Last Sunday we talked about what makes us strong and how this Super Power comes from God through Jesus Christ. Our Super Power is given to us so that we might learn to be better people and love others more. The source of our strength is Jesus and now we must discover how to show our strength in the modern world.
The Book of Acts offers us a panoramic view of how the early church struggled to survive. It begins forty days after the resurrection of Jesus. As the story opens, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will come to the Disciples, “not many days from now.” The disciples ask Jesus when he is going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus answers: “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” Then he is lifted up and ascends into heaven. Ten days later, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Disciples on Pentecost and they begin the work Jesus called them to do: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” From here, the story leads us through scenes of dramatic action, danger, and suspense. There are violent encounters with the authorities and much political intrigue. This is an epic narrative with multiple themes interwoven to form its plot. Central to the story is God’s initiative to fulfill God’s promises to Israel through the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is a new picture of the people of God that transcends cultural and racial categories of the past, with God creating a new faith community described in terms of God’s presence, care for one another, unity among believers, and the unstoppable proclamation of the gospel. The Book of Acts is written to edify, to inform, and to reinforce faith where it already exists and to create and instill faith where it does not.
What is significant for us is that Acts begins with Jesus giving the Disciples power – their Super Power. He promises and then sends the Holy Spirit. The rest of the book is about how the Disciples use their Super Power to spread the gospel. The Book of Acts takes us from Pentecost, through the journeys of Peter and John, to the martyrdom of Stephen, and along the road with Paul that takes him finally to Rome.
Today’s text comes shortly after the healing of the man at the Temple gate we talked about last week. Peter and John have been preaching about the resurrection of Jesus and that it was the power of Jesus that healed the lame man. The Sadducees, a very wealthy and powerful party within the Jewish Council, do not believe in resurrection and they object to the Disciples’ teaching. They also worry that these Jesus followers are growing in number and present a threat to the status quo…imagine that! So Peter and John are arrested and brought to the Council to defend their actions.
What I want us to notice this morning is how Peter responds when he is questioned by the Council. They ask: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Notice this next bit: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…” Now, see if you remember these words from Jesus in Luke’s gospel, 12:11-12…“When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.” What we see here is that, not only does Jesus provide the Disciples with their Super Power; he shows them how to use it through the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that allows us to show our strength.
What I want us to think about is how this story gives us a new perspective on our own God-given Super Powers – or, what we might call our spiritual gifts. Now that’s a term some of us may be more familiar with and more ready to contemplate than the idea of people with Super Powers. I’ll bet some of you have even participated in studies on your Spiritual Gifts and maybe even completed a Spiritual Gifts inventory. [Show of hands…] If you have never done a Spiritual Gifts Inventory, we have provided one for you to use on our website. Go to our home page at sandspringsumc.org and scroll down and click on the box labeled “Spiritual Gifts Inventory”. This will take you to the document file. You will then need to print the document to use it.
I want us to look at this text from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians for just a minute. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes: “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.” Now follow me on this thinking…What if these spiritual gifts that Paul writes about are the super powers that God gives to each one of us. If so, then showing our strength is about using our gifts in service to God and God’s people. If you know your spiritual gifts, then think about what it might mean for you to show your strength in the church. If you are not sure of your gifts, take the Spiritual Gifts Inventory and learn more about yourself.
Everyone has been given something and it is our challenge to discover our gifts and then discern the ways in which God wants us to use them. If your gift is for administration, you might be called to serve on the Church Council, the Finance Committee, or the Board of Trustees. If your gift is craftsmanship, your calling may be to help on a mission team. Someone with the gift of encouragement could serve on the Nurture and Care Team. The gift of intercession and prayer is given so that you might pray constantly for the needs of others and for the church. Musical gifts offer the believer the chance to give witness and inspiration, while leading others in worship.
There is often discussion about whether a particular talent is truly a “spiritual gift” or simply a natural human ability. I don’t think it matters because every ability, every skill, our capacity to learn, and our aptitude for certain tasks all originate with the God who makes everything possible. We are only capable because God has given us incredible minds and bodies. Nothing we do or have comes to us without God.
What is important is that we take the time to discover our abilities – spiritual gifts and physical abilities – and then learn to use them to glorify God. This requires us to recognize the source of our strength and then commit to showing our strength.
Matthew 5:14-16…“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
What good would it do for a person with a musical gift to refuse to play or sing? How sad for someone with a gift for teaching not to find ways of sharing their knowledge of God with others. We are called to serve God through whatever means God has provided us. Leadership…dom…Financial success…Hospitality…These are just some of the gifts God offers. The question is: “How are you using the gifts God has provided for you?” We show our strength – our Super Power – when we use everything we have to help another person experience the love of God.
And so we return to the title of this series: “What is Your Super Power?” Do you understand where your strength and power come from? Do you have a better idea of what God has gifted you with and for? Are you beginning to see how you are called to show your strength in the world? Now it is time for you to let your light shine. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.