“The Gifts of the Spirit Amidst a Pandemic”

A couple of Sundays ago, I preached that “We’re all in this together.” That’s only more true today, as our nation – already reeling from a pandemic – continues to splinter.  I feel like the celebration of Pentecost today comes at an opportune time!

At this Jewish feast, celebrated fifty days after Passover, pilgrims came to Jerusalem from all over the world.  Jesus’ apostles were gathered together when a great wind came down, with tongues that looked like fire, and the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The crowd was astonished because each pilgrim heard the apostles speaking to them in their own language.  Peter preached to them about Jesus, his crucifixion and his resurrection.  The crowd was moved by Peter’s words and in response to his preaching, asked “what should we do?”  Peter told them to repent and be baptized, and about three thousand people were added to the emerging Christian church.  

“What should we do?”  How many of us are asking that today?  I think the words of the apostle Paul can offer some guidance.

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

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.

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 in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Back in March, my four kids returned from their various universities, and my husband and I were no longer empty-nesters.  As the reality of the pandemic has set in – and continues to set in – we have learned to once again live with each other, sharing spaces and responsibilities – from dish washing to laundry duty.  As the kids attend school on-line, they’ve learned to find their own space and coordinate with each other so no one’s class is interrupting another’s.  They’ve even managed to respect MY space when I sit in my office for Zoom meetings.  Overall, I like to think my family has become more respectful and appreciative of each other’s gifts for understanding, and of what it takes to live in an up-ended world.

The same can be said for our understanding and support of one another here at CCoL.  While being in between having a full-time Interim Pastor and anticipating the arrival of our settled pastor Rev. Jen, I’ve been blessed to work with a staff talented with amazing gifts, who have worked to cover all the bases to address the needs of our congregation.  Amber LaSante is our social media manager when technology has become increasingly important.  Jane Jackson lends her gifts for publications while also holding down the office throughout the day.  Michelle Rawlinson continues to offer meaningful programs for our kids, and Pete Scantlebury has overseen all the work at the parsonage in anticipation of Rev. Jen’s arrival.  Janet Anderson continues to meet with our Music Committee, as well as taking on other responsibilities.  Deb Rosson, in addition to serving as Church Treasurer, has picked up the financial duties of our office administrator Denise in her absence.  And that’s just the staff of our church!

The ministry of CCoL continues primarily thanks to you, the members of our congregation who offer your gifts in abundance.  This pandemic is NOT holding us back.  

Food is Love has been expanding and adapting incredibly in order to share food with those in our community who are most in need.  The Deacons and others are checking in with those who are living alone, and people are joining together in prayer on Wednesday nights and gathering for book discussions.  Our high school and middle school youth groups get together for discussions and virtual activities via Zoom, and all our many committees are meeting on a regular basis.  The Mission Outreach Committee is once again reaching out to mothers and children living at Transitions at Devens, as well as supporting Loaves and Fishes, as is the Garden at Church Meadows, which is ramping up for another bountiful season.  And the folks who have been updating the parsonage during these many months have created and warm and welcoming home for Rev. Jen and her family, thanks to their own unique gifts.

Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul describes manifestations of the Holy Spirit as capabilities seen in individuals, gifts for leadership and service. He writes, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  He says that to “each” – not to “most”— to “each” is given the manifestation of the Spirit.  Each and all of our gifts are valuable, and during these days we’re learning new ways to put those gifts to use in service to God.  

Paul lifts up the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, and healing.  I celebrate this congregation’s gift of comfort and support of one another. Every day I get phone calls, texts, and emails both offering and seeking updates on members of our church family and expressing concern about the well-being of others.  There are people in our church focused on our administration and finances, reviewing guidelines and recommendations for how we proceed in the coming months.  And members’ financial support for this family of faith has been steady and generous.

On Pentecost, followers from “every nation under heaven,” from every corner of the earth, came together, hearing words of God’s deeds and power, all by the power of the Holy Spirit.  They all heard in their own languages a new thing – a new creation that would bear the name church.

And in the Corinthians’ time, as in ours, each one’s gifts were useful for the whole community. Whatever the circumstances during which we celebrate Pentecost this year, it feels like a fitting time to acknowledge the varieties of gifts we have discovered and share – especially those capabilities we didn’t even know we had, in order to flourish as the Body of Christ.  I am so grateful to be a part of this Body.

Now, more than ever, we need Pentecost.  In the midst of a pandemic – when we so need to join together – we are besieged by divisiveness, anger, and violence.  I pray that Christ’s church – this church – may stand as a model, an example, a witness to the power of unity amidst division.  Through our variety of gifts, joined together in common purpose, our church will continue to grow and thrive.  

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the joy of Pentecost offers us a vision and hope for the future of the church, and indeed for the world.  May we go out and share the gifts we have, and the love we know in Christ, with all.  Amen.