Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for May 28, 2023 – Pentecost

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5027 | Cooperative Games
Jeff Broadnax

Have you ever played a cooperative board game? Cooperative games have become a popular alternative to the common competitive board games like Monopoly, Clue, or Risk. Competitive games have multiple players, but everyone competes against one another to be the sole winner at the end.

A cooperative board game works differently. Cooperative games also have multiple players, but instead of competing against one another, everyone works together to achieve a common goal or to survive a shared crisis. Games like solving a Murder Mystery, beating the clock in an Escape Room, or completing a big puzzle. Everyone either wins together or loses together. Players must work together and strategize by using the different tools, skills, or powers that are assigned to each player. Each participant is vital, and their distinct role is necessary to complete the mission. Even if you lose in the end, the shared experience is usually more rewarding than being the sole winner of a competitive game.

If the church were a board game, it would be a cooperative board game.

Here is a passage in 1 Corinthians that leads me to that conclusion:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (ESV)

According to the apostle Paul, each member of the church, like players in a cooperative game, are given unique gifts by the Spirit that add up for the good of all. The common good of the church, which will contribute to its worship and witness, is impeded when lone competitors try to come out on top. In a healthy church, everyone works together, in community, sharing with one another their gifts, in order to participate in what Jesus is doing as the head of his church. No one is considered dispensable or interchangeable. Each plays a vital role as a member of the body of Christ.

The gifts of the Spirit all come from the same source and are given to accomplish the same ends—to grow up into Christ, participating in what he is doing in the church for the sake of the world.

Imagine how healthy a church can be when we all bring our gifts together for the common good. Our journey together will be far more rewarding and far more productive. Who’s ready to play?

I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b • Numbers 11:24-30 • 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 • John 7:37-39

This week’s theme is the giving of the Holy Spirit. The call to worship Psalm speaks of the Spirit being sent forth to create and renew. The Old Testament reading from Numbers presents the story of the Spirit resting on those who became empowered to prophesy. The Gospel reading from John equates the giving of the Spirit with rivers of living water. The text from 1 Corinthians gives an account of a variety of gifts that come from the same Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s Unifying Gift of Diversity

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 (NIV)

Today is Pentecost. So often on this day we hear the dramatic story of the Holy Spirit descending on Pentecost as the beginning of the church. However, that story alone may leave us with the impression that the Holy Spirit was given to begin the church and now the church must get along on its own. Thankfully, we have many other scriptures to tell us that the Spirit was not given just to jumpstart the church, but as the source of continual life. We have for our lectionary reading today one such passage. It comes to us from Paul, who is responding to a question from the church in Corinth regarding spiritual gifts. Specifically, there are some who feel that their gift of speaking in tongues is of paramount importance, and every member should aspire to it as the pinnacle of spirituality. For these members, it seemed better for everyone to have the same gift rather than a diversity of gifts. It is in response to this view that Paul writes.

Most likely your church is not wrestling over some members speaking in tongues and thinking everyone else should do the same. But that does not mean this text does not answer our own questions in our modern context. Do we not still have an impulse to value uniformity over diversity in our culture and even in our churches? It is one of the insidious lies circulating in our world today, and ironically it goes under the banner of “diversity.” But we shouldn’t be surprised, that is how the evil one works, calling evil good and good evil. Under this banner we are hammered with the lie that we must minimize distinctions and differences in favor of a uniform vision of humanity. For example, we are told that differences between men and women are antiquated and should be ignored. Never mind that God created us in his image with this very distinction. Women especially are being crushed by this disregard for their distinctive gift of being female. Boys competing in girls’ sporting events is just one such exploitation. Men and women alike are left confused about their own distinctive gender, leading to all kinds of sexual identity issues, which have left many depressed and suicidal. Lies are destructive and deadly.

Paul, in his answer to the Corinthian church, will speak a word of truth. Distinctions will not be minimized, but rather seen as a gift that God gives to build up his church in her mission to point others to Jesus. As we look at his answer, since it is Pentecost, we will pay special attention to four observations about the Holy Spirit.

First, the Holy Spirit gives voice to the Christian confession that Jesus is Lord.

