Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 93, 96, 34
1 Corinthians 14:1-12
How much does our intention matter?
Gadgets, gadgets everywhere. Infomercials. Commercials. Facebook. No matter where I turn, I see some new gadget I WANT. I HAVE TO HAVE! I am that gadget guy. I am the child with a favorite new toy that I play with non-stop until I get a new favorite toy. I idolize gadgets. I can always justify how each gadget increases my performance: they are all so useful. Really, though, I just want it and that is my intention. Our intentions impact much more than the toys we have, they guide our spiritual journey and the effectiveness we have in our ministry. Today’s passages examine the intentions of those who have and are seeking spiritual gifts.
The great prophet Ezekiel faced the challenge of advising people who clung to idols as much as, or more than, God. The verses tell us they “took them in their hearts.” The prophet knows that and wonders whether he should work with them or not. God responds to him, reminding him, that he is God’s voice to the people and that nothing God says to him will be misleading. Unless he delivers the message, or if he changes it, he will be condemned before the people.
The Corinthians passage considers spiritual talents and how they function to build and support the church. Paul, after identifying the role of prophet in the Christian church in chapter 12, reaffirms the value of prophesy in the New Testament church, which included a group of early followers with a special place in the church. Such prophecy though, falls more at the level of teacher/instructor with guidance from the Holy Spirit, rather than the direct message of God as with Ezekiel. Because the prophesy/teaching comes through our filters (beliefs, previous knowledge, worldview) the prophesy/teaching may be incorrect or slanted. It is not automatically wrong. Without it there would be no teaching, each hearer, though relies on their own understanding through the Holy Spirit to judge the teaching they receive.
A passage ostensibly about salary following two passages focusing on prophecy seems out of place; however, the Matthew passage connects the idea of pay to God’s parsing out of spiritual gifts for those seeking to use them. They are God’s to give as we are willing and able to use them. God may certainly empower anyone to do anything that he wishes. The key to receiving that power, though relates to our willingness to do what is asked. The workers in the parable, whether hired in the morning or late in the day, were all willing to do the work at hand.
Following the passage on love, Paul reinforces, repeatedly in the passage today the importance of seeking and using spiritual gifts that support the work of the church, rather than ones that benefit the recipient individually. Our intention should extend beyond ourselves with love as the motivation.
Let us open our hearts to the gifts God has for us and gladly use them to grow his kingdom with love and charity for all.