When I was in high school, I worked at a homeschooling curriculum supply store. This was in small town Mississippi, because of the specialized nature of the store, people would drive in from around Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas to look at material. The thing that made it even better, was that I was homeschooled, I had field tested all this stuff and could make some real recommendations. This started a fascination with specialty shops. The East Village of Davenport is packed with them. The streets contain a religious supply store, and a spice store, and a soap store and lots of other jazzy places. And even if I don’t buy anything, it’s still fun to look.
Seeing that so many of these types of stores are open across the country, I can’t be the only person who likes to browse these kinds of shops. They hold a promise of having that special thing you are looking for. They hold a promise of having exactly what you need. And they do this, by making you believe that you don’t have what you need, or that you have needs you aren’t even aware of. This idea of not having what you need, of scarcity is what drives commerce, but it’s a sneaky idea, that snakes its way into our hearts and whispers to us that we aren’t what someone needs, that somehow, we aren’t enough. I find it sneaks its way into our churches as well.
In 1st Corinthians Paul is writing to a church that is trying to figure out what they need. This congregation was a mess; they were acting out, fighting, and not caring about what they should be caring about. So, they go looking to problem-solve, and write to Paul, the “specialty shop” of church issues. Surely, he would have exactly what they need; he would have the special something to get them out of their mess.
But the funny thing is Paul doesn’t have that one special thing. He writes back For in every way you have been enriched in God, in speech, in knowledge of every kind. Paul continues, You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of Christ. God is faithful, by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Paraphrased from 1st Corinthians 1) Often we are resistant to use our gifts as a church community because we don’t realize we have them. We read special books or go to special conferences hoping to get that one “thing” we really think we need. But the thing is, we already have it. We were given the gift of the Holy Spirit; God hasn’t left us alone to figure it all out. God hasn’t been stingy with gifting people either. I look around my life and I see people who are great listeners, active servants, and compassionate workers for justice. I see people who have so many gifts to build the kingdom of God and don’t even realize it. Part of what we need to do is name the gifts we see in others. Sometimes others see things in us that we don’t see so clearly. The other part is that we need to cultivate trust in God, the ultimate giver.
We have what we need to build God’s kingdom on earth, even if it looks different than we expected. We don’t need to wait until we become better people or go looking around specialty shops of spirituality. May God, who is the ultimate giver of gifts, give us the will to use what we have with imagination and courage as we move into a new future.