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3b NIV)

Jesus is Lord. This is the confession and the proclamation the church takes upon her lips to share with the world. Paul begins here. The church does not, and indeed cannot, make this confession apart from the working of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus ascended back to the Father, he told his disciples to wait for the sending of the Spirit before they went on any mission. It is no different today. No mission, no sermon, no outreach program, no matter how well delivered or carried out can claim any credit for added members of the body of Christ. All glory goes to God. Paul must have seen the need to redirect this church’s thinking to know that it was not what they did, or the gifts they had, that would accomplish God’s mission for them. Is that not a reminder we need in our churches today? What comfort and freedom we have knowing God’s grace and provision is given to the church by the Holy Spirit to accomplish her mission. We do not have to fall back on our own abilities, resources, talents, and skills. Praise God! Otherwise, we will always feel inadequate, clamoring and clawing for more, in an effort to be up to the task of God’s calling. He has not left us orphaned to work alone in the Father’s fields. No, he goes with us by the Spirit, calling us to participate in what he is doing, trusting him for the harvest.

Second, the Holy Spirit is the very source of the diversity of gifts in the church.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NIV)

Paul insists that diversity is an unquestionable trait of the church. He points out that there are “different kinds of gifts…different kinds of service…different kinds of working.” That’s a lot of differences. Whether we are thinking in terms of personal gifts, gifts for ministry or forms of work, variety and diversity is not the exception but the norm. What is beautiful in how Paul speaks of all this diversity is how he grounds it in its source from the Trinity. He includes Father, Son, and Spirit, as the “same” source for all the diversity given. There is a mirror of the gift given and the giver of the gifts. Just as there is a unity in diversity in the being of God, there is given a unity in diversity for his church. However, Paul does aim to accent the Holy Spirit in his writing to the Corinthian church. He will go on to repeat the name “Spirit” and the phrase “the same Spirit” that would hammer his point home. Paul wants to be clear that the Spirit cannot be controlled or possessed like an object for our own glory. It is the Spirit who gives the gifts to whom he chooses.

Third, the Holy Spirit works for the common good.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a 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, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 NIV)

Paul does not want us to pit one gift over and against another. That would be a manifestation of our pride and not a manifestation of the Spirit. The Spirit on the other hand has the common good of the church in mind when he distributes the gifts he gives, “just as he determines.” It’s important to understand the common good of the church is determined by the common identity and common purpose of the church. Otherwise, we can assume some improper and distorted views of what the “common good” is. The church’s identity must remain rooted in Christ with the common purpose of worship and witness. Arguing over gifts undermine both our identity and purpose in Christ.

Paul seems to underscore this by his insistence that all the gifts are given by the Spirit. It would be hard to read Paul’s repetitions and still insist that one gift was preferred over another. To do so would be to question God’s wisdom in the giving of his gifts. Perhaps we do the same when we look at our churches and determine that God has not given us what we need. Instead of enjoying and receiving the gifts provided in our local congregation, we go seeking for those who possess the “greater gifts.” Perhaps we think the greater gifts are located only in the young. Or maybe we pursue those who have musical talent in thinking that is what will bring people through the front door. We may think we are being wise and strategic; however, we may simply be resisting God’s grace and his provision for us.

Fourth, the Holy Spirit brings unity to the body of Christ.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NIV)

Using Paul’s analogy of a human body, we are to see that each member makes up the body of Christ. That is a staggering image. It points to the reality of the intimate relationship we are called into with Christ, and by extension, to all those who belong to him. When parts of our body are not functioning in coordination with the rest of the body, we would call the doctor. A simple leg cramp can serve to illustrate the disruption one member can bring when drawn into himself with his own gift. Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit who works out the cramps and massages our hardened joints and stiffened necks. He is patient and kind but determined to bring us all to the unity we have in Christ. It is to this end Paul points to in the work of the Spirit.

After Pentecost we move into the long season on the Christian calendar called “Ordinary Time.” During this stretch we continue to feed on Christ and live out the life we have in him, all by the Spirit. It is fitting to complete the Easter season on Pentecost, where we are reminded that the Holy Spirit has been given to the church, empowering and gifting us to worship together while bearing witness to Jesus and his Father in faith, hope, and love.

The Chosen w/ Cherith Nordling W4

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May 28 – Pentecost
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, “One Spirit”

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Program Transcript

The Chosen w/ Cherith Nordling W4

Anthony: We have one final pericope of the month. It’s 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13. It’s the Revised Common Lectionary passage for Pentecost on May 28. Cherith, would you read it for us please?

