The church recently celebrated Pentecost, which for Christians is a festive day where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and the famous story of Peter proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people of many nations took place. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit the disciples can expand Jesus’s ministry to reach the entire world, a mission that the church carries on today.
On Pentecost the disciples were given the ability to suddenly speak different languages fluently, which is a truly remarkable thing.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 says, “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. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses,” (NRSV).
The reading I share with you today gives an addition to what the Holy Spirit does for us. We are equipped with a variety of gifts to do ministry, Paul names a few in this passage, but spiritual gifts can be the many different things that help us connect to others and ultimately help others connect to God.
In a sense, we each have our own “language” that can communicate the Gospel to certain people that no one else can. I may be a pastor, but I do not know the “language” of, say, bankers, government workers, cultures outside my own, even hobby groups like basketball, dance, or woodworking. Board games on the other hand, let’s talk. The point is that you have your own experiences and passions that the Holy Spirit can use to as a kind of “language” to communicate the Gospel to other people.
Paul also says something in this passage that may be overlooked but is incredibly important. It is the idea that despite the variety of gifts distributed they are all activated by the same God, the same Holy Spirit. There is no hierarchy of spiritual gifts or “languages” spoken, but all are necessary for ministry. Far too often I find that people of faith are not always confident in proclaiming their faith to others, which is valid because we should be sensitive with how we do it.
I do not care which church you are at, have you ever encountered a shortage of volunteers with things like Sunday school? People of faith sometimes think they aren’t good enough to share their faith, or that their “language” is dismissible. That simply is not true.
One of my joys as a pastor is that the children of the church will sometimes draw a picture for me. It makes me so happy when a child comes up to me and says, “This is for you, Pastor Matt.” I get a colorful picture of a variety of different things, and every one of those pictures is a special gift. Even the youngest among us are sharing their “language” with the others, a language of love, which in my case has been in the form of art.
You who are followers of Jesus, also have a language that speaks to people. May you be confident in speaking your language, trusting that God has equipped you as you need to be in order to share the Gospel with others.