“Word for Today” – Acts 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

September 22, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Wish List 1Earlier this month, I endured another birthday.  I say I endured another birthday because my birthday is not a favorite day of mine.  Indeed, I much prefer a low-key and reflective day rather than a celebratory and boisterous one.

In preparation for my birthday, my wife Melody asked me what I wanted as gifts.  I answered as I always do:  “Books!”  I have an acute case of “bookophilia,” as anyone who has visited my office knows.  I love to read theological tomes.  I even keep a wish list on amazon.com so that Melody can buy me exactly what I want for special occasions.  Not a lot of creativity is needed when choosing a gift for me.  Simply select a book from my wish list.

Over the years, it seems that gift giving has gone from being creative to calculated.  People are no longer happy with just any gift; rather, they want a specific gift.  And if they do not receive that specific gift, they return their unwanted gift to the store.  In fact, I stumbled across a website the other day called yourchristmaslist.com.  It allows you to, with great specificity, identify what gifts you would like to see under your softly lit Christmas tree on the morning of December 25.  Its home page boasts:  “Tired of standing in long lines, exchanging all of your unwanted Christmas gifts? Here’s your chance to get what you want this year!  Sign up now for a Christmas Gift List!”  Clearly, we have become hopelessly particular when it comes to our gifts.

Our attitude toward the gifts of this world has sadly spilled over into the gifts of God’s Spirit.  There are some Christians who, with great definitiveness and earnestness, demand that God give them one spiritual gift or another.  This is especially true with the so-called “spectacular gifts,” such as the gift of tongues or the gift of healing.  But unlike the wish lists we create for our birthdays and Christmas, we can place no such specific demands on the Holy Spirit.  Rather, the Spirit passes out his gifts when and where he pleases.

In our reading for today from Acts 2, we read of an outpouring of God’s Spirit that is truly remarkable in the history of the church:  the outpouring of God’s Spirit on Pentecost.  In this particular instance, God’s Spirit enables Jesus’ disciples to speak in languages they have not learned to spread the message of Jesus.  As verse 4 says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” I like the old King James Version of this verse because it more closely corresponds to the Greek:  “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  Did you catch that?  The Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak in tongues.  It was a gift.  That means they couldn’t coerce or demand their sudden linguistic proficiency.  It was a gift given by the Spirit when and where he pleased.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of the Spirit’s gifts thusly:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 8-9)

Paul is abundantly clear:  Not every person receives every one of the Spirit’s gifts.  To one the Spirit gives a certain gift.  To another the Spirit gives a different gift.  Different gifts for different people.  And yet, there is only one Spirit.  For it is the “same Spirit” who doles out gifts of wisdom, knowledge, healing, and even tongues.  As Christians, we may have different gifts, but we all have the same Spirit.  This is why, after Peter receives the spiritual gift of tongues and begins to preach, he finishes his sermon with this invitation: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (verse 38).  The gift of God’s Spirit is for every one of us.

Blessedly, Jesus’ disciples received just the right gift for just the right moment on that Pentecost day.  For because they could share the gospel in many languages, “three thousand were added to their number that day” (verse 41).  The Spirit’s gift was right on target for the gospel’s cause that day.  And the promise is that the Spirit continues to give out gifts to his people that are right on target for the gospel’s cause in our day.  So whatever your spiritual gift may be, know that it is just the right gift for you and, perhaps more importantly, it is just the right gift for the cause of God’s kingdom.  No spiritual gift wish list needed.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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