Cherith: I will. So, we’re picking up halfway through something else that Paul’s already going on about. So here we go.

So I want to make it clear to you that no one says, “Jesus is cursed!” when speaking by God’s Spirit, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different Spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, 10 performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell Spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. 11 All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person. 12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink.

Anthony: One Spirit into one body. The Spirit leads us to see the family resemblance in others who aren’t like us. Hallelujah. And we’re told here that the demonstration of the Spirit is given to each of us, but it’s not for ourselves. Here we go again, it’s the common good. It’s the community. So, gifts, fruit, the manifestations of the Spirit are meant for the community. So, what does that mean? Is that the church body, the neighborhood? What are we talking about here?

Cherith: You sure have somebody who knows this church well, loves this church, is away from this church and hearing all kinds of crazy stuff about what’s going on with this church and so on. We know that Paul loves this community, and he also has lived among them and grown with them. But also, is really clear about where things can go wacky really quickly.

And so, I just appreciate the fact that here he is—and we hear him really boldly in this letter. But I think part of that is because when he’s busy sort of planting churches, this is one where he spent almost two years. And that’s a long time watching people come together and lay down their old life and have to be renewed in a new way of being. And so much of this letter is about thwarting division.

[He’s] like, you guys are just dividing up in all kinds of ways, whether it’s around the leadership of your church, whether it’s around certain views of what to do here. You’re dividing up even at the Lord’s table and trucking in the kind of honor/shame culture that you get to live out there in a Roman world that has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God.

And he’s just, point after point. And worship, he [says] what is going on? He [says], everything that you were meant to do and be as the temple of God, (so now we’re back in 1 Peter language) you are the temple of the Holy Spirit (“you” plural). And you, plural, are the domain in which the Spirit of God dwells. And there’s only one place in Corinth. As a big city with lots and lots of temples and claims to deity, and claims to power, there’s only one place that this city will see the love of God manifested for them and for the world, and that is in your life and love together.

And division has no place in God. Diversity? Tons, everything. The Father is not the son. The Son is not the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father. But he says their union is the shorthand little word that we call God. So, you get to be like God. And then he pulls this analogy that says, as a body who’s been made alive by the Spirit, all of these ways that the Spirit is ministering among you is to actually build you up as a people to look like Jesus.

So, these aren’t shows of power, and they certainly shouldn’t divide you to say, I’ve got a more awesome gift than somebody else, or whatever. He [says] they don’t even belong to you. He says, the Spirit has them, and they’re gifts that the Spirit gives you to give away to someone else.

And he gives them because it’s an act of love and an act of mercy, and this person needs so badly that gift of God. And you get to be the one who carries that and ministers that and embodies that and touches that on their life and thus builds up the life of the whole.

I think it’s just a fascinating way when he talks about the fact that we are all one body, by the fact that Christ has one body and we are that one body, but that we’ve become that body by the Spirit. And then he says, and we’re also baptized into that one body and given the Spirit to drink. So suddenly we’re now in eucharistic language. To have both the body and the blood, in the sense that the very life of God is given to us by the Spirit. It reframes our complete identity, reorients how we are and who we are in the world. And Corinthians is a fantastic letter to read that!

[Paraphrasing Paul] Okay, let’s talk about division. Let’s talk about the fact that you want to raise people up and celebrate them around power when it looks really cool and powerful. You love great speakers, which means you probably don’t love me (even though I love you and lived on you for a couple years); I’m way better in print than I am in person.

He [says] then you want to have like sexual craziness going on in your community, and he doesn’t call out the people who are doing that, he calls out the community. He [says], excuse me, but if you love them and if you’re loved by God, how would you let something that’s doing harm to them and the community happen?

And he [says], oh, and then you guys had a disagreement about something that you owned, and somebody borrowed and kept. Really? You want to go downtown Corinth to the Agora and have these people—who supposedly have all this wisdom. Although you’ve been claiming that by the Spirit, you are so wise. But you can’t have the wisdom of God to solve a disagreement and not only solve it, but to look like Jesus and say, forget it; you can have it. It wasn’t mine to begin with; everything is Christ’s.

