is meaningful to you.

So, we invite you now, to turn your focus in and simply listen for where you feel a resonance with the words you hear, or a longing to have that gift find expression through you. This isn’t a prescriptive exercise, and please don’t feel any pressure at all to respond in any particular way. 

Kim:  Please remember, as you listen, that it is one of the most difficult things to accept a gift for yourself.  One indication that you might have a gift is that when you hear it, you recognize it but sort of bump up against it because it something you struggle with.  It can be really difficult to come out of the shadows of our doubt or shyness to claim a gift we know or hope might be ours.  So I invite you to tap into your childlike capacity for boldness and for wonder, if you can.  When we did this with kids last year, I loved watching their recognition and eagerness to light a candle for a gift they recognized as theirs. 

 So let’s begin. Take a deep breath, experience a moment of silence as we welcome the Spirit together [silence].

The gift of Wisdom--A depth and breadth of insight that sees to the heart of things, lights the way for others, opening them to the presence and action of God in their lives

Emily:  Integrity--The gift of living in alignment with that which is deepest and truest within us; embracing the fullness of who we are, living faithfully out of both our limitations and our gifts.

Kim:  Teaching--The gift of drawing out the unique gifts and potential of others, bringing them to a deepening understanding of themselves and the world around them

Emily:  Hospitality--The gift of opening one’s home and heart to others, creating spaces inwardly and outwardly, where all of you all are welcome, and where the Light of God shines forth in celebration and thanksgiving for all who enter in. 

Kim:  Prophesy--the gift of naming what is true even when it is inconvenient, a capacity for deep insight to call out the potential or giftedness in others, an ability to see beyond what is, to what could be.

Emily: Friendship--The gift of weaving true, enduring connections, which sustain us in times of joy and sorrow and everything in between; the capacity to be “God beside” those we love and care for.

Kim:  Compassion--the gift of expanding the contours of our hearts to offer blessing to others, to hold their suffering and to enter into that suffering with a steadiness of spirit and abiding love.

Emily:  Mercy, or Healing--the gift of entering into places of brokenness with life-giving grace, deep love, and forgiveness

Kim:  Joy--A lightness and buoyancy of heart and spirit that transcends external circumstances; an orientation of the spirit toward the deep stream of God’s enduring delight in God’s creation 

Emily:  Boldness, or Fortitude--the gift of everyday courage, the capacity to stand firm and speak for justice with a steadfast heart

Kim:  Discernment:  the gift of deep, prayerful listening for what is waiting in the shadows, wanting to be known, to see what is invisibly stirring beyond the surface of our perception 

Emily:   Faith:  the gift of knowing God is near despite one’s feelings, the capacity to abide in God’s love and presence even in the darkest of times, to see God in others and in the world with holy imagination.

Kim: Knowledge:  the gift of exercising an appetite for discovery, and a curiosity about the world and its relationship to God

Emily:  Reverence: the gift of a posture of humility, awe and gratitude

Kim:  Forgiveness: an orientation toward willingly releasing our hurts; an acceptance of God’s love and healing, an unburdening of others and ourselves in love.

--silence--

Emily:  Spirit of God, breathe in us.
Spirit of love, sing in us.
Spirit of justice, rise in us to do your will.

Amen.

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