Varieties of Gifts

1 Cor. 12:4—13; 27—31

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 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 same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

Reflections on the Text

The model for all gatherings of Christians is the Holy Trinity. Orthodox theology insists that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while personally different from each other, are still held together in unity. They are both “other” and also “community” or “communion.” When people are brought together by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, they have the opportunity to form a single body and overcome not the particular differences they may have as unique persons, but the divisions that separate them. As one Orthodox writer has commented: “Communion does not threaten otherness, it generates it.” We can respect each other’s personal gifts and learn from our differences, while striving to overcome our divisions. This body, with individual members still responsible for separate functions (an eye cannot be a hand, after all), has Jesus Christ as its head. We become members of this body when we are baptized. It has often been said, in the words of St. Paul (Gal. 3:27), that though many have been baptized into Christ, few have actually put on Christ. Few people take their membership and the responsible use of their talents seriously. The result is that a few members often do most of the functions for the rest of the body. So while the eyes and arms may get strong (and usually tired), the legs become weak and the ears do not function at all. Instead of a finely coordinated body that lives and grows, one grows in an abnormal way, alive but with limited abilities and not much of a future.

Each member is crucial for the survival of the whole body and, as such, each member is connected to the other. This means that whatever even the seemingly least important member of the parish does or experiences has an effect on the rest of the members. St. Paul writes that “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (I Cor. 12:26).

Relating the Bible to Our Lives

1. We might as Christians sometimes assume that the relationship between the members of the Holy Trinity is of a theological nature and does not have much in common with the “real world.” Do you agree that the Holy Trinity can be an appropriate model for human relationships and gatherings? If so, in what ways? (Examine the aposticha verses of Pentecost for an understanding of how the persons of the Trinity relate to each other.)

2. “Differences, not divisions” — Think of your parish or your parish council; how do you differ from one another? In what ways do your differences create opportunities for mutual growth? In what ways do they lead to divisions? How do you understand the distinction between difference and division? Try spending part of your next council meeting discussing your differences and divisions.

3. How might the members that make up the “body” of your parish community be over- or under-utilized? Do the same people tend, for whatever reason, to assume the same functions year after year’ Why is that~ How can we encourage others to contribute their talents (see I Cor. 12:18—25)? In evaluating the responsibilities of the pastor, are there tasks, which could be delegated to someone else? Is the reason that this is not happening because of the pastor’s or the community’s reluctance?

4. In what ways are we as members of the parish accountable to one another and responsible for recognizing and using the personal gifts of all the members of the parish? Does our jealousy interfere with our ability to support and rejoice with others in their achievements?