What?! He goes after issue after issue. So, this is one letter where you’re like, he thinks that we’re really supposed to be looking like Jesus as a people. Not as people reading Scripture in our little 10-minute devotional and hope that we remember to be kind for a few minutes in the day. But he [says], if you’ll be this people—you’re not being this just because God wants a little place to hang out. He wants to love Corinth; he wants to love the world.

And this is about becoming Christlike enough to lay your life down as (how does the letter finish?) as resurrected ones whose hope is this. So, it might cost you your life, but who cares? You get it back. He’s [saying], lean in. Lean into the character of God, which is to love, and love doesn’t keep records and love doesn’t look for ways that it benefits. It looks for ways to benefit the other.

It’s just God! So, he [says,] we’ve seen him, and we’ve seen him in the flesh, and he’s asking us in our flesh to live in such a way that the places that the world gives no honor, we celebrate them. He [says] as he goes on in this same chapter, you know what? There are body parts that really don’t get much honor, and I want you to honor those.

And I’m like, oh man. This would be speaking to me. I teach, and it’s a very public thing. And when people hear the word of the Lord somewhere stirring in their hearts, because I get to say it on behalf of Jesus and echo something he’s telling all of us, I can get a lot of gratitude from people for that. But I’m like, where’s the pancreas in my community, without which I am dead, and I can do nothing? I cannot survive. I have nothing to give because somewhere in my midst, those who are hidden in a sense, are the ones who, by their life, are also so profoundly keeping us alive by staying close to Jesus. And the world will never honor them.

But the world could see what it looks like to find that insecure place in yourself, that if people really saw who I am, nobody would love me, and no one would honor me. He [says], yes, we would because that’s the character of God. So, show the world that, show your community that. Bless those. Honor them. Raise them up. Not at the exclusion of others, just be aware that a lot of you will already get that, by the nature of how your gift is given. It’s very public.

So, watch where gifts are being given to you for your life, all the time, and then that attunes your eye and heart and ear to the voice of a world around you that doesn’t believe that anyone would love them or see them that way. And so, they grasp power to try to prop themselves up. He says, there’s a different way and you get to live it.

So, it’s a very, very powerful passage, I think.

Anthony: That was so beautiful. I wish every church could hear it. And as one pancreas, let me ask you one final question. Let’s talk some nematology. It’s Pentecost. Hallelujah. Praise God. And God’s Spirit has been poured out on human flesh.

Tell us why this relationship with the Spirit is so vital with our relationship with the triune God and to one another.

Cherith: To put it bluntly, there is no life with God and one another without the Spirit. Jesus knows that. And the only life he was able to live as one of us with the Father was by the Spirit.

The only life he can offer us to live is his life, which is still empowered by the Spirit to do the will of the Father. All of our union with anything that belongs to God, which is salvation in its biggest, biggest sense, is only possible by the fact that if our Father lives in unapproachable light, in this glory and wonder that we haven’t yet seen, we have also by the Son, been able to see God in a sense, face-to-face.

We haven’t seen that glorified face. My dad and mom have, but I haven’t yet. So, there’s a communion of saints where Paul, when he talks about community, he’s not just talking about the local fellowship. It’s the language of Hebrews 11. They always know that they are part of a very, very, very big people. And the more alive members of that community are not us. That we are the dying ones. We are the least alive of all the community of the saints.

But that’s again, a gift of the Spirit, that we can be joined to the whole communion of God’s people only by the third member of the Trinity too. Which is that this in a sense is Emmanuel from the beginning, that the God who is with us from the beginning of creation and the one who gets to be that same God in eschatological new creation. (That was our other passage that we discussed on that other day.) How are we actually made alive? But we are made alive by the Spirit. Or even this passage, that we’ve been drinking of the Spirit to be joined to this body to find our life.

I think when we come up through circles, very much American evangelicalism in the last century, many different eras and seasons through the church’s life throughout the world and church history, we become really quickly binitarian. And we see this kind of Father-Son relationship that is very often some kind of transactional relationship to get us saved, i.e., to get us to some eternal destination that’s better than the other one.

But it has nothing to do with relationship. And the only one who can bind us to that relationship is God himself, and that is God the Spirit. And the only one who can breathe life into us, which is really, truly human life, from Genesis 2 into Romans 8, you have been born by the Spirit of adoption to cry Abba.

