Last Sunday we were looking at the nine gifts Paul teaches about in 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11. The context of his list of examples suggests that they are not gifts to be seen as or used individually in isolation, but together in combination… and always for the common good (not to show “my” spiritual prowess) to encourage everyone in the church.

A gift of prophecy could come as a word of knowledge through words, pictures, a phrase or scripture and wisdom understands how to apply it to the life of the believers; prophecy can also come through a message in tongues which then needs interpretation (prophetic tongues different from private prayer tongues which is not for public announcement). Wisdom and discernment are needed to understand what is from God and what might be good intentions, a mis-hearing or even a deception. God encourages people to believe, through the gift of exceptional assured faith, that he is going to heal and/or do a miracle and then acts through those he gives gifts of healing and miracles. All together these gifts form what we would expect for equipping a ministry team. We also note that such gifts were also used evangelistically in the early church to help people and then as they opened their hearts and minds the apostles shared with them about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit.

The PowerPoint shows a bit more about it.

Having talked about the gifts, we asked God to speak to us through them and various people received the following messages:

“It’s a brand new day; his mercies are brand new every morning”… “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day”

“Walk on”

a picture of a cloud with bright light shining from the middle of the cloud

a wisdom that God is doing a new thing, that not using his gifts is a thing of the past, now we can go forward bringing and using the gifts that God gives us through his Spirit, that the cloud might be an affirmation about a ‘new dawn’

“Let the children come to me”

“I love you! Come! Supper is ready” (word received a few days earlier)

So from all this we encouraged people to respond to God’s invitation to a new start, to do a new thing, to receive a fresh of his mercies as everyone came to the Lord’s table and about 16 also received anointing with oil.

Thank you Lord.

Revd Phil.

  Use your gift whole-heartedly

This Sunday (26 Aug) we were thinking about spiritual gifts.  It’s a theme we’re following at both Emmanuel and Rectory Farm congregations. We read from Romans 12 v 1-12 and below are the notes from my talk.

In Romans 12 Paul lays out a much shorter summary of thoughts about spiritual gifts than the fuller version in 1 Corinthians. In v3 he reminds us of the importance of having a healthy view of ourselves – neither too “big-headed” nor too timid … but v4 actually the body of Christ has a variety of many different parts, each with a particular job / role to do and all brought together as one body.  Each person has a part to play and we need every one for the church to be healthy. So v10 it’s really important that we love and support each other in our ministries.

A Spiritual gift is somehow different from a natural talent or skill.  It is a gift that comes from God to those who believe in him when they receive his Holy Spirit into their life. Some gifts can seem rather ordinary, to be used more in the background while others can seem more dramatic e.g. if someone is healed, or God gives knowledge to someone that they couldn’t otherwise have known. But again we must emphasise and remember that God values everyone equally, God gives us each our gift(s) and everyone playing their part is truly needed.

Some spiritual gifts can look like natural talents: sometimes I’ve found that God adds a new dimension to what we might call a natural talent; and sometimes it is a completely new ability that God gives. It can be a bit tricky to put your finger on, but we do tend to recognise when someone has a gift for something because they tend to do it intuitively, it flows and it has a positive effect in encouraging and helping the church to grow in faith and in our love of God and each other. And if we use and encourage gifts then we do grow in experience and our ability to use them.

Some examples of gifts and my suggestions by way of a definition…

Encouragement:- God-given ability to value, praise, comfort, give consolation such that others are encouraged, motivated, helped, healed, grow in their life and faith in Christ. Make people feel better and “up-lifted”…

Hospitality:- God-given ability to welcome people at a deeper, more involved level; particularly care for someone’s basic provision, feed and give them a place to stay or rest; can often be an open home and also in Church.

Prophecy:- God-given ability to receive and communicate a message from God; for that moment, affirmed by others with a sense of “Yes God is really speaking to us in this”; never contradicts the Bible; not very often about foretelling future – more about God’s message “here and now”; powerful so needs to be used carefully and lovingly and for building up the life of the Church.

