Watching my daughter receive gifts from her wedding registry brings back 30 year old memories of me and our wedding registry. It was exciting to pick things out and watch as our family and friends gave us the amazing gift of the necessities of starting a new home. Pots, pans, a mixer, and other wonderful kitchen items started showing up at my mother in law’s house. As I was sharing this wonderful event with one of my best friends, she looked at me and said… “But Trace, who’s going to use them?”
As most of you know, kitchen skills are not necessarily my strong suit. I still defend myself by saying, “well, they COULD be my strong suit if other people in my house had more reasonable pallets.” But I digress.
It was hard for me at first to use some of these beautiful gifts. I didn’t want their “newness” to fade, and I didn’t want to break anything. Well, several moves, 2 kids, one of which is Danny… and well, let’s just say, I have less flatware and stoneware than when we began. Dishes chip, glasses break, flatware gets tossed in the trash… It’s life. Our friends and family purchased all of those things for us to use, and using things tends to come with some risk. Life tends to batter and break a lot of things, including us.
Today is the great feast of Pentecost where we celebrate the gift of God’s Holy Spirit given to the first disciples and also given to us in Baptism. And, while most would say this is the birthday of the church, I would say, “welcome to the chipped plate club”. The kingdom of God is like a family that has a stack of lovely stoneware plates they are eager to use. As they are used some of them get chipped and some are broken beyond repair. The plates that are left are precious to the family, but more than that, the family realizes the joy these plates bring as they feed and nourish friends and family. And so, the plates are used, even the ones that are chipped because they too are precious in the eyes of the family who can tell you where every chip and crack comes from.
Kind of a silly parable, but I hope you see the point. Pentecost, and the long season that follows it, help us to remember that we have all been given gifts by the Holy Spirit in order that we might use them to do the work Jesus has given us to do, to help bring about God’s kingdom here on earth. Being asked to use our spiritual gifts can be a bit daunting, especially if it’s a gift that you’re not entirely sure you have. Sometimes others in our lives see gifts in us that we don’t recognise in ourselves or that we are afraid to use. Sometimes we are afraid because we think we might fail, and no one wants to fail the Holy Spirit. But… remember those chipped plates? Sure, they didn’t look new anymore, but even with some small chips on the edge, they were still able to be used to feed our family… It is the same with our spiritual gifts. We cannot hide them away, because then they are no longer gifts; we must use them as the Spirit leads us, even if we fail, taking a “chip” if you will to our confidence. Even our failures in the kingdom help us to become who God has asked us to be. We can take those failures and learn from them so that we can be better equipped to go back out and try again. The gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us are meant to be used so that we can serve God’s kingdom and the family of God that we are a part of. It is good, if scary news, and this is one of those times when I am sort of preaching to myself. As you all know, I have taken a half time position with our diocese to be the Area Missioner for the North East Convocation, which is mainly small, rural churches. Colleagues and friends congratulated me saying such nice things like, “oh the diocese has recognized your talents.” Honestly, beloved, I think they ran out of people to ask. This position is going to call on me to use skills and gifts I’m not entirely sure I have. When I was offered the position, I did what I knew I should do; I prayed, and I asked a few friends for guidance. I felt called, or perhaps shoved by the Spirit to say yes, and so, here I am, waiting to figure out where the gifts are! In the meantime, me and my chipped dinner plates both real and spiritual will continue to serve our families in whatever ways we can. I hope as I discern my gifts in this new ministry, that our congregation will join me in discerning what OUR gifts as a community are, so that we too might serve God’s family in new ways.
As always, when the Spirit moves, hold on tight. It could be a bumpy ride. May the Holy Spirit be the glue that holds all of us together as we listen for its call to us. Come Holy Spirit, Come.