Resurrection Gifts

Epiphany 2 – 16th January 2022

We have entered the Season of Epiphany. If ever there was a need to recognise Epiphany as a Season, it is this year. After 4 lockdowns due to Covid-19 being in our community and facing restrictions under the Traffic Light Framework for who knows how long? We need to recognise this time between Christmas and Lent.

“Epiphany is the period of several weeks in which the church reflects on the manifestation of Christ to all peoples.” (Lectionary, p.2) Epiphany is a time for enlightenment. It is a time for transformation. We are leading up to the vision of Christ’s transfiguration. Our wait during Advent was revealing. We discovered our need for hope, peace, faith, and love. Christmas was a time of enjoying the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus is here among us!

This Epiphany, I wanted to encourage you through the theme of power in Christ’s Presence. This is a season of transformation. This is our opportunity to go from good too great. As a church, we have a wonderful foundation upon which we can build a great ministry. To do that, however, will take a transfiguration. To assist our corporate transformation, we will emphasise the themes from the Corinthian texts in our lectionary readings.

Let me say that many will wonder if I am emphasising this material at the right time. You may have noticed (if you have seen the advertised themes for each week) that they are all associated with resurrection. Resurrection is Easter and we have not yet even reached Lent. But I assure you this is the right time. Epiphany is our opportunity to understand the power of Christmas. And that power is given by Christ to you individually and manifested corporately through the Church.

What It Is Not

I want to begin with what I DO NOT mean by going from good to great. I do NOT mean that I will give you a series of instructions or an action plan to execute that will result in your transformation. That reminds of several parables I recently read.

There was a woman in labour needing to give birth to her baby. She wrapped herself over a yoga ball in the corner of her bedroom, trying to get a handle on her breathing. Just then, nine men in business suits gathered around here. After some discussion they agreed upon a plan, and presented it to the woman. The three-step outline showed that is she pushed, then the baby would come out, and then the birth would be done. The woman agreed to the plan and successfully had the baby by following the instructions. (Kevin Gilbert)

Now all of you mothers out there know full well that is not how it is done! And neither is spiritual transformation in your life and in the life of our church.

Too many churches and ministers today are caught up trying to systemise church growth. It is like after a seed is planted, the farmer digs it up to analyse its progress. He then performs a hygiene routine to ensure it was making progress in its transformation towards becoming a thriving plant before replanting it and repeating the process several times every day. (Kevin Gilbert)

There was time in my ministry where I wondered if there was some elements of truth in the church growth programs. But I soon learned two valuable lessons:

  1. You can not manage people;
  2. The church is an organism, not an organisation.

The Church is a living, breathing organism. Its head is Jesus Christ and we are its body. As an organism, just like in the parable of the woman wrapping herself around a yoga ball, birth is a natural process, not an  executed plan. And so it is with the Church – no business plan is appropriate for transformation that excludes the relationship we have with a living, breathing God.

As a leader, whether a minister, husband, mother, work supervisor or team leader, you cannot manage people. You manage systems and processes. People must be lead.

When I speak about our transformation, I am speaking about the power of Christ’s presence in our midst. When Christ is present, there is power to produce the transfiguration required for us to be a sign of God’s presence in Papatotetoe.

What It is

What is transformation? What does transfiguration look like? It begins by realising the Miracle of Ordinary.

Miracle of Ordinary

Today’s readings present different scenarios of life, including times when people felt the future was bleak and things were about to crumble, yet they experienced the presence of God to bolster them. Do not be too quick to give up on yourself or others or even God. Scriptures speak to God’s presence in the world and the ways that we are protected and encouraged by a caring God.

The miracle in Cana reported by John’s Gospel took place in ordinary surroundings. Often we look beyond the ordinary for God’s power but miracles are usually exercised in our ordinary life. Jesus and his disciples, along with his mother, looked like a group of ordinary friends attending an ordinary event. There is a miracle of ordinary in Christ.

