I Corinthians 12:12-31a and Luke 4:12-21.

This season between Christmas and Lent is called Epiphany. It celebrates the awareness of others outside the Jewish community regarding the birth of a Savior. The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas originates from the Magi bringing gifts to give to the Christ Child, Jesus. Of course, as we know from Scripture, they didn't arrive the night of Jesus' birth, but somewhere around 2 years later and they found Jesus, the child, with his mother Mary at their house. So, we give gifts to each other to celebrate Jesus' birth or to honor the birth of Jesus.

Why did it take the Magi, or Wisemen, 2 years of following the star to locate Jesus? Some women say that if it had been women instead of men, they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole and brought disposable diapers as a gift.

Gifts are strange things. You know the phrase "one man's junk is another man's treasure"? That's kind of the way it is with some gifts. As soon as it is accepted as a gift, it is immediately considered "junk" and buried away somewhere. And some gifts come in the form of a "gift certificate." That's nice. You get to choose what you want. But maybe there isn't anything you want, as a man, at a spa, or even at a place that sells tools (more tools, better tools, equals more work projects around the house), and for a woman to receive more kitchen gadgets, well, it's the same sort of thing, especially if it something that the husband wants his wife to start making for him.

A man received a gift coupon to a Coffee Bar where they served all sorts of coffees and coffee drinks. But his coupon was specifically for an Irish Coffee. The tag along with the coupon read: "Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat." (Alex Levine)

Yes, gifts are strange things some times. And we also treat gifts strangely some times. Each one of us has been given countless gifts by God-gifts of talent and ability. Some are more outstanding than others-singular and specific to a particular individual. Yet, some folks deny the gift, or squander the gift, or just let it sit idle.

There are incredible gifts amongst members and friends of Trinity. Some are certainly using them; some are not. Some are afraid to use them because of how it will change their life. Some don't feel confident enough to use their gift. Some don't recognize they have a particular gift, and even if it's pointed out to them, they deny it. And some feel their gift is inferior to someone else's and so they don't use their own talent.

Paul's explanation of gifts in the reading from I Corinthians today is absolutely wonderful. And coupled with what Jesus has to say in the Gospel it is so exciting and hopeful for us all. Paul states that every part of our body has something to contribute to who we are. Eyes are not more important than hands and the head is not more important than feet. One can't say to the other, "I have no need for you." Paul says, "But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissention within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another."

"The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church, every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ's body-that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your 'part' mean anything....It's obvious by now, isn't it, that Christ's church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, one-dimensional Part?" (From 'The Message' translation by Eugene Peterson)

So here we are together; we need each other. Everyone has something to contribute to our being a congregation, the body of Christ in the world. It's exciting to be part of something that can do so much good in the world in the name of Christ. Remember, it wasn't at all by chance that you came to Trinity. You were led here by the Holy Spirit for a reason.

In Jesus' message in the Gospel lesson he says, "God's Spirit is on me; He's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce , 'This is God's year to act!'"

("The Message" translation)

He is actually speaking on two levels-one, of course, the physical material level. But when he speaks of giving 'sight to the blind," he doesn't just mean the physical. He's talking about giving a spiritual sight to those of us who can't see things on a spiritual level. When he gives that sight to us, we have an entirely different perspective of the world and a very different approach in our interaction with it. Just like those who went to Jesus to ask him to restore their physical sight, we can go to Jesus in prayer and ask him to restore our spiritual sight.

Or when he says he was sent to "announce pardon to set the burdened and the battered free," again, he's not just talking about the physical aspect. He's saying to us that if we ask him to set us free from the inner burdens we carry around that weigh heavily on our mind and spirit; he will free us from that. Or if we have imprisoned ourselves so that we can't see the incredible potential in life and see a hopeful future, we can ask Jesus and he will set us free. Or for those of us who constantly batter our spirits with thoughts of low self esteem or a lack of confidence he just wants us to ask him to set us free.

And here we are together, the Body of Christ, to care for one another. To help each other. Christ has empowered us to be his loving, healing hand in the world. We have the power of the Holy Spirit to help set each other free. We mustn't let each other get dragged down into negativity or words of hopelessness or despair-or a lack of great vision for the future.

You have to help even your pastor. If you hear your pastor, for a number of years speak of being positive and not negative and he demonstrates that, then you start to see and hear him slip into negativity, don't just point a finger, alert your pastor, care for your pastor, help your pastor. It's obvious that something is weighing on his spirit to make him change from positive to negative. Don't condemn-rather lovingly help.

We must do that for each other. Remember, St. Paul said, "But God has so arranged the body...that there may be no dissention within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another."

Here we are together. A collective Body of Christ with an incredible array of gifts given to us by God, under the authority of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be used in service to others in Christ's name. How wonderful!

To close, I'm going to give you a half a minute of silence to think of just one gift of talent and ability that God has given you to use to be shared with the world to benefit others. It can be a gift of listening, gift of compassion, discernment, knitting, crocheting, cooking, baking, carpentry, automotive repair, making things grow, parenting, speaking, teaching, healing-well, you get the idea. Now I'll be quiet while you bring that gift, that ability, that talent to mind.....

Okay. Now hold that thought and on the count of three, as the Body of Christ, I want first (8am-this side to say aloud their gift, then, again on the count of three, this side, then on 3, all together. Now, all together...Amen. ) the side section to say aloud the gift, then, again on the count of three, the center section here, then the center section here, then the other side section, then everyone together, each time on the count of three. The choir and organist will speak with this side center section.......

Now, all together...


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