By the grace of God, we don’t have to worry about my flying skills ending badly or someone else’s super strength getting him in and out of a bank vault. Those gifts are beyond our reach. But, as the Apostle Paul reminds us- “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.”
Within any community –and this one in Millis is no exception – there are a variety of gifts. Some of us use our gifts and some of us don’t. Some of us exploit our gifts and some of us don’t. When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Corinth he was annoyed with them for their behavior concerning gifts of the Spirit. Paul felt that some of the folks there were milking their gifts and lording their gifts over the others. Sure- speaking in tongues might have been a cooler gift than say – being wise- but still the gifts are all valuable. A true Christian, Paul reminds the church, is not able to look at any gift and say it isn’t needed or valued. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head Being humble with our gifts to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” and honoring the gifts of those around us is Christ-like behavior.
Let me share with you a story that came to me from Twitter of all places. A few weeks ago I took my son, Parker, to see a simulcast of Phantom of the Opera. It was the show’s 25th anniversary and it was being performed in London and simultaneously shown on movie screens around the U.S. It was an amazing show. And of course- we had the best seats in the house because the cameras were able to take us where no seat in the Royal Albert Hall could. I might blather on about it- but I won’t – it was great- you should see it- let’s move on-
When I returned home I went to Google because I had no idea who was in the cast I had just watched for several hours. A brief search led me to names – names led me to web-sites and soon enough I found myself reading my favorite scripture passage, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phillippians 4:13) on the home page of Ramin Karimloo, who had the role of the Phantom in the show Parker and I had seen. Because of this quote I decided to go further into the website and found a Twitter link and ...we’ll next thing you know I’m a middle-aged fan girl following him on Twitter. Then this week I read an interesting posting from him that sparked my imagination a bit. He was going to get a tattoo and the tattoo artist, aware of who he is and his musical gifts, asked him to sing while she was working on his tat –all the while heavy metal music continued to play in the background. This was the end of the tweet- but hey you only get 140 characters. Can you imagine what an interesting scene that would have been. Bass from the music pounding. Tatoo needles buzzing. Voices all around discussing color and outlines. And now – would you mind singing over the cacophony of noise – while I stab you repeatedly with this needle injecting ink into your skin?
So, what happened next? As you know, I am not a fan of mystery – which makes my job as Pastor- teacher of sacred mystery - a real challenge for me sometimes. I always want to know the details. I want to know what happened next. What did people do? What did they say? So, I asked him. Yup. I sent him a less than 140 character message asking this total stranger – whom I had only seen on a screen from thousands of miles away - asking him if he did indeed sing when asked by the tattoo artist. I know- I know- the second I hit send I thought, “Jennifer- you area an idiot and it is really none of your business if he sang or not.” But, in my defense, it would have made for a great sermon illustration if only there were an ending.
No less than five minutes later – I received a reply which read: “A Little I didn’t want to annoy the other artists tattooing people.”
Squeal! I did, very briefly- I squealed a little in my office – after indulging in a very brief – fan girl moment –the sermon took off:
“ The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head Being humble with our gifts to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” and honoring the gifts of those around us is Christ-like behavior.
What do you do with the gifts God has given you? Can you go willingly from the top of the world? Special production –beamed into packed theatres around the world and then honor the gifts – the talents- of the tattoo artists around you? Could you go from singing loudly for the world to quietly for one person who is essentially paid help? Are you able to be secure enough in the gifts you have to be thankful for the gifts of others?
Now, I do not know Ramin Karimloo other than he has an amazing voice and rockin’ good tastes in scripture verses. And my intent with this sermon is not to canonize him because despite my fan-girl moment – I know that he is as human as you and I. But this makes it even better- because if one person- one fallible human being who has discovered his own amazing talents can be humble and care for the talents of others- well, then maybe there is hope for me. And you. Hey, after all, in this connected world we take our examples where we find them -movie screens or tattoo parlors. God gives us each gifts and we, my brothers and sisters, are blessed when we use them with joy, compassion and humility. Amen.