Summing up Paul ‘s message from V6-8… Whatever your gift, use it with enthusiasm, whole-heartedly, remembering that we are to do it all out of, and because of, God’s grace to us and do it for the good of the Church.

–/oOo\–

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I’m writing this in the middle of a two day clergy conference about weddings. As you might guess I’m not good with two day conferences about anything really. And this one keeps going all the time; no room for a 1.30pm – 2:00pm snooze. But – and you will understand it is a big but – the invitation came from the Bishop. So I thought it sensible to attend.

It started well this morning: pink bubbly at 11am tastedpretty good. And a wedding buffetfor lunch tasted good too. OK, not exactly a proper wedding breakfast. But there was smoked salmon and asparagus. That’s a mighty fine wedding buffet where I come from.

In fact it has all been good; someone welcomed me on the door and admired my Christmas present handbag (I feared she probably wanted me to be Christian and give it to her); someone else gave me a lovely name badge and throughout the dayI have been given goodies to take home.And whenever someone has spoken to me it has been by name.  It feels radically different from any clergy conference I have ever attended.

The conference is part of a nationwide programme to shake clergy up to the ‘missional opportunities afforded by weddings’ (that’s to show I am listening….). Listen to this though: research shows thatmost people who get married in church don’t want the church because it makes pretty pictures (anyone can have pretty pictures anywhere today). They want to get married in church because they are serious about what they are doing and want the God bit as part of that seriousness.

But…… because they don’t go to church they don’t know how to put that into God- speak to impress the vicar. And they’re also nervous that they will be found out as not being card carrying Christians and then they have to find a vicar who will marry them and even worse they might be divorced and…….some of them are men who don’t do touchy-feely by choice. What a nightmare.

And the church (well the clergy really) make it as hard as possible for them. (Not us obviously because Linda is our front woman and welcomes everyone with open arms.) And so they go away after the wedding and don’t come back. And we have missed a trick (again). We’ve missed a big opportunity to overwhelm this couple (and their guests) with the love of God.

We had a wedding at Emmanuel on New Year’s Day. There were lemon, cream and pink balloon arches everywhere and the constant flash of cameras and the bride and groom danced out of the church and into the reception and it was fabulous. Just fabulous.  And at the reception there was a master of ceremonies to welcome the bridal party and the guests and the hospitality was ever flowing and never ending.Thank you Michael and Juliet.

This conference suggests that the kind of welcome we received at Michael and Juliet’s wedding is the kind of welcome we should be extending as a church to wedding couples. (Obviously they don’t usually do balloons in Rutland for example but you get the idea.) A radical welcome which turns upside down the expectations of the couple and makes them feel wanted, welcomed and loved. Where they feel  crowned(like the couple in the picture) by the love of God.

You can see where this is going can’t you. Never mind weddings (not really but just for the moment): what about the church? Are we radically welcoming? Are we willing to turn everything upside to be radically welcoming? Do we ‘crown’ visitors with the love of God.

I don’t mean do we ensure they have a hymnbook or can see the screen. I don’t even mean do we ensure they get a coffee after the service. Do we make friends with them; overlook their lack of religious language, immediately make them part of the family?

Look at the picture above of the wedding at Cana in Galilee. Can you see what is happening? The couple with crowns on are getting married. It is they who are the centre of attention.But….. Jesus is there and that changes everything. The grace of God is being poured out even as the water turns into wine.  Imagine putting visitors in the position of the wedding couple when they arrive in church; it’s all about them. OK, we know it’s all about Jesus. But go back to the gospels and see what Jesus does. It’s all about the ‘visitors’; the ones he meets.

I’m looking forward to being welcomed tomorrow on day two of the conference. Wedding cake I think. Feel free to bake a wedding cake for your visitors this week. Or strew rose petals in their path. Or even invite them home to lunch. What might a radical welcome look like in your church this week?

With love and prayers (as always) from Margaret.

Have a look at the Wedding Project: www.yourchurchwedding.org



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