Wednesday, March 21, 2012 — Week of 4 Lent

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, 1556

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 955)

Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning) // 119:121-144 (evening)

Genesis 50:15-26

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Mark 8:11-26

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…” 1 Corinthians 12:4

I like to say that everyone has gifts, what are yours? The Spirit gives every person gifts to be exercised “for the common good.” Think of things you do easily and well? What comes to you naturally? Sometimes we tend to dismiss our gifts simply because they can seem effortless to us.

I think it is important also to realize that not everyone gets every spiritual gift. The Church has the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit. Because you are grafted into the Body of Christ, you participate in all of the gifts, but individually you have not been given every gift.

That’s significant because sometimes people feel guilty because they find they do some things poorly that they think are expectations of all Christians. Prayer and faith are both gifts of the Spirit. But for some good Christians, prayer, or faith, seems almost impossible and distracting. Yet they have other gifts, maybe of service or generosity.

Exercise the gifts that are yours. Relax about the gifts you haven’t been given, and enjoy the competence of others who exercise those gifts “for the common good.” If prayer and faith aren’t your gifts, let others pray and believe for you within the Body of Christ, for you belong to the Church, which has the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit.

I think it is important also to look for the manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit outside of the church. “The Spirit blows where it chooses.” (John 3:8a) In Jesus’ conversation in the boat with his disciples today (Mark 8:14f) he invites the disciples to see the presence of the Spirit inside and outside of religious and cultural boundaries. He asks them to open their eyes and their ears. They have already seen. They are witnesses to the miracles of feeding, one among a Jewish crowd, the other among Gentiles.

The numbers in this passage have significance. Among the Jewish crowd there were five loaves for the five thousand. Five is an important number in Jewish tradition. The sacred Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures. When the feeding is over, there are twelve baskets of leftover food. Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel.

Then Jesus asks the disciples about the numbers in the feeding in Gentile territory. There were seven loaves that fed the four thousand, and seven baskets left over. Four is a widely used symbolic number that traditionally represents the four corners of the earth, the four winds or four directions — an image of the whole created order. And seven is a number that is sacred to many faiths and cultures, a number that represents totality and perfection, the sum of three (the spiritual order) and four (the created order). Later in the book of Acts we will read that the church would choose seven deacons to go out into the world to serve the Gentiles. In the book of Revelation we will hear John address seven Gentile churches. Twelve is a number associated with the Jewish world; seven, with the Gentile world.

As Jesus told the disciples to open their eyes and ears to recognize the grace and power manifest in both worlds, so we need to see and honor the gifts of the Spirit present within and outside the Church. “It is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” (1 Cor. 12:6b)

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