Our Call to Worship was based on this week’s Psalm. Did you notice how it sings of ordinary sites? There are clouds, mountains, water, people, and animals in the lyrics. These are all ordinary objects to our senses. And yet the melody of God’s miraculous faithfulness, steadfast love, and righteous judgments gives sense to the harmony of the ordinary. There is a miracle of ordinary in creation.

Our text read from Isaiah described ordinary emotions associated with defeat and despair. It reported unrest, forsakenness, and desolation. But the ordinary feelings are rectified by extraordinary intervention in its passage! There is a promise delivered of miraculous vindication, salvation, and an elevation of those on society’s fringe to a position of royalty. There is a miracle of ordinary in calamities.

It appears from our texts that it is the ordinary is where miracles are found. Are you despondent from circumstances and events that have taken place in your life this past week? Instead of looking beyond your circumstances for evidence of the miraculous, why not carefully and prayerfully consider your ordinary circumstances?

Power of Gifts

Transformation not only begins in the ordinary, it is manifested through ordinary people exercising holy gifts. That is is the point of the Corinthian text. People of different backgrounds possessing different talents with seemingly no connection are banded together around Christ. An ordinary community of people with everyday problems from everyday living come together for extraordinary purposes. There is a miracle of ordinary in the Church.

During the pandemic, we quickly came to appreciate the gifts of many who do jobs that are far from glamorous but are essential to our well-being. It is not too late to write letters of thanks or show appreciation to those in your community of faith as well as the broader community.

Authour Unknown

Can you imagine the problems we would have had without the rubbish collection? The sanitary workers protected the community from disease and chaos. Their role was more powerful during the pandemic than that of architects and engineers who design the city!

Here at St Johns, we are blessed with diversity in gifting. As the minister, I cannot do everything that needs to be done to sustain this ministry. The pastoral care alone must be shared among the elders of whom I am but the teaching elder. Maintaining the building, caring for the cemetery grounds, ensuring accounts are settled – those all require gifting outside of the minister. As a church, we have all of those gifts and more!

Imagine what St Johns could accomplish if we worked in unity, leveraging the diversity we enjoy?

 “Paul’s passage on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians repeatedly inspires and reminds us that God is the source of our human gifts, which we are encouraged to honour, develop, and share. In a community of faith, we need people with all types of gifts to bring wholeness and unity. There is diversity but not a hierarchy of gifts. God delights in the gifts that are within us all.

…We often highlight people who offer gifts in worship or in organising larger activities and groups. Such gifts are important, but what about the people who quietly offer a prayer ministry from home, or call individuals who are alone or sick and unable to attend community events? What about those who work on the flower beds in the summer or [clean up around the building, picking up the rubbish] in the winter, or those who make sure the heat is turned up before people arrive for events? Jesus reminds us that often the most important actions are not the prominent, public acts, but those done silently and in private. The same is true about how we share our gifts within the community of faith.

My identity does not begin when I begin to understand myself. There is something previous to what I think about myself, and it is what God thinks of me.”

Run with the Horses by Eugene H. Peterson.

The letter to the saints in Corinth are a reminder to each of us here in Papatoetoe.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Christ is here and Christ’s power is available for common good. We all have the same Spirit of Christ and yet God’s Spirit has seen fit to empower us each with different gifts. In this season of Epiphany, let us look for God in the ordinary. Let us realise the gifts he has given each of us. Let us join together in the exercise of our individual gifts. St Johns family, let us begin the transfiguration that will be fully manifest in Christ; let us move from good to great!

Collect

O God of steadfast love,
at the wedding in Cana
your Son Jesus turned water into wine,
delighting all who were there.
Transform our hearts by your Spirit,
that we may use our varied gifts
to show forth the light of your love
as one body in Christ. Amen.

Published by St Johns Papatoetoe

Presbyterian Church, Hunters Corner, Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand belonging to Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ).

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