Jesus [said], you cannot enter the kingdom of God unless you’re born from above by the Spirit. He’s just like, this is it! This is how God makes image bearing people for his name, is to actually be the one who not just creates them but indwells them and empowers them and teaches them who they are in the ways of a God who is self-giving, self-sacrificing love. And that it’s costly love.

It’s just this beautiful sense of God [saying], yes, I don’t need you. But for the cost of everything that I have, we love you and we’ll bring you home. No matter what. And that is into a full life of the Spirit. Let’s just start now because this is the life that you’ve really been invited into. And for those of you who are trying really hard to live a Christian life in some way that’s trying to quote please the Father and be grateful for Jesus saving you, no wonder you don’t want to be a Christian half the time.

And no wonder it’s exhausting because nobody can live that kind of moralism in the way that we kind of project that onto God. But if we really are born of the Spirit, then suddenly we find ourselves birthed into, and gathered into and sought after and brought home by the very person of God who is the one who’s always been with creation, always been with creation as Jesus.

Also, as Irenaeus talks about, Jesus and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father, that together they bring us life, save us into life, pour out life through us, and bring us home into final human life. So, there is no such thing as being a Christian, there’s no such thing as being truly human, that isn’t foundationally a life in God, the Spirit.

Anthony: Thank God that the Spirit hit the fan and rained down upon us all. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie, Prince Caspian, but there was a great scene where Lucy is talking to Aslan, the Christ character, and said, “Aslan, you’re bigger.”

And he says, “That is because you are older, little one. Not because you are, I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

And I think that’s so true by the Spirit. And may that be our journey with Jesus, that he appears bigger and greater by the Spirit as we go.

Cherith, you are a beloved daughter of God. We’re so thankful for you for the testimony of the triune God that so easily flows from your lips and be blessed. You certainly have blessed us.

And want to take a moment to thank our producer, Reuel Enerio, who does such a great job, and my beloved bride, Elizabeth Mullins, who does the transcription. So Cherith, every word you said is going to live forever. But it’s been good. Don’t fear!

As is our tradition here at Gospel Reverb, we’d sure be delighted if you would say a prayer. But before you do if you want to find more about Cherith, more of what she has to teach, she’s done a great series with Brad Jersak, who’s going to be our guest here on Gospel Reverb this summer. They do five-minute clips about a book that is upcoming, and we’ll put the links to those productions in our show notes. So be on the lookout for that.

But Cherith, if you would close us with a word of prayer, we’d sure appreciate it. Absolutely.

Cherith: Our Lord Jesus, we thank you that you delight in us all the time and that you have already seen us finished because we look like you at the end of all things, and that you hold that and embody that and mediate that, that our Father loves us in a way that is always the way that you love each other, and that he always also sees us finished by seeing us through you and your life.

We thank you, Holy Spirit, you who are the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds in the Father and the Son, who is worshiped and magnified with the Father and the Son, that you’ve spoken through the prophets in the past, and you are the one who has made the living Word our Word, and then pours out from his life in the Father, the Word of life in our own being.

So, I just thank you even for that reference from Lewis of Lucy’s picture of Aslan, that as we just grow with you, we grow up into you, into a childlikeness and put away childishness. And I thank you that means understanding really does mean standing under you and that you just keep getting bigger as we get older and bigger and are just drinking from the milk that is our sustenance by your Spirit in you.

So, I thank you for Gospel Reverb. I thank you for Anthony and thank you for Reuel and Elizabeth and those who just give the gift of this time to dwell with you and to love you more. And just pray your blessing on all that we’ve talked about today, in your name, amen.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Have you ever played a cooperative board game? If so, can you relate the difference of that experience with that of a competitive board game?
  • How can the church be likened to a cooperative board game?

From the Sermon

  • Why is it helpful to understand that Pentecost was not just about the Holy Spirit beginning the church but also that the Holy Spirit is the continual source of the life of the church?
  • What would life be like if there were no differences or distinctions?
  • How does the giving of different gifts speak to God’s desire for diversity?
  • What significance does it have for a church’s mission in the world to know that “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit?
  • How does it change how we see the different gifts in the church knowing that the Holy Spirit is the source of those different gifts?
  • What are some ways you have seen the Spirit work for the common good in a church by the provision of various gifts?
  • What is the encouragement to us knowing that the Holy Spirit brings unity to the church?

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